Society Needs To Decide Where Tech Is Taking Us, Microsoft CEO Says

"We have these profound questions and issues in front of us."

Will we control technology? Or will technology control us?

These questions were at the core of a keynote speech delivered Wednesday by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the company's Build 2016 event, a conference where developers learn more about upcoming products from the tech giant.

"We have these profound questions and issues in front of us," Nadella said. "Is technology empowering people, or is it displacing us? Is technology helping us preserve our enduring values such as privacy, or is it compromising it?"

"These are the issues that are being discussed, and they're the right issues for us to have a broad dialogue -- not just in one company, not just in our industry, but in our society," he added.

Many leading academics and technologists have said much the same thing in recent months. During a keynote at a conference last month, Rob High, chief technology officer for IBM Watson, urged an audience to consider how artificial intelligence will shape lives. Bill Gates in a recent interview cautioned that AI will have "profound consequences" on society.

And, of course, Apple CEO Tim Cook launched a public assault on the FBI over their intention to create a "backdoor" that would allow officials access to any iPhone.

Technology isn't just a part of our daily lives -- it drives our daily lives. Think about how much of your personal data is stored on your phone. Think about the people who would be displaced if robots start to take entry-level jobs. This isn't theoretical: The tech is here.

"I am an optimist," Nadella said Wednesday. "We as a company are optimistic about what technology can do for us."

But he urged involvement from everyone else.

"We need to make design choices, economic choices and social choices that ensure that the way that we build technology, the way we do technology helps us as a society," Nadella said.

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