Apr 28 2016

Bill Gates Talks Artificial Intelligence in Education

With Microsoft pumping dollars into chatbots, the company’s founder discusses the technology’s implications for learning.

Could artificial intelligence advance human intelligence? Bill Gates thinks so.

In a recent interview with The Verge, the Microsoft founder and long-time education proponent explained how advancements in AI will make personalized learning more effective.

At present, personalized-learning software allows students to move through course content at their own pace: Students who master material quickly advance to the next subject, while students who require extra practice can revisit modules as needed.

Although studies — such as those conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — show that the approach can positively impact learning outcomes, Gates thinks there’s room for improvement, especially when it comes to human-software interactions. He describes the technology’s failings in his interview with The Verge:

Today’s interactivity is OK: I answered a few questions wrong, so then it repeats the lecture. [With an AI tutor,] I can engage in a dialogue. You know, part of the reason I’m so willing to tackle new subjects is that for each of those subjects, if I get utterly confused, I know somebody I can send an email to, and they’ll straighten me out. If you can’t have somebody straighten you out, and say, “Is this as complicated as I think? Am I missing something here?” then you’re probably not as ambitious.

Chatbots, which rely on AI to simulate human conversation, could bridge the gap between personalized-learning software as it stands today and Gates’s vision of the future. Microsoft has already made headway in this area, experimenting with a chatbot called Tay and outlining practical applications for its Conversations as a Platform initiative.

In his interview, Gates suggests that leveraging the technology within the education space could someday soon provide students with the subtle guidance they need to learn more effectively: “The idea that you could talk to a [virtual] advisor that would understand different misconceptions and arbitrary linguistics around it, that’ll certainly come in the next decade,” he says.


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