We want robots to feel empathy and humans: Microsoft CEO Nadella

Nadella: Principled approach to AI
Nadella: Principled approach to AI
Nadella: Bringing certainty in a connected world
Nadella: Bringing certainty in a connected world
LNKD could make Microsoft's cloud smarter
LNKD could make Microsoft's cloud smarter

Humans have a lot to contribute even in the face of artificial intelligence, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Wednesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"I definitely fall into the camp of thinking of AI as augmenting human capability and capacity," Nadella said. "And then distilling a set of principles. Algorithmically, for example, how can AI be programmed to care for humans — not have bias built in? How can it be trustworthy? How can it be transparent? Those are the principles of AI design that are pretty core."

Earlier this year, of course, Microsoft made headlines when after a barrage of offensive Twitter comments. As machines get more intelligent in very narrow ways, technology has a role in amplifying empathy, curiosity and creativity, Nadella said.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella speaks at a shareholders' meeting in Bellevue, Washington.
Jason Redmond | Reuters

Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri, is already become more intelligent every day, Nadella said, echoing his recent comments in Slate, where he argued that humans and machines will work together, not against each other.

"With all the abundance we have of computers and computing, what is scarce is human attention and time," Nadella said. "So having the personal digital assistant really helps me regain my time — empowers me to get more out of every moment of my life."

Nadella spoke alongside Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of "Steve Jobs," at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, where speakers covered broad topics like the role of machines in policy and the future of Mars. The interview coincided with the announcement of Nadella's new book, "Hit Refresh," that will focus on the future of intelligent machines.

The meeting came amid a changing landscape for technology companies. Britain's vote to leave the European Union pressured stocks in the industry, just after Microsoft closed a monster acquisition of social network LinkedIn.

Microsoft's 30-year history in the U.K. means the company will continue to invest in its sizable business there, Nadella said. But Nadella said that technology companies need to make a better case for global trade creating local wealth.

"What happens in Britain, what happens in the world, matters a lot to us in our core business," Nadella said. "The real thing is, 'How do we bring back certainty that global companies and a global economy can thrive in a connected world?'"

Nadella said that Microsoft remains focused on organic innovation and what Microsoft can uniquely contribute to the world as a company. But the LinkedIn deal was "game-changing" because the two firms aligned so closely, he said.

"LinkedIn was an amazing deal for us to do because of their mission," Nadella said.