Schedule for 2018

Announcing the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival schedule! Find the session you're looking for by sorting by Program Tracks, Session Date, or search by session name or speaker.

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Downloadable Aspen Ideas Festival Agenda

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Plenary Session   Our Imperfect Union
Free Radical: One Man's Journey Into and Out of America's Most Violent Hate Movement
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm MDT on Friday, June 29, 2018
Join an intimate conversation on modern racism, hate, and the growing alt-right social movement with one of America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead leaders. Shaken from his old ideologies by tragedy, he’s now a leading figure in de-radicalizing people away from violence-based ideologies through his writing, his Free Radicals Project, and a controversial new MSNBC docu-series, “Breaking Hate.” What is this phenomenon of white nationalism, where did it come from, can we counter it — and should we all be terrified?
Hotel Jerome Ballroom
Plenary Session   Our Imperfect Union
Has Modern American Feminism Failed Us?
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm MDT on Friday, June 29, 2018
Discussing her just-published book Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense, author and political commentator Mona Charen takes aim at liberal assumptions around feminism and progress. She counts among feminism’s casualties family breakdown, declining female happiness, aimlessness among men, and increasing inequality. Marshaling copious social science research as well as her own experience as a professional, a wife, and a mother, she asks, is it time for a sexual ceasefire?
Wheeler Opera House Bar
Evening Session   Seismic Shifts
Of Fathers & Sons (Film)
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm MDT on Friday, June 29, 2018
After his Sundance award-winning documentary Return to Homs, Talal Derki returned to his Syrian homeland to live for two years with a radical Islamist family. His camera focuses mainly on the children, providing rare insight into what it means to grow up with a father whose dream is to establish an Islamic caliphate. Osama (13) and his brother Ayman (12) love and admire their father, but while Osama seems to follow the path of jihad, Ayman wants to go back to school. The film captures the moment when the children have to let go of their youth and become jihadi fighters, steeled by one thing they’ve already learned: They must not cry.
Paepcke Auditorium
Artificial Intimacy: How to Solve Loneliness in a Data-Driven World
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm MDT on Friday, June 29, 2018
As humans, we have an inherent and intense desire for connection. Social media and our always-on devices have simultaneously fulfilled and thwarted this desire, so what comes next as artificially intelligent companions become even more integrated into our lives? In this interactive conversation, two tech journalists will explore and demonstrate the technology that wants to be your best friend. The audience will participate as they probe the Silicon Valley philosophy that we can outsource our emotional needs and burdens to AI. Are we living in a “Black Mirror” moment?
Hotel Jerome Ballroom
Evening Session   Our Imperfect Union
‘The Federalist Radio Hour’ Podcast: The Future of the American Right (Live Taping)
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm MDT on Friday, June 29, 2018
What does the future of the American Right look like in the wake of the populist rise of Donald Trump? A group of conservatives with very different answers will debate the future in this live recording of “The Federalist Radio Hour,” a popular center-right podcast on PodcastOne. What role has Trumpism played in redefining the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and what does it mean for domestic and foreign policy in the future? Is the party of Ronald Reagan lost forever? Is Trump an aberration or the way of the future? What issues and trends will define the American right post-Trump?
St. Regis Hotel Ballroom
Sunrise Session  
Maroon Bells Exploration: Guided Walk through Aspen’s Wilderness Gateway (Bus Loads at the Limelight Hotel at 6:45 AM)
6:45 am - 9:00 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Follow local naturalists on a gentle walk along the pristine lake beneath the famous Maroon Bells peaks. Learn about the plants and animals that call this home and the secrets to their success in the Colorado wilderness. First come, first served to the first 50 participants. Dress warm!
Maroon Bells Amphitheatre
Sunrise Session  
Yoga
7:00 am - 7:45 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Anderson Park
Sunrise Session   The Genius of Animals
Early Birds: Morning Walk with Aspen's Feathered Friends
7:00 am - 8:00 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Follow a local naturalist and bird expert on a serene morning birding excursion. You’ll learn about behavior, identification, and habitat while meandering through riverside Aspen groves. Birders of all ability levels are welcome. Meet in the lobby at the Walter Isaacson Center. First come, first served. Limited to 20 participants (bring binoculars if you have them).
Aspen Meadows, Walter Isaacson Center
Breakfast Talk   Seismic Shifts
The (Un)Making of an Extremist
8:00 am - 8:50 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Recent years have seen rising political extremism in both Europe and the United States, from Neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville to ISIS jihadists in Brussels. One of the hardest challenges facing counterterrorism officials is what to do with the thousands of extremists who, for a variety of reasons, decide to step back from the battlefield. Hear former extremists discuss how they rebuilt their lives after extremism, and how the government and private sector can encourage would-be extremists to rejoin society?
Doerr-Hosier Center, McNulty Room
Breakfast Talk   Moved by Music
Getting the Chills: Evolutionary Clues to Music that Moves
8:00 am - 8:50 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Music exists in every human culture and drives a multibillion-dollar industry, and yet the vast majority of people who enjoy music do instinctively, without any formal training. So where does music come from, and what is is good for? Drawing from studies in neuroscience, psychology, clinical science, and data science, Dr. Psyche Loui will discuss why we feel emotions in response to music, and the surprising evolutionary advantages music might confer to humans.
Koch Building, Lauder Room
Plenary Session   Viewpoints
In Conversation with James Comey
9:10 am - 10:00 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Greenwald Pavilion
Plenary Session   Aspen Lectures
Take from the Rich, Give to the Poor
10:20 am - 11:10 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
What divides us, and what do we share? When moments of mystic clarity come to us, what do they reveal? In this talk, art history professor and author Alexander Nemerov recounts a trip he took to Chico, California to visit the site where the Sherwood Forest scenes in the 1938 Hollywood movie The Adventures of Robin Hood were filmed. Meditating on history and fiction, and love and loss, he explores the relation of Robin Hood’s famous words — “Take from the rich, give to the poor” — as they relate to his own life.
Paepcke Auditorium
Plenary Session   The Genius of Animals
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
10:20 am - 11:10 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
The science is clear that humans are not alone in their capacity to think and feel. Studies and anecdotes reveal similarities between human and non-human beings in self-awareness, empathy, communication, and even grief. From the whale who guides a lost sailor home in the fog, to the wild elephants who presciently appear at the fence of a reserve before the arrival of rescued orphans, animals don’t just reflect components of our intelligence, they maintain a uniquely mysterious cognition of their own. Safina, our ecologist guide, has a contagious enthusiasm for the whales, wolves, and elephants he observes, and challenges us to consider: If we appreciate that animals value their own lives, could we be inspired to let them be?
Doerr-Hosier Center, McNulty Room
Breakout   Moved by Music
Creating Space for Music: A Conversation with Frank Gehry
10:20 am - 11:10 am MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Acoustics, intimacy, clarity: One could argue that how and where we listen to music is as important to the experience as the music itself. “The orchestra has to feel the audience, the audience has to feel the orchestra,” said architect Frank Gehry on his design of the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, which opened in 2017. “When they do that, the orchestra plays better, and the audience hears better.” What is it about design that brings music to life? Gehry, who has designed numerous buildings for music and theatrical performance, will share his perspectives with a formidable client, Michael Eisner, a driving force behind the creation and construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Produced in collaboration with the Aspen Institute Arts Program.
Greenwald Pavilion
Breakout   Our Imperfect Union
Cape Up: A Conversation with Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie on Leading through the Toughest Challenges (Live Taping)
11:30 am - 12:20 pm MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Robert Runcie always hoped that the students of his district would have a chance to participate in the national conversation; he just couldn’t have imagined that it would be a horrific mass shooting — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL — that would compel them to speak out. Runcie, who immigrated to the United Stats as a child, knew the power of education to change his own life, and was determined for his students to know it through rigorous curriculum, a mandatory civic engagement program, and progressive approaches to discipline. How have his leadership philosophies stood up to this ultimate, tragic test?
Doerr-Hosier Center, McNulty Room
Bias in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
11:30 am - 12:20 pm MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
More and more, the decisions that rule our lives are made by algorithms. From the news we see in our feeds, to whether or not we qualify for a mortgage, to the rates we pay for health insurance. And while there are demonstrable biases against marginalized communities caused by algorithms, some say the machines are innocent — they’re just doing math. But as more systems rely on big data and artificial intelligence, bias and discrimination is rampant. How do we protect ourselves when we’re at the mercy of the few who create the algorithms? Should there be a universal set of ethical standards? Is regulation needed? How can we be more savvy about the models that increasingly, and imperceptibly, rule our lives?
Doerr-Hosier Center, Kaufman Room
Breakout   Seismic Shifts
Myths and Realities of the Next Computing Revolution
11:30 am - 12:20 pm MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
No single technology on the horizon offers the promise — or the peril — of quantum computing. This long-imagined leap in computer power could radically transform everything from weather forecasting to cryptography, and, with its arrival, make every existing encryption tool instantly breakable. What’s the reality of this new idea, and just how close are we to achieving it?
Koch Tent
Breakout   Seismic Shifts
The Age of Euroscepticism
11:30 am - 12:20 pm MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
The grand European experiment of a shared currency, economy, and joint governance — a Nobel Peace Prize-worthy idea that has kept the continent at peace longer than ever before — today faces unprecedented tests, including Brexit, terrorism, a new anti establishment government in Italy, and rising nationalism fueled (at least in part) by a flood of immigrants from the Syrian war. How should the continent move forward — and has the idea of a united Europe outlived its usefulness?
Paepcke Auditorium
Breakout   Viewpoints
President Carter: The White House Years
11:30 am - 12:20 pm MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
Almost 40 years in the making, a chief White House domestic policy advisor presents an intimate firsthand account of an often unappreciated — yet accomplished and consequential — one-term president. With details pulled from notes of every meeting, conversation, and interview he attended, Eizenstat gives us a front row seat to the Carter White House, brought to life with personal profiles of the men and women who made history during the turbulence of the 1970s. David Rubenstein, President Carter's deputy domestic policy adviser, guides this candid conversation about America’s political past.
Aspen Meadows, Madeleine K. Albright Pavilion
Breakout   Viewpoints
The Drive for Access and Excellence in Higher Education
11:30 am - 12:20 pm MDT on Saturday, June 30, 2018
The University of Chicago has just announced new funding to expand access to a broader talent pool of well-deserving applicants, ending requirements to send in scores for ACT and SAT tests. The College Board has revised the SAT to emphasize classroom study and offers free practice tests through top online-ed site Khan Academy, to give every student the opportunity to prepare well. How should universities and colleges measure merit and success? University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer and College Board President and CEO David Coleman address the gnarly questions surrounding the challenges of college admissions with former college president (and now Aspen Institute CEO) Dan Porterfield.
Koch Building, Booz Allen Hamilton Room

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