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The economic, societal and ethical impact of AI in Europe

This is a six-article series initially published on LinkedIn in which Vahé Torossian, President of Microsoft Western Europe, explores the economic, societal and ethical impact of AI in Europe, and the ways in which it impacts humanitarian efforts, leads to job creation and the development of new industries.

As AI capabilities play an increasingly important part in our day-to-day lives, we will face important questions about economic opportunity, privacy, equity, and inclusion. This series is designed to encourage dialogue on these important issues:

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Taking a hard look in the mirror to examine bias – humanity vs. artificial intelligence (AI)
I’m amazed at how rapidly the process of hiring employees and looking for work is changing. For generations, a big part of that process has been a person’s connections. Who you know has been as important as what you know. Services such as LinkedIn were created in part to help us manage our connections and find out who might be able to help us get a foot in the door to pursue a desired position. However, this network effect has always held inherent bias. Our connections are often people just like us. Bias is a flawed part of humanity. Unfortunately, it can too easily become a flaw in artificial intelligence (AI) as well, if we’re not thoughtful.

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Smart cities: How AI is improving the lives of citizens
I’m excited to be at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona this week with my full leadership team from Western Europe. The purpose of the event is to bring people together to share information about how to empower cities and collectivize urban innovation across the globe, and it’s been amazing to interact with many of the 33 partners from 15 countries who have joined us in our booth. By promoting social innovation, establishing partnerships, and identifying business opportunities, Smart City Expo can help create a better future for cities and their citizens worldwide.

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Without emotional intelligence, artificial intelligence isn’t so smart
I truly believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) carries enormous potential to make the world a better place and drive transformational change in some of the most important aspects of our lives – how we live, play, interact with each other and, last but not least, work. AI is also full of surprises. When it comes to AI in the workplace, we’ve noticed that a key and common trait of companies that use AI successfully is actually — Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

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A face you can trust: tackling privacy issues in facial recognition and AI
The notion of privacy has evolved dramatically for me personally, and I’d imagine for most of us, over the last 25 years. It was much less complex before the Internet became this ubiquitous platform for sharing photos and other information about ourselves. Many people remain uncomfortable with the idea of photos of themselves online. Look through your social media feeds, and you’ll surely find friends or connections whose profile images show pets, logos, political statements, causes, favorite sports teams, television characters, landscapes, or cartoons rather than their own face.

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Learning how to learn: AI and the elevator operator
Once, there was a man who sat in an elevator turning cranks. One day, elevators became automated and user-friendly, so riders could take care of themselves. Thus, the elevator operator had to find a new job. As the Industrial Revolution occurred, elevator operators, along with other jobs like milk men, farmers, and coachmen were reskilled, and began doing work that required more of their unique human skills of reasoning, logic and creativity. Technology and automation do eliminate certain jobs, but they also create amazing opportunities and many new, interesting jobs.

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Applying Artificial Intelligence for the Common Good
The more I learn about AI, the more I believe it can help us collaborate in amazing new ways to do good and solve challenging issues. Fighting climate change, cleaning up our oceans, and strengthening efforts to end human trafficking are just a few of the many challenges AI can help us tackle. There’s been much discussion on the potential downsides of AI on society, and while those are issues we must and will address with all seriousness, it is the upside and power of man PLUS machine that truly motivates me.

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