Microsoft's Plan To Build 'Responsible AI': Leadership, Governance and Hiring

Microsoft recently laid out its three focus areas to ensure responsible artificial intelligence.

According to Natasha Crampton, Microsoft's chief responsible AI officer, in a "Microsoft on the Issues" announcement, the first prong in that strategy is having committed leadership at Microsoft on responsible AI. Such leadership is organized via the Responsible AI Council, overseen by Brad Smith, Microsoft's president, and Kevin Scott, Microsoft's chief technology officer.

The second strategic approach is building governance models for responsible AI. To that end, Microsoft recently published the second version of its Responsible AI Standard, "which is our internal playbook for how to build AI systems responsibly," Crampton noted.

Microsoft's third responsible AI approach is to "invest in and empower your people." Here's where Crampton suggested that Microsoft may be seeking to hire more people to support its responsible AI efforts:

Moving forward, we know we need to invest even more in our responsible AI ecosystem by hiring new and diverse talent, assigning additional talent to focus on responsible AI full time, and upskilling more people throughout the company. We have leadership commitments to do just that and will share more about our progress in the coming months.

The timing for Microsoft's new responsible AI hiring efforts wasn't described. Crampton explained that Microsoft currently has "nearly 350 people working on responsible AI," but just 129 of them are doing it full time.

The announcement also included a confirmation about Microsoft's dissolution of its Ethics and Society team, which had pioneered responsible AI at Microsoft. Crampton largely confirmed the dispersal and eventual elimination of that team, as originally reported back in March by Platformer, a Silicon Valley news outlet. The team's elimination had drawn "considerable attention," Crampton noted.

"No decision affecting our colleagues is easy, but it was one guided by our experience of the most effective organizational structures to ensure our responsible AI practices are adopted across the company," Crampton said regarding the dissolved Ethics and Society team.

All told, seven members of the Ethics and Society team were let go by Microsoft, with the majority of the team getting absorbed elsewhere at Microsoft.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.