START Summit 2019: "We mustn’t only see abstract algorithms" At the START Summit 2019, Igor Perisic, Chief Data Officer at LinkedIn, spoke about new opportunities created by AI, about corporate social responsibility and about the difference between Europe and Silicon Valley. 21 March 2019. Data have always been of vital significance for companies since figures and statistics provide information about whether and how they operate successfully and stand their ground in the market. What did change with the birth of the internet 30 years ago, however, is the complexity of the data. "With the internet, the metrics really exploded," explains Igor Perisic, Chief Data Officer at LinkedIn. "A company which is unable to process and exploit these data for its own benefit today is lost." Perisic knows what he is talking about. LinkedIn is one of the major social networks and has more than 610 million registered users in more than 200 countries – about 12 million in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. From Europe to Silicon Valley Igor Perisic originally came from Neuchâtel but has been working in Silicon Valley as a consultant for more than ten years. As a consultant for swissnex San Francisco, he works on establishing links between Switzerland and North America in the fields of science, education, art and innovation. What Perisic particularly likes about Silicon Valley is the common mindset: "Seemingly impossible things are regarded as a possible opportunity, whereas I still grew up in an environment where you were confronted with the question: 'Why do you want to do something that nobody else is doing?'" More options thanks to AI This was the question Perisic was facing at the start of his academic career. He simultaneously applied for a place at the Departments of Mathematics and Computer Science of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and received two positive answers. The Department of Computer Science added the rider that he should opt for a different subject on account of poor career prospects. "At that time, we were 120 students," Perisic remembers. "Today, 120 well educated specialists in this field would merely be a drop in the ocean." Perisic does not share the fear that new technologies and the use of AI will jeopardise jobs. We are unable to look far into the future anyway, he says, but he himself is optimistic that technological progress will create more opportunities than are lost. Corporate social responsibility What is more important with regard to new technologies is the issue of corporate social responsibility: "We mustn’t only see abstract algorithms but have to focus on people." Also, we have to take care what data we feed algorithms with. Basically, an AI learns like a human being – from the inputs that are available. "Data with which an algorithm is fed can be very defective. This is where we’ve got to be careful." There are still quite a few things to do, but Perisic was optimistic in view of the future generation of entrepreneurs. When he was asked what advice he could give them, he said with a smile: "Don’t be afraid of trying something and failing. Persevere and carry on. And don’t listen to people who’re as old as I am. We’ve got a different view of the world."