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Digital Transformation

At Carnegie Mellon University, Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block Discusses Radical Shifts in Technology and the Trust Crisis

Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block addresses faculty and students at Carnegie Mellon University.

“We are at the dawn of a new era,” said Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block in a recent address marking the inauguration of Farnam Jahanian as President of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Block told CMU students that there is a crisis of trust in organizations today, and that many challenges lie ahead as the world develops artificial intelligence and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. “Graduates of CMU must be equipped to thrive and lead in a world of uncertainty,” he said.

Block discussed revolutionary shifts in the technology landscape. “We are at the dawn of a new era – some refer to it as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and this is where we have the convergence, the perfect storm of social and mobile and deep learning and artificial intelligence and 3D printing and amazing technologies all brought together to drive incredible innovation,” he said.

This perfect storm of technologies has given rise to many important societal questions, he noted. “Will these new technologies be positive for mankind?” he asked “What are the socio-economic effects? What are the privacy implications? What will be the regulatory issues? What will be the future of work?”

Block also said that addressing the crisis of trust in institutions across the globe will require businesses to be agents of change. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that people generally aren’t looking to governments to lead the way to a more trusted world. Two-thirds of respondents surveyed want organizational leaders to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in 20 countries.

Block, a member of the university’s Board of Trustees, earned a master’s of science degree in Management and Policy Analysis and a bachelor’s of science degree in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon. He and his wife, Suzanne Kelley, also led the establishment of the Block Center for Technology and Society, which will employ researchers to develop innovative policy recommendations to help promote widespread access to the benefits of technological change.

Block told the assembled CMU graduates and faculty that they need to fill the leadership void, and that there is a pronounced need for leaders who can confront the trust crisis. “Today the value of trust is being questioned more than ever,” he said. “Trust in technology, trust in our institutions, trust in our leaders – some would say there is a crisis of trust and this has created a leadership void. Now individuals and companies and faculty and students alike must fill this breach. There is a call to arms for us all. It is an obligation to lead in an ethical and transparent way, and to engage in constructive civil discourse where disagreements will arise, and that’s okay. Dialogue must happen with respect. While there can be differing opinions, there cannot be differing facts. It is most important to restore trust in our society because without trust, we have nothing.”

Watch Block’s full address in the video atop this post.


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