Salesforce's Benioff, IBM's Rometty Weigh The Responsibility Of Nurturing AI And How It Will Change The Workforce


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IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Wednesday that both their companies have a tremendous responsibility, as creators of breakthrough artificial intelligence, to make sure the emerging technology has a positive impact on the world.

As the relationship between the two companies escalates rapidly—IBM wasn't even present at last year's Dreamforce—the CEOs agreed that they need to make sure the advent of AI doesn't displace human beings, and harm their ability to make a living.

"It is our job to usher that safely into this world," Rometty told attendees.

[Related: Greene Screen: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Gets Google Cloud Chief Diane Greene To Dish On Her Life And Career During Dreamforce Interview]

Benioff welcomed IBM's leader to a "fireside chat" by telling her she's an inspiration to him, and especially to all of Salesforce's female executives.

"Ginni, you have become the top female CEO in the world. There's no doubt in my mind," Benioff told IBM's leader, who just arrived on an overnight flight from Brazil to the mega-conference in San Francisco.

Companies like Salesforce and IBM also have a great responsibility in handling their customers' "most-precious asset"—their data, Rometty said.

IBM is the only major tech company that can claim it has never turned over customer data to a government surveillance program, she said.

To allow AI to thrive, companies that develop the technology must make transparent to the public what data their algorithms have been trained on, and who trained them.

"You can train bias," she warned.

There are many negative connotations around artificial intelligence, Rometty acknowledged. IBM in part called its Watson technology "cognitive" to sidestep associations people have with AI as a force that will displace human workers.

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