Over the last three centuries, our world has undergone three industrial revolutions. These are moments in time where technology propelled us forward, forever changing the world we knew and opening countless opportunities for a better future. These revolutions can be tumultuous times, creating new industries at the expense of old ones. The former significance of horses in our culture, for example, can be seen as we continue to refer to engine power in terms of horses, and yet relatively few people actually rely on horses for transportation in the modern era.
Many believe that we are well into the fourth such revolution – the digital revolution. The implications of this transformation hold more promise, and risk, than any of the others before. This revolution is being led by engineers, data scientists and others who are creating Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies determined to shape a better world.
For humankind to benefit from AI’s potential to help solve major challenges like curing devastating diseases or helping to save communities ravaged by climate change, it will require more than algorithms. The people who are developing this innovation must also reflect the broad diversity of our society if we are all to benefit.
One of the great gifts of working at Microsoft is that we truly live our mission: ‘Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.’ In that environment, we are all empowered, and indeed have an affirmative responsibility, to make sure technology is applied in a manner that ensures issues around fairness and equality are engineered into our thinking, as well as into our services.
In the 15 years since joining Microsoft, I have had the good fortune to work with critical business divisions, from Windows and Xbox to our expanding leadership in the mobile and cloud computing market. During this time, I was also proud to contribute to the Microsoft Law Firm Diversity Program, an initiative that incentivizes the company’s outside counsel to demonstrate their commitment to diversity.
Now, I’m in the enviable position of being able to devote headspace and lend my voice to significant legal and ethical issues that will literally impact the future, including how technology will shape our society. And it will. This reality makes it imperative that we consider how to address legal and ethical issues in a way that helps us understand and mitigate the impact of the digital equivalent of a minority hailing a cab in New York City.
As companies advance technologies like AI, Microsoft believes their creation needs to be done by diverse and inclusive teams because the different viewpoints they bring to the table, and the creativity that results, is key to innovating solutions to some of our world’s most pressing challenges. This includes ensuring the ethical creation and application of algorithms and other processes without bias that will impact fundamental matters of human rights and economic fairness, including those that determine access to employment, educational and housing opportunities.
Microsoft has committed its AI development to creating solutions for people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges, improve healthcare and uncover new cures for diseases, unlock new educational opportunities, all while accelerating innovation.
For me and my colleagues Bruce Jackson and Elke Suber, being named among Savoy Magazine’s Most Influential Lawyers of 2018 is more than a recognition of our work. It is a re-affirmation of our mission to be a part of a company that is working to help shape and empower a better world through technology.
The time is now for all of us to get involved in these issues and to raise our voices on matters that will define our futures, and to do so in a way that will shape that future in a way that benefits all members of society.