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Microsoft chief says AI is 'not an existential risk' to mankind, but human oversight needed

Microsoft President Brad Smith wants artificial intelligence to flourish, but with human oversight.
Microsoft President Brad Smith wants artificial intelligence to flourish, but with human oversight. Copyright Microsoft
Copyright Microsoft
By Christopher Pitchers
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Brad Smith also told Euronews that international coordination is needed when it comes to regulation of the emerging technology.


Artificial intelligence does not represent a threat to humanity, according to Microsoft’s President, even if he says people must be the ones in control of the necessary safeguards.

“We need safety brakes that will ensure that AI remains under human control,” Brad Smith said in an interview in Brussels on Thursday.

“We can do that, and this is the right time to come together and figure out how to do it. We should have it at multiple layers so that we're always keeping this technology under control. I think if we do that well, we'll recognise that this is not an existential risk.”

The Microsoft executive was speaking to Euronews while on a trip to Europe following the start of negotiations between EU institutions on how to proceed with the bloc’s landmark AI Act - the first in the world of its kind - which passed an important hurdle in the European Parliament earlier this month.

Smith said that his company has so far been "encouraged" by the EU's legislation, which regulates the emerging technology, but that when it comes to global governance on the issue greater collaboration will be needed to ensure AI does not grow out of control.

"It is realistic and, in fact, necessary to pursue a pretty broad level of international coordination on the regulation of AI," the Microsoft President told Euronews.

"We need governments to come together and I think the key is to start by being focused. Don't try to do 100 things at once. Do the eight or ten things that matter most. Prioritise. Create a template, if you will, and then start to expand. 

"And governments are focused in this way and that's not something we typically see. That's why I think this may be different and there's cause for optimism."

In May, the EU and US announced plans for a joint voluntary code of conduct on AI, a prime example of some of the international cooperation that is already happening.

Smith wants more countries to get involved and suggested that any such code of conduct would likely become mandatory in the future, stressing, however, that it will be important to make sure it works for everyone first before this can happen.

"I fully expect that a voluntary code will become a mandatory code, and that will be a good thing, but it's good to get it right before one makes it mandatory," the Microsoft executive said.

Microsoft to 'defer' to national leaders on Taiwan

AI shot to prominence this year, in large part due to widespread coverage related to the rapid pace at which it has developed, including software like OpenAI's ChatGPT - which Microsoft uses in its Bing search engine.

Geopolitical tensions have also crept into focus when it comes to the technology, as the US, and to a lesser degree the EU, look to curb China's ambitions in the field.

Women walk past the logo for Microsoft in Beijing, China.NG HAN GUAN/AP2005

Washington imposed export controls on US-based companies that make chips for AI last year and is already weighing up more. Add to that concerns over Beijing's intentions for the world's largest producer of semiconductors, Taiwan, and things do not look simple for Microsoft in this area.

The company has extensive business dealings in both countries.


"For a company like Microsoft, 95% of our business around the world is really in the world's democracies. It is serving and supporting and even defending the world's democracies," he told Euronews.

"But we do have a presence in the rest of the world as well. It's not as broad. We're not obviously going to be involved in defence or military, but there are certain areas where I think the world is best served if we're connected with each other, if people are learning from each other.

The US has threatened Beijing with sanctions if it was to invade Taiwain. The Microsoft President said that if this were to happen, his company would leave it up to world leaders to guide them on any next steps.

"That's one where I leave it to government leaders to really speak, and I think [we] will, you know, defer to their leadership when and if we face other issues," Smith told Euronews.


"Today we're serving Taiwan. We're serving China - not in precisely equivalent ways. I'll just leave it at that."

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