Dec 18, 2017

Microsoft's AI chief says the technology isn't the biggest hurdle

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

Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers sue CVS, alleging drug pricing fraud

Photo: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Six Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers have sued CVS Health, alleging the pharmacy chain overcharged them based on "artificially inflated prices" for generic drugs and concealed the true cash prices of those drugs.

The big picture: CVS has faced legal scrutiny over its cash discount programs since 2015, and this lawsuit adds big names to a mounting problem.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has only eight active novel coronavirus cases and no COVID-19 patients in hospital after another day of zero new infections. However, the death toll rose to 22.

Zoom in: A top health official told a briefing a 96-year-old woman "was regarded to having recovered from COVID-19 at the time of her death, and COVID-19 is not recorded as the primary cause of her death on her death certificate." But it was decided to include her in the overall tally of deaths related to the virus.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,690,951 — Total deaths: 355,575 — Total recoveries — 2,350,071Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,699,073 — Total deaths: 100,396 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: CDC issues guidelines for reopening officesFauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. World: EU proposes a massive pandemic rescue package.
  8. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  9. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  10. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy