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Alexa, why does the brave new world of AI have all the sexism of the old one?

The Guardian

When women are over-represented in the workforce, it tends be in industries of assistance – cleaning, nursing, secretarial work and, now, the world of virtual assistants. Research by Unesco has shown that using default female voices in AI – as Microsoft has done with Cortana, Amazon with Alexa, Google with Google Assistant and Apple with Siri – is furthering the belief that women exist merely to help men to get on with more important things. There is no real reason for AI technologies to be gendered at all, but we are at the mercy of tech companies "staffed by overwhelmingly male engineering teams", fixated on living out a Captain Kirk fantasy and delegating to the subservient, silky-voiced computers of Star Trek. These systems are unapologetically built by men, for men. They can even struggle to understand the "breathy" voices of women as software is often developed with male voice samples.


Microsoft and General Assembly launch partnership to close the global AI skills gap - Stories

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May 17, 2019 -- Microsoft Corp. and global education provider General Assembly (GA) on Friday announced a partnership to close skills gaps in the rapidly growing fields of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and data engineering, machine learning, data science, and more. This initiative will create standards and credentials for AI skills, upskill and reskill 15,000 workers by 2022, and create a pool of AI talent for the global workforce. Technologies like AI are creating demand for new worker skills and competencies: According to the World Economic Forum, up to 133 million new roles could be created by 2022 as a result of the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms. To address this challenge, Microsoft and GA will power 2,000 job transitions for workers into AI and machine learning roles in year one and will train an additional 13,000 workers with AI-related skills across sectors in the next three years. "Artificial intelligence is driving the greatest disruption to our global economy since industrialization, and Microsoft is an amazing partner as we develop solutions to empower companies and workers to meet that disruption head on," said Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of GA. "At its core, GA has always been laser-focused on connecting what companies need to the skills that workers obtain, and we are excited to team up with Microsoft to tackle the AI skills gap."


Retail Has Big Hopes For A.I. But Shoppers May Have Other Ideas

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Walmart has opened a store in Levittown, N.Y. that is intended to showcase the power of artificial intelligence. The store, announced last week, is packed with video cameras, digital screens, and over 100 servers, making it appear more like a corporate data center than a discount retailer. All that machinery helps Walmart automatically track inventory so that it knows when toilet paper is running low or that milk needs restocking. The company's goal is to create "a glimpse into the future of retail," when computers rather than humans are expected to do a lot of retail's grunt work. Walmart's push into artificial intelligence highlights how retailers are increasingly adding data crunching to their brick and mortar stores.


Swedish Distillery Creates First Whisky Designed By AI

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Would you drink a whisky designed and created by artificial intelligence? This fall, this hypothetical question becomes a reality, as popular award-winning Swedish whisky distillery Mackmyra releases the first ever whisky, a single malt, designed with machine learning. Working in collaboration with Microsoft and Fourkind, a Finnish technology consultancy specializing in AI spearhead projects, the distillery has made the claim that this is the first ever machine-learning designed complex consumer product recipe. I for one, welcome the chance to try a whisky created by our robot overlords. The distillery's machine learning models running off of Microsoft's Azure Cloud Computing platform and AI cognitive services will be fed raw data related to whisky production (including malting, fermentation, distillation, and maturation), Mackmyra's historical recipes, sales numbers, and customer preferences.


AI could be a critical tool to help save the planet

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It's no secret that the health of our planet is declining. Deforestation, melting sea ice, rapidly disappearing species and more have weakened Earth's ecosystems, and climate change is arguably the most pressing issue of our time. We need to think outside of the box – and move swiftly – to recover a sustainable future. Once considered the stuff of science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) is not only playing a growing role in our everyday lives, but it could be a critical tool in helping save the planet. In fact, reversing what could soon be permanent damage is the impetus for Microsoft's AI for Earth program, which awards grants to researchers and innovators dedicated to solving environmental challenges.


How tech companies are shaping the rules governing AI

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In early April, the European Commission published guidelines intended to keep any artificial intelligence technology used on the EU's 500 million citizens trustworthy. The bloc's commissioner for digital economy and society, Bulgaria's Mariya Gabriel, called them "a solid foundation based on EU values." One of the 52 experts who worked on the guidelines argues that foundation is flawed--thanks to the tech industry. Thomas Metzinger, a philosopher from the University of Mainz, in Germany, says too many of the experts who created the guidelines came from or were aligned with industry interests. Metzinger says he and another member of the group were asked to draft a list of AI uses that should be prohibited.


Microsoft wants to apply AI 'to the entire application developer lifecycle'

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At its Build 2018 developer conference a year ago, Microsoft previewed Visual Studio IntelliCode, which uses AI to offer intelligent suggestions that improve code quality and productivity. In April, Microsoft launched Visual Studio 2019 for Windows and Mac. At that point, IntelliCode was still an optional extension that Microsoft was openly offering as a preview. But at Build 2019 earlier this month, Microsoft shared that IntelliCode's capabilities are now generally available for C# and XAML in Visual Studio 2019 and for Java, JavaScript, TypeScript, and Python in Visual Studio Code. Microsoft also now includes IntelliCode by default in Visual Studio 2019.


Microsoft teams up with General Assembly to tackle AI skills gap

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Microsoft is teaming up with General Assembly (GA) to bridge the skill gaps in modern technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and data engineering, machine learning, data science, etc. General Assembly is a leader in education that has transformed the careers of tens of thousands of individuals through pioneering and experiential education. The companies will also develop industry-recognized credentials for AI skills. The ultimate aim is to create a pool of AI talent for the global workforce, the companies said. Microsoft has already been focusing on closing AI skill gaps around the world.


IoT to Alter Agriculture and Food - Connected World

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We are going to need the IoT (Internet of Things) to help solve the problems that are facing agriculture and the future of food. There is not a person on the planet that doesn't understand the importance of food, ag, and farming. Couple these facts with people living longer than ever, and we just keep having babies and you have a pot ready to boil over. All of these factors combined will lead to a more crowded planet than we've ever experienced before. With more mouths to feed, we as a global society will need to figure out how to produce more food.


New 'Minecraft Earth' to offer AR experience like 'Pokemon Go'

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Microsoft and Mojang have announced a new Minecraft game, 'Minecraft Earth,' for mobile devices, which uses augmented reality to place objects from the game in your real world. Minecraft is expanding its reach – into your real world. A new game, "Minecraft Earth," coming this summer for mobile devices (Android and iOS), uses augmented reality – à la "Pokémon Go" – to let you find objects in real-world locations and place objects from the game there, too. "The game's mechanics are simple: explore your neighborhood to find blocks and unique mobs for your builds. Once you have them, any flat surface is an opportunity to build," said Minecraft creative director Saxs Persson in a post on Xbox.com.