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Mr. Benioff Goes to Washington

Mr. Benioff Goes to Washington

The News: On September 13, executives from several AI companies met with US Senators to discuss regulating AI. It follows on a meeting earlier this summer that the Biden administration had with tech leaders on the same topic. Read an article on the US Senate AI tech leaders meeting on the Reuters website.

Mr. Benioff Goes to Washington

Analyst Take: In that closed door meeting, there was likely a lot of discussion about privacy and bias and toxicity and hallucinations, transparency, explanability, consumer rights, IP and copyright laws, consumer protections, stifling innovation and business growth, US competitive advantages, and the differences between high, medium, and low risk.

The conversation about regulation to date has been between lawmakers and AI vendors. There is some natural and logical friction in that relationship. Maybe that discussion should have a different arc. A conversation that is less about what specifically we should do about government regulation and more about what companies can do to act responsibly with AI right now, and in that process, calm the nerves of all parties – AI users, companies leveraging AI, and government.

What is missing in the equation is representation from a company that is on the front line of live AI application, one that is taking the risk of leveraging AI (and reaping some reward). Further, Washington needs to hear about what that experience has taught such a company, and that implementing the pillars of responsible AI (responsible, accountable, transparent, empowering, and inclusive are the Salesforce Trusted AI Principles) is good business discipline, which mitigates AI risk for both the company that is offering the service and its customers.

Salesforce’s Marc Benioff Should Be a Part of the Conversation

I would like to nominate a very important voice in this conversation – Marc Benioff.

Let me explain why Mr. Benioff is critical to this AI narrative.

Salesforce is one of a very select group of companies that meets the criteria described. Mr. Benioff’s Salesforce has been invested in AI for nearly 10 years. I recently outlined Salesforce’s journey. Any company seeking to operationalize AI can learn from Salesforce’s example. If you look at the company’s nearly 10-year journey with AI, it looks something like this:

  • Leadership said go explore AI technology, we think in principle it has the potential to serve our business. Someone within the company understood basic principles of AI, mainly that its fuel is data. They also recognized that a company with a lot of proprietary data in theory can benefit from AI.
  • Teams explored what AI does and what it can do.
  • Teams experimented in applying AI to Salesforce products. Teams learned about AI lifecycle and cost structures.
  • With AI incorporated into products, Salesforce learned what not to do with AI. More specifically, it learned AI risks and how to manage those risks.
  • Salesforce built frameworks and organization to manage AI risk.
  • Generative AI explodes on the marketplace and Salesforce has the structures and expertise in place to leverage it.

Washington needs to hear more about what responsible AI can mean to the AI marketplace.

Salesforce has perhaps the most mature vision and roadmap for responsible AI use. Not only does it include the most commonly known strategies – use case risk assessments – it includes vision for organizational structure and for AI lifecycle management. You can see the company’s vision (and tools) in its AI Ethics Maturity Model.

In the keynote at Dreamforce 2023, Benioff introduced Salesforce’s Tenets of Trusted, Ethical and Humane AI:

  • Your data is not our product.
  • You control access to your data.
  • We prioritize accurate, verifiable results.
  • Our product policies protect human rights.
  • We advance responsible AI globally.
  • Transparency builds trust.

In the Dreamforce keynote, Benioff spoke over and over again about AI, and in the same sentence, trust. He said you cannot do AI without being able to trust what it does. The company is liberally using the word trust in describing AI capabilities. During the keynote, he said that we have an incredible opportunity in AI, but how we do it, matters. He said we have to do it right, and we have to do it responsibly.

Companies and governments around the world need to see, hear, and understand the kind of AI leadership Salesforce is living as a company. There are others like Salesforce, such as Adobe, ServiceNow, and Microsoft, that live this kind of AI life and have practical and achievable approaches. Lead, Mr. Benioff. Start by going to Washington. Please tell your story to the policymakers and the business community. And then, keep on telling your AI story. We will all benefit.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

Salesforce Q2 FY 2024 Reaches $8.6 Billion, Driven by Data Cloud

Einstein Studio: Salesforce Introduces No-Code Model Integration

Salesforce Announces General Availability of Embedded Generative AI Tools

Author Information

Mark comes to The Futurum Group from Omdia’s Artificial Intelligence practice, where his focus was on natural language and AI use cases.

Previously, Mark worked as a consultant and analyst providing custom and syndicated qualitative market analysis with an emphasis on mobile technology and identifying trends and opportunities for companies like Syniverse and ABI Research. He has been cited by international media outlets including CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, and CNET. Based in Tampa, Florida, Mark is a veteran market research analyst with 25 years of experience interpreting technology business and holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida.


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