Schedule for 2017

Announcing the 2017 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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Is the Internet a 'Gift from God'?
10:20 am - 11:20 am MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Pope Francis has praised the internet as "a gift from God," extolling the possibilities it provides for "encounter and solidarity." But on many days, the internet doesn't feel so much like a gift as a curse. Increased access to information through new technologies that connect us has changed the way we live – from our need to immediately respond to emails to our constant pull towards our devices to see if someone has “liked” our latest post. How can we improve not just the relationships with each other, but also with the technology that makes them possible? Connected systems and big data analysis are fundamentally changing how we interact with devices ranging from phones, to appliances, and even vehicles. These new systems offer the potential to better understand our behaviors and meet individual needs. We’ll hear from business leaders working to find new and unexplored ways to use connected technologies and big data to make life better, in areas such as fitness, transportation, and communication.
Koch Tent
Breakout   Making It in the USA
The Entrepreneur’s Journey: Systems Change through Disruptive Innovation
10:20 am - 11:20 am MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Entrepreneurs view the world differently. Where others see challenges, they see opportunities. In an age of globalization and hyperconnectivity, a new class of visionaries is tackling the world’s challenges through disruptive innovation. In a conversation with the Aspen Institute’s Peggy Clark, Care.com founder, chairwoman, and CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo shares how her experiences set her on a path to solve the unexpected infrastructure issue holding the key to our global economy: care. Today, Care.com is the world’s largest online marketplace helping families find care for their loved ones and helping caregivers find meaningful jobs — demonstrating that for-profits enterprises can have significant social impact.
Kresge Building, Hines Room
Lunch Session on Campus   Inside Creativity
The Power of Creativity, Filmed Entertainment, and Animation
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
A discussion about how Hollywood is adapting to an increasingly cluttered and fragmented marketplace by embracing creative business solutions. Chris Meledandri, the founder and CEO of animation powerhouse Illumination Entertainment, and Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, will look at both the macro and micro ways that the film business is being forced to think outside the box in order to thrive in today’s fast-changing entertainment industry. From the way films like Despicable Me 3 and Sing are created to how they are marketed to an increasingly hard-to-reach audience, the conversation will examine the way creativity is being redefined in Hollywood.
Doerr-Hosier Center, McNulty Room
Lunch Session on Campus   The America I Know
Black in America Since MLK
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
How far have we come toward racial equality since the civil rights era? What does it mean to be black today? How can we have had a black president while events like Ferguson continue to occur? Explore the tremendous gains and persistent challenges of these years, from key events and turning points to the struggles and victories of daily life, ideas that are not often said out loud, and questions that many are afraid to ask.
Paepcke Auditorium
Lunch Session on Campus   Reimagining the Internet
#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
In a well-functioning democracy, people do not live in echo chambers or filter bubbles; rather, citizens are exposed to myriad ideas and perspectives even if not their own. Constitutional scholar Cass Sunstein suggests that our current obsession with social media and our online friend groups narrow the scope of the kinds of daily and serendipitous interactions that might otherwise broaden our perspectives, nurture our curiosity, and fuel our compassion. What happens to a society in which its citizens fail to listen to one another? Why does it matter?
Aspen Meadows Restaurant
Lunch Session off Campus   The Genetics Revolution
The End of Sex and the Future of Baby Making
12:00 pm - 12:55 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Within 20, maybe 40, years, most people in developed countries will stop having sex for the purpose of reproduction. Instead, prospective parents will be told as much as they wish to know about the genetic makeup of dozens of embryos, and they will pick one or two for implantation, gestation, and birth. And it will be safe, lawful, and free. Stanford’s Hank Greely joins science writer Carl Zimmer for a conversation about the revolutionary biological technologies that make this future a seeming inevitability and the deep ethical and legal challenges humanity faces as a result.
Hotel Jerome Ballroom
Lunch Session off Campus   Moral Commitments, Moral Choices
The Nature of Evil
12:00 pm - 12:55 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
This provocative discussion between a psychologist and a journalist brings together two perspectives on the nature of evil — one that relies on psychological research, the other on interviews with followers of one of the most violent groups on earth. Yale cognitive scientist Paul Bloom, author of Just Babies and Against Empathy, draws upon his fascinating research on the origins and nature of human morality, and Atlantic correspondent Graeme Wood discusses his in-depth study of the men and women who feel the pull of ISIS, published in his recent book, The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State.
St. Regis Hotel Ballroom
Aspen Policy Series  
Philanthropy, Legitimacy, and a Listening Ear
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Trust is humanity’s most valuable asset. It provides the societal glue on which we rely. Without it, we cannot solve large problems together. Yet trust is at an all-time low, with majorities in the United States and around the world reporting that they don’t trust their governments and — more worrisome — that they do not trust one another. This trust deficit need not be a permanent condition. Philanthropies and the nonprofits they support not only work to address real problems — modelling collaborative problem-solving, “getting stuff done” — but they build social capital in the process. The most effective among them remain close to the “customer,” gaining feedback from the beneficiaries of their work. How can philanthropists maintain a listening ear when pursuing their giving strategy?
Koch Building, Lauder Room
Luncheon Roundtable   Viewpoints
Roundtable Lunch
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
1. How Do We Build Bridges Across the Most Controversial Issues? - Adam Hamilton | 2. Syria: What Comes Next? - Qutaiba Idlbi | 3. What Is Our Moral Obligation to Tackle Food Waste? - Carey Myers | 4. Can You Trust Anything You Read? - Yvonne Rolzhausen | 5. What Do We Do When Four Million Truck Drivers Are Replaced by Self-Driving Cars? - Jonathan Taplin
Marble Garden Tent
Luncheon Roundtable   Viewpoints
Roundtable Lunch
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
What Are We Thinking? Understanding 21st Century Public Opinion - Michael Dimock
Paepcke Gallery
Luncheon Roundtable   Viewpoints
Roundtable Lunch
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Six Months into the Trump Presidency, What's Next, and What Really Matters? - Yoni Appelbaum and McKay Coppins
The Atlantic Tent
Deep Dive   The Art of Change
Afternoon Jam Session
1:15 pm - 2:45 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Are you woke? The Afternoon Jam Session brings together some of the nation’s leading young poets, Jookin’ innovator Lil Buck, writer/activist Yosimar Reyes, and more special guests for a spirited hour of cross-disciplinary performance, collaboration, and discussion. Lyrical, musical, and physical acrobatics will introduce ideas and issues central to this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival — from truth and identity to making it in the America we know. This session is led by dancer turned director Damian Woetzel.
Paepcke Auditorium
Deep Dive: Can Our Democracy Survive the Internet?
1:15 pm - 2:45 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
The 2016 presidential campaign broke down previously established rules and distinctions between insiders and outsiders and various types of media — all accelerated by the Internet. The velocity of information and viral communication can create dysfunction in campaigns and within democracy. And for a relatively small investment in resources, a country's media can be infiltrated by bots, trolls, hackers and leakers, often without much concrete evidence connecting the attack to the state sponsor. How do we fight information attacks? How do we repair polarization created by the Internet? One of the major criticisms of how the Internet has shaped democracy is its tendency to polarize public opinion. Is online filtering pushing us into "filter bubbles" and echo chambers? If so, can we solve the problem or is it a structural issue of online discourse that we have to adapt to?
Greenwald Pavilion
Deep Dive: Lying, Bullshitting, and the Meaning of Truth
1:15 pm - 2:45 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
When is the truth the truth, a lie a lie, and what constitutes mere BS in an era that many refer to as “post-truth”? We address the kinds of critical and largely ethical questions we confront in our modern-day discourse across this deep dive, exploring the intent of the First Amendment (does it protect lies?), the reasons we lie (or, in fact, are we just strategically misleading?), and, through the lens of a lawyer, a fact checker, and a scientist, the ways various of us define and “get to” the truth.
Doerr-Hosier Center, McNulty Room
World Order 2.0
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Rana Foroohar, global business columnist of the Financial Times, examine American foreign policy and the crisis of the old order. Given 21st century challenges posed by terrorism, climate change, and cyberwarfare within a context in which the policies and institutions that have guided us for decades no longer seem to suffice, is it time for a new approach to the world, a total system upgrade?
Paepcke Auditorium
Is Tech Due for a Moral Reckoning?
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
In the past, popular movements have forced major industries to confront their need for ethical reform. But today’s media, policymakers, and activists don’t yet seem prepared to fix the tech sector’s problems. So how will reform happen? Why does tech need to be reformed? The short answer is, tech is changing everyone’s lives, but while there are many benefits of today’s tech that we love, there are significant new economic and social risks that tech companies are introducing to society. When tech companies make decisions that affect our lives, we don’t have any way to appeal those decisions, or to meaningfully affect change. That’s a situation ripe for reform.
Koch Building, Lauder Room
Is Democracy in Danger?
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Authoritarian populists are gaining power from Ankara to Athens, from Warsaw to Washington. Meanwhile, popular support for democratic values is sliding in many countries around the world. Is our political system in existential danger? And what can we do to save it?
Kresge Building, Hines Room
Breakout   Making It in the USA
Why Investing in Good Companies Makes Economic Sense
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
Can companies determined to support solutions to some of society’s larger dilemmas make the kinds of returns that Wall Street — which judges bottom-line performance above all — happy? Yes. Take a cue from Capricorn Investment Group, born from a belief that values-based, sustainable investment practices can enhance return rates. Its mission is "to deliver extraordinary investment results by leveraging market forces to scale solutions to global problems." Bank of America, among the world’s largest banks, is equally committed to a business strategy that puts sustainability first. Indeed, there are markets for socially responsible investments that work for society and the shareholder.
Doerr-Hosier Center, McNulty Room
Can DNA Help Us Grapple with the Past?
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
We know DNA is a master key that unlocks medical and forensic secrets, but genetic testing is also impacting urgent social issues around race in America. DNA-based techniques are being used in a variety of ways, including to grapple with the unfinished business of slavery: to foster reconciliation, to establish ties with African ancestral homelands, to rethink and sometimes alter citizenship, and to make legal claims for slavery reparations specifically based on ancestry. Alondra Nelson joins the Aspen Institute’s Michele Norris for a conversation about DNA as a portal to the past, revealing social traumas and historical injustices that resonate today and into the future.
Koch Building, Booz Allen Hamilton Room
Building Smells: The Art of Perfumery and the Science of Biotechnology
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT on Monday, June 26, 2017
With each breath, countless volatile molecules rush over our olfactory bulb, giving us a picture of the chemical world around us. In this hands-on (and nose-on) workshop, you'll learn how complex scents are built: by a plant’s biochemistry, by perfumers, and by genetic engineers altering the metabolism of yeast.
Buckminster Fuller Dome

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