New best friends, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff took a trip to the White House last Friday to discuss the future of jobs and education in a world where AI is evolving rapidly.

The pair discussed the meeting, which centred around skills and training, during a conversation on stage at the IBM Interconnect conference in Las Vegas today. The two companies, rivals in many respects, earlier this month announced they were teaming up deliver joint solutions leveraging each company’s artificial intelligence products: Watson and Einstein.

Underpinning their partnership is a mutual view that artificial intelligence and cognitive computing should augment human intelligence, not replace it.

Benioff said the pace at which machine learning and artificial intelligence is evolving has surprised him and companies like Salesforce and IBM have a responsibility to their guide the development.

“I can’t believe how fast artificial intelligence is evolving and changing — it’s one of the reasons you and I went to the White House on Friday — because we want to make sure that our workforce is ready for the changes that are coming based on artificial intelligence,” Benioff said to Rometty.

Rometty said IBM, which has outlined its position of AI here, has a responsibility to “usher these technologies in a way that’s positive for mankind.”

“These technologies will have an impact on how people live and how they work and they will have some impact on jobs. But they will also solve many more problems than they will create. And like any new technology it leads back to skills because you’ve got to prepare for a new era,” Rometty said.

And, like any powerful technology, AI is best kept out of the hands of evil geniuses.

“Technology is never good or bad, it’s what you do with it that makes a difference,” Benioff said.

“This is technology and it needs to have guard rails as we move forward. It has to be lead with companies , individuals, organisations and governments that have a set of principles and values that are going to take us to the future that we all want together.”

Children will need a “tremendous educational foundation” to make sure the are capable of finding jobs and working with next-generation technologies, Benioff said.

“We need to take a big moonshot in our country: we need 5 million apprenticeships in the next five years,” Benioff said.

Benioff believes companies like Salesforce and IBM need to play a role in training and retraining workers.

“Whether it’s veterans, whether it’s kids right out of K-12, or folks out of some other vocation we need to bring them in and we can retrain them,” Benioff said.

“Our companies are some of the greatest schools in the world.”


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