PCs made everyone more productive at home, school, and at work — and artificial intelligence could change the world just as much

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harry shum

  • This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series
    on Better
  • We’re already seeing the impact of AI, argues
    Microsoft’s Harry Shum.
  • To make it truly benefit everyone, it needs to be
    developed responsibly.

When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft more than 40
years ago, their aim was to bring the benefits of computing —
then largely locked up in mainframes — to everyone.

They set out to build software for a “personal” computer that
would help people be more productive at home, at school and at

The personal computer democratized technology that was previously
available only to a few select people. Today, artificial
intelligence has the same potential.

AI offers incredible opportunities to drive global economic and
social progress.

The key to bringing the benefits of AI to everyone — not
just a select few — is to develop AI to be human-centered.

Put simply, AI systems should be created to augment human
abilities. We want AI technology to enable people to achieve
more, and we’re optimistic that this can happen.

Already, we are seeing how AI can have a tangible, useful impact.

For example, with the world’s population expected to grow by
nearly 2.5 billion people over the next quarter century, AI can
help to increase food production. A Microsoft research project
called FarmBeats is providing farmers with insights
that can help them improve agricultural yield, lower overall
costs and reduce their environmental impact.

A collaboration between Microsoft and university researchers,
called Project Premonition , aims to use AI to detect
dangerous pathogens in the environment before a disease such as
Zika becomes a full-fledged public health emergency. The system
uses everything from autonomous drones to robotic mosquito traps
to try to identify pathogens as they are emerging.

Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Seattle-based
Adaptive Biotechnologies. Our shared goal is to create a
universal blood test that reads a person’s immune system to
detect a wide variety of diseases, including infections, cancers
and autoimmune disorders, when they can be most effectively
diagnosed and treated.

Clearly, AI is beginning to augment human understanding and
decision-making. Therefore, it’s imperative for companies to
develop and adopt clear principles that guide the people
building, using and applying AI systems.

Among other things, these principles should ensure that AI
systems are fair, reliable, safe, private, secure, inclusive,
transparent and accountable.  

To help achieve this, the people designing AI systems should be
diverse, reflecting the diversity of the world in which we live.

When AI systems are used to help make life decisions, it is
particularly important that they are transparent, so people
understand how those decisions were made. And those who develop
and deploy AI systems need to be accountable for how their
systems operate.

There’s no single company or organization that can develop these
principles in a vacuum.  

Business leaders, policymakers, researchers, academics and
representatives of non-governmental groups must work together to
ensure that AI-based technologies are designed and deployed in a
responsible manner. Organizations such as the Partnership on
, which brings together experts from industry, academia
and civil society, will be important vehicles in advancing this
important dialogue, including by developing best practices.

By encouraging open and honest discussion, we believe that
everyone can help create a culture of cooperation, trust and
openness among AI developers, users, and the public at large.

Harry Shum is Microsoft’s executive vice president for
Artificial Intelligence and Research. Microsoft recently
published the book “
The Future Computed: Artificial intelligence
and its role in society

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.


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