Not possible to slow tech pace, answer is in safeguards, laws to move faster: Microsoft President on AI regulations

08:11 AM Aug 28, 2023 | PTI |

Amid a raging global debate around risks and benefits of Artificial Intelligence, Microsoft President Brad Smith has advocated the need for regulations at the national and international levels for AI, asserting that while it is not possible to slow the march of a powerful technology, the answer is for safeguards and laws to move faster.


In an interview with PTI, Smith said AI can do more good for the people of India and the world than any other technological advance of this lifetime, but added that alongside that optimism he also believes there is a need to embrace the enormous responsibility that comes with AI and to get it right. AI – which will increasingly have a positive impact on everyday work and daily life – would need laws and regulations both at a national and international level, he said.

Smith – who is also Microsoft Vice Chairperson – termed India’s freshly-minted data protection legislation as ”a good law”, praised the digital public infrastructure here, and pointed out that India has become one of the most important countries for Microsoft.

Microsoft will continue to hire and invest in the country is a ”foregone conclusion”, said the Microsoft honcho as he underlined the US tech giants’s deep commitment to Indian market.

”When you think about Microsoft, India has become one of our most important countries, not just for customers, but for employees and for talent…even in a year where the tech sector in some respects needed to shed some jobs, India grew for Microsoft,” Smith said. Microsoft, he pointed out, has more employees here today than it did 12 months ago.


India’s Digital Public Infrastructure also got a ringing endorsement from the Microsoft senior executive, who praised the nation’s ”leadership” in digital technology. No other country in the world has seen as much progress since 2020 as India when it comes to digital technology, he pointed out. India’s digital public infrastructure is not just advancing but has drawn increased interest from other nations who want to replicate it, he said on the triad of identity, payments and data management framework being showcased by the country. ”When I look at the situation here in India today in comparison to say 12 months ago when I was here, what we’re seeing is this digital public infrastructure not only continuing to advance here, but increasingly other countries wanting to embrace it. So this G20 meeting is, I think, a very important opportunity for India. It is a showcase for the world of everything that is going forward here, including India’s leadership in digital technology,” he said.

On the need for global guardrails on AI, he affirmed that laws and regulations will indeed be required.

”We need to make safety a priority and that does require that kind of law or regulation. I don’t think it’s really possible to slow the pace of technology. So I don’t think the answer is to ask technology developers to slow down. I think the answer is to ask those of us who really implement controls, safeguards and laws to move faster,” he advocated.

To a question about prominent tech voices sounding an alarm about the dangers posed to humanity by AI, Smith said he is optimistic about the technology but that there is a need to embrace ”the enormous responsibility that we have”.

”I think we should get up every morning and look at both sides of that coin in a very clear-eyed way. If we do that, if we think broadly, if we act with determination, we will serve humanity well. That has to be our first priority,” he said adding that building safeguards is ”quite rightly” one of the big topics of discussion in 2023.

It is pertinent to mention here that over the past months, many global experts and tech leaders have cautioned about the existential threat to humanity from AI, arguing that it needs to be considered a societal risk at par with pandemics and nuclear wars. The rise of AI and large language models (generative AI) have led to growing alarm on the potential harms of artificial intelligence, including its possible weaponisation to spread misinformation and propaganda, or even its role in culling millions of white-collar jobs.


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