- Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates appeared onstage for Bloomberg's New Economy Forum in Beijing on Thursday, and spoke out against protectionism in artificial intelligence research.
- The US and China have dominated in AI research, but rising political tensions have slowed collaboration between the two countries and raised concerns of national security.
- But Gates said separating the sectors was impractical, and 'just doesn't work.'
- He also said sharing research was key for attracting talent: many Microsoft employees stayed at the company because it regularly publishes their research, he said.
- Gates is no stranger to wading into controversial topics. At the New York Times DealBook conference in early November, he apologized for his ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and questioned whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren would be willing to even hear his concerns about her proposed wealth tax.
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But Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, who spoke at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing on Thursday, says he has some difficulty understanding how separating or limiting the sharing of scientific research would even work.
"You can't, you know, carry around little notes to each other saying don't give this to someone because their grandmother is Chinese," he said. "It doesn't work."
Gates said that the US has long benefitted from openly sharing scientific research, and that it remains a huge advantage, especially within the field of artificial intelligence. In his view, there's no going back from that approach.
"AI is very hard to put back in the bottle and whoever has the open system will so vastly get ahead," Gates said. "You can completely ignore whoever tries to close their system."
Gates said he visited Microsoft's AI research lab in Beijing, and pointed out that sharing research was one of the reasons that its employees came to work at Microsoft in the first place.
"We gladly pay their salaries, but if we didn't have that publishing approach, those people would go and work somewhere else," Gates said.
Of note is that Gates' remarks at the Bloomberg conference passed with less controversy than his recent appearance at the New York Times DealBook conference in early November.
On stage at that event, the billionaire philanthropist blamed an antitrust lawsuit for causing Microsoft's Windows Phone to lose out to Google's Android, apologized for his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and questioned whether presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would be willing to hear his concerns about her proposed wealth tax. Warren quickly responded that she would be happy to sit down with Gates and explain the tax.