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Will Generative AI Be Used for Good? Kumail Nanjiani Says That’s Up to You

Kumail Nanjiani speaks at TrailblazerDX, a Salesforce event for developers.
Kumail Nanjiani speaks at TrailblazerDX, a Salesforce event for developers.

The acclaimed actor, comedian, and writer – who played a developer on “Silicon Valley” – called on companies to consider the ethical implications of AI. Here’s how you can do that.

The Trailblazer’s view

Generative AI is the talk of Silicon Valley. But to a former star of “Silicon Valley,” it’s also concerning. Kumail Nanjiani, who played a developer on the hit HBO show, said it will be essential for companies to use the emerging technology with ethics in mind.

  • “The ultimate question that I think tech doesn’t ask itself enough is, ‘Is it helping people? Is it a net gain for people?’”
  • Speaking at TrailblazerDX, a Salesforce event for developers, Nanjiani added, “To me, the biggest existential threats to the survival of humanity are climate change and a lack of ethics in technology.”

The backstory you might need

Tech companies are racing to develop generative AI products, while businesses across industries are just beginning to ponder how they might use it.

  • It’s becoming clear that generative AI can be used to create better customer experiences, among other promising benefits. But there are serious concerns about a range of potential downsides including data privacy, plagiarism, and spreading misinformation and bias.
  • Nanjiani, who is also an acclaimed comedian and writer, said he’s worried about the potential for film studios to use AI-generated art to replace human artists’ jobs. “For someone who’s in the arts, I think it’s kind of a looming crisis,” he said.

Salesforce on Salesforce

Paula Goldman, chief ethical and humane use officer at Salesforce, and Kathy Baxter, principal architect for the company’s ethical AI practice, recently shared five guidelines we’re using to guide the development of trusted generative AI.

What Kumail Nanjiani learned working on ‘Silicon Valley’

Nanjiani has a unique vantage point on the tech industry. He studied computer science in college. From 2014 to 2019, he played the role of a programmer named Dinesh Chugtai at a fictional startup called Pied Piper. To prepare for the role, he visited several big tech companies that showed him new products they had been working on. Invariably, he would spot some potential for a product to cause harm and ask them about it.

“They were shocked that they were being asked an ethical question,” he said. “And these are not deep philosophical, ethical questions. This is the first thing that any layperson would worry about when they heard about this technology.”

He added, “That’s when I started getting scared, because I feel like these tech companies have so much power and so little oversight and so little consideration for the misuses of the technology.”

The promise and pitfalls of generative AI

Generative AI is poised to reshape customer relationship management (CRM) in the years ahead. It promises to help companies quickly and easily generate AI-created content across sales, service, marketing, commerce, and IT interactions. The idea is to help humans do their jobs better and interact with customers in ways that feel more personal.

Nanjiani cited two examples he had heard that illustrate the potential for generative AI to do good: doctors using it to make medical diagnoses and teachers using it to generate curriculum for students with learning disabilities.

“There are certainly great uses for it,” he said. “Doing actual good, helping business, helping people. I think that’s all very possible.”

But he said the ethical implications need to be a consideration from the beginning. With all the hype around generative AI, he worries the potential downsides are being overlooked. “I feel like I’m yelling at this massive wave that’s coming at us that we can’t stop because innovation is going to happen,” he said.

What you can do to build trusted generative AI

To help other companies innovate responsibly and get ahead of potential downsides, Goldman and Baxter shared these guidelines to shape the way you use generative AI from the outset:

  • Accuracy
  • Safety
  • Honesty
  • Empowerment
  • Sustainability

For more detail on each guideline and examples of how you can use them in practice, you can read their complete guidelines here.

Brian Costa Editorial Lead, Global Brand Marketing

Brian Costa is Editorial Lead for Global Brand Marketing at Salesforce. He previously spent 11 years at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a senior editor for digital platforms and, before that, an award-winning sports reporter.

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