AI and the Art of What’s Possible

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Application Development Manager Rich Maines explores the art of the possible with AI in the context of Microsoft services and the ethical principles that we believe should drive the development of AI.


AI isn’t just another piece of technology. It could be one of the world’s most fundamental pieces of technology the human race has ever created.

— Satya Nadella

With the acceleration and seemingly endless possibilities of AI, it’s only natural to begin exploring how AI can transform your business. Just as software became the key competitive driver for companies across industries, infusing AI into every application will empower users, allow organizations to become more agile, and help them get to market faster. The capabilities that we emerged over the past few years allow customers to combine large amounts of structure and unstructured data (Big Data) with high performance computing and advanced analytics to gain better insights and unlock new work streams that delight users and increase operational efficiency.

Here at Microsoft, one of our differentiating factors is our unique set of Cognitive Services that can be used to infuse existing and new applications for any scenario, but we are focused on much more than the technology of AI. Simply put, we’re focused on enabling and empowering people. We don’t believe AI will replace humans, but rather amplify their ingenuity. Just like any technology, it will allow us to achieve more and dramatically amplify what we’re doing every day. Microsoft aims to democratize AI, but it’s also critical that we build upon an ethical foundation. AI can lead to unintended consequences if you first don’t have a firm understanding of the ethics of AI. With all due respect to Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Recognizing both the revolutionary impact of AI and its potential for misapplication (both intended and unintended), Microsoft has developed a value based principled approach for the delivery of AI technologies and solutions. This approach guides our thinking and behavior as we create technologies that have potential to significantly impact people and society by answering the following questions.

  • How do we ensure that AI is designed and used responsibly?
  • How do we establish ethical principles to protect people?
  • How should we govern its use?
  • How will AI impact employment and jobs?

With these questions top of mind, Microsoft has identified six ethical principles that we believe should guide the development of AI:

  • Fairness – AI systems should treat all people fairly
  • Reliability – AI systems should perform reliably and safely
  • Privacy & Security – AI systems should be secure and respect privacy
  • Inclusion – AI systems should empower everyone and engage people
  • Transparency – AI systems should be understandable
  • Accountability – The people who design and deploy AI systems must be accountable for how their systems operate

It is exciting to see these principles take hold. At a recent talk I gave for the Public Entrepreneur Development Academy in Phoenix, the ethics of AI was a primary focus of the discussion with city leaders.

The better we understand these or similar issues — and the more technology developers and users can share best practices to address them — the better served the world will be as we contemplate societal rules to govern AI.

 

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