Artificial intelligence (AI) has begun to play a role in health care for predictive analytics, personalization, and public health.

On 26th January, I’ll moderate a tweetchat at 1 pm Eastern time, brainstorming the current and future state of and opportunities for AI in health care. I’ll be co-chatting with Microsoft’s AI leader, Tom Lawry (@TCLawry on Twitter). In advance of that discussion, I wanted to feature remarks shared by Brad Smith, Microsoft President, that I recently heard at CES 2021, the annual (this year, virtual) meeting convening the largest community of consumer electronics stakeholders globally

Smith wove a crucial, impactful plotline from first visiting the inside of a highly-secure Microsoft server plant, a “glimpse inside our cloud in Quincy, Washington,” Smith kicked off the tour.

The view may be generic but it represents the most important infrastructure of the 21st century, Smith explained. The complex houses the computers that fuel our lives, 20 buildings each large enough to house two commercial aircraft sitting on 300 acres, Smith described.

“Almost no one ever gets to see this,” Smith said, putting on his mask as “we” entered the massive facility, shown here in a picture from his talk (Smith is on the right).

The facility stores as much data as in 50,000 Libraries of Congress, he described.

Smith then segued his story to a popcorn movie night at Camp David with President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan watching the movie War Games, to the recent SolarWinds hack….weaving in John F. Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in 1962 speaking boldly about going where no one had gone before — to the Moon.

[A sidebar on the Reagan’s movie night is in order here – marrying pop culture to real life. The Reagan’s watched War Games on Saturday night June 4, 1983.

After the movie, Nancy asked her beloved Ronnie, “Could something like this really happen?” The President then asked this of his defense experts, to which General John Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, responded: “Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think.”]

But it wasn’t just JFK’s moonshot remarks that were inspiring. Smith also reminded us another key line from that speech which was so prescient — and especially important to be spoken out loud in the context of CES 2021:

“Technology has no conscience.”

This is physical embodiment of our mission, Smith said, “to empower every person on planet to achieve more.”

But there’s a darker side, he continued, with new perils arising like the SolarWinds breach. This spans privacy and cybersecurity, digital safety and the loss of control that people, communities, and countries face.

The first image of a hacker was a teenager sitting on a bed, Smith reminded us, like Matthew Broderick’s character in War Games drawn in to playing the game. Then the threat of global nuclear war.

“Science is catching up to science fiction,” Smith warned, with insights for governments and consumers alike.

He asked two strategically important questions:

  1. What are the rules of the road to guide us on the planet?
  2. What does this mean for what we in industry need to do?

As CES 2021 comes to a close this week, we must come together with a collective voice to agree that supply chains, communications disruptions, and hacking of our personal medical data must not, will not, be tolerated.

We must collaborate together, share data such that we change culture to make sharing a win-win – along the way, protecting personal privacy, vigilantly.

We must ensure that humanity retains control of the computers and connected things we create and use.

Smith concluded with reasons to be optimistic, represented by the sunny road he’s standing with here.

He reminded us that, when humanity finally first orbited the moon in December 1968, it was a terrible time, a difficult year when we witnessed violence in the streets and the assassination of two of America’s great leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy.

But then, we got to the moon….and what did we learn?

It was not about the rocks that were picked up….it was looking back from the moon’s surface to Planet Earth….a common bond for everyone.

“Technology has no conscience.”

But we do. For all of us in tech, and especially in the health/care ecosystem, this is our opportunity to embrace this multi-pronged pandemic-era challenge for all health citizens and ensure that the technology and innovations we develop serve each other and the world.

If you cannot make the live tweetchat on 1-26-21, you can revisit the tweetstream and join the conversation afterwards following hashtag #MicrosoftAIChat. Looking forward to sharing perspectives!

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