Microsoft AI Chief Wants New Computer Scientists To Learn These Life Lessons From AI

Harry Shum, VP of Artificial Intelligence and Research at Microsoft, had some major life lessons for computer science graduates especially in three major areas of technologies

  • Quantum computing
  • Mixed reality
  • Artificial intelligence

Talking about his own experience, Shum, who finished his doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, encouraged recent computer science graduates at the University of Washington to embrace the unknown. One of the key takeaways from his talk was the need to remove bias related to artificial intelligence.


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Talking to the students at University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, Shum shed light on AI-induced panic and concerns about robots taking over human jobs.

“One of my greatest concerns is the bias in artificial intelligence systems. We have to build AI systems that hear all voices and recognise all faces equally across our diverse world to create the best future for everyone,” he wrote on his blog.

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Microsoft has invested heavily in building accountability and transparency in artificial intelligence systems. One way to ensure accountability in AI systems is by always having a human in the loop to oversee important decisions. Microsoft researchers have also set up guiding ethical principles and a formal AI ethics committee known as Aether to guide AI systems. The Redmond-based giant is also working towards embedding transparency in AI systems by with Explainable AI.

Talking about problems which technology cannot solve, Shum spoke to the graduates about how to encode computer programs which don’t reflect and amplify biases or faults.

Shum’s Lessons For The Next Gen Computer Scientists

Diverse Teams Drive The Best Outcome: Shum’s message to the current generation is to take up projects and assignments which enable them to experience a different perspective and culture and learn from others in the process.

Broaden Perspective For AI To Rule Out Bias: Shum had emphasised this in a post that sometimes challenges occurred from lack of data but there are also times when models and algorithms fall short. Shum revealed that Microsoft has built AI systems that “hear all voices and recognise all faces across the diverse world, and ensure that the tremendous power of AI is accompanied by transparency and accountability that puts human beings in the driver’s seat.”

Quantum Computing Can Help Embrace Uncertainty: For those who are interested in following the path of the unknown, quantum computing can help in teaching beyond physics. Reportedly, Microsoft has been investing heavily in quantum computing for the last 15 years. Last year, Microsoft launched Quantum Development Kit that includes interoperability with Python. The kit was aimed at garnering a larger developer base and allowing developers to use quantum inspired algorithms on traditional hardware. The kit is aimed at developers who have existing Python libraries. This would allow them easy access to that with Q# without having to port anything on traditional computers. Quantum computing is the next big thing for tech majors and it can play a role in reshaping the chip industry. For Microsoft, breakthroughs in quantum computing can boost its Azure cloud computing services. They have been working towards a full stack quantum computing solution and is racing to develop a commercial quantum computer in the next five years.

Betting Big On Mixed Reality: Shum talked about his favourite product — Microsoft’s HoloLens — which represents a multidisciplinary approach of the future of computer science, spanning software, hardware, silicon, optics, vision, graphics and more. HoloLens is essentially a self-contained, holographic computer, allowing one to engage with digital content.


At the graduation ceremony, Microsoft’s AI chief noted that the world is at a point where the convergence of big data, massive computing power and advanced machine learning will give developers and engineers more opportunity to speed up innovation and transform the world for the better. Over the years, Microsoft has made great strides in AI and quantum computing and managed to stay toe-to-toe with its competitors like Google which thrives on the open source environment. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has time and again emphasised that AI will be a major force of disruption and the company wants to be at the forefront of this tech revolution. While companies like Google and IBM are leading the race to dominate AI, Microsoft too has invested heavily in research and has published a significant number of papers.

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Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.

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