New technologies could kill one-third of US jobs so CEOs, not politicians, need to take responsibility, says billionaire Marc Benioff

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff warns that new technologies could kill one-third of the jobs in the US and create a world of have and have-nots.
  • He believes CEOs and business leaders must think beyond their own balance sheets and take responsibility now for people displaced by new tech.

In the upcoming decade, tech automation will kill up to one-third of the jobs in the United States, and up to 800 million jobs globally, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

That means business leaders need to wake up and take responsibility, says Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

New technologies like nanotechnologies, robotics, quantum computing, self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence “are transforming our economies, societies and daily lives.” Benioff wrote in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal published on Wednesday.

“There is, however, a dark side. I’m increasingly worried that even as these technologies deliver incredible benefits to some, this wave of change will leave behind hundreds of millions of people around the world,” he warns.

It’s not all bleak. New tech will improve the education, health and daily life for those who have access to them. But those without access to the tech won’t get trained for the available jobs, won’t have access to the latest health care and so on. Without interference this could create an even bigger world of have and have-nots.

Business leaders, not politicians, can really move the needle

There’s only one set of folks who can fix that: “the haves,” which Benioff argues are the business leaders, not the politicians.

“A challenge this big and complex cannot be left to politicians alone. Business leaders have a unique responsibility. Indeed, the business of business can’t be just about making profits; we have to ensure that our products and wealth narrow inequalities instead of widening them,” he warns.

Benioff would also like business leaders to ensure the brave, new, technology-driven world solves historical prejudices and doesn’t cement them.

“New technology can’t be allowed to perpetuate discrimination based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation,” he writes.

He’s calling for companies to “invest more in public education, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and “address the reality of climate change.”

Just in time for Davos

He says he’s leading by example. Salesforce donates millions of dollars to San Francisco’s public schools. He’s overseen efforts to ensure women and men and at his company are paid equally. His company has forcefully opposed state laws that limited LGBTQ rights. And he says his company, which just built and moved into a massive new tower in San Francisco, also hit “net zero carbon emissions earlier this year.”

A Davos logo is seen before the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 15, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Salesforce isn’t the only one working on some or all of these issues, although its public commitment to equal pay is unique. For instance, Oracle just opened a high-tech high schoolright on its corporate campus. IBM is championing the idea of six-year technical training high schools. Apple is close to zero emissions and has pressured its supply chain to do the same for 2018. And a whole slew of companies boycotted North Carolina after its controversial transgender bathroom ban, with PayPal canceling its plans to build a new facility there.

Benioff wrote his editorial as the world leaders gear up to travel to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting later this month.

He’s a proponent of the WEF’s “stakeholder theory” which says that organizations are accountable to all parts of society – aka customers, employees, neighbors/communities and shareholders – and should not think solely in terms of profits for shareholders.

He’s hoping to inspire others by showing that wealth, business success and responsibility are not mutually exclusive. Benioff is himself worth an estimated $5 billion and Salesforce has been a Wall Street darling as it plans to grow from a nearly $9 billion company in 2017 to $60 billion by 2034.

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