Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Can Israel Achieve Its Goals In Gaza?; The Danger Of The Israel-Hamas War Expanding; Is The West's Support For Ukraine Waning?; Interview With OpenAI CEO Sam Altman; Interview With Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 28, 2024 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you from New York.


ZAKARIA: Today on the program, the growing fear that the war in Gaza will spread. Could it happen? Is it likely? I'll ask "The New Yorker's" Robin Wright and General Mark Hertling.

Also, A.I. It's what everyone is talking about from Davos to Detroit, Shenzhen to Silicon Valley. I'll talk to two of the smartest brains in technology who will tell you what you need to know now.

First, the man behind ChatGPT, Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI. Then Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." For all of the focus on the many geopolitical crises across the globe, the one that is potentially the most dangerous has actually been trending in a positive direction.

Ian Bremmer, the founder of Eurasia Group, said to me the biggest upside of recent months has got to the stabilization of U.S.-China's relations. U.S. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan's meeting with China's top diplomat Wang Yi for private talks this week is one more sign of a thaw in relations that in 2021 had both sides yelling at each other in Anchorage. Military-to-military talks have resumed. Janet Yellin and Gina Raimondo had both had constructive trips to China.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command noted earlier this month that since the Biden-Xi summit in November Chinese military planes seemed to have stopped their dangerous maneuvers. Over the prior two years since the fall of 2021 there had been nearly 300 such incidents against U.S. aircraft and those of U.S. allies and partners. And the Taiwan elections, while going against China's hopes, were handled maturely by both sides.

This is all to the good. The mistrust, miscommunication and lack of contact that characterized the relationship for the first two years of the Biden administration was dangerous. This rivalry could easily spiral into an unconstrained arms race in everything from artificial intelligence to space weapons, splinter the global economy and descend into the first great power war since 1945.

Both sides have adjusted their attitudes. But the larger shift has come from Beijing. Xi Jinping came to power in the wake of the global financial crisis convinced that the U.S. was waning. He had said the East is rising and the West is declining. He wanted China to lessen its economic dependence on the U.S. and make the technologies of the future at home. He initiated a more ambitious and aggressive foreign policy.

Flash forward to recent months, Xi publicly declared to an audience of American business executives that China has no intention or desire to replace America as the global hegemon. He and Wang Yi have argued that cooperation between the U.S. and China is imperative. He courted American business in San Francisco and the Premiere Li Qiang did the same in Davos.

Much of the shift in rhetoric probably stems from Beijing's recognition that its own economy has been floundering while the U.S. is booming. But more generally it must see that its wolf warrior diplomacy has failed, alienating people from India to Australia, to Germany. A recent Pew study showed that 22 of the 24 countries surveyed viewed the U.S. more favorably than they did China.

Washington for its part came to realize that U.S.-China relations were veering badly off course and could lead to dangerous spirals, crises and conflict. If Taiwan in particular were badly handled, everyone would suffer, including the Taiwanese who by large majorities want the status quo to continue.


There's also an upside to better relations between the two powers which remain deeply intertwined economically. Many U.S. allies have made clear to Washington that while they seek America's security help, China will remain their largest economic partner.

None of this is to suggest that things are now warm and friendly. New crises will emerge. As China's affordable EVs flood the markets, expect a big debate in some Western countries over how to respond. For Germany, China was the great savior for its auto industry absorbing a large share of German exports, but today Chinese cars are the greatest threat to that same industry.

There will be new tensions over pharmaceuticals and biotech products, but they will now happen in the context of a working relationship between Washington and Beijing, which is reassuring.

Part of what has allowed the shift in Washington's attitude is the realization that China is not 10 feet tall. Just as with Japan in the 1980s, policy-makers in Washington projected China's growth forward and panicked. But as the German proverb goes, trees don't grow to the sky. China's growth has slumped substantially, made worse by many bad policies in recent years. Its demographics and productivity, the main two components of economic growth, are both weak.

China remains a powerful force but it is not going to take over the world. A crucial attribute of America's age of hegemony, which began 80 years ago, was that Washington created a security system in which other countries could grow and prosper. As long as they did not try to disrupt the international order, they could thrive economically, politically, socially and culturally.

This attitude was rooted in a confidence that the United States could compete and do well with rivals but it insisted that the rivalry not turn into a geopolitical one where there is no win-win solution and the global system would break down.

If China plays by these rules, Washington should give it some space. As America's economy powers ahead, the country would do well to maintain confidence in itself and design a foreign policy based on that accurate premise rather than one that is forged on doom and despair.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week.

Next on GPS the International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent a genocide in Gaza, but will that translate to a swifter end to the war? I'll ask retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling and the "The New Yorker's" Robin Wright when we come back.



ZAKARIA: The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent a genocide in Gaza where Israel's siege has led to what it called a catastrophic humanitarian situation. It should be noted this is not a ruling confirming South Africa's allegation that Israel's actions in Gaza constitute genocide, and the court notably stopped short of calling for a cease-fire.

The court will continue to hear South Africa's arguments and Israel's defense in a trial that could take years. Meanwhile, CIA chief Bill Burns is in Europe to meet with top Israeli and Qatari officials to try to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas that could lead to hostage releases and a potential cease-fire.

Joining me now is retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling, who is a national security and military analyst for CNN, and Robin Wright is a contributing writer for "The New Yorker" and a distinguished fellow at the Wilson Center.

Mark, let me begin by asking you, Israel has this international pressure to either cease or scale back its operations substantially. There's also fears of a widening war. In the midst of all this, is Israel achieving its objectives which Bibi Netanyahu keeps saying is the total destruction of Hamas? You know, that's the military objective. I'm not quite sure what the political objective is. And I just want to hear from you from a military point of view, are they succeeding and can they succeed?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Fareed, indicators right now state that Israel has disabled about 20 percent to 30 percent of the Hamas network so far. The early comments about destroying Hamas, destroying an ideology we've talked about, but what the Israeli military has done is destroyed a significant portion of the terrorist network in Gaza. But it's fascinating because from the standpoint of time and alliances, time is not on Israel's side.

Hamas is using time as part of their strategy, as well as using the underground tunnels which is -- which are built underneath the civilian population to draw Israel in. So this is something that really puts the Israeli military at a disadvantage while they do try and destroy the Hamas infrastructure. They've got a long way to go. They cleared a lot of area in northern Gaza but there's still much that remains in the center and in the south.

ZAKARIA: Robin, that's striking to me what Mark Hertling is saying. They've only destroyed 20 percent or 30 percent, and you know, I mean, as far as I can tell they've leveled northern Gaza. They're inflicting pretty severe damage in the south now. Is all this to destroy 20 percent or 30 percent of Hamas fighters? Is it worth it politically? What do you make of the political fallout?


Or is it the price they have to pay? Because at the end of the day there's no way around this.

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER AND COLUMNIST, NEW YORKER: Well, Hamas if it can survive politically it will think that it has won. Significant battle to show that Israel is weak. Israel on the other hand faces serious political challenges. There is a division inside the country about its military priority. Should it try to free the hostages first and then go after the rest of Hamas, or should it destroy Gaza with the hope that that will eventually lead to the freedom of these human beings.

And Hamas has enormous leverage over Israel and the fact that hostages are the largest issue for the Israelis. And it's very hard to see that Hamas is going to release all of these people in some sort of temporary cease-fire because this is the thing -- Hamas would want to hold on to human beings because -- for the long term because that's the way you pressure Israel to do more to release Palestinian prisoners, to allow Hamas to continue to exist in Gaza.

ZAKARIA: So, Mark, if you're looking at this situation, you know, and as I said, there's a military objective. There's also political objectives. Is there another path? You know, people were saying it should be a much more targeted operation, go after the leadership, or do you think at the end of the day you just have to kind of -- you know, because it does feel like it's a very costly way, if you're right and they've just destroyed 20 percent to 30 percent of Hamas fighters, that means there's months more of very intense fighting with lots of civilian casualties to go. Is that the only way?

HERTLING: Yes, I think interestingly enough, Fareed, a great young retired major in the Army, John Spencer, wrote an article recently talking about Hamas, they're using both time and the tunnels as their strategy. But those purposefully built tunnels and the knowledge that Hamas has that Israel will continue to use their military advantage to destroy them, and at the same time they can't get to these underground tunnels, and so much effort has been placed in building these tunnels, that it makes it very difficult for Israel to even achieve their complete military objective, much less their strategic objective at destroying Hamas without destroying part of the Palestinian infrastructure throughout Gaza.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating to hear you because it makes you realize how despite the fact that Israel is so much stronger than Hamas, you know, if you looked at the numbers, it has capacity to dwarf Hamas, it is still at a kind of disadvantage.

Stay with us. When we come back, I want to ask whether this war will spread. Robin Wright says it already has spread. I'll ask her to explain when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling and Robin Wright of the "New Yorker" and the Wilson Center.

Robin, you say that this Gaza operation has already spread in the sense that it has evolved, it has kind of intersected now with lots of different things going on in the Middle East. Can you explain what you mean?

WRIGHT: Well, before October 7th there were 10 different conflicts in the Middle East often playing out more in a local agenda involving diverse rivalries, different goals, different agendas. But since October 7th they have all had a kind of common thread. Various conflicts have intersected. For example, before October 7th Hamas and Hezbollah were fighting different conflicts with Israel.

They shared a common strategic goal in pressuring Israel or eliminating Israel but they had their own local agendas. The same is true of the Houthis who are fighting civil wars since 2014 and which became regionalized after Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen in 2015. But only after October 7th did you see the Houthis suddenly becoming an international element capable of lopsided leverage over international shipping, 30 percent of which goes through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

And then you have the different American components to it based in Syria and Iraq who are fighting the remnants of the Islamic State. And suddenly you find that the kind of occasional pot shots that the Iranian backed militias in both of those countries would take against American troops being -- kind of merging because of Gaza, in sympathy with Gaza. And then you see the bigger thread that plays out among all of them now that pit the United States against Iran.

Ironically, no one wants a bigger war. But there's such a momentum at the moment that it's hard to see how the United States can contain it. Even if there is a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

ZAKARIA: That's fascinating. And it does seem like there's two kind of trends that are widening the war. One is the Israeli issue, which is there's a number -- all these militias and proxies feel like they want to do something in sympathy of the Palestinians. But the other one is that all of them, almost all of them in some ways supported by Iran.

Mark Hertling, do you think the U.S. has been doing -- the Biden administration has been doing a good job trying to prevent this from getting out of hand?

HERTLING: Yes, the intent of the administration is to deter any future war. But it's very difficult, Fareed. Two simple things always have to be part of a consideration of warfare. Time and alliances. For any country to win a war, their military must remain strong while they also strengthen and keep their alliances intact. At the same time, they must continuously weaken their enemy's forces and counter their enemy's alliances.

What we've seen in Israel is the alliance between Israel and other countries to include the United States and many Western allies is declining because of what we already stated, the unfortunate humanitarian disaster in Palestine.


At the same time, as Robin just said, the Hamas alliances are growing in strength. They are bringing those alliances together of the Houthis, Hezbollah, the PMF forces from Iran and countries like Syria and Iraq. All of those things are growing in support of Hamas. And we're seeing one side deteriorate, the other side grow in strength. So it will be very difficult for the United States to continue to deter a growing alliance that's supporting Hamas. But that is the intent.

ZAKARIA: Since I have both of you, I do want to ask you about another U.S. ally that is facing some challenges very quickly.

Robin, what do you think the situation for Ukraine is with regard to its alliances? Zelenskyy trying to ensure that the West stays resolved. I mean, how do you read the situation? Is it dire?

WRIGHT: I think it is dire. The United States has gotten to a point that it can't provide the kind of weaponry that Ukraine needs to fight off the Russians. And it's going to make it much more difficult for Ukraine politically, diplomatically, and most of all militarily to hold back Vladimir Putin's intention of taking more Ukrainian territory. And once the United States backs away, the question is, can Europe compensate? And so far there are indications that it either can't or won't.

So there's -- and the problem is that the war in Israel has complicated -- has diverted attention, you know, where are American interests in weaponry? Where are they going to go? And so I think this is -- the two wars are kind of being conflated as well in terms of where does the United States use its energy, its leverage and its armors.

ZAKARIA: Mark Hertling, you were early on very strong and prescient I should say that the Ukrainian military would be a lot better than people thought. What do you think right now? Because they do seem to have -- the counteroffensive didn't go as well as thought. The Russians in some ways have the momentum. Eric Schmidt has an article in "Foreign Affairs" saying the Russians are winning the drone war right now. What does it look like on the battlefield for Ukraine?

HERTLING: Well, Fareed, I'll go back to my two themes of this morning, time and alliances. Ukraine is continuing to hold their own right. I watch the daily sit-reps, situation reports from Ukraine, and they seem to be doing very well. And in most areas they've gone on the operational defense which is smart for them for this current situation. They can't attack right now. They don't have the strength.

Russia has learned some lessons in the last two years, but they are still in my view ineffective in offensive operations and they're trying to do that. But due to the Russian approach to combat today, they ignore massive casualties and they will continue to bleed their army. The key is how will alliances fit in. Russia has North Korea, Iran and likely China, supporting them with equipment.

Ukraine, on the other hand has the United States which as Mitt Romney said it's baffling why we're not continuing to support them because they have done such a great job and they are a partner in freedom and attempting to regain their sovereignty.

The truth is, Fareed, right now I think Ukraine is holding their own. But unless there's some relief from the U.S. Congress and others to continue to provide arms and ammunition, it will be troublesome for the rest of 2024. There are some that think they can build the potential for counterattacks and more offensive operations in 2025. But that's a four-year war at that point.

ZAKARIA: Mark Hertling, Robin Wright, really interesting conversation. Thank you so much.

Next on GPS, a conversation with the leading tech figure of the moment. Sam Altman, whose company, of course, is behind ChatGPT.



ZAKARIA: Artificial intelligence was the phrase on everyone's lips at Davos this year. I had the opportunity to moderate a panel with several major players in the technology field. One of the panelists was OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman.

His company is the creator, of course, of ChatGPT which has sent shock waves through the world. That's why it was such big news last year when Altman was abruptly fired as CEO then very quickly rehired. We talk about A.I. and that boardroom drama.


ZAKARIA: I think most people are worried about two, kind of, opposite things about A.I. One is it's going to end humankind as we know it. And the other is, why can't it drive my car?

Where do you think realistically, we are with artificial intelligence right now? What is it -- for you, what are the things it can do most effectively and what are the things we need to understand that it cannot do?

SAM ALTMAN, CEO, OPENAI: I think a very good sign about this new tool is that even with its very limited current capability and its very deep flaws people are finding ways to use it for great productivity gains or other gains and understand the limitations.

So, a system that is sometimes right, sometimes creative, often totally wrong, you actually don't want that to drive your car. But you're happy for it to, you know, like help you brainstorm what to write about or help you with code that you get to check.

ZAKARIA: The thing that I think people worry about is the ability to trust A.I. You know, at what level can you say, I'm really OK with the A.I. doing it, you know, whether it's driving the car, writing the paper, filling out the medical form?


And part of that trust, I think, always comes when you understand how it works. And one of the problems A.I. researchers have, A.I. engineers have, is figuring out why it does what it does. You know, how the neural network operates? What weights it assigns to various things.

Do you think that we will get there or is it getting so inherently complicated that we are at some level just going to have to trust the black box?

ALTMAN: So, on the first part of your question, I think, humans are pretty forgiving of other humans making mistakes but not really at all forgiving of computers making mistakes. And so, people who say things like, well, you know, self-driving cars are already safer than human- driven cars, probably has to be safer by a factor of I would guess like between 10 and 100 before people will accept it, maybe even more. And I think the same thing is going to happen for other A.I. systems.

I also think that what it means to verify or understand what's going on is going to be a little bit different than people think right now. I actually can't look in your brain and look at the hundred trillion synapses and try to understand what's happening in each one and say, OK, I really understand why he's thinking what he's thinking. You're not a black box to me.

But what I can ask you to do is, explain to me your reasoning. I can say, you know, you think this thing, why? And you can explain, first this, then this, then there's this conclusion, and that one and then there's this. And I can decide if that sounds reasonable to me or not.

And, I think, our A.I. systems will also be able to do the same thing. They'll be able to explain to us in natural language the steps from A to B and we can decide whether we think those are good steps.

ZAKARIA: One of the things you and I have talked earlier, and one of the things you've always emphasized was you thought A.I. can be very friendly, very benign, very empathetic. And I want to hear from you, what do you think is left for a human being to do if the A.I. can out analyze a human being, can out calculate a human being? A lot of people then say, well, that will -- you know, that means what we will be left with, our core innate humanness will be our emotional intelligence, our empathy, our ability to care for others.

But do you think A.I. could do that better than us as well? And if so, what -- what's the core competence of human beings?

ALTMAN: I think there will be a lot of things. Humans really care about what other humans think. That seems very deeply wired into us.

So, chess was one of the first like victims of A.I., right? Deep Blue can beat Kasparov, that was a long time ago. And all of the commentators said, this is the end of chess now that a computer can beat the human. You know, no one is going to -- no one is going to bother to watch chess again ever. It's over -- or play chess again.

Chess, I think, never been more popular than it is right now. And no one or almost no one watches two AIs play each other. We're like very interested in what humans do.

We've had better tools before. But we're still like very focused on each other. And I think we will do things with better tools and I admit it does feel different this time. General purpose cognition feels so close to what we all treasure about humanity that it does feel different.

So of course, you know, there will be kind of the human roles where you want another human. But even without that, I think -- like when I think about my job, I'm certainly not a great A.I. researcher. My role is to like, you know, figure out what we're going to do, think about that, and then like work with other people to coordinate and make it happen.

And I think everyone's job will look a little bit more like that. We will all operate at a little bit higher level of abstraction.

ZAKARIA: Sam, when I look at technology my fear is often what would bad people do with this technology? But there are -- many people who fear this much larger issue of the technology ruling over us, right?

You've always taken a benign view of A.I. or relatively benign view, but people like Elon Musk, and sometimes Bill Gates, and other very smart people who know a lot about the field are very, very worried. What is it -- why is it that you think they're wrong? What is it that they are not understanding about A.I.? ALTMAN: Well, I don't think they're guaranteed to be wrong. This is a technology that's clearly very powerful and that we don't know -- we cannot say with certainty exactly what's going to happen. It could go very wrong.

The technological direction that we've been trying to push it in is one that we think we can make safe, and that includes a lot of things. It's -- we believe in iterative deployment so we put this technology out into the world along the way so people get used to it.


So, we have time as a society -- our institutions have time to have these discussions, figure out how to regulate this, how to put some guardrails in place.

ZAKARIA: Can you technically kind of put guardrails in, write a kind of constitution for an A.I. system? Would that work?

ALTMAN: If you look at the progress from GPT-3 to GPT-4 about how well it can align itself to a set of values, we've made massive progress there. Now, there's a harder question than the technical one which is, who gets to decide what the values are? And what the defaults are, what the bounds are, how does it work in this country versus that country, what am I allowed to do with it versus not.

So that's a big societal question. I mean, I believe and I think the world now believes that the benefit here is so tremendous that we should go do this. But I think it is on us to figure out a way to get the input from society about how we're going to make these decisions not only about, you know, what the values of the system are, but what the safety thresholds are and what kind of global coordination we need to ensure that stuff that happens in one country does not super negatively impact another.

So, I like that people are nervous about it. We have our owner nervousness. But we believe that we can manage through it. And the only way to do that is to put the technology in the hands of people and let society and technology co-evolve and sort of step by step with a very tight feedback loop and course correction build these systems that deliver tremendous value while meeting the sort of safety requirements.

ZAKARIA: Sam, you were involved in what is perhaps the most widely publicized boardroom scandal in recent decades. What lesson did you learn from that?

ALTMAN: I mean, a lot of things. I'm trying to think what I can say. One thing that I sort of observed for a while is every one step, we take closer to very powerful A.I. everybody's -- everybody's character gets like plus 10 crazy points. It's a very stressful thing, and it should be because we're trying to be responsible about very high stakes.

And so, I think that as -- I think one lesson is as we get -- we, the whole world, get closer to very powerful A.I., I expect more strange things. And having a higher level of preparation, more resilience, more time spent thinking about all of the strange ways things can go wrong, that's really important.

The best thing I learned throughout this, by far, was about the strength of our team. Like the team -- the company would be fine without me. The team -- you know, either the people that I hired or how I mentored them, or whatever you want to call it, like they were ready to do it, and that was such a satisfying thing. That was my best learning of the whole thing.


ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I'll be back with Bill Gates who will tell us about his plans for A.I. to save lives, many lives.



ZAKARIA: Earlier this month the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced its largest annual budget ever and said that it intends to help the world's poorest by using A.I. I spoke to Gates at the World Economic Forum at Davos last week about the future of technology. He brought a backpack with him filled with A.I. powered gadgets which he says will save millions of lives.


ZAKARIA: Bill Gates, always a pleasure to see you.


ZAKARIA: You know that people around the world are looking at what's going on in Gaza, what's going on in Ukraine, fears over Taiwan, and generally speaking there's a lot of gloom and doom. And you've always tended to be something of an optimist. In today's world, are you still very optimistic?

GATES: Well, absolutely. The progress we've made on things like childhood death are pretty miraculous. And --

ZAKARIA: Explain what you mean by that.

GATES: OK. At the turn of the century about 10 million kids died every single year before the age of five. That's from things like malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia. Because we founded a thing called Gavi for vaccines, global fund for multiple diseases, we got development budgets really focused on effective interventions, Gates Foundation came in and partnered with a lot of people, childhood deaths were cut to less than 5 million a year. And so, you can even think, you know, 5 million lives a year, that even compared to the super tragic situation in Ethiopia, Sudan, Gaza, Ukraine means that we are making progress.

ZAKARIA: So, when you think about the future, it does feel like so much of that rested on a degree of global cooperation. Western countries, rich countries were willing to provide aid. The south was willing to partner in various ways. And what you notice now is in the rich countries there's more of a reluctance.

The Republicans are now turning PEPFAR, which was a Republican idea of biggest aid program in some ways that has helped in Africa, they are turning against it. Money is running out for it. And in the south, you are seeing greater resistance to this kind of cooperation. Do you worry that sort of nationalism and politics is going to make it harder to achieve the kind of outcomes you described?

GATES: Yes. We could have a period where things go backwards, if countries turn inward. But the morality of caring about children, of having innovative scientists come up with new innovations, of making sure that the cost is brought down and it gets delivered, I think, that's so compelling that even if briefly we get distracted, we will come back to it.


But there's I have a sense of urgency. You know, that's why Gates Foundation will invest a record amount in these things and, you know, we'll encourage --

ZAKARIA: What will you spend on global health this year?

GATES: We'll spend overall 8.6 billion and about two-thirds of that is global health.

ZAKARIA: Bill, let me ask you about technology because this is something you've spent a lot of time thinking about, not just creating. My sense from reading your blog post and such is that you regard A.I. as something as big as the internet.

I remember when the internet first came about, you initially didn't think a lot about it, then you went -- you did a deep dive and you wrote this memo where you said, this changes everything. Is A.I. at that level?

GATES: Absolutely. A.I. reached the threat hold, ChatGPT 4, where it can essentially read and write. And it's not perfect yet, but the piece and improvement is dramatic. And so, it's almost like having a white-collar worker to be a tutor, to give health advice, to help write code, to help with technical support calls. And so, economic productivity over the next five years, we inculcate this into the medical sector, educational sector, it's going to be fantastic.

And the goal of the Gates Foundation is to make sure that the delay between this benefitting people in poor countries versus getting to rich countries, you know, we'll make that very short. After all, the shortage of doctors and teachers is way more acute in Africa than it is in the west.

ZAKARIA: But when you think about how it will change people's lives, give us a picture of what -- you know, not too far. Five to seven years from now will our lives be appreciably different? GATES: As you get more productivity, any activity you can improve, the quality of the work, the quantity of the worker, you can free up labor to go do other things. And you actually don't need much new hardware other than the back end to run the A.I., it's the phone or P.C. you already have connected over the internet connection you already have. And so actually the capital spending other than A.I. companies themselves --

ZAKARIA: With the software and the energy --

GATES: Exactly.


GATES: The backend data centers will be a cost, but there's innovation that will bring that down to make sure we're not in shortage because the demand is, you know, going up so rapidly. And it will take a few years to get those costs to be super, super low.

But that's -- it's guaranteed to happen. You know, tens of billions are going in. You know, Microsoft alone is 50 billion over the next year. And so, that's why when we look at people like Khan Academy, who we fund, and we see what he calls Khanmigo you can get a glimpse that it's pretty revolutionary. Helping you write in a better way, keeping you motivated to learn more math, and the same thing in the health area.

ZAKARIA: When I think about A.I. and society, one of the things I worry about is we don't really understand how it works, how neural networks work. And I know there's some work going on but it's fairly preliminary.

And what I worry about is that that turns it into a black box. You know, that it almost becomes like this god like or religious experience where you just have to have faith. You don't actually know why it's doing what it's doing. Do you think we will figure that out or is it just so complicated that it's not ever going to be something human beings can understand?

GATES: No, we'll understand. I mean, it is crazy that we are representing knowledge in a profound way. We're encoding what it means to write like Shakespeare, to write like Trump. And when you ask it, you know, rewrite the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Allegiance, it clearly has seen and is encoding those things.

We have a lot of mathematicians now looking and seeing, OK, which -- where is the -- where are the facts stored? Where are the writing style? Where is that stored? So, we should be able to encode directly and test, OK, what knowledge is in there? As opposed to, it's kind of a white box, but because we don't understand it, it still feels like a black box.

At the same time, we're using checking systems -- you know, so you have multiple layers of A.I. looking at each other. We've been able to get like the medical system accuracy up pretty dramatically. So, given all the attention going to that, I think, the quality will go up quite rapidly.


ZAKARIA: What are the other innovations in technology that you think are on the same level? Because a lot of people think that in the bio space, the sequencing of the genome and things like that, you're going to see a similar kind of breakthrough. Do you feel that way?

GATES: Oh, absolutely. A.I. comes into play here. We've got the idea that, you know, in the rich world when you're pregnant they scan you with an ultrasound but it's an expensive instrument, and a highly trained technician. By taking A.I. and looking at lots and lots of pregnancies, and seeing which came out well and which didn't, we can use this for less than $1.00 per delivery and warn a woman, OK, you should go to the hospital because you're going to have a complex delivery. Or it looks good, you can just stay out in your community. And so, this is going to save, you know, 50,000 lives a year as it gets rolled out.

ZAKARIA: That's a good example of using existing machinery and just using the A.I. with the software, right?

GATES: Exactly, better software. Although the chip in here is getting cheaper and cheaper as well. So, when I look at the world, I see innovation coming faster than ever. So, we need to get ready to take advantage of that, minimize the problems.

The actual delivery things, at least for this next decade, we do have headwinds. Financial headwinds, distraction but, you know, the moral importance of getting these things out to everyone, hopefully, will allow things like raising money for Gavi to still succeed despite the turmoil.

ZAKARIA: Bill Gates, always a pleasure.

GATES: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.