Why is AI Today’s “Most Important” Technology? Ask Microsoft’s Chief Envisioner

Dyllan Furness

Dyllan explores technology and the human condition for Tech Emergence. His interests include but are not limited to whiskey, kimchi, and Catahoulas.

Why is AI Today's "Most Important" Technology? Ask Microsoft's Chief Envisioner

If you aren’t yet convinced by the real world potential of artificial intelligence, Microsoft’s chief envisioning officer, Dave Coplin has a few words for you. Speaking at an AI conference in London on Tuesday, Coplin emphatically told business leaders that AI is “the most important technology that anybody on the planet is working on today,” reports Business Insider.

“This technology will change how we relate to technology,” he continued. “It will change how we relate to each other. I would argue that it will even change how we perceive what it means to be human.”

Coplin isn’t just any AI enthusiast and his comments shouldn’t be taken lightly. Before joining Microsoft in 2005 and eventually coming to lead the company’s Envisioners, he worked in IT for more than a decade and wrote two books on the implications of emerging technology in business. In other words, when Coplin speaks about the future of technology, business leaders listen.

Indeed, AI is already being used to help manage calendars, streamline marketing campaigns, and increase cybersecurity within businesses. And those services only seem to be getting stronger.

This week the creators of Siri announced their new project, Viv, which they claim will outperform its predecessor in almost every sense. In March, a Japanese advertising agency announced that they’d employ the “world’s first” AI creative director to help craft television commercials. And in April, researchers at MIT demonstrated an AI-driven cybersecurity platform that could learn to detect cyber attacks with 85 percent accuracy.

But it isn’t just software that’s advancing. Last month, AI-hardware leader, Nvidia, showed off the Tesla P-100, a chip they claim can perform deep learning neural network tasks up to 12 times faster than their previous best product. Nvidia’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, also revealed a supercomputer that he called “the world’s first deep learning supercomputer,” that comes equipped with eight P100s and a $129,000 price tag.

Coplin’s comments also come in the weeks after two big announcements aimed to democratize AI. At the end of April, non-profit AI research company OpenAI open-sourced their development toolkit in an effort to set better benchmarks and and standardized testing environments.

And on Tuesday, the White House announced a new subcommittee dedicated to leveraging “AI for public good and toward a more effective government.” The White House also aims to inform the public and foster discourse about the implications of AI by offering four workshops across the country.

Back at the AI conference in London, Coplin echoed these developments, telling attendees that – although AI holds great potential – we should be cautious and aware of who’s developing the technology. “We’ve got to start tomato some decisions about whether the right people are making these algorithms. What biases will be inferred by those people, by those companies?”

According to leaders like Dave Coplin, Elon Musk, and President Obama, AI has the power to do great harm or great good, depending on how carefully we craft and regulate the technology. Most of us already engage with AI algorithms on an everyday basis, via search engines and virtual assistants. But as we advance the software, creating stronger and smarter systems, we would be wise to recognize the technology’s presence and consider what roles we want it to play in our lives.


Image credit: Pixabay

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