Artificial Intelligence According to Microsoft: Ethics and Big Opportunities

Intelligence Serving Mankind

A revolution and a belief: artificial intelligence must magnify the ingenuity of man. It must help and support people, not replace them.

This principle is at the foundation of Microsoft’s efforts in AI, borne of a willingness to preserve ethics. By expanding human ability, AI helps us to achieve new goals in various fields, including health, education, and entrepreneurship.

Consider, then, this major strategic bet: putting the intelligence of technology at the service of man. Like Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, Microsoft has established three principles to govern its AI activities:

– Place humanity at the heart of the machine;
– Control AI and the algorithms that use it;
– Democratize AI.

First Principle: Humanity at the Heart of the Machine

Behind the term “AI” lie computers and software able to perform tasks normally associated with human intelligence, like understanding and analyzing data, gradually learning, reasoning, and naturally interacting with people. Using the power of AI to overcome today’s great obstacles in healthcare, education, and the environment is Microsoft’s commitment.

AI can dramatically improve our ability to view, read, speak, and translate, paving the way for technological advancement at the service of mankind. The ability of a cognitive service to see better than the human eye has given birth to Seeing AI, an app that allows the visually impaired to regain their autonomy by using their smartphones to better recognize people, places, letters, and documents using their smartphones.

Second Principle: Control AI and the Programs that Use It

Managing the uses of AI is as important as it is to benefit from them. Implementing responsible AI practices means: systematically checking and testing algorithms before and after their deployment; maintaining the notion of impartiality when designing artificially intelligent systems and avoiding the repetition of biases; maintaining the responsibility of people who design and deploy AI systems; and guaranteeing the transparency of software.

Microsoft is also committed to data protection for both individuals and companies, and the recent opening of highly secured data centers in France reflects this. These data centers combine the power of the Cloud and national data hosting to ensure true confidentiality.

And Microsoft takes this one step further, being the first major cloud provider to comply with the international ISO Standard for privacy (ISO 27 018).

Third Principle: Democratizing AI

Our liberation from time-consuming and repetitive tasks goes beyond an increase in productivity. It allows us to dedicate our time to tomorrow’s great challenge — or simply to what we’d like to accomplish.

This is why bringing AI to the people can be so beneficial. Microsoft is fully committed to this mission: it has assigned 8,000 engineers, data scientists, and researchers to AI projects and has massively invested in the « engine » of AI, the Cloud.

According to a study, 85% of the jobs that will exist in the year 2030 have not yet been created. How does one prepare, and how can society equip itself for this future? Microsoft has provided an answer with the alternative AI School, which was established in partnership with Simplon, an inclusive digital education company. Students — which include those who have abandoned their studies, are unemployed, or are in career transition — benefit from an intensive, 7-month program, followed by a one-year contract with a Microsoft partner. This project is unprecedented, notably because of its use of AI as an integration tool.

Tackling Challenges in Health, Education, and the Environment

Using the power of AI to overcome today’s great obstacles in healthcare, education, and the environment is Microsoft’s commitment.

This is the idea that gave birth to the “AI for Earth” project, which saw Microsoft invest 50 million dollars and give more than 60 grants to support companies that are innovating in the fields of agriculture, water, biodiversity, and climate change. The most promising projects will benefit from additional help and resources.

The healthcare industry also benefits from AI support. The InnerEye project uses Deep Learning to improve cancer detection and more accurately spot tumors. The result is better care for patients and more efficient treatment. This is an improvement that could not have come at a more appropriate time because, today, half of individuals over the age of 60 are expected to develop cancer.

Helpicto, a revolutionary application for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or muteness, is also interested in pushing limits and widening the field of possibilities. The app translates spoken sentences into images, offering a new way to communicate that is both fluid and immediate to those who do not naturally benefit from it.

Who Are the Future French and European Champions?

With more than 1,500 startups in the world and an average fund raising of 22 million dollars, AI has become a particularly dynamic industry of its own that, at its core, is a powerful tool for innovation.

To support this ecosystem, Microsoft has created the AI Factory. The program supports a community of startups and offers them mentoring services aimed at helping them to develop and commercialize their solutions; some startups are also offered accommodation at Station F, Europe’s largest incubator. AI Factory promotes the emergence of French champions.

Another innovation lab, Microsoft Research, is one of the biggest private research centers in the world, grouping roughly 30 researchers from Microsoft and INRIA at the CEA data science center in Saclay.

For Businesses, Multiple Uses

Thousands of companies and organizations in every area of business and with varying activities have already begun benefitting from artificial intelligence. With its promise of a 40% increase in productivity and an emerging 15 billion dollars in new projects by the year 2035, it is not difficult to see why.

How might you take advantage of these new opportunities? You could…

• videoconference with your Chinese supplier, with his sentences translated in real time;
• reduce production line delays using predictive maintenance, which warns you about issues before they happen;
• more accurately target your prospects and improve your relationships with your customers using intelligent assistants and semantic analysis;
• streamline the recruitment of new talent with automatic and in-depth applicant screening, or detect your best-performing collaborators;
• reduce your energy spending by 40% by predicting activity in your buildings.

The list of concrete uses of AI within companies is long. VivaTech is the place for you to discover testimonials, promising innovations, as well as more of these concrete examples and other sources of inspiration.