Blue Talks: conversations to spark positive change

By Matt Plodzien posted 04-18-2022 14:34


Blue Talks: conversations to spark positive change

Beatriz Bagaces Serrano
Jr. Manager,
Global Recruitment
IE University

In 2022, IE University and LinkedIn decided to collaborate on an exciting new initiative, the Blue Talks. This series of conversations creates a space to foster positive change and features some of today’s most influential thought leaders. Focusing on topics such as leadership, ethics and technology, the series aims to address hot topics which concern the global workforce, but with a personal twist.


The first talk in the series, “Forces of Change,” featured Allen Blue, VP of Product Management and Co-founder of LinkedIn; Diego de Alcázar Benjumea, CEO at IE University, and Ana Botín, Executive Chair at Banco Santander. Diego introduced the discussion by referencing the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who believed that the key to everything was change. There are two main forces of change in today’s society: firstly, societal and technological disruption, and secondly, the challenge of sustainable progress for all. What kind of world is technology creating, and how can we ensure this technology is used responsibly?


Asked how he felt about the world technology is creating, Allen emphasized the need to pay attention to what a tech platform such as LinkedIn does and how the technology is deployed: technology is a tool, and the effect it has depends on how we use it. According to a report from IE University’s Center for the Governance of Change, 67% of Europeans think that the governance of new technologies is one of the biggest challenges faced by society, ranking alongside climate change.


We need a new culture, and I think this is the 2008 moment for Big Tech

—Ana Botín


Ana’s understanding of the power that banks can have on people’s lives had convinced her of the need for social media platforms to take greater responsibility. In 2018, she voiced the provocative opinion that Silicon Valley could learn something from the banks. The banking industry has already experienced a crisis, leading to increased regulation and demands for accountability, yet the potential for use of social media by governments and corporations has political, social and economic implications which affect people worldwide.


Potential bias in search algorithms is another topic that has generated concern. How do tech platforms ensure that they support diversity and inclusion in the way they build products? And where is value being created when you rely on an algorithm? Allen noted that unintentional gender bias in LinkedIn’s search algorithm, resulting in men’s profiles ranking higher in search results, had been identified after the fact and corrective measures had been introduced.


If there was a first machine age where machines replaced muscles, we’re currently living in the second machine age, where machines replace brains

—Allen Blue


Machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have great potential to improve society, but there are considerable implications for our work and personal lives. Diego pointed out that it may well be possible for biotechnology and AI to replicate the abilities of humans in the near future. So what makes humans unique? Allen responded that, as machines that do our thinking for us change the way our jobs work, tech platforms that develop and deploy these technologies have a responsibility to think about what this means for individuals who are working.


One of the things which I think is going to be important down the line is to understand that the data that represents us is not as simple as a LinkedIn profile

—Allen Blue


Questions around ethics and transparency become more difficult in the digital era, as our existing rules were written for an analog age, and legal systems have not caught up—the rules of the game have changed completely. Along with “big tech” comes “big data”—which poses important questions about privacy and data rights. Whereas data gives valuable information about customers and can be used positively, many people have concerns about the way in which their data is collected and how much control they have over it. How can we make informed decisions about the use of our data if we don’t understand how or why it’s being used? Only when this is clarified can trust be built.


I think we have an obligation to leave a better world than what we found. I think the more power [...] the greater the responsibility

—Ana Botín


Finally, the topic of conversation turned to sustainability. How can we leave a better world? Ana pointed out that “sustainability is not possible if we don’t build an inclusive society” whilst acknowledging that organizations need to concentrate on aspects of sustainability that not only benefit the world but also align with shareholder interests. Santander has for several years been a leader in renewable finance, has committed to developing accessible services and products, and also focuses on climate issues.


Diego thanked the contributors for their time and expressed his hope that the Blue Talks initiative will continue to generate a space of debate that fosters positive change.


Keep your eyes peeled for more thought leaders’ insights in the Blue Talks series—and remember, you can catch up on the first episode here!