AI impact and ethics


AI technologies raise complex ethical and social questions. For example:

  • How can we best use AI to assist users and offer people enhanced insights while avoiding exposing them to different types of discrimination in health, housing, law enforcement, and employment?
  • How can we balance the need for efficiency and exploration with fairness and sensitivity to users? As we move toward relying on intelligent agents in our everyday lives, how do we ensure that individuals and communities can trust these systems?

We must address these ethical challenges as we explore future opportunities powered by a partnership between computers and humans. Ultimately, the question is not only what computers can do, it’s what computers should do.

At Microsoft, six ethical principles guide the development and use of artificial intelligence with people at the center of everything we do.

  • Fairness: AI systems should treat all people fairly.
  • Reliability & Safety: AI systems should perform reliably and safely.
  • Inclusiveness: AI systems should empower everyone and engage people.
  • Privacy & Security: AI systems should be secure and respect privacy.
  • Transparency: AI systems should be understandable.
  • Accountability: AI systems should have algorithmic accountability.

AI ethics at Microsoft

The FATE (Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics) research group at Microsoft studies the complex social implications of AI, machine learning, data science, large-scale experimentation, and increasing automation. They aim to develop computational techniques that are innovative and ethical while drawing on the deeper context surrounding these issues from sociology, history, and science and technology studies.

FATE is currently working on collaborative research projects that address the need for transparency, accountability, and fairness in AI and machine learning systems. FATE publishes across a variety of disciplines, including machine learning, information retrieval, systems, sociology, political science, and science and technology studies.

AI for Good

Microsoft AI for Good invests in programs that increase access to cloud and AI technologies through grants, education, research, and strategic partnerships.


AI for Accessibility promotes inclusion through intelligent technology and enables people to gain independence and achieve more. For example, Seeing AI utilizes AI technology to help the low vision community better see the world around them.


AI for Humanitarian Action, a new $40-million, 5-year program, aims to harness the power of AI to recover from disasters, address the needs of children, protect refugees and displaced people, and promote respect for human rights. For example, nonprofit partner Operation Smile uses a facial modeling algorithm and Microsoft Pix to improve their surgical outcomes and help more children in need of facial surgeries.


AI for Earth empowers people and organizations to innovate in the ways we monitor, model, and ultimately manage Earth’s natural systems. The program focuses on four areas vital to a sustainable future: agriculture, water, biodiversity, and climate change. For example, Project Premonition started as an effort to track emerging diseases by utilizing AI, drones, and Microsoft cloud software. Needing fast and reliable data, scientists began analyzing blood from mosquitoes to stay ahead of infectious diseases and are now turning their efforts to biodiversity.

Seeing AI

Seeing AI is a Microsoft research project that combines the power of the cloud and AI to deliver an intelligent app designed to help you navigate your day.

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Watch this video to see the application in action.

With the seeing AI camera app, you can hold up your phone to hear information about the space around you, turning the visual world into an audible experience. You can recognize and locate the faces of people you are with, along with their facial characteristics and approximate age, emotion, and more. Finally, you can hear snippets of text to get audio guidance on full documents.

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