We’ll always have sex?

December 2nd, 2016

futuresex_witt.jpgIt seems as if creative destruction and technology are changing everything ...even sex.

This may be problematic given the degree to which sex is connected to everything else; marketing, relationships, essentially all forms of human interaction. As Emily Witt says, “we organize our society around the way we define our sexual relationships.”

The inflection point at which all these forces are coming together, is in part what Emily Witt writes about in her new book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love. Yet even in that future, as Woody Allen so aptly said..."we all need the eggs."

My conversation with Emily Witt:

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Imagine If Wonder Could Replace Fear

December 1st, 2016

9780399184482.jpeg“Children's playthings are not sports and should be deemed their most serious actions," Montaigne wrote.

Freud regarded play as the means by which the child accomplishes his first great cultural and psychological achievements; through play he expresses himself. This is true, Freud thought, even for an infant whose play consists of nothing more than smiling at his mother, as she smiles at him. He noted how much and how well children express their thoughts and feelings through play.

Why then should we assume that we outgrow the value of play? The wonder of seeing the world through joy, rather than fear. Think about all that you’ve read about the creativity of silicon valley...the atmosphere of fun that entrepreneurs try to create.

Today even education is being built around the idea of projects, of teams, of fun and of wonder.

This is the world that best selling author Steven Johnson explores in Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World.

My conversation with Steven Johnson:

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Advertising Today May Be Harder To Find Than The Real Don Draper

November 29th, 2016

bookcover_1-side.jpgEvery aspect of our media landscape is changing. As newspapers are having to move online, they have to find new ways to engage an audience. Television is now on demand and personal and has lost its immediacy and its mandate for news and information. The long tail of blogs and specialty news sites reinforces confirmation bias.

All of this creates new problems and challenges not just for content providers, but also for the advertisers that have been the traditional supporters of traditional media.

So what’s an advertiser to do? Of late, the answer has been new efforts like native advertising, content marketing and sponsored advertising. But do these efforts have unintended consequences for the news product itself. That's what Mara Einstein looks at in Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing and the Covert World of the Digital Sell.

My conversation with Mara Einstein:

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In The Cloud, No One Can Hear You Think

November 28th, 2016

head-in-the-clouds-william-poundstone-boNot a day goes by that you don’t pick up your smartphone to access a piece of information. Every dinner party or get together has the scene where everyone races to their phones to look up a fact or prove a point.

It’s so easy….so easy in fact that we often think, certainly our kids think, that they don’t need a large basic body of knowledge. Why memorize anything when you can just look it up..it’s all there in the cloud...right?

Well it is. But fundamental knowledge does matter. What we know, not what Siri knows, can truly impact and shape the lives we lead, the work we do, the friends we have and really defines our place in the world. We have just witnessed what happens when large groups of people don’t have that basic knowledge.

This is the reality that William Poundstone examines in Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up.

My conversation with William Poundstone:

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Can Entrepreneurship Save the World?

November 27th, 2016

cover-small.jpgA not terribly successful American President was right when he said that “the business of America is business.” In fact, today it would be safer to say that the business of the world is business.

Whether through globalization, or just through the individual entrepreneurship of citizen in the developing world, business is the one force that seems to counter unrest, instability, joblessness, and even extremism.

Wisdom and experience tells us we will not stop extremism in the Middle East, or other violent regions, with just guns, drones and military force. But it just may be that fostering entrepreneurship and job creation may be one answer.

Leading this school of thought is former State Department official Steven Koltai.  Koltai is also the author of Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development.

My conversation with Steven Koltai:

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Some of Us Want To Go To Canada…Elon Musk Wants To Go To Mars

November 27th, 2016

dOHiW3I.jpgFifty four years ago JFK, at the height of the Cold War, set us on a path to the moon.

Today, absent the Cold War and in a world where a new photo or dating app becomes a billion dollar effort, it’s hard to think in terms of such massive, global and societal undertaking.

Yet one man does. Be it electric cars, solar powering the nation, or going to Mars, Elon Musk thinks differently than everyone else...but he does want all of us to join him in that effort. The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach has written the cover story for National Geographic's special Mars Issue

My conversation with Joel Achenbach:

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Why Presidential Appointees Matter

November 25th, 2016

9781408855775.jpgBack in 1992 the mantra of the Bill Clinton campaign was that “it's the economy stupid.” Surprising, since the majority of American campaigns for President have always been about the economy.

However since the 1970’s that economy has been changing dramatically and rapidly. It was only as far back as the Nixon administration that we were still on the gold standard. Things like derivatives didn’t exist. Subprime lending, globalization of money and creative destruction in the economy had not yet set up a paradigm for collapse.

Presiding over so much of this change, watching all of it and directing some of it, was Alan Greenspan.  Towering over the Federal Reserve for 18 years and serving five Presidents, no one knew more about the inner and outer working of the American economy than Greenspan.

Now we get the first full scale economic and person biography of Greenspan in Sebastian Mallaby's The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan.

My conversation with Sebastian Mallaby:

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Using Design Thinking for Life

November 22nd, 2016

maxresdefault.jpgLook around your home or office, or even your car. Everything there was designed. Albeit not always well. Sometimes with an eye towards function, sometimes looking at form and sometimes with thought into the human interface. Wouldn't it be great if everything was designed with equal parts engineering, aesthetics and a real understand of how human beings will interface with whatever it is?

That methodology, that combination of humanity and art and engineering is what’s now called Design Thinking. It’s an important part of Silicon Valley’s disruption and progress

But imagine if the same concepts could apply not just to computers or to a mouse or a phone, but to your entire life?

In many schools today these idea of Design Thinking are combining with project based curriculum and human centered collaborating and producing the future leaders of the 21st Century.

Two of the leader in all of this are Stanford’s Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They are the authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

My conversation with Bill Burnett and Dave Evans:

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Why the Growing Gap Between Business and the Public Hurts Both

November 17th, 2016

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Herbert Hoover said that “the business of America is business.” If he were around today, in the age of globalization, he might have referred to the business of the world.

Yet as our current election shows, as the recent Brexit votes showed, the connection between people and business has never been more tattered and frayed.

Globalization itself, disruption, dislocation, the obsession with short term profits and shareholder value, coupled with the free flow of goods and money and jobs around the world, has created a chasm between the world’s businesses and ordinary citizens.

At a time when technology has made it easier for citizens to actually come together and be engaged, business has too often retreated to its C Suites in the hopes that the storm would pass.

But the clouds are getting darker. With more automation and AI, now reaching virtually every sector of work.

With worker and public anger reaching toxic levels, business can no longer hide, it must be, in the words of former BP Chief Executive John Browne, more willing to Connect.

My conversation with Lord John Browne:

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Scenes from a McMarriage

November 16th, 2016

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Think about those things that are usually the most personal, the most intimate and complex.

A few of them are what goes on inside a marriage,

why and how people give away money (there is a reason many do it anonymously) and the degree to which the business of America is business. These are the elements that make up the story of Ray and Joan Kroc.

A story that is part Edward Albee, part Fortune magazine and part political, in the sense that the personal is indeed political.

Ray Kroc was the driving and force that made McDonald's bloom throughout the world and Joan Kroc was one of our most liberal and generous philanthropists of our times.

An unlikely combination, and an unlikely but compelling story told by Lisa Napoli in Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away.

My conversation with Lisa Napoli:

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What We Can Learn From Looking At Economic Interests That Crossed the Battle Lines During the Last Civil War

November 15th, 2016

516V%252BduZ2AL._SY344_BO1%252C204%252C2It’s always so interesting all the assumptions we make about history. They tell us something about the assumptions we might be making about our divide today.

When we think about the Civil War era, for example, we think in clear lines...the North vs. the South. Yet in families, in communities and in the states themselves, many were conflicted. Then as now, there were personal and economic interests that crossed over both sides.

Nowhere was this more the case than in the city of New York. While seemingly a part of the North, its economic interests in cotton, shipping and even the slave trade made New York what it has always been. A capital of commerce, whose interests in the context of the war were conflicted. A cautionary tale about our divide today.

This is the story that my guest John Strausbaugh tells in City of Sedition: The History of New York City during the Civil War

My conversation with John Strausbaugh:

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Why the Isis rhetoric to restore the Caliphate is exactly like Trump wanting to Make America Great Again.

November 6th, 2016
hqdefault.jpgIt's hard to imagine today, but the East, what we refer to now as the Middle East, was once a pinnacle of civilization.  Like all great civilizations, it struggled with conflict between personal values and its laws, about succession and tribalism and security. It evolved a form of rule in the Islamic world that lasted for almost 1300 years..by any account a pretty good run.  

Today that rule, what was once called the Caliphate, has been morphed into something far removed from it’s original meaning. As such, it has become a word that embodies the worst, not the best of civilization.  Esteemed historian Hugh Kennedy puts all of this in perspective in Caliphate: The History of an Idea

My conversation with Hugh Kennedy:
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Every Single Aspect of Today’s Immigration Debate, We’ve Heard Before

November 2nd, 2016
BN-QJ442_bkrvdi_G_20161020132821.jpgWe are a nation of immigrants.  For 240 years we have opened our arms to those seeking to come to America and for many of those years New York has been ground zero.  But the immigrant story, even in, or especially in New York, has not been one of ease.  The process and pain of assimilation, the fear of the other, the competition for resources have always created wedges between immigrant groups and so called nativists.  

So why is it that these issues seem to repeat themselves over and over,  like a kind of Groundhog Day.  The issues are the same, only the ethnic roots change...yet we never seem to learn the lessons.

George Washington University historian Tyler Anbinder looks at this history in City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York

My conversation with Tyler Anbinder: 
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Why aren’t we having this conversation about Medicare and Healthcare?

October 30th, 2016

complex-medicare.jpgMedicare has often been referred to as the third rail of American politics. Because it has become so woven into the fabric of American life, so necessary and vital for seniors, , both politicians and those that have legitimate interest in improving public policy, are afraid to touch it.  It’s as if the admonition to "do no harm" is first and foremost about medicare.


Yet it is a program that at fifty-one, is showing signs of old age.  It’s solvency in question, its operational model, post ACA, is in question and its relevance within the context of 21st century medicine and medical practice is in need of reassessment. 



My conversation with Dr. Andy Lazris: 
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What Can History Teach Us About Our Current Political Climate

October 28th, 2016
jz1.jpgHow many times have we heard that this election is like no other? That this is an extinction level event, threatening the very fabric of the republic.   And yet history tells us that we’ve survived far worse.  Be it the civil war, McCarthyism, violent labor strife at the turn of the last century,  political assassination and of course, the chaos of the 1960’s

To try and put all of this in context, in the home stretch of this political season, I spoke with Julian Zelizer. He is a Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton and the author, most recently of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.

My conversation with Professor Julian Zelizer: 
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The Desert and the Cities Sing

October 28th, 2016

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Looking at the broad sweep of history and change in the 20th and 21st Century,  it’s arguable that the dynamics of Israel, its relationship to its neighbors and the meaning of the Zionist project, remain one of the most complex, historic and creative endeavors of our time.

But how did it all get this way and what can the world learn from all the good that’s come out of Israel?  How did the desire for a homeland, a base for the Jewish diaspora, become so complex and lead to a statistically improbable amount of business and artistic success. And perhaps most importantly, can all of this power through the burdens of history.

Nowhere is this shown in a more dramatic and beautiful fashion than in the work of Lin Arison, Diana Stoll and Neil Folberg in  The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today's Israel: A Treasure Box.

My conversation with Lin Arison and Diana Stoll:
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Inequality….the great American Divide

October 25th, 2016
Chuck-Born-on-Third-Base.jpgMore than race and more than gender, class and wealth are the great divide in America today.  There was a time when those with wealth represented a kind of noblesse oblige.  They had sense of obligation to the larger society that had allowed them the opportunity to succeed.

Today something is different. Something that goes far beyond reaction to the "greed is good" utterances of Gordon Gekko. There is, at the heart of today's class divide, an anger at the wealth pooling at the very top. It’s fueled further by the complexity of our economic systems, the power of money to shape policy, the rural/urban divide and role of education for successful jobs.

So how did we get here and what can we really do about it. Understanding this has been the life's work of Chuck Collins. He bring in his own personal experience in his new book Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good

My conversation with Chuck Collins: 
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A Contrarian View of Inequality

October 24th, 2016
upside-inequality-edward-conard-book-perIf there is a central political principle that organizes what little policy debate there is in this election it seems to be centered around the idea of “income inequality.” From the embrace of Bernie Sanders by millennials, to boomers and traditional Democrats embracing of Clinton, right on through the angry, populist rage that makes up the core of the Trump supporters.

So if this is the core idea embedded deep in the national psyche and we agree in a modern sense that crowdsourcing matters, then how could it be wrong?

Bain Capital co-founder and former Mitt Romney adviser Edward Conard thinks it’s all wrong.  He argues that it’s the one-percent that’s keeping our economy moving forward.  In his book   The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class, he makes the case that it’s not a zero sum game and that the the success of the one-percent is not what’s holding back the economic growth of the middle class.

My conversation with Ed Conard:
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Are the Mexican Drug Wars a Kind of Disneyland for Teenage Boys?

October 17th, 2016
collage-2016-09-04-3.jpgPart mythology and part the result of the current Presidential campaign, we have this image of the US/Mexican border as divided territory.  We hear folks talking about it as if at one time north was north and south was south and never the twain would meet.

The truth is that this has never been the case.  The border has almost always been a porous membrane through which people, drugs, money, and crime could easily pass.  

The border is the kind of place that for poor teenage boys, was a kind of Disneyland. This is the world that Dan Slater takes us to in  Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel.
My conversation with Dan Slater: 
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Greil Marcus explains Bob Dylan

October 14th, 2016
<a href="https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zeYeB--NqcI/WAEE4jY1OoI/AAAAAAAAHOo/Dh6TFNNF2rIiniGjSlTHRrM_R1gSCo-0gCLcB/s1600/OB-KT189_dylan_DV_20101105154644.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" height="320" src="https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zeYeB--NqcI/WAEE4jY1OoI/AAAAAAAAHOo/Dh6TFNNF2rIiniGjSlTHRrM_R1gSCo-0gCLcB/s320/OB-KT189_dylan_DV_20101105154644.jpg" width="212" /></a>For any music to be successful, there must be that special bond between performer and listener. Perhaps nowhere has that bond been stronger then in the unique relationship between Bob Dylan and music critic extraordinaire Greil Marcus.

Marcus explasins how for over forty years Dylan has drawn upon and reinvented the landscape of traditional American music, its myths, heroes and villains. Throughout all of it, Greil Marcus has been there to be our ears, to be a unique listener of an unparalleled singer and now Nobel Prize winner

Marcus' forty years of writing on Dylan has been compiled into a new volume. Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.

To really understand Dylan, listen to my conversation with Greil Marcus from 2010
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