Bill Gates’s Early Foray Into AI Is Rather Underwhelming

The man who called AI "revolutionary" just launched a chatbot that can recommend movies, books and podcasts

Bill Gates, Founder of Breakthrough Energy and Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks onstage at The New York Times Climate Forward Summit 2023 at The Times Center on September 21, 2023 in New York City
Bill Gates: Not quite delivering on the revolutionary aspect of AI (yet)
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for The New York Times

Bill Gates has been an outspoken supporter of artificial intelligence. Earlier this year, the tech innovator said AI was as “revolutionary as mobile phones and the Internet.” Maybe that’s why one of his first significant investments in this revolutionary tech space feels underwhelming: it’s a chatbot for personalized movie, TV, podcast and book picks.

Per The Wall Street Journal, a Gates-backed startup called Likewise released a free chatbot called Pix today. Pix runs on OpenAI’s natural-language processing technology and will apparently learn users’ preferences over time. It will suggest content across platforms to users who text, email or use the app.

Bill Gates Is a Huge Fan of Artificial Intelligence
“Artificial intelligence is as revolutionary as mobile phones and the Internet,” he says in a new essay

According to the Journal, Pix uses 600 million consumer data points to hone its media recommendations. Likewise’s home page offers up example queries such as “I’m looking for a Sci-Fi book series with strong female characters” and “Got binge-worthy true crime podcast recs?” We tested it out and got fairly decent answers about obscure found footage horror films — and then another click brought the list up on a different page with streaming options. I was also able to get Pix to expand on answers, though it oddly suggested The Shining when I asked for a more grounded, modern-day sci-fi book that explored either time travel or multiple universes (conversely, it did suggest Version Control by Dexter Palmer, which was an A+ selection).

A screenshot of Pix from the Likewise home page
A screenshot of Pix from the Likewise home page

I could see Pix being useful, though I’m not sure I’m getting answers that aren’t similar to ones I’d get via ChatGPT, “other customers bought” lists on Amazon, subreddit film forums, curated lists on Goodreads or apps like JustWatch, which already contains a solid recommendation engine. But the app also strikes me as a letdown from the man who recently said AI “will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.” Pix is useful, but it’s not the shiny future that Bill Gates promised.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.