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Microsoft says we need to talk about AI values

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AI
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It’s time for guiding principles for AI, says Microsoft.

The company has called for the tech industry and governments to develop a consensus over the values and principles that will govern AI.

Principles and values

Microsoft has repeatedly explained its desire to create artificial intelligence that assists humans without having a negative impact. In its list of the Top Ten tech issues for 2018, the company reiterated its desire to base AI on “societal principles” that are followed by every participant in the field.

While many enterprise executives are already convinced by the possibilities that AI usage present, there are still major technical and ethical challenges to address, including the risk of bias, consumer rejection and irresponsibly developed applications.

Democratize AI

Microsoft said its ongoing work to “democratize AI” is already creating “building block” best practices for companies to follow. The company said a cross-industry effort, with input from lawmakers, needs to start now before AI gets entrenched in society.

“Over time we’re likely to see the emergence of a new generation of governmental policies, regulations and laws that will govern the development and use of artificial intelligence. But these are early days,” said Microsoft.

“Before that can happen, there needs to be some consensus about the values and principles that should govern AI, followed by best practices to implement them. Only then will it become clearer what types of regulations or laws make sense.”

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Toronto makes the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2, alongside 19 rivals

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Amazon has announced the shortlist of cities that could host its second North American headquarters, known as HQ2. The company received 238 proposals from locations across the region. It’s now narrowed the list to a total of 20 cities, including Toronto.

Technical talent

Toronto is the only location outside the U.S. to have made it to the shortlist. Amazon opened the application process last September, giving cities across North America the opportunity to support up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

It will be a complete second headquarters for the company, providing extensive economic growth opportunities to the successful candidate city. Amazon will invest over $5 billion as it develops the facility.

Toronto is the only Canadian location to have made it to the shortlist. Canada is establishing itself as a leader in several areas of emerging technology, including artificial intelligence. Amazon is likely to have retained Toronto as an option because of the availability of technical talent around the city. The arrival of the company would further boost the already thriving Canadian tech scene.

Amazon’s original requirements for HQ2 stipulated it must be built near a metropolitan region of over one million people with availability of technical talent. The company also wished to have direct access to commuter transit and an airport not more than 45 minutes away. Toronto has evidently satisfied these first requirements but it will now be in competition with urban areas across the U.S.

“Enthusiasm and creativity”

The other 19 shortlisted cities are distributed across the U.S., including locations on the east and west coasts. Pennsylvania is the only state that features twice on the list, with both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh potential candidates. Across the country, cities including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and two regions in the vicinity of Washington, DC have made it through the first stage of Amazon’s application process.

The company thanked all 238 initial applicants for their interest, saying they showed “tremendous enthusiasm.” It evaluated every proposal it received based on predefined criteria. Amazon will now work more closely with the 20 shortlisted cities to obtain detailed information on their proposals. It needs to establish whether the community can feasibly support the scale of its building and hiring ambitions.

“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very though – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon Public Policy. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Amazon’s currently headquartered in Seattle with regional satellite offices across the globe. The company employs over 540,000 people globally and has invested $100 billion in its infrastructure over the past five years. Amazon said it expects to conclude the competition to host HQ2 during 2018.

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Digital skills gap impacts 54 percent of businesses

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A shortfall of technically skilled workers is threatening to upheave digital transformation.

A new report from Capgemini and LinkedIn has found 54 percent of businesses are now feeling the pressure from the digital skills gap.

Technologies such as AI, IoT and cloud computing are evolving rapidly as they’re deployed inside more organizations. Skills training can’t keep up with the pace of development, creating a growing demand for capable digital talent.

Human talent crucial to business transformation

As reported by Diginomica, CapGemini and LinkedIn found 54 percent of 1,200 global organizations said they’ve been affected by the skills shortage. This has resulted in them having to revise their digital transformation plans, causing a subsequent loss in competitive advantage.

While many transformation strategies include automation as an element, it’s clear human talent remains critical to successful deployments.

The survey identified six key areas that firms can improve on to attract more skilled workers.

These include:

  • Align leadership on a talent strategy and the unique needs of digital talent
  • Diversify recruiting approach
  • Create an environment that prioritizes and rewards learning
  • Chart a clear career development path
  • Give digital talent the power to implement change
  • Provide flexible and collaborative ways of working.

 

Employees willing and eager to upskill

The study authors found employees are generally willing to learn new capabilities. Most respondents expressed a desire to keep their skills current, with 55 percent saying they’d leave a role with an employer unwilling to provide training.

Importantly for firms looking to attract talent, 58 percent said they’d be more likely to apply to a company that prioritizes digital skills development. Accessible workplace learning initiatives are therefore a critical strategy component for businesses looking to attract and retain digital talent.

“In an increasingly digital economy, those organizations that bridge the talent gap will enjoy a competitive edge over those who don’t,” wrote CapGemini and LinkedIn in the report. “A defined digital strategy that meets both business objectives and the preferences of digital talent is critical for a sustainable and successful digital transformation.”

With competition for digital talent only set to increase over the next few years, companies should start their training initiatives now to retain their leading edge. Maintaining agility in the digital economy will require flexible upskilling programs that encourage independent learning and improve recruitment effectiveness.

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30 percent of business apps to gain AI enhancements by 2019

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Courtesy Google
Photo courtesy Google
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Almost 30 percent of business apps will be updated to include artificial intelligence (AI) enhancements within the next two years, according to a new article from a CCS Insight analyst.

In addition, nearly 60 percent of enterprises are using or trialling AI technology in their business.

Artificial intelligence is developing at an increasingly rapid rate as it diversifies into more applications and environments. Companies are betting big on AI tech to drive forward digital transformation, improve efficiency and deliver better customer experiences.

According to a study cited by CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire, 58 percent of IT decision makers are using, trialling or researching AI and 29 percent plan to incorporate it into their apps by 2019.

Gradual introduction

The above figures demonstrate strong interest in AI on the part of enterprises.

At the same time, other recent studies have shown that consumers remain sceptical and general adoption of AI is still quite sluggish. Companies are yet to demonstrate to their workforce or customers that AI is capable of enabling its oft-attributed benefits. In addition, they also need to show that the benefits — if obtainable — can offset the risks to human roles that many people perceive.

McQuire, writing on the Google blog, said companies must be prepared to scale-back their AI deployment plans. If adoption is to be successful, the introduction of new tech should be completed gradually. This gives employees time to adapt to the incoming processes and concepts.

As people gain familiarity with the tech, they’re more likely to fully utilise its features and will be less fearful of potential privacy violations. The same approach should be used for consumer-facing technologies. Continuing to implement AI-based systems at breakneck pace could destabilise the machine learning industry, causing resistance amongst users still concerned about privacy considerations.

Change management & employee engagement

Successfully introducing AI technology will require enterprises to proactively manage change and inform their employees.

McQuire warned lingering fears and confusion must be properly addressed, including points that might be raised by customers.

During the transition period, companies should keep traditional alternatives to AI operational, while steering users towards the AI service and highlighting its benefits. Some types of AI service, such as automated support desks, are already benefitting from use of this strategy. The customer is allowed to make an informed choice that leaves them feeling more comfortable. Regular reminders of the benefits could eventually cause them to use and then trust the AI.

“While our surveys reveal employees are generally positive on AI, there is still much fear and confusion surrounding AI as a source of job displacement,” wrote McQuire. “Be mindful of the impact of change management, specifically the importance of good communication, training and, above all, employee engagement throughout the process.”

Companies can also try early adoption of services that use AI subtly, such as next-generation workplace collaboration tools. This helps employees to engage with AI on a regular basis and furthers the business’ transition towards new digital tech. Gradually incorporating AI allows firms to start benefitting from efficiency improvements immediately, while ensuring employees and customers don’t feel alienated or disillusioned.

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