Thursday, January 13, 2022

Politics Without Celebrity - Kati Marton's The Chancellor

Imagine a political leader that is not about celebrity or attention? In a time when we have elected a reality show star as President, when celebrity politics is the lifeblood of the American political class, it’s hard to imagine a politician or world leader whose life is private; who keeps their own counsel, who listens first, who shuns celebrity, and yet proves powerful as a leader.

Such was Angela Merkel, who served for 16 years as German Chancellor. Its first and only woman Chancellor, and without questions the glue that held parts of the world and certainly the Western Alliance together for many years.

What can we all learn from this Greta Garbo of geopolitics? To find out we have to dip into Kati Marton’s new biography of Merkel,  The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel 

My conversation with Kati Marton:

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

January 6th Was a Rallying Point For White Hot Hate

As we witnessed on January 6th, the level of hostility and anger awash in the country today has real consequences. Demagogues and hateful rhetoric have real power And while some argue that history teaches us that such rage burns white-hot and then dies out, what happens while it's burning hurts people and sometimes changes nations.

It’s really no different than when we see protestors in other countries attacking America, burning the American flag, and taking Americans hostage.

In a world moving at the speed of light, tribalism, and hatred for the other, for those that are different, are everywhere. Even in a small Kansas town,

That is the story that Dick Lehr tells us in White Hot Hate: A True Story of Domestic Terrorism in America’s Heartland.

My conversation with Dick Lehr:

Monday, December 27, 2021

How Fame, Fortune and Education Ended Objective Journalism: A conversation with Batya Ungar-Sargon

Too often when talking about the media and journalism we engage in a board discussion of ideas, policy, and how the levers of power really work


What we often forget is that all of this is made up of people. People who bring to the exercise of power and of reporting on it, their own values, education, and personal history.

In that fact lies much of what is wrong with the media today. It's how we lost sight of the power of class in journalism, why we’ve tried to bury class differences inside racial differences and wokeness.

If all of this sounds too nuanced, Batya Ungar-Sargon, the deputy opinion editor of of Newsweek, helps us understand how it’s shaping our media and democracy in her new work Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy


My conversation with Batya Ungar-Sargon


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Modern Era of Television Begins with HBO: A Conversation with James Andrew Miller

The link between what we watch in movies and on television, and the business, the money and the people behind it, are inseparable. Business decisions impact and shape what we see, just as one hit can change the finances of an entire company or industry.

The story of HBO, and the way in which it disrupted television, beginning back in the early 1970s, is perhaps the penultimate example.

Just as today we are going through a sea change with respect to how stories are delivered to us, HBO was the creative destruction of its day. Its motto, like Facebook, could easily have been “move fast and break things.”

And just as HBO disrupted television. Blockbuster would eventually disrupt HBO, Netflix would disrupt Blockbuster, and technology and streaming would disrupt everything. But in many ways the story all starts with HBO.

That’s the story that James Andrew Miller tells in his comprehensive and entertaining oral history Tinderbox: HBO's Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers 

 My conversation with James Andrew Miller:

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Shattering: America in the 1960's: A Conversation with Kevin Boyle

Think of all that has changed as a result of startups and creative destruction. Nothing is the same as it was because of the sometimes revolutionary ideas of entrepreneurs.

In a similar way the 1960s were a time of creative destruction for America and the world. The post war paradigms that had shaped the country through the late 40’s and early 50’s were shattered. And just as today we are struggling, socially, politically and economically to come to grips with the our technology disruption, on a grander scale we are still trying to come to grips with the social and political shattering of the 60’s

We explore this with National Book Award winner Kevin Boyle, whose new book is The Shattering: America in the 1960s 

My conversation with Kevin Boyle:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Post-Pandemic Normal Will Never Be the Way It Was

Everyone desperately wants to know what the post-pandemic world will look like. Adam Tooze has been thinking hard about it and he thinks he knows. 

Comparing the US experience to China’s, he notes how cultural and political differences have determined successes and failures in dealing with the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19. Tooze argues that, like soldiers returning from mortal combat, we are suffering from a kind of national — and even global — PTSD.

Tooze, Columbia University history and economics professor is the author of Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Adam Tooze::



Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Has the Death of Faith Made Us More Tribal?

IThe Universe Is on Our Side: Restoring Faith in American Public Life Bruce Ledewitz argues that there has been a breakdown in American public life that is beyond issues or politics. He argues that America is living with the consequences of the death of faith, which Nietzsche presumed would be momentous and irreversible.


According to Ledewith, America's future requires that we begin a new story by asking a question posed by theologian Bernard Lonergan: Is the universe on our side?

My conversation with Bruce Ledewitz:


Friday, November 19, 2021

The Rise and Fall of the NRA and What it's Cost Us: A Conversation with Tim Mak


For the past 40 years, the debate about the proliferation of guns in America has revolved around the NRA. All public policy has been shaped and driven by the political influence of the NRA. Few if any lobbying groups in American history have ever been so powerful for so long.

But how did this power evolve, and what led to its downfall. What was behind its scorched earth “never give an inch” philosophy and was it simple greed and old fashioned corruption that brought it down?

Four years of research have given my guest NPR Washington investigative correspondent, Tim Mak some answers to these and many other questions. He details them in Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA 

My conversation with Tim Mak:


Thursday, November 11, 2021

China: Enemy or Competitor?


Elbridge Colby, is co‑founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative. He served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development from 2017 through 2018, and led the development of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

In his recent book, The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, In it, Colby addresses our relationship with China in brutally frank terms

Some of the questions he sets out to answer:

Do we need a grand strategy for China, similar to the Cold War policy of “containing” the former Soviet Union?

To counter China’s military strength, do we need to remove our troops from Europe and the Middle East, since we are no longer realistically capable of operating in three theaters?

What should we do if China moves on Taiwan?

What role would our Western allies play if we confronted China?

In a US/China conflict, would other Asian nations side with the US or make their own deal with China?

Has US credibility in Asia been irreparably harmed by our Middle East performance?

If China is politically dominant in Asia, does that mean they would also dominate the world economy?

What might a war with China look like?

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Eldridge Colby:



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

How the Index Fund Changed Finance and Why It's Still So Powerful Today



Never have so many individuals been actively engaged in trading in the equity markets. Robin Hood, Reddit, meme stocks, crypto, blockchain are the language of a whole new world of mostly young traders. And most of them will lose money.

They think they can outperform markets that have long humbled the smartest guys in the room.

So back in the early seventy, a group of those guys got together to imagine and evolve a way to passively participate in the markets. Long before information about the markets had been democratized. Long before we checked our portfolio every-time we checked our phone, the idea of passive index funds would take hold.

And even in our hyperbolic financial world today, they are still going strong. In fact, they are so powerful, they alone can move markets.

What this all means for markets and economics is worth examining. To do so I’m joined by Robin Wigglesworth, the global finance correspondent at the Financial Times and the author of Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever 

My conversation with Robin Wigglesworth:


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Dirty, but Essential Work: A Conversation with Eyal Press


Workers left their jobs at a record pace in the past few months. They left because of health concerns, child care issues and because, post pandemic, they did not want to return to what they saw as rotten jobs. Jobs that were ethically and morally challenging.

The pandemic has brought new light to these workers. Often, in what has been called essential work. It has highlighted and personified the work we often don’t see, but that we all rely on for keeping the wheels of society working.
 
Studs Terkel said that “work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than lethargy; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying." And yet for millions of workers this dying that Terkel talked about, is what they face, day in and day out.

We can't imagine what it does to them, but also what it does to our society. This is what Eyal Press examine in Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America.

My conversation with Eyal Press:

Monday, October 18, 2021

Looking for America: My Conversation with Evan Osnos

Without comparing one historical era to another, suffice it to say that we live in a nation filled with anger, despair and at best anxiety. Our ideological, economic and cultural divisions have infected every fiber of the public square. And all of this is happening amidst loss of faith in our once valued institutions, both public and private. A loss of faith in facts and truth, and in the fundamentals founding principles of self governance of fairness and selflessness.

But we didn’t get here overnight, nor did some external forces (no not even Donald Trump) create this environment.

NY staff writer Evan Osnos went, like Simon and Garfunkel, looking for America. He looked in the mix of places he knew best, Greenwich, Connecticut where he grew up, Clarksburg West Virginia where he worked as a young reporter, and Chicago, the very definition of urban America.

The result of that effort is his new book Wildland: The Making of America's Fury 

My conversation with Evan Osnos:

Friday, October 8, 2021

What Is The Future of Transportation? Hint...It's Not A Better Car

A recent survey showed that the reason people are reluctant to go back to the office has nothing to do with COVID, but with their commute. It’s not the office they object to, it’s getting there.

Particularly in places like New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington DC, commute times have exploded in recent years.

Perhaps when the dust settles, perhaps what we will have changed as a result of a year at home, is less how we work, and more how we move about.

But will we ever give up our love affair with the automobile? Will new generations approach transportation in a new way? Are flying cars ever going to be a thing? And what can we learn from the last great inflection point as we went from the horse to the car?

All of this is part of Tom Standage’s new book, A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next.

My conversation with Tom Standage My conversation with Stephen Kurczy:

Thursday, September 30, 2021

No Cell Service, No Technology and Electrosensitives Everywhere: Stephen Kurczy Talks about "The Quiet Zone"

I suppose even the most ardent technologists have at times wanted to get off the grid...usually that urge doesn't last long. But for the people of Green Bank, West Virginia, it’s an ongoing state of affairs. 
The only town that is designated as a national radio quiet zone, is actually not all that quiet. It seems that just as before technology subsumed us, people do find other ways to communicate, and to get into all sorts of trouble. 

The story of Green Bank and its people is where my guest Stephen Kurczy takes us in The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence 

My conversation with Stephen Kurczy:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

As You Look At The Emmys, Remember That It Is Only Streaming and Entertainment That is Bringing the World Together

It wasn’t very long ago that to see a foreign language film, you wound up in the smallest theater in the multiplex or a little art theater somewhere in a college town...or you lived in New York or San Francisco or Boston. But like everything else, creative destruction has done its job. Streaming and the long tail of the internet has moved to supplant cable, movie theaters, broadcast television, and even the English language as the talisman of all of our entertainment. 
Even amidst the bifurcation and division in both the US and the world, filmed entertainment seems to be one of the few things bringing the world together. Suddenly at our fingertips is programming made everywhere. And rather than looking at it as an oddity reserved only for a few cinephiles, it’s now working its way into the mainstream of all of our living rooms.

Is this just a temporary blip due to COVID and the pandemic, or has global entertainment undergone a tectonic shift that both reflects and might reshape our culture? We’re going to talk about this with Scott Roxborough. 

Scott is an international reporter covering film and television and music. He reports on entertainment from Europe for the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and German TV, and wrote a seminal article for the Hollywood Reporter dealing with this subject. 

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Scott Roxborough:



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The News About the News: A conversation with Martha Minow

For journalism, it may be the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand, the national media is more vibrant than ever. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as broadcast and cable news networks are thriving. For these outlets, the transition to digital has been painful, but successful and is still ongoing.  It was recently announced by CNN and NBC News that they would be moving to a streaming model.
Today, The New York Times derives more than sixty percent of its revenue from digital subscriptions. Recurring revenue models are driving the success of independent and specific news outlets and individual journalists on Substack and similar platforms that are thriving. While romantics rap quixotic about the 23 newspapers that once were available in New York City, websites and Twitter have now subsumed that. New sites start up regularly with lower barriers to entry and what some argue is a greater democratization of information.

For local news, however, the story is different. For what’s happening in your neighborhood, your school board, your city council, is a very different story. Thousands of local newspapers and local radio stations have shut down. The economics of the enterprise has proven to be unsustainable, and even large regional papers in places like LA, Chicago, and Miami have proven to be problematic. While many of the best of these papers have been stripped and plundered by hedge funds, let’s also remember that many were acquired by the hedge funds out of bankruptcy.

All of this begs the question as to whether our political, cultural, and social divide stems from the top as is assumed, or whether the hollowing out of news in our communities, something that should be bringing us together, is at the heart of what’s wrong? If so, does the government have a role to play in fixing that effort? Is the problem with the product, with the public, or as it is often so easy to do, should we just blame social media?  Understanding this is the work that Martha Minow takes on in Saving the News: Why the Constitution Calls for Government Action to Preserve Freedom of Speech

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Martha Minow:



Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Myth of "Nobody Saw it Coming"

The more we know about disasters, the more we realize that most were preordained. Covid 19 or Katrina, the current fires in California or the deep freeze this past winter in Texas. None of them were what we would call Black Swan events.

We are certainly, because of climate change, complexity and complacency, going to be experiencing more such events, we had better become much better at disaster preparedness.

If we know these disaster events are coming, how can we get better at dealing with the consequences? Fire season is yet to reach its peak this year, hurricanes are starting early and we know that more infrastructure and buildings will collapse.

Therefore, the area of disaster management should be one of our number one priority, just as it has been for my guest Dr. Samantha Montano, the author of Disasterology: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis 



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Democracy Dies In The Chaos of Competing Truths: A Conversation with Robert M. Smith


Survey after survey shows that trust in the news media is at an all time low. And it’s not just the left/right divide.

A recent study by the American Press Association reveals that not all Americans universally embrace core journalistic values, and that the trust crisis might best be understood through people’s moral values even more than their politics.

When journalists say they are” just doing their jobs,” the problem is many people harbor doubts about what that job should be.

Couple this with an ever changing media landscape driven by economics, the political bifurcation of news via the long tail of the internet, the news/entertainment nexus, celebrity culture, and now cancel culture, and it makes for an environment that has very little to do with getting at the truth. Maybe democracy dies not in darkness, but in the chaos of competing truths.

This is the world that long time journalist Robert M. Smith explores in Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent.

My conversation with Robert M Smith:

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

America Is No Longer A Serious Nation: My conversation with Tom Nichols:

Almost everywhere in the world, liberal democracy is, if not under siege, or at least being tested. Only in rare historical times have would-be autocrats found such fertile ground. But why? 

The world's and yes, America’s standard of living is rising overall. As Steven Pinker has pointed out, crime and violence is down. The census tells us that diversity is naturally occurring and technology has made life easier. While we are not perfect, the arc of history is bending towards justice. And yet we’re angrier, more frustrated, and more willing to buy snake oil than ever before. 

We’re quick to cast blame. Quick to believe anything that fits our preconceived narrative, and each side has its Boogeyman and Straw-man. But what if the answer to these problems is not out there? What if Cassius was right? — that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. 

This is what Tom Nichols explores in his new work Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy 

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Tom Nichols:




Friday, August 20, 2021

Roger Bennett Teaches Us About Soccer AND About America


From Alexis de Tocqueville, to Alexander Solzhenitsyn to John Lennon, it has often taken those born outside of America to help us understand and define America back to those of us that have grown up here. Those of us long engulfed in both the popular culture and political noise inherent in our society, often can’t see the proverbial forest from the trees.
Today British/American broadcaster Roger Bennett has taken up that mantle. The impresario of the Men in Blazers media empire not only explains soccer to its burgeoning American audience, he also explains America in his new book Reborn in the USA: An Englishman's Love Letter to His Chosen Home.

My conversation with Roger Bennett:

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Second American Revolution - Will it Ever Be Won?

In the 1960s and early 1970s political and social battles were fought by people who were trying to reshape America. Sixty years later, we are still at war.

My guests on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, David and Margaret Talbot, label that war the Second American Revolution. The issues revolved around armed conflict abroad (Vietnam), civil rights, feminism, gay rights, Native American rights, workers rights, and the role of celebrities in the political process.

One of the Talbots’ conclusions is that the past is not just prologue — It’s not even the past.

They argue — in this conversation and in their new book, By the Light of Burning Dreams — that the ’60s were a time when every cultural and political progressive action was met with an equal reaction. A time when the FBI engaged in the kind of widespread, invasive surveillance that makes even today’s Pegasus project seem like child’s play.

The Talbots remind us that charismatic leadership, not just grassroots efforts, catalyzed the political and social activism of the ’60s. Leaders had to put their bodies on the line in the streets, not on social media.

Discussing how these efforts morphed from the optimism of the early ’60s to the weary cynicism of today, the Talbots draw a sobering lesson in By the Light of Burning Dreams: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Second American Revolution.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with David and Margaret Talbot









Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Ultimate Corporate Delusion - The Story of WeWork: A conversation with Maureen Farrell

If someone pitched the story idea of a guy who was a former baby clothes salesman who then started a company that sublet co-working office space to millennials, and that that company would then become the most well financed startup ever, and that the story of its eventual rise and fall would give birth to an Apple tv series, a Hulu documentary, an HBO movie, several books, and two podcast series, the pitch would be rejected immediately.

And yet this is the story of Adam Neumann and WeWork. But it’s also a story of Silicon Valley, of Wall Street, of international investors, of obsessions with millennials, of portfolio theory taken too far, and it all comes together to create the perfect corporate storm.

While there are some bad and greedy actors in this story, I would argue it's one with no heroes, and no real villains….because it exists, like many of our greatest corporate dramas, inside the protective bubble of a unique moment in place and time. -

Telling this story, as more than just the story of Adam Neumann and a failed business model, but telling it in the context of all of the aforementioned moving parts, is WSJ reporter Maureen Farrell in The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion

My conversation with Maureen Farrell:

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Trump's Final Days: My conversation with Carol Leonnig

If daily news reporting is the first draft of history, books that come out almost contemporaneously to events are I suppose the second draft.


But today the world is speeded up. Today, especially in the wake of Trump, we need the facts much sooner. We need to learn not just how to escape the mistakes of history but to escape their repetition and to learn quickly from the actions of recent times.

Pulitzer prize winning Washington Post reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig have become the modern masters of this genre. With their first book A Very Stable Genius, early in the Trump presidency, they telegraphed what was ahead. No one that read their book could have been surprised at what happened next.

And now with their latest, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year they have given us a narrative history of the troubled final days of the Trump presidency, and maybe the final days of democracy as we've come to know it.

My conversation with Carol Leonnig:


Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Car for the Ages: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings - A Conversation with Earl Swift

While everyone has their own personal list, we could all maybe agree on some of the most iconic cars ever made. The VW Beetle, the 1968 Ford Mustang, the 1960 Corvette, the 57 Chevy, the Porsche 911, The 1955 Mercedes gull-wing, the DeLorean, and just for good measure, the 1963 Aston Martin.

But equally important is a vehicle that gets little attention, All of its models together only traveled under 100 miles. When it was built it was over budget, over schedule, and was only a two-seater. It was the lunar rover vehicle that was a part of Apollo 15, 16, and 17. Without it, we’d know a lot less about the moon, about our own planet, and even the solar system. Not bad for a car that was bare bones and electrified, long before Elon Musk was born.

That’s the story that Earl Swift tell in his new book Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings

 My conversation with Earl Swift

Friday, July 23, 2021

Bill Gates Has Always Shown Us Who He Is: A Conversation with Tim Schwab

Two years ago if you convened a focus group to give an opinion on Bill Gates and his foundation, the response would have been overwhelmingly positive. Today, not so much. 
The divorce, the behavior with respect to female employees, and violation of rules that any employee would know much less the company’s founder, former CEO, and chairman, and his condoning of poor behavior by his associates would be enough in and of itself to change public opinion. Add to this his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, and the picture gets darker.

Investigative journalist Tim Schwab, argues that none of this is as bad or as global as some of the actions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Tim and all of this out in his recent articles in The Nation and in a book he's working on about Gates and his foundation. 





Sunday, July 18, 2021

What AI Really Is, Whose Making It Happen and What It Means For The Future: My conversation with Cade Metz

When Hal asked Astronaut David Bowman to “open the pod bay doors,” it was as if our most primal fear of machines came rushing headlong into the 20th century. Today, in our 21st-century world, we understand the basics of the artificial intelligence behind HAL.

We see on display every day our interaction with Siri and Alexa, our reliance on algorithms in flying our planes and soon our self-driving cars.

It’s the full blossoming of the promised brave new world.

But AI is just the Internet in1995. While it dominates every conversation about technology, commerce, the workplace and the economy today, there is an awful lot of misinformation.

Its impact can be felt in manufacturing, retail, healthcare, automotive, robotics, finance and science, as well as defense and national security.

The academic progress of AI is taking place every day in places like Stanford, Google, Amazon and Facebook. And the proverbial elephant in the room with respect to AI is always China and its deep, rich and no holds barred commitment to be the world leader in AI


But nothing beats understanding AI’s future like seeing how we got where we are today, who are the people making it happen and what it portents for its future.


That is what NY Times journalist Cade Metz does in his book Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World 

My conversation with Cade Metz:

Monday, July 12, 2021

How We Got To Globalization Today: A Conversation with Jeffrey Garten

In the period immediately following WWII, the United States dominated the global economy. We had won the war, and the economic status that went along with it. 

Then over time, and initially as a result of our efforts and generosity, other economies began to grow. Japan, West Germany, Canada and Australia would stir, but the world would, in the war's aftermath, acquiesce to an American imposed system of monetary order. One underpinned by gold and the US direction.

But 28 years later the children would grow up. The other economies of the world would come into their full inheritance. So much so that by the time of the Nixon administration, in 1971, it had to accommodate the change.

What happened next, as Nixon and his economic advisers would meet secretly at camp David, in August of 1971, set the stage for the modern era of globalization.

The gold standard would be abandoned, and a new world economic order would be born. I think it’s fair to say that it’s impossible to understand the global economy today without understand this singular moment

Jeffrey Garten, the Dean emeritus of the Yale School of Management, takes us back to this moment in his new work Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy 

My conversation with Jeffrey Garten:

Thursday, July 8, 2021

A Constitution of Knowledge: A Conversation with Jonathan Rauch


Some days it seems that everything we’ve taken for granted with respect to the functioning of America and American democracy is under siege. Hundreds of thousands of words are written and spoken almost every day as to why. However, before we can even begin to answer that question, we must understand what it is that’s being attacked and how the system was built before we can shore it up. It’s like a building after an explosion or a natural disaster. It can’t be righted until someone comes in, looks at the blueprints, develops engineering plans, and lays out the construction work. Today, the American experience feels like it’s in exactly the same place.

Jonathan Rauch, digs out those dusty blueprints in his new book The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth 







Tuesday, July 6, 2021

We Are Our Information: A conversation with Caleb Scharf

We are awash in data and information. So much so that we wonder if it has any meaning at all? But what if the very existence of the information and data was actually our society's knowledge. A kind of intuitive database acquired from absorbing all the information that surrounds us.

And as we do so, how does it change us? Are we even aware of it, or like velocity and position, can it even be measured.

These are just some of the mind bending ideas put forth by renowned astrobiologist and the award-winning author Caleb Scharf in his latest book The Ascent of Information: Books, Bits, Genes, Machines, and Life's Unending Algorithm 

My conversation with Caleb Scharf:

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Amazon, Bezos and a Global Empire

Back in 1953, it was reported that Charlie Wilson, then head of General Motors, said that what’s good for General Motors was good for America. While that quote is a bit apocryphal, the idea was real. The notion that the success of any particular business was inextricably tied up with the success of the nation.

Perhaps in the 70’s it might have been said of Exxon. Today it might very well be said about Amazon.

The company has changed the way we shop...not insignificant in a nation where retail accounts for 6% of our GDP and 25% of our employment.

It has changed the way we think about the cloud, privacy, and electronic storage. It’s now changing transportation, and health care.

How did one company become so powerful and successful not just in one area….like GM or Exxon, but in multiple areas. The answer lies in understanding Amazon’s visionary founder Jeff Bezos.

Currently, the richest man in the world, the money should not obscure his vision, his talents and his place in the founder/CEO hall of fame.

Few understand Bezos better than Brad Stone. Bard is the author of Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire 

 My conversation with Brad Stone:

Monday, June 28, 2021

The New Addiction to Outrage: Our American Psychosis

There once was a time when we were, if not united, at least we had a common set of cultural touchstones. Movies, TV, sports, even the three networks that delivered the evening news were part of a national town square that provided both water cooler conversation and comity. No more!

Over the past 40 years, all that has changed. The long tail of the internet coupled with the evolution of our politics has divided us as never before. Even COVID, an outside enemy that should have united us, has become a cultural and political cudgel. Ironically our collective anger over politics may now be the only thing we have in common, even as it’s devolved into trench warfare.

We are divided into superclusters of like-minded people. People so siloed that they are literally shocked that everyone does not think and vote as they do. In short, reality has become negotiable and we sort ourselves accordingly.

The weaponized culture wars lead to more enmity, disgust, and dehumanization of our opponents. One wonders if all the king’s horse and all the king’s men can ever put the Humpty Dumpty that is our political civility back together again. That's the reality that Peter T. Coleman looks at in The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization.

My conversation with Peter Coleman: