Microsoft AI chief Harry Shum. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

Harry Shum, EVP of Microsoft's artificial intelligence and research group, says AI is improving tech products — the real challenge is making sure it does so in a way that people trust.

The bottom line: Shum says the key is a strong code of ethics and a large measure of transparency, two areas of focus for the company.

"All the tech is great. All the products are great... But people worry about them." — Shum, speaking to Axios after a San Francisco event last week.

What they're doing: Shum says Microsoft has established an internal advisory committee on AI ethics and wants to be a leader in an industrywide discussion on the subject.

The big picture: It's not fears of robot overlords that Shum says he is worried about. "It's really about practical implications of AI technology," he says, noting the biggest risks come from issues like algorithmic bias, poor training data and other oversights.

Some other highlights from our discussion:

  • On whether regulation is needed: "It's unclear to me how quickly regulators should come on. ... I think it's really the industry — other big tech companies like us should lead the way."
  • On Tay, Microsoft's first English-language chatbot, which quickly turned into a racist: "It was the first time — maybe, hopefully the only time — I wrote a letter to whole company to apologize. It was our fault. ... Many people asked inside and outside the company, 'Why didn't you have this problem with your Chinese chatbot or your Japanese chatbot?' Every society is different. We should have had that sensibility."

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In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.

4 hours ago - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing" and the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus for the achievement, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China