We speak to Richard Koh, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft Singapore, on AI, ethics, how companies are using technology to transform their products and services as well as how technology has helped to make lives better for everyone.

Q: A lot of people are working from home, including your team, presumably. Have you ever in your role as CTO, told them to disconnect while they’re working from home, especially at this time?

Yes, I think in this age of when technology is infused in a lot of our lives, whether it’s personal, work, sometimes too much of technology can be bad.

So absolutely, this is something that we have to do.

Q: This coming from the Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, and I would assume you spend most of your life developing and looking into technology and how to put it to good use, but on the other side of it, could too much technology be bad in terms of your work life, your personal life, for everyone?

I think it’s a sense of personal control that you want to have and what it means is that when you think about technology, intelligent technology, how is it really augmenting the human ingenuity? How is it helping me to be a better person, a better boss, a better employee?

I think that’s something that, it’s very important to have a conversation about, to have the general awareness how some of these technologies and the companies behind them and their business models work to be able to bring this technology to your lives, and then being able to decide what’s that agency that you want to bring in to be able to control how technology should assist your life.

Q: Do you think the term AI, artificial intelligence, is overused because every single business entity, every single company will have something that will be predictive of what you want or what you may want, that you don’t even know you want?

There are times it can be a little bit overused, this is when I guess a little bit of marketing gone wild, but certainly, a lot of different companies are able now to leverage technologies like for Microsoft with Azure AI, for example, to build some of this intelligence into their application just like in the BMW that we are riding right now, in this x7, with the open mobile mobility cloud and some of the personal virtual assistant technology.

You will see some of these technologies progressing leaps and bounds and actually be able to in some ways, take over the human that is driving and potentially keep the roads safer.

Q: What role do you think Microsoft has right now in developing this type of self-driving technology now and in the future and improving this kind of technology?

These are some of the capabilities that Microsoft is bringing in to BMW based on some of the future thinking that they have on the driver’s experience overall, not just when driving, but also in the whole maintenance of the car, for example.

What we’ve really done is bring a much more personalised and human-like type of interaction in some of these interactions, more and more being incorporated into future models and just really exciting future that we’re looking forward to.

Q: When it comes to ethics though, what does one draw the line between what AI can do or where the limitations are for AI?

I think that’s when it comes to the notion around responsible AI and responsible technology itself so you hit a very good point what technology can do. So it’s not just what technology can do, but what it should do, what it should do to be able to help human beings to address some of the biggest global challenges that we have.

Q: But that’s something human beings are still trying to balance as well, between responsibility and what I can really do? If I’m really selfish and greedy, how can we teach a machine to be able to distinguish that?

I think, in society when we think about measuring intelligence, for example, we talk about cognitive intelligence that’s embodied in IQ, then we talk about emotional intelligence, EQ, but I think there’s a third leg here which is called moral intelligence. How does a person who’s able to, or even a machine, to be able to distinguish what is right and what is wrong?

Because you have bad actors who are high IQ, very great eq, but perhaps moral intelligence is not quite there. So I think that will be another breakthrough if you think about bringing ethics into this particular space itself.

Q: You’ve been exposed to technology for a long time as Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft with all this breathing technology throughout most of your life. How does that make you Richard as the Richard, the leader? What role does technology play?

I think we are at a very exciting time, we’re seeing that technology is a very big part of every single organisation out there, and every organisation is looking to leverage and exploit technology for them to transform their products and services

And then when I think about it for myself, I think it’s a really exciting time to be in technology because you can truly see how it empowers a lot of different organisations and individuals to be able to accomplish much more.

Q: As a father, as a business leader, as Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft and as somebody who’s lived through the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020 now, are we at a better time in history now?

Absolutely, this is where technology can come and help researchers, scientists, every single organisation that is trying to look at how do we solve some of these challenges, for example.

Like for example, for us at Microsoft, we committed to being carbon negative by 2030 because as an organisation, we know that we can assist many organisations out there to leverage our technology to assist in their work, and I think we are at a better time, but hopefully, the “better” is going to arrive soon. But I think it’s a constant process that we as a human race will continue to move forward.

I think with technology being in every part of our lives, there’s going to be opportunities for us to leverage all of that and better our lives in many different ways.


This content is brought to you in collaboration with BMW Asia.