This past September, IE University once again had the great pleasure of hosting Hay Festival Segovia. This world-renowned literary festival brings together writers, historians, philosophers, ecologists, and much more to engage in interdisciplinary talks on a wide variety of topics, from the intersection of poetry and generative AI, to the future of teaching literature with VR in the classroom.

This year’s edition of Hay Festival brought in guests as eclectic as John Maeda, Vice President of AI and Design at Microsoft; Robert Hardman, official biographer of the late Queen Elizabeth II; or Mercedes Ron, author of hit teen trilogy, Culpa mía, which was adapted into a movie this year.

Discover some of the insightful conversations that emerged at the festival this year!

Where tech meets the humanities

Hay Festival Segovia has the humanities at its core, stimulating discussion on all things philosophy, communication, and artistic expression. But at IE University, we embrace innovation in all areas, and we believe that technology is a tool to help us to create in novel ways. With that in mind, we organized several talks at this year’s festival that centered around the interaction between the humanities and tech.

For example, Microsoft’s John Maeda joined Ikhlaq Sidhu, Dean of the IE School of Science and Technology, to talk about the meaning of creativity and whether or not AI could one day write “better” poetry than humans. While both admitted that AI will only become more creative by the day, as John puts it, “AI will also force us humans to be more creative than we have ever been before.”

Another fascinating talk was given by IE University professor Goretti González. She first gave a lecture on the concept of originality, arguing that writers have stolen from other writers throughout history, and it’s difficult to call a text 100% original. She ended the talk with a VR experience that placed the user in the position of the main character, either in Kafka’s Metamorphosis or a play by Samuel Beckett. This experience was a way to show the audience members that the reader of any text becomes a co-writer simply by interpreting its meaning.


Sustainability for tomorrow

This year’s festival had the honor of welcoming several environmental specialists to discuss sustainability and the future of societies. One such discussion featured Valerie Trouet, tree ring specialist; Vincent Doumeizel, environmentalist focusing on the potential of seaweed; and David Lindo, the so-called “urban birdwatcher.” The conversation was led by Isabela del Alcázar, Global Head of Sustainability at IE University.

This talk revealed fascinating insights about the future of sustainability. Valerie, for instance, examines the extent of climate change in different regions by looking at the size of tree rings – the bigger the ring, the hotter the year. Vincent presented a seaweed-based product that could soon replace plastic – and is edible. And David, for his part, insisted on the incorporation of nature into urban spaces, reminding us that “nature starts on your doorstep.”


The power of the written word

While Hay Festival invites professionals from a wide range of fields and roles, writers take the top spot year after year. From journalists to poets and biographers, masters of the written word join us to present their work, engage in inspirational talks, and network with others.

This year saw talks from Robert Hardman, who discussed the power of storytelling (and his qualms with The Crown); Mercedes Ron, who talked about the highs and lows of publishing novels in the digital age; and Javier Cercas, writer of novels, articles, and essays, who compared and contrasted distinct writing forms. “There is no superior or inferior genre of writing,” he explained. “There are only superior or inferior ways of writing within that genre.”

More on Hay Festival Segovia

Hay Festival Segovia is an annual event that is primarily hosted on IE University’s Santa Cruz La Real campus in Segovia. There are other chapters of the festival organized around the world – from the UK to Peru – in addition to forum events planned throughout the year. Follow along on Instagram @hayfestival, @hayfestival_esp, and @ieuniversity, and don’t miss next year’s Segovia edition!