Microsoft CEO Warns of ‘Dystopian Scenarios’


Satya Nadella tells developers it is “up to us” to prevent worst-case scenarios from coming true.

CEO Satya Nadella set the tone for Microsoft’s annual Build, its conference for software developers, by charting the company’s current interests: voice assistants, artificial intelligence, and the need to avoid a future tech dystopia.

“There are unintended consequences of technology,” Nadella said during his keynote address at the Seattle conference. “I do believe that it is up to us to ensure that some of the more dystopian scenarios don’t come true.”

Nadella said companies and software developers must take steps to avoid the kinds of worlds described in books like 1984 and Brave New World. He said developers can take the lead in building a brighter future by empowering more people with technology and using tech as an instrument for inclusive growth.

Curiously, the keynote also included the demonstration of a workplace safety program that monitors employees on video. The software uses artificial intelligence algorithms to identify safety infractions, such as when a worker picks up a tool he or she is not authorized to use.

Nadella announced that Windows 10 is running on 500 million devices worldwide, putting the company halfway toward its goal of running on 1 billion active devices by the middle of 2018.

The company also demonstrated advanced features for its Cortana intelligent assistant. Microsoft is encouraging developers to create specialized Cortana apps, which it calls “skills.” Among the first generation of Cortana skills are recipes-on-demand from the Food Network, computer-assisted pizza ordering from Domino’s, and a Dark Sky weather tool.