Saving the world in three minutes....
First session of the day, and the main tent - a glowing sea of Aeron chairs and flat screen monitors - is packed. Bloggers arrayed in the last row.
Fortune Managing Editor Eric Pooley welcomes the crowd and passes the baton to Aspen Institute president Walter Isaacson who in turn passes the mike to David Kirkpatrick, the closest thing this event has to an M.C.
Kirkpatrick in sandals takes over, toting a Seagull calling device that acts as a "speaker gong," and introduces the first of four three minute speeches.
First up is Seth Berkley of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative who more or less says our approach to AIDS is still woefully inadequate and mired in "short term thinking," despite the fact that this is now the "worst epidemic since the 14th century." Berkley makes the point that in "in a flat world, infectious diseases are all of our problems."
Next comes John Doerr, General Partner of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. Doerr, one of the world's most charmed venture capitalists, is here to talk about energy independence. Solving these problems, he says, "should be our generation's Apollo moonshot." Doerr thinks the debate suffers from too many rigid preconceptions, and activists overly-wedded to their positions. He then manages to fires off a few nice sound bites: "Technology optimists," he says, suffer from an "innovator's delusion," and he then suggests that a recent GM "gas subsidy" promotion should be called "No SUV left behind." The dismount? "Green tech is the mother of all markets. It is the economic, geopolictial and moral imperative of the 21st century."
Then comes Nabil Fahmy, the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States whose presentation is simple: the pressing problem in the Middle East is not war or violence, but lack of jobs. The Middle East needs to creat good jobs, says Fahmy, and he's looking to the West for help: "My proposal to you is, We live in a global society. Our success or failure will affect you. We need your help."
Mellody Hobson, of Ariel Capital Management took her minutes to lay down a contrarian attack on 401K plans. Americans aren't saving enough for retirement, she said, and the 401K is not a panacea. "The American working class is being put in the driver's seat," she said. "But they never got driver's ed." Bottom line: "My take on this unfolding pension crisis is that unless government takes meaningful steps, we may not pay now but we are certain to pay later."
Last up was Gary Flake, Technical Fellow at Microsoft who won the crowd over by beating up on Public Enemy #1 around here today: United Airlines. (Lots of griping following missed Denver to Aspen flights.) But Flake's message was simply that the top priority must be education. The U.S. educational system, he said, is in a "sorry state," and that "all the other problems hinge on having more education, and better education available." From there Flake, formerly a Yahoo biggie, managed to work his way around to a rather sweeping statement of the power of the Internet to solve some of our educational woes, saying "We will reach the full potential of the Internet when the bulk of human knowledege is online," and further that "humanity will only reach its full potential when humanity has this resource available."
Photo by Yunghi Kim
The Internet can completely and simply solve the US education problem. Each and every lesson in all public school classrooms should be centralized: authored by experts and delivered by engaging, knowledgable, inspiring speakers. The lesson will be played via the Internet in the classroom. The teachers within each classroom can then spend their time facilitating, reinforcing, answering questions, inspiring, maintaining order, and tutoring students. Most test administration and grading could be automated for individual tests.
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