Patrice Simard and I have been friends since the old AT&T Bell Labs times.
He eventually convinced me to work for him at Microsoft.
He told me to expect “interesting times”.
I can see several reasons for these interesting times.
The scientific point of view. There are few places where I can find machine learning problems with similar scale, similar challenges, and similar impact. This practical experience will surely feed my future machine learning research. In fact I believe that such experiences are necessary to do research. One needs to see the world…
The social point of view. The Internet is the largest encyclopedia of knowledge ever known to mankind, and this is great. On the other hand, everything you do on the Internet is recorded by someone somewhere. Large online services such as Google or Microsoft concentrate unprecedented amounts of such information. Our society is not ready for that. Very good things or very bad things can happen equally easily. They will affect all of us. We cannot just watch and count the points.
The competitive point of view. Microsoft combines a difficult competitive position with considerable resources: it has both the will and the means to do new things on the scientific, engineering, economical, and social levels. How to resist that? Of course nothing is ever certain…