How Microsoft Is Reimagining The Technology Of The Future

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Microsoft 95 was my first introduction to Microsoft. Since then, I have used almost every other operating system developed by the company. Professionally, I could not imagine my life without the Office products: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. They are what we typically associate with Microsoft. However, Microsoft is much more than a software company that lets you type up letters, create spreadsheets and charts, and put on presentations, especially since Satya Nadella became the company's CEO.

In the world of cloud computing, big data, artificial learning, machine learning, robotics, and mixed reality, Microsoft had to evolve, and it did. As technology started to change, it also created new opportunities. A lot of Microsoft's time and effort is now focused on mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. Microsoft is betting that while those three technologies are independent threads today, they are going to come together in the future.

Mixed reality is expected to become an essential tool in education, medicine, and manufacturing. It is going to create a new computing paradigm. With that in mind, Microsoft's goal is to democratize mixed reality and make it available to everyone.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be critical in fighting new diseases. The combination of big data, sophisticated algorithms, and computing power has transformed AI from something out of a sci-fi novel to today's reality. Nevertheless, AI is still far away from matching human intellectual capabilities.

Quantum computing will have enough computational power to address global warming and cure cancer. For that to happen, Microsoft is working on scientific and engineering breakthroughs. Nadella announced that "At Microsoft, we're betting that quantum computing will make artificial intelligence more intelligent and mixed reality an even more immersive experience."

Some futurists believe that we might experience singularity by the year 2100. Singularity is a moment in time when computer intelligence surpasses human intelligence. Depending on one's point of view, the idea of singularity can either be exciting or scary. Nadella sees AI as helpful to humankind, but he is concerned about the machines versus humans rhetoric that often accompanies these discussions. Nadella remarked:

"Ultimately, humans and machines will work together - not against one another. Imagine what's possible when humans and machines work together to solve society's greatest challenges - disease, ignorance, and poverty."

Microsoft's approach to AI development consists of three core principles:

  1. Augmentation of human experiences and abilities. AI's powerful computation capabilities to analyze large amounts of data and recognize patterns quickly will augment humans' unique qualities, such as empathy, creativity, emotion, and insights.
  2. Build trust into technology to ensure privacy, security, and transparency in AI devices.
  3. Technology must be inclusive and respectful to everyone regardless of gender, culture, race, age, nationality, economic status, and other human aspects.

Microsoft's rules were partially influenced by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. Robots must not harm humans.
  2. Robots must obey human orders except where such orders conflict with the First Law.
  3. Robots must protect themselves as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Nadella strongly believes that AI should be designed to assist humanity, whether it is by building autonomous machines or collaborative robots. They must respect human autonomy and safeguard human workers.

It is also essential for AI to be transparent. Everyone, not just the tech community, should be able to know how the AI technology works and what algorithms have been programmed. Nadella observed, "The technology will know things about humans, but the humans must also know about how the technology sees and analyzes the world."

The influence of AI on society is just beginning. Stanford University published a report, Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030, where researchers did not find AI to be a threat to humankind. They anticipated many useful applications of AI that could have a positive impact on society and the economy between now and 2030. The researchers concluded: "if society approaches AI with a more open mind, the technologies emerging from the field could profoundly transform society for the better in the coming decades."

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