Gates suggests artificial intelligence could potentially bring shorter work week

Bill Gates is weighing in on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it could allow humans to work just three days a week.

“If you zoom out, the purpose of life is not just to do jobs,” the Microsoft co-founder said Monday on an episode of Trevor Noah’s “What Now? With Trevor Noah” podcast. “So if you eventually get a society where you only have to work three days a week or something, that’s probably OK if the machines can make all the food and the stuff and we don’t have to work as hard.”

“The demand for labor to do good things is still there if you match the skills to it, and then if you ever get beyond that, then, OK, you have a lot of leisure time and will have to figure out what to do with it,” Gates said.

Bill Gates speaks in Texas

Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, during the EEI 2023 event in Austin, Texas, on June 12, 2023. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Gates also acknowledged that job displacement happens with new technologies.

“If they come slow enough, they’re generational,” he said. The billionaire gave an example of fewer farmers in this generation compared to prior ones.

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“So if it proceeds at a reasonable pace, and the government helps those people who have to learn new things, then it’s all good,” he told Noah. “It’s the aging society, it’s OK because the software makes things more productive.”

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Gates argued earlier this year that AI could supply major benefits to productivity, health care and education. He has also more recently talked about the potential of AI-powered personal assistants called “agents” that eventually “will be able to help with virtually any activity and any area of life” online.

Bill Gates headshot

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reacts during a visit with Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Imperial College University on Feb. 15, 2023, in London. (Photo by Justin Tallis – WPA Pool/Getty Images / Getty Images)

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In March, while touting AI, Gates also called for establishing “rules of the road” so “any downsides of artificial intelligence are far outweighed by its benefits.”

The potential future impact of AI on jobs and workflows has come up more as companies increasingly proceed to adopt the technology. 

In April, the World Economic Forum found that nearly three-quarters of the companies it surveyed around the world indicated they would likely adopt AI. Half of the surveyed companies said they expected AI to create job growth, while 25% thought it would guide to job cuts.

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LinkedIn recently reported that it experienced a surge in the number of job advertisements referencing AI compared with November of last year.

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