Satya Nadella calls for building AI responsibly

Satya Nadella calls for building AI responsibly

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the opening of the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris. AFP file photo.

Microsoft's Indian-American CEO Satya Nadella has called for building Artificial Intelligence (AI) responsibly while avoiding the race to the bottom, amid concerns over the use of the cutting-edge technology by the governments to constantly monitor certain populations.

Members of the civic society in the US and globally have expressed concern over the use of AI, in particular, its facial recognition technology by China to repress religious minorities.

"Now is the time to examine how we build AI responsibly and avoid a race to the bottom. This requires both the private and public sectors to take action," Nadella said in a tweet, hours after he attended a White House Summit of technology executives.

AI is believed to have been discussed at the summit which was also attended by President Donald Trump.

"We've seen how AI can be applied for good, but we must also guard against its unintended consequences," Nadella said as he flagged a blog written by Microsoft president Brad Smith.

But in countries like India, AI has been used for positive benefit, Smith wrote.

"As with all new technology, the uses of facial recognition are multiplying in both predictable and surprising ways. But it’s increasingly clear that a great many of these uses have created many new and positive benefits for people around the world,” he wrote.

"It’s striking to review the breadth of this innovation. Police in New Delhi recently trialled facial recognition technology and identified almost 3,000 missing children in four days,” Smith wrote in his blog which made no reference to the Chinese use of AI.

Microsoft is one of several companies playing a leading role in developing facial recognition technology, he said.

"We’re working with customers around the world while acting aggressively on industry-leading efforts to improve the capability of this technology to recognise faces with a range of ages and skin tones," he added.

Smith argued that one need to be clear-eyed about the risks and potential for abuse. There are three problems that governments need to address, he said.

"Especially in its current state of development, certain uses of facial recognition technology increase the risk of decisions and, more generally, outcomes that are biased and, in some cases, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination,” he wrote.

He said the widespread use of this technology can lead to new intrusions into people’s privacy.

The use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms. “We believe all three of these problems should be addressed through legislation,” Smith said.

"There is one potential use for facial recognition technology that could put our fundamental freedoms at risk," he said.

"When combined with ubiquitous cameras and massive computing power and storage in the cloud, a government could use facial recognition technology to enable continuous surveillance of specific individuals,” he added.

It could follow anyone anywhere, or for that matter, everyone everywhere. It could do this at any time or even all the time.

"This use of facial recognition technology could unleash mass surveillance on an unprecedented scale," he warned.