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Microsoft CEO Says AI Should Help People, Not Replace Them

Source | CIO Today

From a technology conference in Munich to the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) gathering of movers and shakers in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been making the rounds this week to promote his vision of how artificial intelligence (AI) should be used to help, rather than hurt, people.

Speaking yesterday during a “fireside chat” at the DLD digital conference in Germany, Nadella (pictured above) said he believes the key design principle for AI is making sure that the technology augments human capabilities rather than being used to replace people in the workplace and other arenas.

Nadella reiterated those comments today during a panel discussion in Davos about artificial intelligence. Another member of the panel, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, echoed that view, noting that technology companies need to build a foundation of trust for AI if the technology is to achieve its full potential benefits for society.

Needed: Guidelines for ‘Tasteful’ AI

“The way at least I have defined AI in simple terms is, we’re trying to teach machines to learn so that they can do things that humans do but in turn helps humans,” Nadella said yesterday in a talk with Ludwig Siegele, technology editor of The Economist. Steering the technology’s development in that way first requires the right design decisions, he said.

A set of guidelines for “tasteful” AI would ensure the technology is used to augment the capabilities of humans rather than replace them, Nadella added. Such guidelines are also needed to ensure that AI supports security and privacy, and is built on algorithms that provide accountability, he said.

Nadella also noted that he wants Microsoft to get “very, very focused” on design decisions and investments that ensure AI is developed along those lines.

Speaking today at the WEF panel, he added that the purpose of artificial intelligence is “to help humans do what they do better, so it’s augmentation versus replacement. That’s a design choice. I want us to make that decision that it’s augmentation.”

Not a Choice between ‘Man or Machine’

Led by Vista Equity Partners chairman and CEO Robert Smith, today’s WEF discussion on artificial intelligence also featured Rometty, MIT Media Lab Director Joichi Ito and HealthTap founder/CEO Ron Gutman.

Rometty said IBM has taken several key lessons from its development of the Watson cognitive computing system. In particular, the company has learned that AI should have a “symbiotic” relationship with humans rather than presenting a choice between “man or machine,” she said.

Nadella added that technology companies also need to make democratized AI a priority. For example, Microsoft’s Skype translation intelligence is making it possible for 100 people to all communicate with one another in real time while speaking 10 different languages . . . an application he said is “pretty magical.” Another Microsoft developer is using AI to build eyeglasses for the visually impaired that can identify people by their faces and even recognize their emotions, Nadella said.

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