The tech industry must take preemptive steps to avoid emerging dangers as artificial intelligence becomes increasingly capable of being creative and otherwise acting more like human beings.
“This is the point in the cycle … where we need to engineer responsibility into the very fabric of the technology,” said Shum, executive vice president of the software giant’s artificial intelligence and research group, onstage at the San Francisco event.
Shum noted that the industry has already failed to anticipate flaws in the technology, as well as some of the troublesome ways that it’s been used in the real world.
These challenges will only become more complicated as AI gets better at discerning human emotions, conducting sophisticated conversations, and producing stories, poetry, songs, and paintings that seem increasingly indistinguishable from those created by humans, Shum said.
Microsoft is addressing these rising risks in a handful of ways. Shum said the company has improved its face recognition tools by adding altered versions of photos with a wider variety of skin colors, eyebrows, and lighting conditions to its databases.
The company has also established an AI ethics committee and joined collaborative industry groups like the Partnership on AI. Microsoft will “one day very soon” add an AI ethics review step to its standard checklist of privacy, security, and accessibility audits that must occur before new products are released, Shum said.
But he acknowledged that self-regulation won’t be enough.
“We are working hard to get ahead of the challenges posed by AI creation,” Shum said. But these are hard problems that can’t be solved with technology alone.
So we really need the cooperation across academia and industry. We also need to educate consumers about where the content comes from that they are seeing and using.