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IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff talk artificial intelligence. (Photo Via Webcast)

Artificial intelligence is going to transform and impact many jobs, and it is up to the companies building the technology and government agencies regulating it to make sure it is a force for good, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said during a conversation with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty during the IBM InterConnect conference in Las Vegas Tuesday.

The two companies earlier this month announced a surprise AI partnership. The companies will combine aspects of their respective AI technologies — IBM’s Watson and Salesforce’s Einstein — in a new bid to win customers in the emerging world of cloud-based artificial intelligence. For example, they say, Watson could analyze shopping patterns, weather and retail data, working in conjunction with Salesforce Einstein to help a retailer send automated personalized marketing emails to customers.

Benioff and Rometty said they traveled to the White House last week to talk about how AI will impact jobs. Benioff said there is a “crisis of trust” in the world right now, with jobs playing an important role, and that big companies Salesforce and IBM are working to restore that trust. Their goal, Rometty said, is to enhance people’s abilities, rather than replace humans with machines.

“This is all about a world where it is man and machine, that the goal is augmented intelligence,” Rometty said. “The purpose is to be in service of mankind.”

AI will certainly hurt some industries and lead to job cuts. The best way to respond to that, Benioff said is through education and retraining. IBM, and other companies, have been pushing six-year high schools to dramatically remake the pipeline from schools to tech companies.

Benioff praised IBM’s efforts on six-year high schools and said companies like IBM and Salesforce have a role to play in education as well.

“We need to take a big moonshot in our country; we need 5 million apprenticeships in the next five years,” he said. “Companies like yours and mine, whether it’s veterans, kids right out of K-12, whether it’s folks out of some other vocation, bring them in and we can retrain them.”

A big part of trust is transparency, Benioff and Rometty said. Companies should be upfront about how they are using AI, they said, and there need to be safeguards to make sure the technology evolves in a way that it has positive effects in society.

“This is a technology that needs to have guardrails as we move forward, and I think it has to be led by companies and individuals, organizations and governments that have a set of principles and values that are going to take us to the future that we all want together,” Benioff said.

Editor’s Note: Salesforce is a GeekWire annual sponsor.

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