The pace at which artificial intelligence had advanced in recent years has shocked John Werner, who is planning a new conference about the future of AI.

“Things that are changing very fast,” Werner told GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Jeremy Siegel. “A lot of the AI experts I know said five years ago they thought what's happening now won't be happening for 90 years, and that their children would be experiencing this. And I think in this AI moment, it's not clear where things are going.”

Werner, whose background includes producing more than 3,000 TEDx Talks, decided to look to Boston’s technology and innovation scene for answers. And this week in Cambridge, a group of technology experts and business leaders are gathering at MIT to discuss a big question: What does artificial intelligence mean for our future, and how can we use it to grow in a good way?

The event is called Imagination in Action.

“There are a lot of conferences like TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design, which is about talking across disciplines. Great,” Werner said. “But I feel like at this juncture, we need people to be using their imagination and to think about what are the opportunities and challenges and where action is needed.”

The term “artificial intelligence” has been around since the 1950s, he said.

“But I think now it's just, you know, there are a bunch of factors that mean it's at the forefront,” he said. “And I do recognize as we kind of move forward, that there are going to be a lot of people that are going to just throw up their hands at this moment and say, I'm just completely overwhelmed. And then there are going to be people who are going to be like, I'm going to be a leader in this era.”

He likened the moment to Jeff Bezos leaving his hedge fund job to open Amazon. But like Amazon, which has drawn concerns regarding struggling small businesses, environmental harm, and labor exploitation, is rapid AI growth necessarily a good thing?

“I am a technology optimist, but that doesn't mean I'm oblivious to a lot of the challenges,” he said. “I do think for this event, we do have business leaders of companies that have been around for generations that are probably trying to figure out, like, you know, how do we change our workforce? Are we going to have to let go a whole percentage of divisions? Some of those companies, if they don't reinvent themselves, they may not be relevant in this new chapter with AI. And that's why it's so important to bring people together. And that's why I'm committed to getting conversations and having people role model and share best practices or share anxieties. I think AI can be a tool that's changing rapidly, but we can use it to achieve things that we never even thought were possible before.”

Greater Boston, he said, could be a leader in the field.

“Boston has done well because I think it's reinvented itself every generation in different industries,” he said. “We're not a shoe manufacturing, industrial revolution place anymore. We do other things, life sciences and so on. I think there's an opportunity to be an innovator and leader in AI, and that's why I'm really committed to this. And I'm really proud to bring this collection of people together.”