Tony Stewart
, March 29, 2024
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Over three decades ago, a historic moment forever altered the future of technology. The momentous occasion? The birth of the world-wide web, or what as we know it as the internet. 

At the time of its inception, the web provided limited options for civilian use. Yet, through decades of advancements, it served to usher in a golden age for civilian technology. It fundamentally influenced the shift in how information is accessed and consumed, permeating every facet of our lives. From facilitating research to enabling a seamless retail shopping experience, and providing countless entertainment options, the internet became indispensable to our daily routines, work and otherwise. 

Fast-forward to more than a decade later, another seismic shift in technological advancement reshaped society once again with the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007. Breaking the preconceptions of what a telecommunication device was capable of, the iPhone transformed how mobile phones were utilized outside its original intent. More significantly, smartphones unveiled a critical aspect that had not yet been emphasized: the user experience.

By designing intuitive and easy-to-understand user interfaces, smartphones significantly lowered the entry point for users, making it more accessible to learn how to use these devices effectively. In turn, smartphones quickly became an essential part of our existence, greatly enhancing our ability to connect, create and communicate effectively from virtually anywhere.  

These two transformative technologies - the internet, and smartphones - possess a shared underlying power that has reshaped human interaction with technology. Individually formidable, together they have collectively revolutionized the way people engage with digital tools, fundamentally altering the discourse of technological interaction. Their combined influence has made accessing and utilizing technology more intuitive and less obscure, empowering individuals to reap the benefits of these innovations as society prepares for the advent of the humanity’s latest monumental milestone.

The beginnings of Microsoft’s wager on AI  

In the present, both internet and smartphone technologies have attained unprecedented levels of efficiency over the years of maturation and growth. This convergence has paved the way for the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), marking yet another colossal milestone in the history of technological advancements. At the forefront of this evolution is the advent of AI Copilot, epitomizing the untapped potential of our future endeavors.

When Microsoft and OpenAI forged a transformative partnership in 2019, Microsoft made a bold decision to invest $1 billion into OpenAI’s research and development. This strategic move, spearheaded by Microsoft’s CTO, Kevin Scott, reflected his profound belief that AI holds the keys to a better tomorrow. Scott's conviction in the potential of AI stemmed from his learnings during his time as a Ph.D. student and the wisdom imparted by fellow engineers in his program.

Central to this idea was Scott’s notion of short-term pessimism and long-term optimism— a philosophy advocating for utmost pragmatism when faced by adversity to address present problems while maintaining unwavering hope for positive outcomes in the future.  

Embracing this mindset, his goal was to “boost people” by means of empowering the uninitiated yet resourceful individuals through knowledge and expertise that would be demystified through AI. In one such case, technological advances had drastically minimized labor-intensive industries such as farming, which accounted for more than 70% of Americans that worked within the agricultural industry, to as little as 1.2% of workforce today by the way of the sheer automation outputs and streamlining capabilities of AI technologies. Despite contention on the potential consequences of eliminating or replacing the labor force, the reality remains that most farmers and farmhands have been able to adapt by finding alternative roles within the farming industry, such as transitioning to truck driving or pursuing higher education to take on accounting responsibilities for their businesses. Scott viewed the result of automation as a resounding win, allowing individuals to pursue loftier aspirations, and to find alternative ways to achieve success beyond monotonous and repetitive labor. 

He was hopeful that this sentiment would be shared by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, who was also ecstatic for the progression of AI, would embrace this perspective, thus paving the road to the AI revolution.  

Enter OpenAI

Two decades prior to 2019, Microsoft had spent millions on unfocused internal AI projects with few achievements to show for them. Likewise, executives recognized challenges inherent in such a massive organization, foreseeing hurdles mired by internal politics and corporate bureaucracy. These obstacles posed a significant barrier in the field of AI development, which favored quick adaptation and swift decision-making.  

Understanding the daunting task ahead, Kevin Scott realized the need to explore and embrace “smaller”, more agile initiatives to surpass the competition and overcome criticism. It was during this search that OpenAI's mission statement, as articulated in their charter, captured Scott's attention.  

“We commit to use any influence we obtain over AGI’s (Artificial General Intelligence) deployment to ensure it is used for the benefit of all, and to avoid enabling uses of AI or AGI that harm humanity or unduly concentrate power. Our primary fiduciary duty is to humanity.”

Motivated by this alignment and commitment to democratizing AI, Microsoft invested in OpenAI with the aim to leverage AI to address complex challenges and drive societal impact. At the time, OpenAI had already achieved inspiring results from their research, such as creating a robotic hand that could solve Rubik’s Cubes. But beyond the promising results conducted by OpenAI, Microsoft was most impressed by the ardent fervor displayed by OpenAI for actualizing their litany of ideas coupled with brash confidence, never settling with previous accomplishments, and moving onto the next.

Throughout the course of their partnership, Microsoft incorporated OpenAI’s technology into their own – producing the results as we come to know as Microsoft’s AI Copilots for M365, D365, Power Platform, Viva, and Security. Copilot would also offer organizations low code, no code solutions to create their own proprietary software, harnessing the incredible generative AI power to create with ease.  

Much like its revolutionary predecessors, AI and subsequent Copilot technologies will undergo a process of development and maturation over time. Responsible considerations surrounding AI practice and governance, alongside concerns about privacy, security, and potential job displacement, continue to loom large in this ever-evolving landscape. Notwithstanding these obstacles and with the technology available at hand, organizations along with experts can implement AI safely and securely. By establishing robust framework standards, practices, and safeguards, businesses can ensure compliance and security for all users. Each step forward symbolizes a new chapter in the ongoing technological journey to deepen our understanding of the miracle produced through technology. With Microsoft and OpenAI at the forefront, there's a sense of trust in their ability to drive positive impacts for society.

Human-centrism is our motto too  

At the helm of any revolution are impassioned people, and it is this fundamental belief that propels Alithya. We take the responsibility of properly equipping and empowering individuals with their newfound technological prowess seriously. As a global provider of learning services, we are passionate about aiding businesses in the seamless deployment and training for Microsoft’s AI Copilot workstack spanning from Microsoft 365 to Dynamics 365 to Viva, we have you covered. With our tailored approach, we direct our focus on humanizing the implementation and training process to secure the future of your AI investment and workforce’s confidence. 

As Microsoft Copilot and its subsequent offerings continue to evolve over time, our comprehensive Copilot solution services ensure you stay well-informed, prepared, and equipped to maximize your investments. With over three decades of experience and as a trusted advisor in strategy and digital transformation, our mission is people first and driven to deliver innovative and efficient solutions for intricate digital integration and business challenges within the dynamic AI Copilot environment. 

To learn more about the plethora of Copilot or any AI-related technology services and workshop offerings, contact us today!

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