Designed to assist humanity. Be transparent. Maximize efficiency without destroying human dignity. Provide intelligent privacy and accountability for the unexpected. Be guarded against biases. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella says these are the goals and principles that will guide them as they move forward with their artificial intelligence [AI] initiatives.
And moving forward they certainly are. Investing in AI for more than two decades now, Microsoft can’t help but be proud of what they have achieved so far.
There’s Cortana — the digital assistant that helps one navigate Windows more efficiently for better productivity. There’s Microsoft Translator which makes conversations between different users speaking in different languages possible through an app that translates what’s being said into readable text that sounds more human than other previous translators.
And then there’s Zo — their new social chatbot. In contrast with Cortana who exists solely to do tasks mechanically, Zo makes use of conversational AI, or AI that combines productivity (task completion) with emotion. Zo is capable of learning and responding emotionally and intelligently. With this capability, this chatbot is supposed to lay the groundwork for more complex and competent AI personalities — smart enough to be used in the field of customer service and other more interactive areas.
But there’s much more to be done – the AI technologies we have right now are just the beginning. And Microsoft knows they can’t go further if they do it alone.
Last September, Redmond — together with IBM, DeepMind/Google, Facebook and Amazon — established “Partnership on AI”, a non-profit group whose objectives are to study AI technologies, provide a platform where anyone and everyone can openly discuss their ideas and perceptions about AI and its impact on society, and come up with guidelines that can help people understand AI better.
Less than two months later, they joined forces with OpenAI, another non-profit organization dedicated to AI. Through this, they’re hoping to show how serious they are in helping address problems like “climate change, inequality, health and education.”
And more recently, the company initiated a fund that’s devoted exclusively for AI development. It will be used to support AI start-up companies so they can help make society better by finding ways to ‘make humans and machines work together’. It will also support non-AI startup companies specializing on other aspects of technology like cloud infrastructure, communications and machine learning.
Combining all these efforts, Microsoft hopes to realize their intention of bringing AI to everybody – that’s what AI democratizations is — so that the technology will eventually become an integral part of everyday life. At the same time, they are making sure they will go about pursuing their ambition responsibly. There’s already enough fear that AI will turn out to be a threat. But by working together –with checks and balances to ensure that the technology is used properly — AI need not be feared but embraced.