The CEO of LinkedIn told the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School this weekend that “seemingly anything is possible.” From eliminating disease to colonizing Mars, humans are accomplishing things that seemed unfathomable mere decades ago.
But Jeff Weiner, who became CEO of LinkedIn in 2008, also warned graduates from his alma mater about two emerging trends that could have “have serious consequences on society.”
The first was socio-economic stratification. The rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer.
“It’s already hovering at historic highs and threatens to get even worse as new technologies potentially displace millions of people from their jobs,” Weiner said. “When people lose access to economic opportunity, they become disenfranchised and that can have serious consequences on society.”
Statistics back up Weiner’s warning. Incomes for the 0.0001% of richest Americans increased 636% between 1980 and 2014, according to a UC Berkeley paper reported on by Business Insider’s Pedro Nicolaci da Costa. But they didn’t budge for those in the bottom 50%.
Moreover, the top 1% earned 81 times as much as those in the bottom 50% in 2014, according to the UC Berkeley research. In 1980, the top 1% earned “only” 27 times more.
The second theme that’s afflicting people today is tribalism, Weiner said. People tend to listen and cling to those who have similar looks, viewpoints, and lifeways as they do.
“But there’s a dark downside,” Weiner said. “All these tribes spend too much time thinking about themselves, their own self-interests, and their own belief models.”
Technology also allows us to further filter out those who are different than us, Weiner said. And that makes us unaware of what other “tribes” are thinking.
‘Breaking free’ for a better society
Weiner concluded that compassion, a theme that comprised the majority of his speech, could allow people to connect.
“By breaking free of our own tribes, even if only for a moment, and seeing things through the lens of people unlike ourselves, we can begin to close the gaps, whether they be socio-economic, racial, gender, political or otherwise,” Weiner said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook noted similar trends in his graduation address to Duke on Sunday. Deep divisions in opportunity, education, and point of view are rampant in America, he said.
Like Weiner, Cook concluded on what the Class of 2018 could do to bridge those gaps. He focused on the power of technology, not surprisingly.
“No generation has ever held more power than yours,” Cook said. “And no generation has been able to make change happen faster than yours can. The pace at which progress is possible has accelerated dramatically. Aided by technology, every individual has the tools, potential, and reach to build a better world.”
Watch Weiner’s full speech or read it on LinkedIn.