Dreamforce: Responsibility and ethics in technology emerge as major themes

Global Business

Dreamforce: Ethics and responsibility around technology is major theme at expo

In his opening keynote address, Salesforce’s Billionaire founder Marc Benioff said his company had restructured by setting up an office of ethical and humane technology.

He also had harsh words for the tech industry, just a day after Instagram’s founders made the decision to leave their parent company – Facebook.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

“We are watching for companies that are not listening to their key stakeholders, not listening to their employees, not listening to the kids and for them we watch the executives walk out, the employees walk out, the customers walk out as a vote of no confidence against their values,” Benioff told a packed room.

Benioff called for a higher responsibility in the industry, especially as Artificial Intelligence gets released into the world.

On Dreamforce’s expo floor, responsibility was also a hot topic among partners and peers.

Nintex automates numerous processes including contracts, which means their algorithms could possibly approve your credit card application or even a loan.

“How do you make sure when a computer’s making a decision, that it’s doing so appropriately?” asked Matt Fleckenstein, Chief Product Officer of Nintex. “One of the things you do is it approach it in that way where AI on really clear cut things an algorithm makes the decision. But on anything in a gray area you can still route it to a human being.”

Dreamforce was filled with lectures on everything form training AI algorithms to weed out bias to this session entitled: How to Stop Technology from Destabilizing The World.

The founder of the Center for Humane technology used the example of four different realistic President Obama photos. He pointed out –that none were real.

Dreamforce, perhaps more than any other major tech conference in the San Francisco Bay Area, puts a huge emphasis on giving back. And a big part of that is making sure the next generation has the skills and resources to thrive in the new economy.

At the event, Beniofff announced that Salesforce was donating $15 million to San Francisco and Oakland public schools.

“Companies cannot sit on the moral sidelines any longer, that companies have a responsibility and a need to take positions,” said the Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf.

I asked Benioff whehther he ever imagined running holding a tech conference that would talk about the dangers of tech.

“We started our company, we wanted to be a role model of what is ethical and good,” Benioff told me. “But in today’s world technology has become the center of everything we do, so you have to ask the question, “Are we using technology for good or bad. The reality is that technology is never good or bad, it’s what you do with it that matters.”

Benioff says he’s hoping Salesforce’s new Office of Ethics and Humane Technology will serve as a model for other companies to re-examine their values.

Rachel Botsman discusses consumer trust in the age of AI

One of the keynote speakers at Dreamforce is Rachel Botsman, a world thought-leader on this topic of Trust.

Her first book made a number correct predictions about how the collaboration or shared economy would develop.

And her new book entitled, “Who Can you Trust?” … discusses how technology brought us together, and why it might drive us apart.

CGTN’s Mark Niu sat down with Rachel Botsman and began by asking her why she decided to research and write about trust and AI.