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A hot potato: Those who were around when the internet really started to take off in the 1990s had different ideas of what it would become. For Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the expectation was that it would make the world a more rational and factual place. What he never foresaw was it becoming a meeting place for "crazy people" who have crazy ideas, with QAnon cited as a specific example.
Speaking during a fireside chat on Thursday, where he was awarded the Peter G. Peterson Leadership Excellence Award by the Economic Club of New York, Gates talked about the rise of artificial intelligence and how it brings to mind the start of the internet revolution.
"I will admit, the people who drove the digital revolution, including myself, really thought that the world would get more rational," the billionaire said, via Business Insider.
Gates said he believed the internet would make the world "so factual" by empowering people to search for information on subjects like science on their own. He gave an example of someone learning both sides of a lawsuit by looking up the claims from the plaintiff and defendant, rather than relying on what a news article would reveal.
While that sort of thing does happen, what Gates didn't expect was how much the internet would be used by people with "crazy ideas."
"There were a lot of them out there. They were just not finding each other," Gates said. "And now, with digital tools, said: 'Oh you think that crazy thing? Me too! Let's get together and have a critical mass of crazy people. Let's, you know, call ourselves QAnon.'"
Gates has been the subject of many online conspiracy theories, including accusations of leading a cabal of global elites and trying to depopulate the world. Probably the most infamous claims are those linking him to Covid-19. These include Gates himself creating the virus and secretly using the vaccines to implant microchips in people.
Gates said he hopes younger generations of people will be creative enough to solve the disinformation issues plaguing the internet today. That might sound as if he's against AI, which is adept at creating fake content, though that isn't the case.
The former Microsoft CEO expressed positivity about AI, citing its potential near-term benefits, such as relieving labor shortages and enriching the world. He did add that he was open to AI regulation, and anyone who battles against it just sounds "stupid."
Elsewhere during the chat, Gates said he considered himself less of a hardcore boss compared to Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. Gates has clashed with Musk on numerous occasions over everything from the vaccines - he said he'd rather fund them than travel to Mars - to Tesla stock. His turbulent relationship with Jobs, meanwhile, swung from them being allies to sworn enemies.
"Everybody is different. Elon pushes hard, maybe too much," Gates said. "Steve Jobs pushed hard, maybe too much."
"I think of myself as very nice compared to those guys," he added.