The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) continues in Davos, Switzerland, with the theme “Responsive and Responsible Leadership.”

On the third day of WEF 2017, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) were still the hot topics of conversation regarding the future workforce at Davos, with automation becoming a top-Twitter trend around the meeting.

On Thursday, Google co-founder Sergey Brin made the news with his bold statement, “I didn’t see AI coming.” During “An Insight, An Idea,” session, Brin said he was shocked by the level of ambition surrounding the possibilities of where machine learning could take the global workforce.

“I feel like the Luddite in the room,” he said. “This kind of revolution in deep nets has been very profound and definitely surprised me even though I was right inside there. It’s an incredible time. What can these things do? We don’t really know the limits.”

AI is the natural continuation of the industrialization of the past 200 years, Brin said, and that AI could free up people from doing mundane things to spend their time on more creative jobs.

During a panel titled “Could AI Be Society’s Secret Weapon for Growth? Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, remarked: “AI is clearly in the air at Davos.” Daugherty and Microsoft’s Brad Smith agreed that AI would make machines smarter and more efficient, while making people more effective at their jobs. “There’s definitely a potential for productivity growth,” Smith said.

Their co-panelist Mary Cummings, Director of Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, said she wanted to remind everyone that AI has a lot do with collaboration with humans than people realize. “There is a clear education gap; we don’t nearly have enough people to meet the demand for collaboration, especially in the U.S.,” she said.

Other global future workforce trends emerging at Davos this week included the gender gap and corporate responsibility for anti-discrimination and human-rights advocacy.

On Day 3, “Are LGBTQ Rights Going Backwards?” panel focused on the role can businesses take when cultural or political attitudes remain hostile.

Microsoft’s Susan Hauser said Microsoft has a framework for acquisitions that includes human rights as part of the assessment. “We also have a supplier code of conduct for anti-discrimination,” she said.

Sander van ‘t Noordende, Accenture’s Group Chief Executive for Products, added that international companies should reach out to their global partners and make human rights a benchmark of corporate collaborations. “We have a dialogue with our local partners around the world, where we say, we are supportive of the LGBT agenda, you should, too,” he said.

Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, said there is a false tendency to think that LGBT rights are ‘imposed by the West.’ “The world is evolving,” he said. “We just have to nudge them to do the right thing.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for UN Human Rights Council, said the corporate world’s power in expanding human rights around the world should not be underestimated. “When governments can’t, companies need to take leadership. There is this attitude that every cause needs a champion, but we need everyone to make the argument for human rights,” he said. “No voice is too small.”

To learn more about the Future Workforce research, download the report: Harnessing the Revolution

Follow live updates from the Accenture community at WEF 2017. 

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