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Tools and Weapons with Brad Smith
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Tools and Weapons with Brad Smith

Author: Microsoft, Brad Smith

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Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith speaks with leaders in government, business, and culture to explore the world’s most critical challenges at the intersection of technology and society.

As a 30-year veteran of an industry driven by disruption, Brad Smith hosts candid conversations with his guests that examine, reframe, and explore potential solutions to the digital issues shaping our world today, including cybersecurity, privacy, digital inclusion, environmental sustainability, artificial intelligence, and human rights.
23 Episodes
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber is the President of COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference hosted by the UAE last year. He's also the CEO and Managing Director of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), where he leads efforts to produce cleaner energy today and invests in sustainable energy solutions for the future. In this episode, Dr. Sultan shares how his leadership united diverse stakeholders to adopt the UAE Consensus. He also discusses the deep interconnectedness between AI and green energy, and how each can propel the other forward.
Bayer CEO Bill Anderson considers himself a scientist at heart, a chemical engineer by training, and a lifelong student of biotechnology. Now at the helm of a 160-year-old German pharmaceutical and agriculture company, he's employing science and technology with a bold mission — Health for All, Hunger for none.In this episode, Bill discusses AI’s role in accelerating agricultural breakthroughs that are needed to feed a a growing population, including helping smallholder farmers become more resilient to climate change. And he discusses how this intersection of science and technology is empowering employees to unblock innovation within the company.Click here for the full transcript
The New AI Economy

The New AI Economy


Gutenberg's invention of the printing press led to a new economy, which created a new sector of businesses, industries, and jobs. Generative AI is providing a similar opportunity today.In this episode, Brad Smith draws on the lessons from the printing press and supporting industries to illustrate how different technologies are coming together to create a new AI economy. He explains the critical partnerships between countries, government regulators, and tech companies - building the necessary infrastructure required to run generative AI to developing the skills people need to use it. Brad also discusses how Microsoft’s AI Access Principles foster both innovation and a path for new businesses by ensuring access, fairness, and responsibility.Click here for the full transcript.
Yves Ubelmann is a technologist, artist, and architect who is on a mission to digitally preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage. He is the founder and CEO of Iconem, a company that creates stunning 3D models of endangered sites and environments. In this episode, Brad and Yves take a boat trip through Venice, touring the subject of his most ambitious project: an AI-generated digital twin of one of the world’s most magnificent cities. Inspired by his grandfather’s work to restore war-damaged heritage sites in France, Yves shares how he is using AI to memorialize the world’s heritage in 3D and raising awareness of the effects of climate change on our planet.Click here for the full transcript
As the United States’ first Ambassador-at-Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy, Nathaniel Fick is leading a tech-centered global diplomatic mission. Nate brings extraordinary depth to this important role in contemporary foreign policy – not as a career diplomat, but from a wide range of experiences: a Classics graduate from Dartmouth, a Marine leader in Afghanistan and Iraq, a venture capitalist, and a CEO for a cybersecurity firm.As we kick off 2024, we discuss his priorities for the year ahead, why he'd always choose his radio over his rifle, the parallels between philosophy and AI policy, and an inspiring call for each of us to find time for national service.Click here for the full transcript.
Ben Rhodes had a front-row seat to one of the great transformations of our time - how people consume and react to information on social media. From his post as Deputy National Security Advisor and speechwriter serving under Barack Obama, Ben watched, as this technology evolved from a democratizing force of the Arab Spring to a weapon used to spread disinformation and divide societies.In this episode, the bestselling author and podcaster discusses the transformative technology of today, Artificial Intelligence. He shares his perspective on how we can develop and deploy AI to serve society and help solve some of society’s biggest challenges while staying clear-eyed so that we can anticipate risk and navigate new challenges.  Click here for the episode transcript
As a young child, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama developed his confidence and leadership skills through video games, which sparked his passion for history, strategy, and problem-solving.Today, he’s putting these skills to use as the first in the world to hold a cabinet level position on AI as the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications in the United Arab Emirates.In this episode of Tools & Weapons, H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama highlights how the region’s rich history and its aspirations for the future shape its embrace of AI. He shares how the elements that make a great game apply to leading transformational change. And he emphasizes the importance of AI education programs for government decision-makers, not just school kids.Click here for the episode transcript.
Throughout her impressive career leading businesses, nonprofits, and now as the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman has been driven by a simple question: "What are we going to do about it?" This relentless focus on action propelled her as she transformed eBay from a fledgling startup into a global e-commerce powerhouse and guided her as CEO navigating HP through a high-stakes corporate split. In this episode, she shares how her mother's experience becoming a certified airplane mechanic during WWII instilled in her the courage to take on big challenges, like building diplomatic bridges in Africa’s burgeoning Silicon Savanah.Click here for the episode transcript.
Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Scott, believes that for AI to benefit everyone, humans must be at the center of its development. His philosophy was shaped by his rural Virginia roots, where he belonged to a hardworking community that used creativity, perseverance, and curiosity to support each other and tackle practical challenges. In this episode, we talk about how a culture grounded in human values can lead to safer products, how AI can increase access to critical services like education and medicine, and what Chopin’s G Minor Ballade can teach us about AI and human connection. Click here to read the full transcript. Click here to find out more about Kevin's book, Reprogramming the American Dream: From Rural America to Silicon Valley - Making AI Serve Us All.
Nadia Calviño is a world leader who has earned a reputation for getting things done. As Spain’s First Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, she created the first national agency for regulating AI. In this episode, she explains how she rearchitected Spain’s economy to embrace AI in every sector while protecting citizens’ digital privacy and safety. They discuss how she is ensuring that Spain’s digital transformation uplifts everyone, the importance of digital skilling for people of all ages and genders, and Spain’s groundbreaking charter on digital rights, which is becoming a blueprint not only across Europe and the Spanish-speaking world, but globally.Click here for the episode transcript.
AI may be the most consequential technology advance of our lifetime. Rapid advances are creating new opportunities, challenges, and questions that require the public and private sectors to come together to ensure that this technology serves the public good. In this special episode, recorded as part of an event hosted by Microsoft in Washington D.C., I share how AI is leading to new breakthroughs in research, healthcare, and productivity, the guardrails required to ensure accountability and transparency, and a five-point blueprint to help create AI Policy, Law, and Regulation.Click here for the episode transcript. Governing AI: A Blueprint for the FutureWatch the video: the executive summary: the full report:  Join the discussion:
At a time when most Africans had not yet heard the sound of a ringing telephone, Strive Masiyiwa, an impatient young engineer, successfully challenged Zimbabwe’s state-run telecoms monopoly to get the licenses he needed to launch Econet Wireless. The court’s decision reverberated across Africa, clearing the way for private sector operators to enter this new mobile technology industry and connect people across the continent for the first time. Residing in South Africa and the UK since 2000, the successful tech tycoon, recognized as one of the “50 Most Influential People” and one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” now drives his pan-African vision. Today, with the same persistence, he and his companies set their sights to ensure that all 1.3 billion+ Africans get access to digital infrastructure, close the digital skills gap, and invest in the continent’s young entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions for healthcare and food insecurity. Click here to read the full transcript. 
Brad and Carol Ann discovered that riding in an autonomous vehicle as it learns to navigate the streets of London can be a bit nerve-wracking. But these hands-on experiences are crucial to understanding the impact that AI's sudden surge has on everyday life at the intersection of technology and society. In this episode, Brad's co-author, chief of staff, and long-time colleague Carol Ann Browne puts him in the hot seat to discuss the tech issues and trends that they are witnessing together in real time. They discuss the war in Ukraine, the global economy, climate change, and why responsibility must be at the center of AI development.Click here for the episode transcript. You can read more about the initiatives discussed in the episode through the links below:(04:28) Olena Zelenska Foundation (07:28) Planet(07:32) The Clooney Foundation for Justice(11:52) Climeworks(11:57) Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund(15:31) OpenAI(21:51) Responsible AI at Microsoft(28:11) Wayve(29:58) SEEDS
As a young engineer, a simple question about life’s meaning directed Paulo Benanti’s journey to an unexpected destination – living in a monastery next to the Vatican. Now known as Father Benanti, he’s a Franciscan monk, but he’s also a technology and bioethics professor who advises Pope Francis on the ethics of artificial intelligence. In this episode, we discuss how the Rome Call for AI Ethics puts people at the center of AI development, how it provides faith leaders common ground with tech companies, and why the tango best illustrates Pope Francis’ passion for ensuring that AI serves all of humanity, including the world’s poorest.Learn more about how you can get involved in the Rome Call for AI Ethics at  Click here for the episode transcript 
As Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has put digital technology to work to drive economic resurgence, develop a vibrant tech sector, and transform the way everyday citizens interact with the government. In this episode, we cover Greece's ambition to be an energy hub for Europe, its efforts to digitally preserve ancient cultural sites, and what it takes to protect one of the oldest and best inventions that Greece has contributed - democracy itself. Click here for the episode transcript. 
Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, says a multinational company’s license to do business is earned by creating “local surplus” wherever it operates. In this episode, Brad and Satya unpack what this means, how it connects to the company’s mission, the responsibility that companies have to create inclusive growth, and how software is one of the biggest deflationary forces during inflationary times. Satya Nadella is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft. Before being named CEO in February 2014, Nadella held leadership roles in both enterprise and consumer businesses across the company. Joining Microsoft in 1992, he quickly became known as a leader who could span a breadth of technologies and businesses to transform some of Microsoft’s biggest product offerings. Most recently, Nadella was executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group. In this role he led the transformation to the cloud infrastructure and services business, which outperformed the market and took share from competition. Previously, Nadella led R&D for the Online Services Division and was vice president of the Microsoft Business Division. Before joining Microsoft, Nadella was a member of the technology staff at Sun Microsystems. Originally from Hyderabad, India, Nadella lives in Bellevue, Washington, with his family. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. Nadella serves on the board of trustees to his alma mater the University of Chicago, as well as the Starbucks board of directors.Click here for the episode transcript.
When it comes to reporting on the tech industry, nothing escapes Kara Swisher.  For four decades, the influential journalist has used the power of her pen and microphone to not only report the news, but influence the events of the day. Sharing insights from her career, they explore patterns that help her see what’s coming in tech before others, the attributes of tech leaders that succeed, the adaptability of leading companies, and the need for regulation on an industry that has accrued a lot of power. Kara Swisher wrote her first technology story in 1980, for Georgetown University’s school paper – the subject was pay phones.  As one of the first reporters to cover the internet while at the Wall Street Journal, Kara Swisher’s early career-making coverage of the rise of Big Tech earned her the reputation of “Silicon Vally’s most feared and well-liked journalist.”  Since then, Swisher’s impact on the tech and media space has been undeniable:  she’s produced the country’s premier tech and media conference, executive-edited a major news website, and co-hosts the podcast Pivot for New York Magazine.  Throughout her career she’s interviewed major players in tech, politics and culture including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Rupert Murdoch, Kim Kardashian, and President Barack Obama.  Click here for the episode transcript.
Why does the head of a global media powerhouse still give his occupation as “journalist?” Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer SE, is driven by deep convictions about journalism’s role in safeguarding democracy – a perspective forged in his youth after viewing the American miniseries Holocaust.In this episode, Brad and Mathias dive into the worrying trends developing in democracies around the world and how technology can reduce – or amplify – the danger. They discuss how new business models can strengthen digital journalism, their shared belief in the power of truth, and what he believes is the one precondition for great quality journalism.Dr. Mathias Döpfner is the CEO of Axel Springer SE, the largest publishing house in Europe. He started his career as a journalist in 1982 and has been with the company since 1998, initially as editor-in-chief of Axel Springer’s flagship daily newspaper, Die Welt (The World). Döpfner became a member of the Executive Board in 2000 and has been CEO since January 2002. Since Döpfner became CEO, Axel Springer’s revenues from its digital initiatives have increased twenty-fold, and its worldwide digital audience expanded to more than 400 million users. An active public speaker, Döpfner is engaged in efforts to preserve freedom and the free press for democratic societies. He is also a member of the board of directors of Netflix and Warner Music.Click here for the episode transcript.
In 2017, leading AI expert Kai-Fu Lee shared a dire prediction: half of all jobs – both blue collar and white collar – could be automated within ten years, replacing the workforce with solutions built on artificial intelligence. Brad and Kai-Fu discuss what this coming change means for national economies and for people who care about their work. Kai-Fu lays out practical steps policy makers can take today to prepare, the three areas he believes human intelligence will continue to lead, and why he remains an AI optimist.Dr. Kai-Fu Lee has driven innovation in AI research and development for over three decades. He is the Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and President of Sinovation Venture’s Artificial Intelligence Institute. Prior to founding Sinovation in 2009, Dr. Lee was the President of Google China, and a senior executive at Microsoft, SGI, and Apple. In the field of AI, Dr. Lee built one of the first game playing programs to defeat a world champion, as well as the world’s first large-vocabulary, speaker-independent continuous speech recognition system. His bestselling book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order discusses US-China co-leadership in the age of AI, as well as the greater societal impacts wrought by the AI technology revolution. His new co-authored book AI 2041 explores how AI will change our world over the next 20 years.Click here for the episode transcript.
Thomas Friedman believes if you want to understand human nature, live with people in extreme situations. And if you want to know the future, hang around people inventing it.  As a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Thomas Friedman has spent a career reporting from a civil war in Beirut, observing some of the world’s leading companies from the inside, and discovering that the key to understanding globalization is studying the only system that mirrors it in complexity – nature.  In this episode Brad and Thomas explore how our biggest challenges in society are tied to the environment and the economy, and how the key to our future hinges not on what we know, but on how well we listen.Thomas Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist. He is the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes—two for international reporting from the Middle East and a third for his columns written about 9/11. He started his journalism career with United Press International in 1978. After serving as a Beirut reporter for UPI for two years, Friedman was hired by the New York Times in 1981, where he served as the Beirut bureau chief, Jerusalem bureau chief, chief diplomatic correspondent, international economics correspondent and, since 1995, its foreign affairs columnist. He is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers — From Beirut to Jerusalem; The Lexus and the Olive Tree; Longitudes and Attitudes; The World Is Flat; Hot, Flat, and Crowded; That Used to Be Us (with Michael Mandelbaum); and, most recently, Thank You For Being Late.Click here for the episode transcript.
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