A Call for Embracing AI—But With a ‘Human Touch’

4 minute read

Business leaders across a range of industries agreed in a Wednesday discussion that the acceleration with which AI can transform society is practically unprecedented—and that, with proper regulation, that should be a good thing.

“This thing is so transformational,” said Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel, speaking at the TIME100 Summit. (Booking.com was a premier partner sponsor of the summit.) “Anybody who says things like, ‘Well, it’s like when we came up with the internet first,’ or they say ‘Well maybe it’s like the invention of electricity.’ I go back: This is like fire. This is like when we first learned about fire.”

“Our lives are going to be so different over the next few years, in all industries, every single part of it. You are experiencing parts of it right now and you don’t even know it,” he continued.

Fogel joined Everette Taylor, the CEO of Kickstarter; Lynn Martin, the president of the New York Stock Exchange; and David Droga, the CEO of Accenture Song, for a conversation about AI moderated by TIME Executive Chairman and former editor in chief Edward Felsenthal.

Kickstarter early to implement an AI policy, when last August it began requiring users to disclose if they used AI to create any images, text, or other content of their output and projects.

Read more: Eric Schmidt and Yoshua Bengio Debate How Much A.I. Should Scare Us

“When I hear Glenn speak about all the benefits that companies are going to have, saving money and transforming, all I can continue to think about is the people. The people, the humans, the creatives. That’s something that really matters to me, and to us at Kickstarter,” Taylor said. 

“We want to be supportive of AI. AI is incredible. But we also want to make sure we don’t lose sight of how important human touch is, and the creativity of humans and what they bring into the mix,” he added.

Martin, who has been excited about the potential of AI since her time as a coder, said a major benefit of the technology will be allowing users to complete higher-value tasks more efficiently. 

“The amount of data in the world has exponentially increased to levels I don’t think any of us had ever forecast,” she said, later adding, “You all are human data generators. You just are.” 

In that light, contrary to the “doom and gloom” that surrounds the idea of AI eliminating human jobs, Martin said the technology could “allow the human to consume the exponential increase of data that exists in the world, and do higher-value things with them.”

Read more: Tech CEOs Say Ethical A.I. and Innovation Are ‘Two Sides of the Same Coin’

Droga echoed the continued need for human innovation alongside AI use. “Technology needs creativity to give it empathy and humanity and ambition. Creativity needs technology to give it scale, accountability and pace,” he said. “Technology is just tools,” he added, that everyone should have access to. 

Taylor agreed, explaining that’s why equitable AI dispersion is important. “This technology in the hands of people can help a lot of people, but life ain't fair,” he said. “Not everyone is coming from the same perspective, or has the same opportunities."

He pointed to organizations forming to connect people from underserved communities with new AI technology, “almost like AI bootcamps.” 

“That needs to happen at scale. Because as jobs are cut and profits go up and margins look great and all that, there’s going to be a surplus of revenue and a surplus of profit,” Taylor continued. “When these things happen, how are we investing back into communities and people to help educate them and create new opportunities for people?”

The TIME100 Summit convenes leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.

Speakers for the 2024 TIME100 Summit include actor Elliot Page, designer Tory Burch, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, WNBA champion A'ja Wilson, author Margaret Atwood, comedian Alex Edelman, professor Yoshua Bengio, 68th Secretary of State John Kerry, actor Jane Fonda, and many more.

The TIME100 Summit was presented by Booking.com, Citi, Merck, Northern Data Group, Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and Verizon.

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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com