Davos: Microsoft boss backs AI for global good and highlights UAE classroom chatbot plans

Satya Nadella says generative AI tools should benefit the Global South

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke of his optimism for AI at the World Economic Forum in Davos. AFP
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Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella highlighted the UAE's plans to provide AI tutors in its classrooms as an example of how generative technology was "diffusing rapidly" and creating benefits for people around the world.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Nadella said the proliferation of AI has been "fast and furious" but 2024 would be the year when the fledgling technology would eventually "scale".

Mr Nadella said machine-learning tools such as Open AI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's own CoPilot software should have a profound effect in the future, transforming industries such as health care, education and software.

He highlighted the UAE's plan to "roll out a personal tutor for every person in the country" as an example, adding that similar classroom initiatives might eventually be provided in other nations.

In March last year, the UAE's Ministry of Education said it was looking at plans to embrace AI and machine-learning technology by introducing AI-generated tutors.

Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of Education, said the plans to use chatbot tutors, using tech similar to that offered by ChatGPT or Google Bard, was intended to assist teachers, not replace them.

Mr Nadella predicted the leap in AI would be most felt in scientific fields, helping cancer prevention and the creation of new high-tech materials.

"Science is where we will see real acceleration. If we can accelerate cures for diseases and other fundamental issues, all of these changes are going to be pretty profound," he said.

However, designers and engineers needed to be "mindful" about the risks of AI, and a "harmful divide" was not what the world needed.

He backed the creation of a global agency to oversee regulation of AI, saying these challenges required global norms and standards which would be otherwise hard to enforce.

Mr Nadella said the promise of generative AI could help people in all countries, particularly those in the Global South.

In the past 15 years the emergence of mobile and cloud-computing technology has taken place, radically changing people's lives for the better, he said.

However, he said the new generation of technology could have a similar effect in less than a decade.

"We've never had a broad general purpose technology that diffused around the world and created abundance equally," he said.

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Updated: January 17, 2024, 4:53 AM