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Aspen Ideas to Go


Aspen Ideas to Go is a show about big ideas that will open your mind. Featuring compelling conversations with the world’s top thinkers and doers from a diverse range of disciplines, Aspen Ideas to Go gives you front-row access to the Aspen Ideas Festival and other events presented by the Aspen Institute.


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Aspen Ideas to Go is a show about big ideas that will open your mind. Featuring compelling conversations with the world’s top thinkers and doers from a diverse range of disciplines, Aspen Ideas to Go gives you front-row access to the Aspen Ideas Festival and other events presented by the Aspen Institute.




What Makes a Life Worth Living?

For years, Yale undergraduate students have lined up to take a wildly popular course called Life Worth Living. Bucking the highly competitive tone you might expect at an Ivy League school, the class teaches students to look beyond traditional markers of success for deeper meaning. Theology professor Miroslav Volf is one of the co-teachers, and also one of the co-authors of a book version of the course that came out last year called “Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most.” Podcast and TV host Kelly Corrigan invited Volf to introduce the book and start an extended and lively conversation with a wide variety of writers and thinkers at the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival. After setting the stage with Volf, Corrigan poses probing questions to Mónica Guzmán, the author of “I Never Thought of It That Way” and a senior fellow at Braver Angels, James Ijames, a playwright who won a 2022 Pulitzer for his play “Fat Ham,” Alexandra Reeve Givens, a lawyer and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Rainn Wilson, the actor who played Dwight Schrute on the TV show “The Office” and recently wrote a book about spirituality called “Soul Boom.”


Fighting HIV Around the World

In the late 1990s, HIV and AIDS was killing people in Sub-Saharan Africa at an astonishing rate. Generations of children were growing up without parents and the workforce of civil society was hollowing out. Drugs effectively treating the disease were just becoming available, and the George W. Bush administration wanted to explore a way to bring treatment to Africa. Anthony Fauci was head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the time, and under near-secrecy, he was assigned to formulate a plan via several fact-finding trips to the continent. When the outline of the program came together, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist rallied support in congress and led the passage of legislation for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. In today’s talk from Aspen Ideas: Health, Fauci and Frist meet on stage about two decades after the start of PEPFAR to tell the story of how it got started and reflect on where it’s gone since. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen moderates the conversation.


Our Changing World with Thomas Friedman

The world seems to be moving and evolving faster than ever before, and democratic ideals are under threat in many countries around the globe. New York Times columnist and journalist Thomas Friedman has spent his career learning how to see things from many sides and identify the seams in the fabric of society. He believes we’re at a moment in time when it’s critical that we focus our energy on coming together and rebuilding functional democracy. In the closing session of the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival last June, Friedman shares his experiences of reporting in the Middle East and at home in the United States, and reflects on witnessing the best and worst of humanity.


Forging a Path to Ethical A.I.

It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to put the generative artificial intelligence genie back in the bottle. But we might still be able to prevent some potential damage. Tools like Bard and ChatGPT are already being used in the workplace, educational settings, health care, scientific research, and all over social media. What kind of guardrails do we need to prevent bad actors from causing the worst imaginable outcomes? And who can put those protections in place and enforce them? A panel of A.I. experts from the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival shares hopes and fears for this kind of technology, and discusses what can realistically be done by private, public and civil society sectors to keep it in check. Lila Ibrahim, COO of the Google A.I. company DeepMind, joins social science professor Alondra Nelson and IBM’s head of privacy and trust, Christina Montgomery, for a conversation about charting a path to ethical uses of A.I. CNBC tech journalist Deirdre Bosa moderates the conversation and takes audience questions.


Redemption Song?

History has the power to teach us what to do in the present, but do we actually make good use of that tool? Many events in our recent past might suggest otherwise. American history is complex and full of pain, suffering and missteps. Harvard professor Imani Perry’s interdisciplinary work draws from African American studies, legal history and cultural studies to find insights into how we live today. In this talk from the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival, she joins author, historian and Vanderbilt professor Jon Meacham for a conversation about how to reckon with the United States’ difficult history. The two touch on the Civil Rights movement, the value of civics education and a collective mindset and what simply getting along with our neighbors can and cannot accomplish.


Our Modern Sex Lives

After millennia of human existence, we’re still figuring out and talking constantly about one of our most fundamental behaviors – sex. Despite the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s and the growth of sex positivity in recent decades, a lot of people still report having a lot of bad sex. The reasons for that are varied and multiple, but culture has a role to play, and we can help each other get to the root of what might be making sex feel unsatisfying, or even scary or shameful. In this panel from the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival, the renowned sex columnist Dan Savage, longtime author of the Savage Love advice column, joins Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, author of “Rethinking Sex: A Provocation,” for a candid conversation about building healthy sex lives and finding physical connection. Kelly Corrigan, the host of the PBS show “Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan,” moderates the conversation and carefully chooses questions from the audience.


Parenting Teens and Young Adults in Challenging Times

Teenagers and young adults today are dealing with challenges their parents never experienced and couldn’t have prepared for. Nobody has a map and the road to resolution can be bumpy for all involved. Two adolescent psychologists published books last year aimed at helping parents understand and empathize with what their kids are going through and guiding everyone toward helpful solutions. Clinical psychologist and author Lisa Damour wrote “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable and Compassionate Adolescents,” after demand for her professional help skyrocketed during the pandemic. Developmental psychologist and researcher Laurence Steinberg released “You and Your Adult Child: How to Grow Together in Challenging Times,” to meet a need in society for more guidance on adult children moving back in with parents and going through tough periods. Damour and Steinberg interview each other about their books at the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival and take questions from the audience.


Decoding Animal Communication with A.I.

Scientists could actually be close to being able to decode animal communication and figure out what animals are saying to each other. And more astonishingly, we might even find ways to talk back. The study of sonic communication in animals is relatively new, and researchers have made a lot of headway over the past few decades with recordings and human analysis. But recent advancements in artificial intelligence are opening doors to parsing animal communication in ways that haven’t been close to possible until now. In this talk from the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival in partnership with Vox’s “Unexplainable” podcast, two experts on animal communication and the digital world come together to explain what may come next. Tragically, a few months after this conversation was recorded in June, one of the panelists, Karen Bakker, passed away unexpectedly. Bakker was a professor at the University of British Columbia who looked at ways digital tools can address our most pressing problems. She also wrote the book “The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the World of Animals and Plants.” The UBC Geography department wrote of Bakker: “We will remember Karen as multi-faceted and superbly talented in all realms.” Aza Raskin, the co-founder of the Earth Species Project, a nonprofit trying to decode animal communication using A.I., joined Bakker for this discussion. The host of “Unexplainable,” Noam Hassenfeld, interviewed Bakker and Raskin.


The Hot Truth About Menopause

Menopause is a normal phase of life, but can nonetheless be a challenging and confusing time for women reaching middle age. As a culture, we talk about the details of menopausal transition very little, and women often have to walk a gauntlet of sellers offering dubious cures and treatments before getting to medically sound and reliable solutions. Even experts frequently struggle to find the right combination of treatments for a particular patient’s hot flashes, memory lapses, sleep issues, sexual functioning changes and other symptoms that so many women experience. Two obstetrician and gynecologists meet on stage at the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival to shed light on the latest menopause research, hormone replacement treatments and the misinformation clouding women’s paths to relief. Jen Gunter wrote “The Menopause Manifesto” and has been called “the internet’s OB/GYN.” Nanette Santoro has helped run several studies on menopause, including the Women’s Health Initiative and the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). She’s also the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. New York Times health reporter Margot Sanger-Katz moderates the conversation.


From King Lear to Succession with Brian Cox

William Shakespeare started writing plays in an era when popular theater was exploding and cementing its place in culture. Audiences spanned economic classes, professions and educational backgrounds, and he was keenly aware of the need to write for all attendees. He frequently wrestled with topics that retain relevance for society across centuries, such as power struggles, relationships, politics, and love. Not only are Shakespeare’s plays still performed constantly, but his storylines and themes are also frequently borrowed for contemporary entertainment. The Scottish actor Brian Cox has performed classic Shakespeare roles, including King Lear, hundreds of times on stage. Most recently he played the iconic patriarch Logan Roy on HBO’s “Succession,” a modern King Lear story. Simon Godwin, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, D.C., is tasked with keeping Shakespeare’s work fresh with every new season and reaching a broad cross-section of audience members. Both joined entertainment leader and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner for a conversation at the festival about Shakepeare’s timeless messages and storylines.


Arthur Brooks on Managing Your Emotions

Living a happy life isn’t as simple as having a smile on your face all the time. We often think that our negative emotions should be minimized and repressed, but acknowledging and managing them is actually key to achieving a healthy baseline. Author and Harvard professor Arthur Brooks studies the latest happiness research across behavioral science, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. He shares his findings with the business school students he teaches and with the general public he writes for, and explains how to understand and manage our emotions. We cannot control our emotional responses to the world, he says, but we can learn to control how we react to them.


The Empathy Diaries with Sherry Turkle

The human capacity for empathy allows us to communicate, collaborate and understand each other. But we all know empathy isn’t always easy, and we can feel worn down by the effort. MIT professor and researcher Sherry Turkle studies empathy, and particularly how technology can undermine our natural human tendencies to connect. After several books and many decades of work compiling research on other people, Turkle looked inward to write, “The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir.” She explores how she arrived at her subject matter, which she says is not just a profession, but a calling. In this interview from the archives, Tricia Johnson, the editorial director of the Aspen Ideas Festival, interviews Turkle on stage at the 2021 festival. The event was Turkle’s first in-person book talk since the Covid pandemic hit. They discuss the role and power of being an outsider, how to build your empathy muscles, and the vital function of long-term relationships.


A Deeper Look at the Immigrant Experience

The stories we hear about migrants trying to escape difficult circumstances tend to focus on hardship, conflict, statistics and policy. We rarely get a deep look at any of the people risking their lives to cross the U.S. border or take a boat to Europe, and we don’t get to know or understand them as fellow humans. Writer Javier Zamora came to the U.S. when he was nine years old, as an unaccompanied minor. Over the nine weeks it took to make the journey, he had to put his trust in a small group of strangers and the man paid to get him into the country. He revisited that experience to write a memoir called “Solito” that shows him and other migrants in full dimensions. Novelist Jamie Ford’s most recent book, “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy,” explores migration in a different time and place, along with the ways migrants’ decisions stretch across eras. Afong Moy was a Chinese woman brought to the U.S. as a performer in 1834. She became extremely well-known across the country, but remained a spectacle and was not offered citizenship or long-term opportunity. Ford researched his own family to help write the book, starting with his great-grandfather who came from China to work in a mine in Nevada. TODAY show co-host Jenna Bush Hager selected both books for her book club, “Read With Jenna,” and interviews the authors.


On Being in a Body: Kate Bowler with Krista Tippett

When Duke divinity school professor Kate Bowler wrote her best-selling memoir, “Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved),” she was grappling with the consequences of a shocking cancer diagnosis. Many of the common messages about hardship, tragedy and success that she’d grown up hearing – and even studied as a religious scholar – no longer seemed to make sense. She was told she may likely die from her cancer, and at age 35 with a husband and young son, she wasn’t ready for that. Bowler talks about how being sick changed her relationship to her life, her body and her spirituality with Krista Tippett, the host of the public radio show and podcast On Being. This special On Being episode was taped live with an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival.


The Sober Curiosity Movement

For adults, the pressure to drink at social engagements, work events, restaurants or almost anywhere outside the home can feel constant. Recent research has found that “no amount or kind of alcohol is good for your health,” and a wide variety of health problems can be linked to drinking. The growing “sober curious” movement offers people a way to think about cutting down on alcohol consumption at their own pace and in their own way, without the stigma that sometimes comes with sobriety. Quality non-alcoholic alternatives are more available than ever before, and sober bars and gathering spaces have popped up in a few cities. An expert panel from Aspen Ideas: Health breaks down sober curiosity for an audience at the festival. Chris Marshall is a mental health counselor and the founder of Sans Bar, a sober bar in Austin, Texas. Jen Batchelor started Kin Euphorics, a functional non-alcoholic beverage brand. And Katie Witkiewitz directs a substance abuse program at the University of New Mexico. Journalist and founding editor of Healthcare Brew, Amanda Eisenberg, moderates the conversation.


Work and Life Advice for the Nonlinear Path

In today’s world, we tend to switch jobs more frequently than previous generations, and are more likely to have multiple jobs. Side gigs where we express passions or find meaning are also common, and many juggle additional roles as caregivers and community members, as people always have. In short, many of us are focused on a lot more than just climbing a corporate ladder. Our careers and lives aren’t linear, although a lot of the traditional advice about them is. Where do we look for updated guidance? In this panel discussion, three authors with recent books on finding our way in the world come together for a discussion on making life choices in modern times. Writer and speaker Bruce Feiler interviewed hundreds of people across the country for “The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World.” Wired Magazine co-founder and co-chair of the Long Now Foundation, Kevin Kelly, compiled his lessons and experiences into a book inspired by his children called “Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier.” And journalist Joanne Lipman moderates the conversation and shares what she learned writing “Next! The Power of Reinvention in Life and Work.”


What Happened to the American Dream?

Most Americans today would agree that the dream of supporting a family and living a good life on one full time salary is not available to vast numbers of people. Wages have not risen at the pace of profits over the last several decades, and work with benefits is far from guaranteed for many. In his 2023 book, “Ours Was the Shining Future: The Story of the American Dream,” New York Times writer David Leonhardt explains how we got here. He points out that corporate culture moved from a communitarian mindset to an individual one, government policies deprioritized workers, and labor unions weakened, all contributing to where we are today. Businessman, economics advisor and co-founder and co-chair of The Carlyle Group investment firm, David Rubenstein, talks with Leonhardt about his book on stage at the festival. The two discuss the drivers of economic progress and consider what would bring the American Dream back.


How Do We Put Guardrails on A.I.?

Artificial intelligence is making world-changing advances every day. But these powerful tools can be used for malicious and nefarious purposes just as easily as they can be used for good. How can society put guardrails on this technology to ensure that we build the most safe and responsible version of the future, where A.I. is assistive rather than weaponized? Google’s senior vice president of research, technology and society, James Manyika, is trying to help solve this problem. He’s been working in A.I. since the 1990s, and is vice chair of Biden’s National AI Advisory Committee. He talks with New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman about finding the right balance between allowing innovation to flourish and preventing runaway negative outcomes.


Shakespeare in Contemporary America, with 'Fat Ham' Creator James Ijames

Shakespeare is ubiquitous in literature classes and theater, but the avenues of relating to his work are not always clear to young people and modern audiences. Some, such as Shakespeare scholar and professor Ayanna Thompson, argue that his plays make sense as living, breathing, adaptable instruments that can be shaped to fit the times. Playwright, director and professor James Ijames created a prime example of interpretation with his play “Fat Ham,” an adaptation of Hamlet that won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The two come together on stage at the festival to talk about what makes a good Shakespeare adaptation work, and why people have been inspired to run with his work and messages for centuries. Oskar Eustis, NYU Tisch School of the Arts professor and the artistic director of The Public Theater in New York, where “Fat Ham” premiered, moderates the conversation.


Building a Zero Carbon American Future

Climate change catastrophes are already happening with increasing regularity, and it’s clear we need to take action. The Biden administration has set a target of zero carbon emissions in the United States by 2050. Reaching that ambitious goal will require a major transition in many sectors, including energy, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and construction. John Podesta leads the Office of Domestic Climate Policy in the White House, and is focused on implementing the projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest investment in clean energy the country has ever made. As he puts it, we have to get good at building things again, with an eye toward a carbon-free future. Podesta talks with Noticias Telemundo reporter Vanessa Hauc about what it will take to meet our climate goals, and what success looks like.