Monday, March 28, 2016

Anne Garrels' reports from Putin Country

A popular desire for authoritarian rule in the face of a changing and sometimes shaky economy. A overheated sense of nationalism, to cover up uncertainty about the future. Scapegoating and military adventurism as a salve for a lack of purpose and policy, a dislike of outsiders and a desire to crackdown on journalists to cover up anger about the changing nature of employment. Sounds like a certain candidate running for President of the US. In fact, it is a picture of the rise of Vladimir Putin and Russia, as Russia still comes to grips with the change heralded by the Soviet collapse.

But to fully understand Putin and Russia, it's important to look beyond Moscow, just as it’s necessary to look past Manhattan or San Francisco to try and understand America.

Long time NPR foreign correspondent Anne Garrels has spent decades exploring the Russia that’s far from Moscow, in what some might call the Russian heartland.

Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russiais her story of twenty plus years of reporting from a town on the southern edge of the Ural Mountains. She reveals a Russia that today embraces a unique combination of Western goods, inherent corruption, and authoritarian rule

My conversation with Anne Garrels:

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Industries of the Future

Just for fun, pull out or get a copy of the originally published version of the best seller What Color Is Your Parachute. Originally published in 1970, virtually no job that it listed that even touches technology, is even close to the same today. Remember that came out 46 years ago, just as the boomers were going into the workforce.

Today’s changes, human, technological and social, are happening at a geometrically much faster pace. Imagine then what the workplace will look like 46 years from now.

Children entering school today will work in a world that has almost no relationship to today's world. The jobs, the skills, the workplace and the products will be vastly different.

Given this, how do we plan? How to we teach our kids, shape public policy and prepare for a fourth industrial revolution that will happen, even if we do nothing to get ahead of it.

Alec Ross, one of America’s leading experts on innovation, served as Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He’s the author of The Industries of the Future.

My conversation with Alex Ross:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Can We Thrive At Midlife?

We've all heard it before. Sixty is the new fifty, fifty is the new forty, etc.

It's all in the service our fear, or dread of aging; of death and the lost endless possibilities of youth. We believed that as we turned the corner onto the proverbial back nine, that a kind of midlife crisis would overtake us.

For a generation of narcissistic baby boomers, it seemed like the logical step. But a surprising thing happened along the way. Many of those same baby boomers began to appreciate age and its companions of wisdom and calmness

Some boomers actually began to thrive in midlife and that's the story that Barbara Bradley Hagerty tells in Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife

My conversation with Barbara Bradley Hagerty:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Andy Grove R.I.P. - Our conversation from 1996

Andy Grove, perhaps more than anyone other than Steve Jobs transformed technology, drove the growth of Silicon Valley and shaped the views of so many of the people that run tech companies today. To say that he was the Godfather of Silicon Valley would not be an understatement.

Andy Grove, who passed away yesterday,  was one of the founders and CEO of Intel Corporation, where he transformed the role of semiconductors from an obscure part of tech, to almost a consumer product.

He was also at the cutting edge of the computer and Internet revolution. Back in 1996, twenty years ago, Grove wrote a book entitled Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company.  It's still widely read and respected.

Upon the publication of that book in 1996, I had the chance to speak with Andy Grove.

At the time, WiFi didn’t exist, Hi Speed Internet was still a dream, and networks were reserved only for the biggest of corporations. But Grove saw that key inflection points were coming. He foresaw the change they would bring about the creative destruction that would result in the change that has swept the world today.

Here is a little of that 1996 conversation with Andy Grove:

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Math Myth

If we examine why so many students don’t graduate High School, we find that failure to succeed at High School math is often at the core of the problem. Yet we are told almost every day that STEM and that math are the keys to the kingdom of success in the 21st Century.

The fact is that most jobs, even very good ones, don't require the geometry, the algebra, the trigonometry that we are forced to lean in High School. What they do require is a hi
gh degree of numeric literacy, critical and quantitative thinking and the ability to fully understand computation.

That’s not what we are teaching. Math Professor Andrew Hacker, took on this subject back in 2012 in a NY Times op ed pieces and the controversy hasn’t stopped.

Now he’s out with a book entitled The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions.

My conversation with Andrew Hacker

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

For years we’ve had just one image of the drug wars. Images conjured up from movies like the Godfather or Scarface, or reading about LA battles between the Bloods and the Crips.

But drugs, like everything else, are subject to the pressures and demands of the free market. And creative destruction in the drug business has meant a drug dealer that is kinder and gentler. A dealer that appreciates the value of customer service, that understands that many drug users, particularly of painkillers and heroin, are respectable middle class citizens.

According to the CDC, everyday 44 people in the United States die from an overdose of prescription painkillers, with many more addicts being created everyday. Together the unlikely combination of Doctors, all to eager and willing to prescribe and the boys of Xalisco, Mexico have created a perfect storm of addiction. Sam Quinones takes us to an Ohio town that is ground zero for the new heroin addiction, in Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.

My conversation with Sam Quinones:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Not Even Strip Clubs Are Not Safe From Corporate Homogenization

The power and reach of corporate America has become a staple of our political dialogue. Consolidation and corporatization has touched almost every area of our culture. The Disneyfication of our communities is almost complete. Food, retail, coffee, service, music, movies and now even sex and our most intimate fantasies.

Where once strip clubs had unique and individual identities, fulfilling a wide range of fantasies, today even they have gone the way of corporate homogenization.  Jessica Berson has witnessed it up close and personal and in The Naked Result: How Exotic Dance Became Big Business she shares her story.

My conversation with Jessica Berson:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How Digital Memory May Change What Makes Us Human

Back in 320 BC Socrates worried about how written language would impact our ability to remember. This was long, long before moveable type, the computer, the pda or any form of digital technology.

Socrates worried that reliance on simply writing would erode memory. But also and maybe more importantly, that reading would mislead students to think that they had knowledge, when they only had data.

Today, similar debates are going on with respect to the digital world. Leading a great deal of this discussion and giving us much insight is Abby Smith Rumsey in her book When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future

My conversation with Abby Smith Rumsey:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Making Sense of the Meaning of Life

In this age of consumerism, instant gratification and information, it’s often hard to think about something as abstract as the “meaning of life.” The ideas of birth, death, and infinity, which used to introduce a popular television show of the early 60’s, are ideas seldom thought about today.

Yet these are questions that human beings have been asking since the beginning of time. Lee Eisenberg, who previously looked at our relationship to money in The Number, now takes on these questions with even more enthusiasm than Monty Python did, in his new book The Point Is: Making Sense of Birth, Death, and Everything in Between

My conversation with Lee Eisenberg:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Obama and the Black Community - Seven Years Later

Last week Elizabeth Warren gave a scathing speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, about the seven year efforts, on the part of Republicans, to delegitimize the Obama Presidency. From the birther efforts to Mitch McConnell, saying that his goal, from day one, was to defeat Obama.

It’s not possible to carry on this discussion without accepting and understanding race as a part of it.The burden of being America's first black President, can’t even be imagined.

We know from the way this current campaign is playing out, how a large swath of white America has responded. But how has the black community viewed Obama? Long time journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan takes a look in I Heart Obama

My conversation with Erin Kaplan:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives

Today, globalization faces a crisis of its own success. The international movement of goods, money, communications and ideas has been going on since even before the 12th Century. However, today the context of that globalization has changed.

Where once driven individuals could change the world, today the very complexity of the world that globalization has created means that it can no longer exist in an economic vacuum, free from the drag of domestic and geopolitics.

But to fully understand what we might need to do, we have to understand how we got here. That’s the story that Jeffrey Garten tells in his new book From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives.  Garten looks at ten people who have single handedly changed the world during the last 800 years.  It’s a kind of biography of globalization.

My conversation with Jeffrey Garten:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nation on the Take

Money and politics have become synonymous. Politicians spend that majority of their time raising money, (which they claim they hate) while the cost of campaigns escalates and more money is needed and more money needs to be raised. And where does that money come from….not usually from small contributions, but from large and vested special interests.

The result is a system that is inherently corrupt and tilted toward big money. Even when it is practiced by the most sincere and dedicated elected officials.

We all seem to know this...what we don't see as clearly is the way in which this simple, fundamental and relatively recent development is responsible for so much that’s wrong with our democracy. Our wealth gap, political gridlock, inaction on some of our most pressing environmental issues,

For focusing on this core idea, Bernie Sanders has been accused of being a single issues candidate. But no matter where you stand on Sanders, it’s increasingly clear that this single issues is the foundational idea underlying the paralysis of 21st century America.

This is the issue that Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman take head on in Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It

My conversation with Potter and Penniman:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Immigration Creates Heros

It’s funny how history repeats itself. In the mid 19th Century, partly in response to the Great Famine, waves of Irish immigrants came to America. Most landed in New York, to seek a new and better life. Then as now, questions of immigration, assimilation and criminal behavior filled the air. The appropriately named Know Nothing Party grew up in opposition to these waves of immigration and filled the political dialogue with fear and hatred.

But fortunately leaders emerged in the Irish community that showed them how to be Americas. One of those was Thomas Francis Meaghar. He would become not just an Irish hero, but an American hero. Sometimes forgotten he is given new life by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Timothy Egan in The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero

My conversation with Timothy Egan:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why the Contextual aspect of Health Care can Save Lives and Money

With all the technology around today, doctors still often fail to make the right diagnosis. Usually not due to any failure of knowledge or smarts, but because diagnostics is often as much art as science.

As such, it requires an almost intuitive and/or subtle understanding of the patient, his or her circumstances and sometimes it’s as much about what is not said by the patient, as that which is voiced.

Drs. Saul Weiner and Alan Schwartz have taken these ideas to the next step in their research about art of context and diagnostics.  Their work is revealed in Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care.

My conversation with Dr. Saul Weiner and Dr. Alan Schwartz

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Imagine if Bernie Sanders became a right wing intellectual? Stranger things have happened.

Although, incorrectly attributed to Churchill, most of you have heard the quote that "if you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 40, you have no brain." While it’s a little silly, it does go to the core fact that personal beliefs can change as we grow, as we evolve and as context changes. And while people like Jonathan Haidt have made the case that political belief is in some ways tied to evolutionary psychology and biology, we know from the lives of prominent Americans who have changed their beliefs, that this has it’s limits.

Writer and filmmaker Daniel Oppenheimer in Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century looks at the lives of six prominent figures, not just whose politics have changed, but wholes ideas, and intellectual core beliefs shifted over time from left to right. In the process, they all
profoundly impacted our political dialogue.