When I got off my prep call with Dr. David Agus, preparing for his appearance at next week’s Health+Wealth of America conference, I was amazed. Turns out he has been focused pretty much fulltime on pandemic-related response ever since he was at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. Somebody in the main hall, the Congress Centre there, thrust a phone in his hand shortly after he arrived, and said “Talk to this guy.” His friend had been talking to a Chinese doctor with a dire message about a new virus spreading in Wuhan. That same infamous local doctor, who understood that a new and dangerous disease had emerged before just about anyone, died a week or so later, and became a Chinese national hero. Now Agus advises governors on how to handle our huge ongoing crisis. Yes we now have vaccines. But one governor told him their state will give any vaccine first to the poor. Another says he’ll prioritize those who pay their taxes. There is no consistency–no overall plan, he complains.
And another place where there is little consistency is in our politics. To help explain what we’ve been through, we’ve assembled a historic two-person panel including Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, a best-selling and unflattering portrayal of our president, and Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Donald Trump’s top communicator in the White House but then became an outspoken critic. This conversation will sizzle.
At least two other speakers will also help us take stock of where democracy is going—the incredible Stav Shaffir, who spent seven eventful years in the Israeli Knesset after rising up as a leader of the national cost-of-living protests of 2012. She helped reveal worrisome government financial secrets and, as the body’s youngest member, did an amazing job standing up to older leaders who were eager to keep doing things the old way. Now she is taking a break, heading Israel’s Green Party, and thinking about how democratic societies the world over are injured by social media. (Another speaker, longtime tech exec Maelle Gavet, will speak Tuesday about her new book Trampled by Unicorns, where she argues for a more humane, ethical, and empathetic approach to managing big tech.)
Looking forward, Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Fletcher, The Graduate School of Global Affairs at Tufts University, takes stock of tech in a Biden administration. Chakravorti is a longtime expert on the potential and perils of tech, and will outline a tech agenda for the new government. His point of view will surprise you.
When we do look forward, nothing is of greater concern than the severe consequences of continued global warming, caused by unrestrained emission of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Bill McDonough, one of the world’s most environmentally-oriented architects and designers, pioneered a notion called “Cradle to Cradle.” It emphasizes that materials we use must neither be wasted nor unnecessarily discarded after use. Now he’s put his attention to carbon dioxide, and as an advisor to the G20 countries and many others, is a major proponent of a radical transition to renewable energy combined with capturing carbon already in the atmosphere. But he doesn’t like the term “decarbonization” because it is inexact—in fact we ourselves are made of carbon, he notes. The issue, he says, is taking carbon from where it doesn’t belong and putting it where it does. He’ll open on Thursday.
One thing that has truly changed in this pandemic year is the attitude of the typical corporation to digital transformation. Even those who resisted it before now recognize there is no choice. That’s great, says speaker Malcolm Frank, who heads digital business at Cognizant. In his view, not only does such progress breed efficiency. It also sets up companies to address the other fast-growing urgent demand they face—to serve not only shareholders but all stakeholders, even while remaining financially healthy.
The conference, next Tuesday through Thursday Dec. 1-3 starting each day at 2pmEt, takes an inclusive business-oriented view of American health and wealth. It starts with a view into the American psyche from our friends at the Harris Poll, and ends Thursday with Marty Cooper, the now 91-year-old inventor of the original cellphone in the 1970s, when he was at Motorola. He is about to publish, inspiringly, a future-centric book called Cutting the Cord: The Cellphone Has Transformed Humanity. He’ll be interviewed by our regular (and deep-thinking) columnist Robin Raskin. There too much more for me to enumerate it all here.
The actual closing of the event will be shepherded by our own chairman, Jim McCann, founder of 1-800-FLOWERS. He always brings a veteran businessperson’s high-level analysis, so you’ll be glad to hear him.
You need to come to this conference. Register below!
(And in the meantime, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving—be techonomic and use Zoom to give thanks with relatives and friends who can’t be there…)