AI for Good blog

“We bring the AI talent to those problems and we partner with those subject matter experts” – A conversation with Juan Lavista Ferres, VP & Chief Data Scientist at Microsoft AI for Good Research Lab

Artificial Intelligence | Global Summit | Interview

By Celia Pizzuto

AI is not just transforming the digital world, it is increasingly being leveraged to solve some of the most pressing global issues. One such organization spearheading this charge is Microsoft, through its AI for Good Research Lab. At the helm is the Vice President & Chief Data Scientist, Juan Lavista Ferres.


Inside Microsoft’s AI Lab

Recently, Lavista Ferres attended the AI for Good Global Summit, where he discussed how the lab uses AI to partner with organizations, including the UN, to help solve some of their most complex problems. He highlighted the importance of this summit, not just as a platform to share ideas and experiences but also as a representation of the community that the lab serves.

Lavista Ferres said, ” We are using AI to partner with organizations including the UN to help them solve some of the problems. So for us, the summit represents a lot of that community.”

He also explained what makes up a typical AI Lab at Microsoft. It consists of a diverse group of researchers, AI experts, and data scientists. But this is not a team working in isolation. The lab is fundamentally about collaboration and partnership with organizations that have specific expertise in various fields.

In Lavista Ferres’s words, “We have researchers working like AI experts and data scientists and these like what we do is we partner with organizations that have subject matter expertise and our expertise. We bring the AI talent to those problems and we partner with those subject matter experts.”


Addressing food security with AI

The AI for Good Lab is no stranger to tackling complex global issues. One area where they have had a significant impact is in food security. They partnered with organizations that manage food security and used high-resolution satellite data, enhanced with AI algorithms, to predict potential food security issues.

“One problem is food security, for example, and our job is to partner with an organization that helps out to manage practicing food security,” he explained.


Healthcare innovation

But it is not just about food security. The lab’s work also spans to healthcare. They have a project focusing on Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a leading cause of blindness in children. This disease, which did not exist four decades ago, has seen an exponential growth due to medical advancements that have led to higher survival rates for premature babies.

Lavista Ferres revealed, “One of the projects that we have is Retinopathy of Prematurity. This is on health, like the other prematurity is a leading cause of blindness in children and these are diseases that didn’t exist four decades ago in the world.”


AI governance and regulation

Despite the positive contributions of AI, one of the key areas of concern that the summit addressed is the governance and regulation of AI. Lavista Ferres explained Microsoft’s position on this, saying.

“In the case of Microsoft, we believe governance of AI plays a fundamental role for any technology, including AI,” Lavista Ferres said.

This commitment reflects a dedication to responsible and ethical application of AI technology.


The future of productivity

Lavista Ferres’s vision of AI’s future impact is optimistic. In countries where the population is decreasing, Lavista Ferres believes that AI can play a fundamental role in boosting productivity.

“I think that overall, AI will continue increasing the productivity of people,” he noted.


The conversation with Juan Lavista Ferres provides a fascinating insight into the work of Microsoft’s AI for Good Research Lab and its contributions to the wider community, tackling health issues, or enhancing productivity, the lab is at the forefront of utilizing AI for the benefit of society. This showcases AI’s potential for positive societal impact and highlights the need for responsible governance and regulation.

This conversation stands as a testament to AI’s potential, not just as a disruptive technology but as a force for good. Through the efforts of Microsoft’s AI for Good Research Lab and others like it, AI is set to continue its positive impact on society, transforming lives and solving complex problems for the betterment of all.

Microsoft AI for Good Lab

Our Summit Sponsors

Thank you to our Global Summit 2023 Sponsors, co-convener Confédération Suisse, our diamond sponsors Immersion4 and Technology Innovation Institute, our gold sponsors Monash Data Futures InstituteZTE CorporationAmazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, our artistic intelligence sponsor Shutterstock, our networking sponsors Rohde & Schwarz and KUKA, our digital art AV technology partner Dorier Group, our captioning provider Interprefy and our supporter Samsung Electronics.

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