Alan Turing once said, "We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done." This sentiment echoed through the halls of Fortune’s Brainstorm AI Summit in San Francisco, a gathering that showcased the brisk pace and transformative potential of AI in our current era. The event, imbued with a spirit of innovation reminiscent of Turing's vision, highlighted how AI is reshaping industries and the future itself.

AI is no longer a futuristic concept but a present-day reality, seamlessly integrating into sectors from healthcare to government with remarkable efficacy. The summit's theme, “AI Now: Shaping the Future,” aptly captured this transition. It was not just a celebration of AI’s current capabilities but also a deep dive into its profound implications for our society and work.

Conversational AI, a hot topic, showcased the evolution of natural language processing, now a key tool in customer engagement and business strategy. Yet, it wasn’t just the technology that intrigued me; it was its profound implications on the workforce. Discussions centred around upskilling and adapting to an AI-augmented work environment, underscoring the need for a skilled, AI-ready workforce.

Key insights from industry leaders added depth to the discourse: 

  • Reid Hoffman, Co-founder, Inflection AI: Hoffman discussed the importance of balancing the potential risks and benefits of AI. He drew a parallel between AI and the early days of automobiles, emphasizing the need to embrace AI's transformative potential rather than being overly cautious about its risks. 
  • Paul Daugherty, CTO, Accenture: Daugherty highlighted the critical need for businesses to prioritize their workforce in the era of AI. He spoke about the inevitability of job consolidation due to AI’s efficiency and the importance of re-skilling employees to harness AI's full potential. 
  • Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures: Khosla presented a nuanced view of AI, recognizing both its upsides and challenges. He pointed out that global competition, particularly with China, is a more pressing concern than fears about sentient AI, urging a broader perspective on AI's role in geopolitical dynamics.

But it was Sal Khan's, the founder of Kahn Academy, words that struck a chord with me the most: “Turn your fears into features.” His approach to developing Kahnmigo, an AI tutor, serves as a beacon for embracing AI's transformative power.

As we stand at the cusp of another fast-paced year in AI, I left the summit more convinced of AI's role in crafting a future brimming with possibilities and ready to face the challenges head-on.

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Justin Westcott is Global Chair of Technology.

Photo by Arthur Mazi on Unsplash