Microsoft gives up “significant sales” over AI ethics concerns

Arif Bacchus

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Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing in the tech industry, and with big things come big concerns. “As we make technological progress we need to ensure that we are doing so responsibly,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said following the company’s latest internal reorg. To show the Redmond giant’s increased focus on ethics and trust in AI, Nadella also announced the creation of an AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research (AETHER) committee last month.

As noted by GeekWire, Microsoft apparently has to give up sales over AI ethics concerns. “Significant sales have been cut off,” said Microsoft scientist Eric Horvitz at Carnegie Mellon University’s K&L Gates Conference on Ethics and AI last week. “And in other sales, various specific limitations were written down in terms of usage, including ‘may not use data-driven pattern recognition for use in face recognition or predictions of this type’,” he added.

Microsoft, though, tells Business Insider that the company has never cut any deals with any of its current customers, which means that Horwitz was only referring to missed sales from potential customers. Anyway, the company issued the following statement, explaining more about the ethics of AI, and their Aether committee.

We believe it is very important to develop and deploy AI in a responsible, trusted and ethical manner. Microsoft created the Aether committee to identify, study and recommend policies, procedures, and best practices on questions, challenges, and opportunities coming to the fore on influences of AI on people and society.”

AI has proven to be important at Microsoft, and the company even hinted that there would be some “very exciting” AI-driven hardware to come soon. But for now though, we’re left wondering if Microsoft’s focus on ethical AI can help them become a global leader in that field. Do you think it’s more important to become a trusted partner, even though that means giving up on some potential customers? Let us know what you think in the comments below.