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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."

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

MLB enters first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.