Innovation

Microsoft CEO Nadella: AI should augment human workers, not replace them

At a recent World Economic Forum annual meeting, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke on his company's approach to AI and how it will affect the future of work.

At the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland on Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained that his company has designed its artificial intelligence (AI) solutions specifically to augment human workers, not replace them.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion with other tech leaders, Nadella said that AI, much like user experience, can be designed with a goal in mind. While some are designing AI systems to think like humans in order to replace them, he said, Microsoft is designing systems to assist humanity.

Nadella said that Microsoft was utilizing "pragmatic principles that can guide AI creation." He also mentioned that this isn't a new strategy for Microsoft, as he pointed out this idea in his 10 rules for AI that he posted in June 2016.

SEE: 3 guiding principles for ethical AI, from IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

Of the rules initially proposed by Nadella, the two most relevant to this stance were "A.I. must be designed to assist humanity," and "A.I. must maximize efficiencies without destroying the dignity of people." In the original post he made on Slate, he wrote, "we want to build intelligence that augments human abilities and experiences. Ultimately, it's not going to be about human vs. machine."

During the panel discussion, Nadella also spoke on the mission of many tech companies to democratize AI. "To me, the key right now in this next phase of AI is: How do we put tools so that others can create intelligence in every walk of life?," Nadella said.

Nadella referenced several examples of how AI can improve certain jobs when it is made accessible to the people who work in that field. One such example is oncology, where AI imaging systems can help identify tumors and their growth patterns, potentially leading to more effective treatment.

Another interesting example was of a visually-impaired Microsoft employee who was using AI to create smart glasses that could interpret emotions in real time. Nadella also mentioned some of the work Microsoft was doing with language translation in products such as Skype.

One of the themes discussed by most of the panel members was the growth of AI. While the technology holds many promises, it simply isn't at its full potential yet, Nadella said.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. At the World Economic Forum annual meeting, Microsoft's Satya Nadella spoke on the company's approach to AI as an augment to human work, not a replacement.
  2. Nadella referenced the 10 rules for AI development he wrote about in Slate, and how that plays into the vision Microsoft has for the technology.
  3. Nadella also spoke about the power of democratization, and how that plays into AI solutions.

Also see

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Image: Paul Clarke Photographer

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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