Deborah Harrison

With Great Dialog Comes Great Responsibility

Conversations have extraordinary power. They can harm or heal, obfuscate or enlighten, generate confusion or clarity. They can condition us to subtly alter our behavior, and they even shape how we perceive our own inner emotions. So as we teach our devices to converse with us, how can we wield that power responsibly? And how do we teach our algorithms to do the same?

Deborah Harrison (writer, Microsoft) is one of the original architects of the personality for Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana. She crafted the core principles that define Cortana's approach to communication and now helps shepherd those principles as Cortana lights up on other devices, on other operating systems, and in other countries. Today, while the field of AI is still in adolescence, we in the industry stand in a brilliant position to shape not only technological innovation but also the culture of conversation between humans and machines. If we approach this task with intention, then people can come to expect civility, connection, humor, transparency, and kindness from their interactions with AI just as surely as they expect the ability to update a calendar or dictate a text.

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