The role artificial intelligence (AI) will play in the future workforce and society at large, and how to shape it responsibly dominated the conversation on the third day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting.

In a special address to the forum, António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, shared his predictions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“First, the impact of a Fourth Industrial Revolution with artificial intelligence as probably the leading role, the impact in the economies and societies will be huge. There will be a massive destruction of jobs and a massive creation of jobs,” he said. “The problem is that they are not the same jobs and not requiring the same skills. Let’s be clear: we need to mobilize much more governments and the business community and the civil society to understand what kind of impact are we going to have in the next decade and what kind of measures do we need to start taking now in order to respond to it?”

Accenture’s “Innovation with Purpose” panel delved into into some of the more philosophical aspects of the debate.

“There is no doubt that innovation is a big priority for all of us. At the same time, there are all sorts of challenges regarding ethics, bias, where the jobs are going, security and data privacy,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer.

“So the big question is: as we are changing the world with innovation, what’s our purpose in doing so? What’s our purpose with respect to employees that we have, the consumers and the communities we operate in?”

His fellow panelist, Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, took a different approach to the subject.

“In order to talk about innovation with purpose, we have to flip it to purpose-inspired innovation,” he said. “True purpose has a moral quality… a purpose that is worthy of loyalty is noble and moral.”

For Stephanie Linnartz, Global Chief Communications Officer of Marriott, employees are at the heart of innovation with a purpose.

“We do a lot of innovation to improve our customers’ experiences, but I’m most proud of what we do to improve the experiences of our employees,” she said.

The founder and CEO of I.AM.PLUS and the front man of American hip hop group the Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am, argued that data ownership should be a human right.

“Right now, we are all digital sheep and our wool is the data,” he said. “Data is power. Data is currency. I am my data.”

He predicted that there will be an uprising about data privacy and rights in the future, similar to the ideological and political revolutions of the past.

“Right now you don’t have a say in who has access to it (personal data),” will.i.am said. “But there will be a data revolution against the data monarchies.”

Seidman predicted that AI and machine learning would pave the way for a more personal and human economy.

“Machines will do the next thing right, but only a human can do the next right thing,” he said. “It’s one thing to claim a humanistic mission, it’s another to translate that to operations, and to truly innovate for humanity.”

Linnartz told the panel about Marriott’s cybersecurity breach in late 2018, which affected as many as 500 million guests’ data.

“It was the most painful thing I went through in my career; it hurt,” she recalled. “Trust is the most important thing with our customers and we had to restore it by disclosing quickly and transparently what we knew.”

Daugherty underscored the importance of trust in an age of innovation.

“You can’t innovate without trust, because customers aren’t going to let you do new things if they don’t trust you,” he said.

All innovation programs should begin with trust, Seidman added.

“The reason why most innovation programs fail is because we keep innovating without establishing trust,” he said. “Trust leads to risk, which leads to innovation and progress.”

The companies that are innovating with AI will not be able to market their way around trust, will.i.am said. “The company’s purpose in society and the world is what’s going to attract you to support it,” he said. “I think tomorrow is going to be about how you contribute to society and how your products serve a purpose to solve the problems of the world.”

To learn more about Accenture’s digital trust research, register to download the report: Securing the Digital Economy.

Follow more live updates rom the Accenture community at WEF 2019.

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