Microsoft Kingpins Opine on AI’s Future

The future looks promising, if turbulent for the short term.

The World Economic Forum rolls on in Davos, Switzerland this week, with the current and past CEOs of Microsoft weighing in on the issue triggering the most buzz in the snowy Swiss Alps – artificial intelligence.

First up is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who spoke with WEF founder Klaus Schwab in a one-on-one panel session on January 16.

Microsoft has steered a reported $13 billion in OpenAI since 2019, creator of the popular AI Chatbot ChatGPT.

Nadella said he wants to protect that investment and that’s going to take tougher oversight on AI.

“I think [a global regulatory approach to AI is] very desirable because I think we’re now at this point where these are global challenges that require global norms and global standards,” Nadella said, speaking in conversation with WEF Chair Klaus Schwab.

“Otherwise, it’s going to be very tough to contain, tough to enforce, and tough to quite frankly move the needle even on some of the core research that is needed,” Nadella added. “But that said, there seems to be a broad consensus that is emerging.”

Leading countries like the US and the UK have already issued some guidance on how AI should be regulated – both are counting on major technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple to help lead the way.

“Rigorous” Regulations on AI

Better safe than sorry seems to be the prevailing attitude on how much government regulation is needed, and Nadella seems okay with that.

“If I had to sort of summarize the state of play, the way I think we’re all talking about it is that it’s clear that, when it comes to large language models, we should have real rigorous evaluations and red teaming (i.e., regular testing of AI risks) and safety and guardrails before we launch anything new,” he said. “And then when it comes to applications, we should have a risk-based assessment of how to deploy this technology.”

Business sectors and trade associations will also need to step up and ensure proper protocols are in place for specific uses in their industries.

“If you’re deploying it in health care, you should apply health-care [regulations] to AI, if you’re deploying it in financial services, you should deploy the financial risks or considerations,” Nadella noted.

“If we take even something as simple as that as a basis to build some consensus and norms, I think we can come together,” Nadella added. “So I’m hopeful.”

Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was also in Davos this week and spoke to Yahoo Finance Tuesday about the labor impact of AI. That’s a popular topic in 2024, especially given the International Monetary Fund’s study this week stating up to 60% of jobs will be impacted by AI.

“I have found it’s a real productivity increase,” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said. “Likewise, for coders, you’re seeing 40%, 50% productivity improvements which means you can get programs [done] sooner. You can make them higher quality and make them better.”

“So mostly what we’ll see is that the productivity of white-collar [workers] will go up,” Gates added.

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