Empathy must be embedded in artificial intelligence (AI) from the time it is created to ensure it becomes a positive force in people’s lives.
This is according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who says the new technology will have a “profound impact on our daily lives and do good” but companies must also be mindful of “unintended consequences”.
Nadella was speaking at the UK launch of his book “Hit Refresh”.
By ensuring the first wave of AI empowered humanity to achieve more, the technology that follows would be more likely to be a force for good, too, he says.
“I believe in a world that will have an abundance of AI, but what will be scarce is real intelligence and human qualities, like empathy,” Nadella says. “I think great innovation comes from the empathy you have for the problems you want to solve for people.
“We need to take accountability for the AI we create. I think a lot about this. With any new technology we, as a society, have to be clear-eyed on both sides of it — the opportunities for this technology to have a profound impact on our daily lives and do good, and at the same time be very mindful of unintended consequences.
“I am focused on all the practical things we can do as creators of AI. I believe it’s a design choice. We want to create AI that empowers humans and make that a core, conscious design decision,” he adds.
Nadella points out that some of Microsoft’s best-known products have empathy at their core.
“I look back and ask myself: ‘when did we create our best products?’. Beyond having a culture that was a learn-it-all culture rather than a know-it-all culture, one of the things we also had was a deep sense, an intuition, of the unmet and unarticulated needs of our customers. Where does that come from? I believe the best source of it is empathy.”
It’s a key theme in Hit Refresh, which focuses on individual change, the transformation happening inside Microsoft and new technology such as AI. Nadella also covers growing up in Hyderabad, India, his love of cricket, emigrating to the US, “growing up” in Microsoft and becoming only the third CEO in the company’s 42-year history.
During the three years Nadella has spent as head of Microsoft, he has created a “growth mindset” culture, while key areas such as the Azure cloud platform have thrived and the company has pushed the boundaries of technology with the HoloLens mixed-reality headset.
The future, he believes, will see huge advances in quantum computing, Microsoft recently announced that it has created a programming language that would allow developers to run quantum simulators on their own machines.