The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society

Brad Smith at the Microsoft Blog: “Today Microsoft is releasing a new book, The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society. The two of us have written the foreword for the book, and our teams collaborated to write its contents. As the title suggests, the book provides our perspective on where AI technology is going and the new societal issues it has raised.

On a personal level, our work on the foreword provided an opportunity to step back and think about how much technology has changed our lives over the past two decades and to consider the changes that are likely to come over the next 20 years. In 1998, we both worked at Microsoft, but on opposite sides of the globe. While we lived on separate continents and in quite different cultures, we shared similar experiences and daily routines which were managed by manual planning and movement. Twenty years later, we take for granted the digital world that was once the stuff of science fiction.

Technology – including mobile devices and cloud computing – has fundamentally changed the way we consume news, plan our day, communicate, shop and interact with our family, friends and colleagues. Two decades from now, what will our world look like? At Microsoft, we imagine that artificial intelligence will help us do more with one of our most precious commodities: time. By 2038, personal digital assistants will be trained to anticipate our needs, help manage our schedule, prepare us for meetings, assist as we plan our social lives, reply to and route communications, and drive cars.

Beyond our personal lives, AI will enable breakthrough advances in areas like healthcare, agriculture, education and transportation. It’s already happening in impressive ways.

But as we’ve witnessed over the past 20 years, new technology also inevitably raises complex questions and broad societal concerns. As we look to a future powered by a partnership between computers and humans, it’s important that we address these challenges head on.

How do we ensure that AI is designed and used responsibly? How do we establish ethical principles to protect people? How should we govern its use? And how will AI impact employment and jobs?

To answer these tough questions, technologists will need to work closely with government, academia, business, civil society and other stakeholders. At Microsoft, we’ve identified six ethical principles – fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusivity, transparency, and accountability – to guide the cross-disciplinary development and use of artificial intelligence. The better we understand these or similar issues — and the more technology developers and users can share best practices to address them — the better served the world will be as we contemplate societal rules to govern AI.

We must also pay attention to AI’s impact on workers. What jobs will AI eliminate? What jobs will it create? If there has been one constant over 250 years of technological change, it has been the ongoing impact of technology on jobs — the creation of new jobs, the elimination of existing jobs and the evolution of job tasks and content. This too is certain to continue.

Some key conclusions are emerging….

The Future Computed is available here and additional content related to the book can be found here.”