Some people have the initiative and ingenuity to drive us forward while others watch with admiration. And some people stand on the sidelines taking cheap shots at the leaders and innovators. Who would you rather be? And who would you rather be associated with?
Microsoft was criticised last week after Tay, its AI chatbot, featured in some unedifying communication on social media.
Tay was a follow-up to XiaoIce, which has been a major success in China. Approximately 40 million Chinese users are engaging with the program, most of them on Weibo, the country’s micro blogging service. Conversation has been pleasant, engaging and from Microsoft’s perspective, very encouraging.
When Tay was launched for an English speaking audience on Twitter, hopes were high. But trolls lay in wait, and a series of targeted attacks manipulated the program into tweets that Microsoft could not have anticipated and would never endorse.
A gracious apology followed from Peter Lee, and as Build 2016 got underway this week Satya Nadella unveiled plans to introduce bots to platforms such as Skype, Slack, Outlook and LINE. There’s no reason to back away from this technology; essentially the Twitter experience confirmed what we already knew.
Those of us who would rather applaud innovators than pull faces at them had plenty of food for thought at Build 2016 this week. Microsoft’s annual software developer conference is a pivotal event, offering an overview of the company’s plans for the coming year. The 2015 conference saw the unveiling of Android and iOS apps on Windows 10, and while this year’s gathering in San Francisco may lack the excitement of that “big reveal”, updates on Windows 10 and the mixed-reality smartglasses HoloLens have certainly found their audience.
Just as importantly, Microsoft has showcased its commitment to equality of opportunity in the tech arena.
Tuesday night’s pre-event reception at Minna Gallery, Women@Build, turned the spotlight on leaders whose achievements continue to inspire.
Alongside industry leaders such as Kimberly Bryant, whose outstanding work with Black Girls Code was acknowledged at this year’s Crunchies, Microsoft were strongly represented. Stacey Mulcahy and Jennifer Marsman shared their thoughts in a panel discussion on various ways employers can engage and retain a talented workforce.
Offering your people the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of machine learning is surely one way to keep them interested, and Jennifer Marsman is a passionate advocate. She makes a compelling case for the Azure Machine Learning Studio, which offers us a taste of what can be achieved when human ingenuity is applied to automated solutions.
That same ingenuity is having an increasing impact on language services, and not only for Microsoft. As a market leader in translation and also in digital and software solutions, Capita is well placed to comment. Machine translation doesn’t suit every project, but in the hands of professionals it has its place. Improving productivity, reducing costs, reducing time to market and opening the door to a real-time translation solution, it’s in the thoughts of innovators everywhere, including those at Build 2016 this week. It’s what comes next.
What comes next for Microsoft is a renewed effort to shape the future of Artificial Intelligence. In the words of Peter Lee:
“to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an Internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity”.
The best, not the worst.
We’re with them all the way.