It is widely believed that artificial intelligence will guide us into the future. A future that can either be a utopian paradise where robots do all our work or an Orwellian dystopia. Realistically though, it would more than likely be more of the same, just visually different. But, it's fun to guess and/or predict the future which is why the sci-fi genre is such a significant part of our pop-culture. It is also why Microsoft's Building 99, its research facility, is consistently trying to cook up new things that might take us to our tomorrow.
BBC Newsnight was given a unique opportunity to visit the building to understand what Microsoft is working on and the idea behind it:
The video starts with the juxtaposition of what people perceive is coming (from decades ago) with the reality that came to be, an insightful note about how our fears and fantasies may come unfounded.
Eric Horvitz, head of AI at Microsoft Research began by saying:
"We're betting the future of the company on advances in AI. We think this is the future."
The video goes on to show various strides that the company has made in the field, namely, achieving human-parity in speech recognition and advancements in image recognition. The video, then, underscores the importance and the level of accessibility for developers to create something qualitative and reliable.
The darker side of this AI-controlled future isn't lost on Horvitz, however, as he comments:
"I'm concerned with the potential misuse of this technology by malevolent forces... by state and non-state actors who can gain strong powers with the technology."
However, he also believes that the solution to this problem is also artificial intelligence as it works as sort of a defense mechanism against the said malevolence. Finally, the conversation moves towards bots. Microsoft's Bot Framework and its China-exclusive bot XiaoIce get a mention as Dan Driscoll, Principal Architect of the framework explains to the presenter how "humans love bots". Interestingly, the video doesn't mention its other bots like the infamous Tay or, its less anti-semitic but not really cousin, Zo.
The truth is that AI is the next tech frontier, which is why every company is making sure that it is buckled up and ready to go so they can "dominate the future". Whether this actually comes to play remains to be seen.