Aspen Ideas Festival is wrapping up tomorrow and we have heard from an impressive lineup of interesting and knowledgeable speakers so far. Here are some of the most interesting, provocative and salient quotes we heard around Aspen today:
“Design think is really about empathy for the end user.” – Laysha Ward, president of community relations for Target
“Great experiences are built from the needs and desires of people.” – Sandy Speicher, associate partner at the global design and innovation firm IDEO
“We need a more integrated approach to education to account for educating the whole person.” – Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“More and more people understand that (marriage equality) is not about people being different; it’s about them being the same. You fall in love, you raise children, you love your children – those commonalities that make us all alike are so much more important.” – David Boies, chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP
“The American classroom hasn’t changed in over 150 years. The biggest change is that instead of a blackboard, now we have a whiteboard.” – Eli Broad, founder of The Broad Foundations
“It’s powerful if you can go from the data to someone’s heart.” – Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York
“We need to change the dialogue from ‘what can we do to change education?’ to ‘what can we do to enable learning?’” – Jessie Wooley-Willson, president and CEO of DreamBox Learning
“Art and design lead to discovery.” – Murray Moss, founder and creative mind behind the renowned Moss design gallery
The best way for tech companies, from search engines to social media, to protect their users’ privacy is to simply stop storing their data, says Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Ohanian spoke with Reuters Opinion Editor Jim Ledbetter at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
“Ideas come to me when I ask myself questions, often ones that respond to need.” – Yo-Yo Ma, cellist, artistic director and Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence
“There’s optimism. And then there’s optimism based on realism. And I think the latter is a lot better.” – Hussain Haqqani, director at the Hudson Institute and former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
“Being poor is not having what’s considered needed in the place you live.” – Eldar Shafir, professor at Princeton University and co-founder and scientific director at ideas42
“Diversity is just accepting differences. Pluralism is actively engaging with people of different beliefs.” – David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government
“America – it’s fundamentally a startup nation. Entrepreneurs are the ones who help build the economy.” – Steve Case, chairman of the Case Foundation and CEO of Revolution LLC
“Sustainability is required for competitiveness.” – Tom Schuler, president and CEO of Solidia Technologies
“Politics is the alternative to war.” – EJ Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and columnist for The Washington Post
In an unscheduled appearance, former US President Bill Clinton appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday afternoon and talked about jobs, the debt ceiling, and Medicare.
On jobs, he pointed out that 3 million jobs are posted for hire, but are being filled at about half the rate of previous recessions. It’s important to bring back construction and manufacturing, not just service jobs. Banks need to lend and companies need to borrow to accelerate this. IT was the job growth engine of the 1990s, but not now. In the 2000s, jobs could have come from the energy sector but there was a lack of investment in alternative energy, and this was a lost opportunity.
In the 2010s, President Clinton seemed to feel that the US is even less well-placed. Many people have swallowed the GOP message that government is the problem, while corporations feel no responsibility towards the state, only their shareholders. Business schools have certainly followed Friedman in teaching this view, stressing the claims of fiduciary responsibility, while in the US and much of the Western World, corporations are increasingly treated as persons under the law.
The debt ceiling debate was clearly a source of ire. Congress has already voted to incur debt by spending money, so how can it now refuse to raise the ceiling? (more…)
This panel addressed a critical issue in US foreign policy, namely how do we promote freedom in closed societies? The Aspen Ideas Festival assembled a highly distinguished panel to address this issue: John Negroponte, Jane Harman, and surprise guest Sir Nigel Sheinwald, UK Ambassador to the US. The moderator was Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post.
John Negroponte asserted that America has always stood for freedom in the rest of the world, at least since Woodrow Wilson. Furthermore, the direction of history is towards ‘the universalization of Western liberal democracy,’ as Francis Fukuyama says. FDR, anxious not to repeat some of the mistakes of Wilson after World War I, used Bretton Woods to create institutions like the IMF to promote financial stability. Today, the best thing that America can do is ‘foster a secure and prosperous international system.’ (One wonders if Wall Street ever got this memo.) (more…)
Some of the most interesting, provocative and salient quotes we heard around the Aspen Ideas Festival from the media professionals:
“Social media is the first draft of history. Traditional media is the second draft.” - Orville Schell
“The power of social media is not in the individual; it’s in the sheer number of witnesses — people who can help verify information and participate in the news gathering process.” - Vivian Schiller
“We’re about to hit our 100 millionth comment. People don’t just want to consume the news anymore. They want to comment on it, share it, pass it on. It’s a very different experience. Self expression has become the new entertainment.” – Arianna Huffington
“The failure of journalism is quite often the failure of imagination — to see what’s in front of us and how its changing the country and how we can document it and explain it.” - Joe Nocera
“If I had a pie in the sky dream it would be that the US had a manufacturing policy. My proposal to grow the economy is to figure out high tech manufacturing.” - Joe Nocera
“Employment is not just the result of Adam Smith and the invisible hand – it’s about fiscal and social policy.” – Chrystia Freeland
“We’ve moved from an investing society to a trading society.” – Andrew Ross Sorkin
“Ideas are great — as long as there’s action too.” Kai Ryssdal
After several days of financial angst and counter-terrorism, I made time today to attend two musical interludes at the Aspen Ideas Festival that I found to be very restorative.
“The Global Breadth of Cuban Music” featured Orlando “Maraca” Valle and his band in a session that was part lecture, part concert. Integral parts of the Cuban sound, particularly rhythm, were explained and demonstrated. The main unit of rhythm is the clave, with song forms like son, rumba, and timba all having different claves, each admitting of many variations and embellishments. The audience was encouraged the clap the basic figure while instrument upon instrument layered on pattern after pattern, until it was hard to tell where the bars began or ended. The sheer complexity and ingenuity of the resulting structure was exhilarating, making you want to laugh out loud. Musicians tend to be capable in many instruments, so the rotation of band members can add yet another layer of richness to the proceedings.
“School of Rock” by Graeme Boone (part professor, part DJ) took us on a lightning tour through the world of rock ’n’ roll, from the Beatles to Nirvana to Danger Mouse and beyond. Taking syncopation from jazz, scales from the blues, and even discords from modern classical music, rock ’n’ roll went through a modernist period of innovation in the 50s and 60s that ultimately settled into a ‘common practice’, albeit with disruptive excursions, such as punk rock, which attempted to break the mold. We are now living in a post-modern period in which remixes, re-recordings and multiple directions seem to be the norm. Music is as likely to be created using a computer, rather than by wrestling with a real instrument, thanks to technological advances in music software, giving composers a richer palette of sounds, timbres and textures than ever before.
These two sessions reminded me how essential music is to the human soul, or at least to my soul.
Peter Jackson is chief scientist and vice president of Thomson Reuters, where he’s been since 1995. He has built a group of 40 research staff with expertise in the areas of document search, text and data mining, and machine learning. Jackson is also responsible for university collaboration with respect to joint research projects. His most recent book, Natural Language Processing for Online Applications, came out in a second edition in 2007. From 1992 to 1995, Jackson taught post-graduate classes in artificial intelligence and parallel computing at Clarkson University in New York and was a visiting professor at Singapore Polytechnic. In 1988, he moved to the US and became a principal scientist at McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratories. Before coming to the US, he taught in the Department of Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh University from 1983 to 1988 and wrote the textbook Introduction to Expert Systems.
In an Aspen Ideas Festival session titled “Will Clean Tech Take Our Economy to the Cleaners,” Dr. Kristina Johnson, former under secretary of energy at the US Department of Energy and CEO of Enduring Energy debated with Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Energy Policy and the Environment, the benefits and costs of clean tech.
Johnson laid out five proposed actions to take to achieve an ambitious goal of 83% reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere by 2050 and 80% clean electricity by 2035:
- Focus on energy conservation first.
- Decarbonize the electric sector.
- Electrify the transportation sector.
- Develop advanced bio-fuels that can be used for work trucks and planes.
- Modernize the grid for energy efficiency
Johnson says there needs to be more public and private focus on research in battery technology and research in converting to bio-fuels. She also says the citing and permitting process for renewable energy sources like wind and solar and hydro power need to be streamlined; that the US needs to continue a loan guarantee program for nuclear; revitalize our infrastructure; and she called for more regulation.
The cost of not pursuing such a plan according to Johnson?
Robert Rubin, co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly of the Clinton administration, was interviewed by Chrystia Freeland of Thomson Reuters at the Aspen Ideas Festival this morning. Rubin stated that the US is at a ‘historic crossroads’ and that the ultimate challenge is political, not technical. Washington needs to address the debt crisis, finance public investment, and reform education and healthcare, but ideology and opinion are getting in the way of facts and analysis, and the media isn’t helping much.
Political analysts often focus on structural issues, such as gerrymandering and campaign finance, but Rubin suggested that the media needs to play a larger role in educating the electorate, as well as airing scandal, conflict and ideological issues. People don’t understand the trade-offs; if they did, they would hold their representatives more accountable. Meanwhile, politicians could learn from other countries on topics like education and employment, and starting trying out ideas instead of arguing.
At question time, Rubin said he was ‘really worried’ about the current impasse over the debt ceiling, and thought the situation was ‘horrendously risky.’ Making the debate about debt a debate solely about spending, is completely wrong, in his view. If the deficit is greater than discretionary spending, how can you cut your way to a balanced budget? The issues have not been framed properly, and there is no sensible discussion. I find it hard to disagree.