AI is changing the world for good, but it also comes with considerable concerns and controversies that must be addressed.
Senior Director of Digital Economy, Technology, and Innovation, Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada
As artificial intelligence grows to become mainstream around the world, the need for building trustworthy AI systems has become paramount. With emerging technology like AI, key factors such as privacy, fairness, safety, transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability need to be taken into consideration. As we look ahead, one thing becomes clear: AI will be celebrated for its benefits but also scrutinized and, to some degree, feared.
In conversation with John Weigelt, National Technology Officer at Microsoft Canada, Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, Senior Director of Digital Economy, Technology, and Innovation at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, takes a closer look at how AI can benefit everyone and be developed and used in ways that warrant people’s trust. With facial recognition becoming more widespread, Weigelt and Bahr-Gedalia discuss the concerns about the dangers of the technology and the controversies surrounding it. They also weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules.
I firmly believe that if you develop technology that has the potential to change the world, you bear a responsibility to help address the world you’ve helped to create.
Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia: What is the biggest challenge we face when it comes to emerging technologies such as AI?
John Weigelt: I’m excited about the possibility of AI augmenting and amplifying human ingenuity to create great breakthroughs and advances. However, while there’s great potential for technology to help address society’s biggest issues, the pace of this change is also raising new challenges and amplifying existing inequities in our communities.
I believe that one of the biggest hurdles we face when it comes to AI is ensuring that there are the proper guardrails and frameworks put in place for AI systems. As Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith, has said, “Information technology has become both a powerful tool and a formidable weapon, creating a set of challenges with no pre-existing playbook.” The need for strong advocacy, collaboration, and government intervention has never been more important.
UBG: How does Canada fare globally when it comes to a comprehensive AI regulatory regime and the development of responsive frameworks for regulating AI?
JW: In my view, emerging technologies like AI require a legal floor of responsibility governed by the rule of law. It’s important for governments to frame laws to regulate this technology. Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues.
In Canada, we’re doing a lot of work with the government to help advocate for the need for an updated policy. Our fundamental belief is that for AI to benefit everyone and change the world, it must be developed and used in ways that warrant people’s trust.
UBG: What about the responsibility of the private sector?
JW: As AI systems become more mainstream, we have a shared responsibility as a society to create trusted AI systems, and we need to work together to reach a consensus on what principles and values should govern AI development and its use.
Microsoft was one of the first major technology companies to call for thoughtful government regulation on facial recognition technology because we believe a technology as powerful as this requires both the public and private sectors to develop norms around acceptable use.
We supported regulations that would apply to all providers of facial recognition services, including our own. In addition, we’ve applied advanced facial regulation proposals to our own business as a matter of self-regulation. This is the type of action and collaboration we need cross-sector.
UBG: Do you have any recommendations for Canadian businesses considering integrating AI into their business processes?
JW: I firmly believe that if you develop technology that has the potential to change the world, you bear a responsibility to help address the world you’ve helped to create.
My advice would be to proactively establish guardrails for AI systems so that you can make sure that any risks are anticipated and mitigated, and benefits are maximized. I would encourage businesses to review Microsoft’s AI principles to ensure that AI systems are fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable.
AI is a defining technology of our time, and we’re optimistic about what AI can do for people, industry, and society — now and in the future. But we need to get it right the first time.