The Law, Ethics and AI
Natasha Crampton, a former lawyer at Simpson Grierson, is spearheading the responsible utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) in her pivotal role at Microsoft.
As AI emerges as one of the most transformative technological developments in history, Crampton is leading a team of 350 professionals worldwide tasked with ensuring that Microsoft’s AI tools are developed and employed in an ethical and responsible manner.
Microsoft, a tech behemoth with a market capitalization of US$2.4 trillion, is making significant strides in AI innovation, competing against industry giants such as Google, Facebook, and Elon Musk’s ventures.
Based at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, near Seattle, has played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s AI “responsibility” efforts, as she told the New Zealand Herald. She oversees initiatives to guarantee that Microsoft’s AI solutions are crafted with accountability and ethical considerations in mind.
The Big AI Change – And Challenge
An interview on Politico this year saw her express surprise at the speed with which companies were picking up AI:
“What surprised me is how quickly people are adopting this next wave of AI personally and professionally. We see more and more businesses taking up this technology — from Fortune 500 companies to startups and scale-ups.
“They’re taking this core technology and building exciting new scenarios: More efficient customer service, helping citizens fill out government forms, and reducing paperwork for doctors so that they can spend more time with their patients. These large language models and multimodal models, they’re quickly becoming a new computing paradigm. We’re all going to have the benefit of a much more natural interface with computing.“
Her Legal Trajectory
With an academic background specializing in intellectual property and technology law, Crampton’s journey to her present role has been marked by diligence and opportune moments.
Her trajectory led her from legal firms like Simpson Grierson to eventually becoming the in-house counsel for Microsoft Australia and New Zealand in 2011.
Driven by her interest in the convergence of law, technology, and society, Crampton transitioned to Redmond to contribute to strategy-setting endeavors. This transition culminated in her focus on AI and ethics-related matters.
In recognition of her contributions, Crampton was designated Microsoft’s senior attorney for AI, research, and human rights, and later elevated to the role of vice-president.
She has actively navigated complex landscapes, even facing contentious issues such as Microsoft’s facial recognition technology being misconstrued in connection with the US-Mexico border crisis.
Reflecting on AI regulation, Crampton acknowledges the multifaceted global dialogue surrounding appropriate AI governance.
Europe’s proactive approach has been instrumental in initiating this discourse, while the US Government, in conjunction with Microsoft and other AI leaders, has taken steps to ensure the safety, security, and trustworthiness of AI systems.
She has played a key role in having Microsoft alter the use of AI in facial recognition technology and other applications that can have important bias or negative effects on individuals and groups.
She told the New York Times in a recent interview “We hope to be able to use our standard to try and contribute to the bright, necessary discussion that needs to be had about the standards that technology companies should be held to.”
Crampton highlights how Microsoft’s engagement extends to fostering AI innovation in New Zealand. The company has partnered with local firms, including Volpara, LawVu, and Beca, to integrate AI capabilities into their operations, demonstrating Microsoft’s commitment to facilitating AI-driven advancements across diverse sectors.
As Crampton and her team continue to shape the ethical landscape of AI, she observes the transformative potential of AI models like ChatGPT, which have paved the way for experimentation and innovation.
Local firms, she notes, are exploring novel applications built upon Microsoft’s AI tools, underscoring the dynamic and expansive impact of responsible AI integration.
In her journey as a leader at the intersection of law, technology, and AI ethics, Natasha Crampton exemplifies the commitment to harnessing AI’s power for the betterment of society, industry, and innovation.