AI is for everyone

Microsoft is pursuing AI to empower every person and every organization.

The benefits of AI will not be limited to only a privileged few

We’ve talked about the difference between revolutionary AI and incremental AI. Both kinds of AI are transformative. Enterprises should investigate both.

In fact, the frontier between the two may not always be clear. An application that starts out as an incremental use of machine learning to improve a process somewhere deep inside an organization might evolve into something revolutionary that turns an entire industry upside down.

But not every AI application is destined to evolve into something revolutionary. There will be—in fact, there already are—countless smaller, incremental AI applications that will nevertheless change the world. Here is a particularly striking example of this ongoing democratization of AI. It’s an application that is being developed for the benefit for people who are less fortunate than most of us.

An example of AI helping the rural poor in India

Of 285 million people in the world who are blind or visually impaired people in the world, 90% live in poor countries, and 55 million live in India alone. That nation’s three largest eye institutes see 100 million patients per year and perform procedures such as corrective eye surgery for many thousands of children and adults. One of them, LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, has built a global consortium of researchers and clinicians that uses machine learning to predict eye surgery outcomes and guide patient care accordingly.

Microsoft AI researchers work with eye doctors on the ground in India and several other countries to gather patient data and feed it to predictive algorithms that live in the cloud.

With better predictions, clinicians can identify the best candidates for surgery, choose the right surgical techniques, and plan post-operative care. In this way, the cloud and AI bring previously inaccessible expertise to thousands of poor patients in these countries, many of them living in remote rural areas.

View Microsoft AI video: Connected eyes

AI is for everyone

What’s extraordinary about AI today is that the tools to create it and deploy it are available to all—large and small organizations and even individual developers can realistically create AI applications. All the major AI software development frameworks are free and open source. Every major advance in AI software architectures or algorithms is immediately published by the industry or academic team who developed it—it’s very difficult to keep a secret in a field where the leading researchers see themselves above all as scientists competing to expand human knowledge, even when employed by for-profit corporations.

And while AI models require powerful and specialized computer hardware to develop, this hardware can be rented inexpensively by the minute from cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and a host of smaller firms.

In short, AI is for everyone. If you have a problem to solve, and data that can be used to train an AI model to solve it, the sky is the limit.

Staya Nadella
“We want to make every company into an AI First company, because they already have customers, they already have data, and if we can democratize the use of AI tools, then every company can harness the power of AI.”

Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO