AIF Blog

What's on Tap for Aspen Ideas 2017? We Hear from the Director

May 10, 2017
The Aspen Ideas Festival and Spotlight Health are held on the Aspen Institute campus in Aspen, Colorado. This year's Festival takes place June 22 - July 1.
The 13th annual Aspen Ideas Festival will focus on building civil discourse around the pressing issues America is facing both domestically and internationally. The 10-day Festival gets underway on June 22 with Spotlight Health. Discussions and presentations this year will reflect difficult questions the United States is grappling with, including technology’s impact on jobs and whether health care should be a human right.
From climate change and global conflicts to morality and artificial intelligence, the Festival’s program tracks span a wide range of themes. Kitty Boone, vice president and director of public programs for the Aspen Institute, says programming this year’s Festival has been a challenge because of the atmosphere of tension and disunity in the country. “We’re trying to capture the multiple sides of very important topics that have been raised in the presidential campaign, and now in the current presidency,” she says. The goal is to expose the Aspen Ideas audience to new ways of thinking through different lenses in American society.
One track that represents this exploration is The America I Know. Voices from around the country will be represented, says Boone, including Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Kansas-based United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Hamilton will join Abdullah Antepli, Duke University’s first Muslim chaplain, on stage to discuss how people view faith in modern America. 
In its fourth year, the popular Aspen Lecture series will convene some of the world’s greatest minds to provoke, inform, and challenge attendees. When planning this series, Boone says she’s on the lookout for brilliant thinkers who are passionate about a subject. “But they don’t necessarily have to be someone our guests have heard of,” she says. Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman will talk about the First Amendment; Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, will lecture on the economics of energy; and Kate Darling, research specialist at MIT Media Lab, will talk about artificial intelligence and robotics. 
This year, attendees will have the chance to engage in highly interactive sessions, like a case study led by David Moss, author of Democracy: A Case Study. Moss will challenge participants to delve into James Madison and the making of the Constitution. In a project called Creative Tensions, the design firm IDEO will guide participants through a collective conversation expressed in movement. “We’re building the Festival, both programmatically and structurally, to get people talking,” says Boone. “We need to go beyond polarization and appreciate, in a civil way, what others have to say. I hope we will achieve some level of that here at the Festival.”
By Marci Krivonen, Associate Editor/Producer, Public Programs