Microsoft’s thoughtful and trusted approach towards AI

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Computing is becoming part of every aspect of our work and our daily life – in our homes, offices, factories, and stadiums. There's computing in every industry from oil and gas, retail, to agriculture, government, and financial services. And there's computing in everything from connected cars to refrigerators, smart surgical tools, and even smart coffee machines.

Microsoft believes that technology can and should be a force for good and aspire for meaningful innovation rather than innovation for innovation’s sake. That means putting tools, not jewels, in the hands of everyone – because the roots of great innovation are never just in the technology itself, but in what it enables people to achieve.

Today, AI is the defining technology of our time and we at Microsoft are committed to accelerating the growth of AI in Canada. We are investing more than $100 million in cloud technology so Canadian organizations have the tools they need to compete in the digital age. And yet, despite local investment and a proliferation of AI incubators and research centers in places like Toronto and Montréal, Canadian businesses are not taking advantage of the enormous opportunities made possible by AI. A recent study from Gartner found that Canada was 9th out of 10 countries in adoption and deployment of AI in business applications. Those surveyed said their top challenge to implementation is lack of skills and lack of a defined AI strategy. We must reverse this trend if we want to attract the best and brightest talent and secure Canada’s future for the long term. To that end, Microsoft recently launched AI Business School, a free comprehensive AI business training that helps organizations define an AI strategy, enable an AI-ready culture and understand the implications of responsible AI in business.

The potential of AI is incredible but with this power comes complex ethical questions. While we believe that AI will help solve big societal problems, we must look to this future with a critical eye.

Designing AI to be trustworthy requires creating solutions that reflect ethical principles that are deeply rooted in important and timeless values. They need to be designed with protections for fairness, reliability and safety, transparency and accountability, privacy, and be inclusive. We must address the need for strong ethical principles, the evolution of laws, training for new skills and even labour market reforms. This must all come together if we’re going to make the most of AI.

Microsoft is taking a thoughtful and trusted approach – designing AI innovations that extend and empower human capabilities in all aspects of life, while keeping people in control. This approach augments human capacity to see, hear, analyze, reason and act in the world. Our approach to AI is based on three pillars:

  • Leading innovation that extends your capabilities 
  • Building powerful platforms that make innovation faster and more accessible
  • Developing a trusted approach so that AI is developed and deployed in a responsible manner

Microsoft has also started the much needed conversations about the need for government regulation and responsible industry measures to address advancing facial recognition technology, which brings important and even exciting societal benefits but also the potential for abuse.

There will be challenges as well as opportunities. We consider this a joint effort and are continuously working with the Canadian government, researchers, academics and partners to ensure that AI is applied ethically for the benefit of society. In addition, our FATE program is currently working on collaborative research projects that address the need for transparency, accountability, and fairness in AI and Machine Learning systems. 

About the author
Nuzio Ruffolo is National Transformation and AI Officer at Microsoft Canada. As an experienced software technical leader, he helps clients across all industries in Canada to understand the art of the possible today that will differentiate their businesses by leveraging Cognitive and Cloud computing.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. As a result, the Chamber cannot be held responsible for published content.

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