Welcome Our New Artificial Intelligence Overlord: a Recap of Dreamforce 2016

By October 12, 2016Dreamforce

As the echo of footsteps down Moscone Center corridors recedes into the warm October afternoon, and downtown San Francisco traffic wanes (just kidding!), Friday provides us a moment to reflect on Dreamforce.

  1. Marc Benioff continues to show why Salesforce is not just a company to be idolized for its technology. He and his company have taken progressive stances on social justice issues facing the country in the past. This year the Benioffs kept that trend intact as they pledged to match the hoped-for $1 million contribution from Salesforce attendees toward (Red), an organization dedicated to ending AIDS to go along with Bill and Melinda Gates’ own pledge.
  2. Salesforce hosted its second annual Women and Equality Summit. The company has taken a stand against discriminatory regulations and has committed to offering equal pay for women. These actions may seem like common sense to many, but the reality is, especially in tech, gender equality is still a difficult obstacle many must work religiously to overcome. Building a business world with equal pay and treatment can feel like a Sisyphean effort, and Salesforce is taking mountainous steps in the right direction by giving a platform to those “blazing new trails when it comes to equality and learn[ing] how embracing inclusion and diversity positively impacts every aspect of business.”
  3. The Internet is abuzz with any number of quotable Einstein quips following the release of Salesforce’s newest mega product: Salesforce Einstein, the artificial intelligence offering. Rather than attempt to tie the 20th century’s most renowned genius’ words into a description of the CRM vendor’s shiny new toy, we can instead examine what Salesforce has to say about the product it believes is democratizing artificial intelligence.

a. Einstein “is removing the complexity of AI, enabling any company to deliver smarter, personalized and more predictive customer experiences.” If you find Facebook’s face recognition algorithm’s uncanny or feel is Siri ubiquitous, there’s still a chance you haven’t seen anything yet. No, Einstein won’t live on everyday consumers’ devices, but it will be available to anyone using Salesforce cloud tools, and it will provide them with intricate knowledge of their customers’ behavior for a unique, customized experience.

b. “Einstein’s intelligence will be embedded within the context of business, automatically discovering relevant insights, predicting future behavior, proactively recommending best next actions and even automating tasks.” Perhaps it’s time to learn how to become a CRM expert. Flip on your machine, decide on the task you’d like to accomplish today, and put those weary feet up on the desk. Einstein will take care of you.

c. “For most of us, everything we’ve learned about Artificial Intelligence (AI), we’ve learned from Hollywood … Time-traveling robots trying to kill us before we can have children … Or evil machines using humans as batteries in giant factories … Killer robots, blue and red pills, evil machines—it all sounds scary, right?” Terrifying. Stupefying. Why, again, do we consent to giving technology companies access to our most intimate personal details? Don’t try to assuage my fears, Salesforce, by telling me that’s not what artificial intelligence is before reminding me that, ”at a high level, AI is the concept of having machines think like humans.’” That kind of passe, “it can’t happen to me” thinking is what got those Hollywood sci-fi heroes in their respective messes in the first place, remember?

Dreamforce is massive — 170,000 registered attendees tipped the proverbial scales this year. It’s otherworldly in terms of Bay Area conferences. It’s also so much more than just another tech conference. Dreamforce reminds us there’s more to life than the next high-flying cloud offering; that, despite raking in billions, one can still find time to make the world a better, brighter place.

And, really, Einstein-esque artificial intelligence is already everywhere. Siri’s a wonderful personal assistant (even if things often get lost in translation); Facebook’s facial recognition software is just plain cool; Amazon tells us what we want to shop for before we even know what we want to shop for; and Waze is the backseat driver we never had. Salesforce’s latest offering is just another data point in a long trendline of humans creating technology with the explicit purpose of aiding other humans.

Frankly, slow or unhelpful customer service is the bane of our existence today, not overbearing, overly smart machines. Salesforce’s new reveal is going to help make those problems a thing of the past, even if the companies we do business with will also know the middle name of the last person we dated or our father’s waist size. We should look forward to seeing how AI progresses and what Salesforce Einstein can do. I know that I, for one, welcome my new artificial intelligence overlord.

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