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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