Microsoft Positions ‘Responsible’ AI At Centre Of Digital Transformation Vision

FUTURE DECODED: Microsoft describes how ‘respectful’, ‘trusted’ AI and cloud infrastructure can change every business responsibly

The AI cloud

To support machine learning, Microsoft has been building out its data centre network – including facilities in the UK – and providing APIs and other tools for developers.

“As you know, we’ve been rolling out large data centre around the world, containing conventional CPUs and GPUs, but recently we’ve been augmenting these with FPGAs: Field Programmable Gate Arrays,” Bishop continued, explaining that every time it upgrades a server, it adds an FPGA, which can be customised after manufacture.

microsoft-iot-solutions-world-congress-2016Microsoft also has “the world’s first exo scale AI super computer” that is spread across 15 countries and continues to expand. It can translate complex texts (such as the entire English language version of Wikipedia) in a matter of seconds.

Real time translation and natural speech recognition have been long held AI ambitions and Microsoft is making serious progress thanks to this infrastructure development. It first introduced such a feature in Skype two years ago and on stage, it demonstrated real time multi-lingual translation on the communications platform.

“Applying deep neural networks to speech recognition resulted in a dramatic drop in the error rate,” said Bishop. “If a human takes speech and transcribes it, it makes mistakes. A few weeks ago we reached the point of the same word error rate as transcribers.”

Corporate responsibility

Rose, who has led Microsoft’s UK business for little over two months, said what digital transformation’s impact on jobs, privacy and the environment would be needed to be addressed, as would skills gaps and the issue of inclusivity.

“We’re a company that acknowledges that with every opportunity comes a challenge,” added Toni Townes-Whitley, corporate vice president of worldwide public sector at Microsoft. “By 2020, 5 million jobs will be displaced around the world [as the result of this transformation].”

But Townes-Whitney said women were five times more as likely to be affected because of the gender imbalance in vulnerable industries. The World Economic Forum predicts 5.1 million jobs are at risk to automation and research from Deloitte suggests 16 percent of public sector roles could go.

“If we’re not purposeful about how we do digital transformation we might exacerbate the divide that already exists,” she added, explaining the company’s corporate responsibility plan and ultimately concluding the benefits outweighed the negatives.

“Microsoft has a new narrative with cloud as the engine and data as the fuel,” she said.

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