Leadership

Why these IBM and Microsoft execs say you shouldn’t be afraid of robots stealing your job

Worried about a robot stealing your job? Don't be, according to executives at IBM and Microsoft at a recent AdWeek panel.

During the panel, the executives agreed that artificial intelligence will impact the labor force in a positive way: Namely, by adding more jobs.

Their comments come at a time when artificial intelligence is a rapidly growing market. Roughly $2 billion dollars has been spent on AI advertising just this year, according to the panel's moderator Peter Spande, CRO of Business Insider.

Jordan Bitterman, CMO of IBM Watson Content and Internet of Things Platform, points to the auto industry as a prime example. "The automobile, when it first came about, was thought to be putting people out of jobs," says Bitterman. "And, of course, if you were in the horseshoe business, it probably did exactly that."

However, significantly more jobs were created as a result. "It created the suburbs. It created the shopping mall. It created the automobile industry obviously, the tire industry. It put people to work building highway system," he says.

Bitterman admits that artificial intelligence will certainly take jobs away from some industries but says that "technology is already doing that."

"[AI] is going to create all sorts of new jobs," he says. "I think it's nothing but upside and exciting for those who know what to do with it."

The question of "what to do with AI" has come up repeatedly in recent years. In fact, as artificial intelligence becomes more widely used, tech leaders have started to speak out about how it could affect your job opportunities.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly warned against the technology. In July, Musk said that robots would cause job disruption because they would be able to do everything better than humans.

Just last monthhe tweeted, "If you're not concerned about AI safety, you should be."

However, his fear-mongering has received backlash from others in the tech space, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

"The so-called control problem that Elon is worried about isn't something that people should feel is imminent," says Gates, according to the transcript of an interview he gave the Wall Street Journal. "We shouldn't panic about it."

In a Facebook live stream Zuckerberg said, "I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don't understand it. It's really negative and, in some ways, I actually think it is pretty irresponsible."

In a separate Facebook post, Zuckerberg said that he remains optimistic about the benefits of artificial intelligence. He's not the only one.

Rob Wilk, vice president and head of North America search sales at Microsoft, tells the panel that there are certain circumstances where you have to take an ethical stance on artificial intelligence. But, he says, the benefits still far outweigh the risks.

"Technology can be used for good or technology can be used for bad," he says.

Wilk adds that there is an inherent moral responsibility that large companies like Microsoft, Google and IBM take on because they have access to this much information. He says that these organizations must use the technology "in a way that's good for people."

However, in response to the ongoing doomsday rhetoric surrounding artificial intelligence, the Microsoft exec says that it's important to take a step back and look at reality.

"We actually see some really good positive uses of AI," says Wilk. He points to a Microsoft product called Seeing AI, which is built for those who are hard of seeing.

Imagine that you're visually impaired and at a restaurant, he says. The app, which was built by visually impaired engineers, can read the different menu items for you.

"So [A.I.] can be used for a lot of really good scenarios but they're just not as sexy as the more frightening ones," says Wilk.

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See also:

Why Elon Musk might be right about his artificial intelligence warnings

Why this artificial intelligence expert says Elon Musk is 'selling fear'

Mark Cuban: The world's first trillionaire will be an artificial intelligence entrepreneur