Global Upheaval, Democratic Decline,
and U.S. National Security
How can we make sense of the contradictory forces that are buffeting our young 21st century? On the one hand, more people have risen from poverty, fewer people are dying in war, and more women are attending school, than at any time in human history. Yet democracy is in a worldwide recession, anger at elites is fueling illiberal populism, and global institutions such as the EU, NATO, and the UN refugee agency are straining to function. What are the connections between these trends, and what are their underlying drivers? How do these macro forces affect our health, wealth, and well-being – from diseases of despair to the loss of local news? How does the rise of autocracy, authoritarianism, and illiberalism affect U.S. national security? And perhaps most importantly, what future will bring about our best lives, and what can we do to bring it into being? Through readings from Aristotle to Branko Milovanic’s elephant graph and scenario exercises, this seminar will explore these questions.
Content Moderation in the Digital Age
Electronic media has fundamentally changed how global citizens consume and share information. Technological advancements have effectively eliminated barriers to publication and dissemination of content, fostered extraordinary innovation, and greatly empowered users and entrepreneurs. Yet, especially over the past few years, serious questions have been raised about technology companies’ ability to moderate content that appears on their digital platforms. How should technology companies police their platforms, and what standards should they use to make difficult judgment calls about what speech is permissible? How do we preserve the dream of a democratic internet and simultaneously prevent the spread of false, misleading or inflammatory content? Should technology companies even be in the business of regulating access to their platforms?
This seminar will delve into the difficult questions technology companies face when balancing the web’s founding principles of openness against concerns that content platforms are being used to spread malicious information and amplify discord. Seminar participants will develop a nuanced understanding of the challenges of content moderation at a global scale and review case studies of challenging content decisions. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the conceptual and operational frameworks digital platforms employ to navigate difficult content issues in an increasingly connected and complex world.
The Business of Race -- From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration -- and the Need for an Inclusive Economy
“Racial caste systems do not require racial hostility or overt bigotry to thrive. They only need racial indifference.” -- Michelle Alexander
Race has played--and continues to play--a significant role in the shaping of the American economy and the lives of Americans of all racial identities. Inspired by historical narratives such as the New York Times 1619 Project and the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, multiracial co-moderators will lead a diverse group of participants through discussions about the historic role business leaders have played in creating racial injustice and advancing racial justice in America. What is the legacy of slavery, racial terror and segregation and its impact today on our economy, our democracy and our humanity? In what ways has the experience of other racial and ethnic groups been similar or different from the black experience in the American economic system? What positive examples exist today of business leadership to advance racial justice? What would racial justice and an inclusive economy look like and what assets do business and civic leaders have to create them?
Disruptive Reconstruction: Making the American Dream Real Again… and for All
Moderator: Jim Shelton, the Chief Impact and Investment Officer at Blue Meridian Partners.
Over a 40-year period, the probability of realizing the American Dream – earning more than one’s parents – has declined from a virtual certainty for over 90% of Americans to at best a 50/50 shot. Despite decades of efforts to decrease poverty, increase mobility, and redevelop communities, who your parents are and where you are born are still the biggest predictors of your life chances. These factors combined with the inescapable compounding of wealth and privilege make unsustainable levels of inequity appear inevitable. How can the new science of human development and modern approaches to and tools for social sector innovation disrupt these trends? How can marginalized populations overcome historic inequities exacerbated by the macro-forces driving the modern economy and future of work to become full participants in the American Dream and Promise? This seminar will explore new perspectives on the challenges and solutions to one of the nation’s most important and pernicious dilemmas.
“Happiness is the Aim of Life”:
The Founders’ Guide to Living
Moderator: Jeffrey Rosen, President and Chief Executive Officer at the National Constitution Center.
Since 1776, the Declaration of Independence has been an almost sacred document in American life. Its influence on the way we think about politics and law is second only to the Constitution. From the Founding era until today, conservatives, liberals and everyone in between have agreed that the theoretical basis of the U.S. Constitution—and American political life in general—can be found in Thomas Jefferson’s most famous sentence about the self-evident truths and unalienable rights that define the principles of the American Revolution, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Based on the philosophy of the Greek and Roman philosophers, such as Aristotle and the ancient Stoics, and of John Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment, these ringing words declare an enduring American consensus: that the purpose of government is to secure the happiness of the people. But what was the Founders original understanding of the pursuit of happiness?
For the Founders, individual and collective happiness could only be achieved through the practice of being good rather than feeling good. As Jefferson put it, “Happiness [is] the aim of life” and “Virtue [is] the foundation of happiness.” This forgotten original understanding of the pursuit of happiness was rooted in philosophy of the ancient Stoics, who insisted that the goal of life was to use our powers of reason to tame our unreasonable passions – in particular, anger, grief, desire, and fear – to achieve calm tranquility of the mind. Anticipating the Eastern Wisdom traditions, the Stoics and the Founders believed that "Happiness,” as George Washington put it, “depends more upon the internal frame of a person's own mind than on the externals in the world." For the Founders and the Stoics, training ourselves to master our desires and fears through reason was the only way achieve the personal and political self-government on which the happiness of individuals and societies depends
In this seminar, we will explore the Founders’ original understanding of the pursuit of happiness and how it can help us achieve happiness in a post-COVID age.
Vote by Design: Presidential Edition
Moderator: Lisa Kay Solomon, a best selling author, and Designer in Residence at the Stanford d.school, where she focuses on teaching the practices of futures and design thinking for leaders.
If you could design the perfect U.S. President, what values, character attributes, and experience would top your priority list--and why? What might others say–and how might you enable conversations that are enlightening, non-partisan, and productive? The 2020 U.S. Presidential election is unfolding to be the most expensive, most divisive, and most reactive campaign in history. It leaves many voters feel powerless against systems that usurp their individual and collective power. And leadership at that level has never been more important. Vote by Design: Presidential Edition reframes the decision making process of voting away from “What candidate do you like,” to instead ask “What are the leadership qualities best suited to the job, as framed by our original founders in the Constitution?” and “What do we - and our future - need from this leader now?”
Initially developed at the Stanford d.school, in this immersive session of scenarios, role playing, and historical reflection, we’ll explore how design can help us navigate ambiguity, learn from others, question the status quo, check our assumptions and biases, work around constraints, and give form to new ideas.