Last Saturday, Wired interviewed Jeff Weiner, CEO Linkedin, as a part of their 25th Anniversary celebration. He talked about the implications of technology on the modern society saying that technology amplifies tribalism. He also talked about how Linkedin keeps a tab on unconscious bias and why Americans need to develop soft skills to succeed in the coming years.
Technology accentuates tribalism
When asked about the implications of technology on society, Weiner said, “I think increasingly, we need to proactively ask ourselves far more difficult, challenging questions—provocative questions—about the potential unintended consequences of these technologies. And to the best of our ability, try to understand the implications for society.”
This statement is justified as every week there’s a top story about some company going wrong in some direction. We’re talking about the shutting down of Google+, Facebook’s security breach compromising 50M accounts, etc.
He further talked about technology dramatically accelerating and reinforcing tribalism at a time when increasingly we need to be coming together as a society.
He says, that one of the most important challenges for tech in the next 25 years is to “understand the impact of technology as proactively as possible. And trying to create as much value, and trying to bring people together to the best of our ability.”
Unconscious bias on Linkedin
He also talked about unconscious bias as an unintended consequence of LinkedIn’s algorithms and initiatives. “It shouldn’t happen that Linkedin reinforces the growing socioeconomic chasms on a global basis, especially here in the United States, by providing more and more opportunity for those that went to the right schools, worked at the right companies, and already have the right networks.”
He elaborated on how LinkedIn is addressing this unconscious bias. Linkedin’s Career Advice Hub was developed with the goal of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, last year as a response to the unconscious bias that crept into its ‘Ask For a Referral’ program. The Career Advice Hub enables any member of LinkedIn to ask for help, and for any member of LinkedIn to volunteer to help them, and to mentor them.
They are also going to create economic opportunities for frontline workers, middle-skilled workers, and blue collar workers. Another focus is on knowledge workers, “who don’t necessarily have the right networks or the right degrees.”
Soft skills: The biggest skill gap in the U.S.
Jeff also said that the biggest skills gap the United States is not coding skill but soft skills. This includes written communication, oral communication, team building, people leadership, collaboration. “For jobs like sales, sales development, business development, customer service, this is the biggest gap, and it’s counter-intuitive.”
- 96% of developers believe developing soft skills is important
- Soft skills every data scientist should teach their child
Soft skills are necessary because AI is still away from being able to replicate and replace human interaction and human touch. “So there’s an incentive for people to develop these skills because those jobs are going to be more stable for a longer period of time.”
Before you start thinking about becoming an AI scientist, you need to know how to send email, how to work a spreadsheet, how to do word processing. Jeff says, “Believe it or not, there are broad swaths of the population and the workforce that don’t have those skills. And it turns out if you don’t have these foundational skills if you’re in a position where you need to re-skill for a more advanced technology, it becomes almost prohibitively complex to learn multiple skills at the same time.”
Read the full interview on Wired.