Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Peres Conference Continued -- Day 1 -- The Rest of the Day

Peres Conference Day 1--The Rest of the Day

(Long but worth reading to the end, or at least seeing the last two photos!) 

The early afternoon kicked off with a "Master Class" with Professor Dan Ariely.  Ariely is currently a professor at Duke University.  He is a major modern media personality.  His "TED talks" have been watched over 4 million times (closer to 5 million).  His lab for psychology study is called the "Center for Advanced Hindsight."

I had never actually heard of the guy -- but he is a real favorite of Addie's fiance, Sahar.  So we managed to get a photo of the professor with Addie after his exTREMEly engaging lecture.

To summarize. . . Why do we lie so much?  It turns out that we lie (on average) approximately every 10 minutes -- often for a perceived social benefit (including for the person we lie to), but often for somewhat mysterious reasons.  People try to balance two forces: to think of ourselves as honest people and to benefit from cheating just a little.

One fascinating example of variations in human behavior:  When people were over-refunded in change (as part of an experiment), 50% of them gave the money back.  BUT when the person giving them the money back annoyed them first, only 14% gave the money back.  Not surprising, perhaps.  But Ariely has set up many ingenious ways to study these behaviors and the influences that cause variations in them.

The takeaway -- when we feel that we are in a relationship with someone, we are much much less likely to cheat in our favor.  (Lying may be part of the necessary grease in human relationships; but cheating is something else entirely.)

We got closed out of the next plenary session -- everyone together, except that there wasn't ROOM for everyone:  "Will Tomorrow Be Better?"  All (or at least many) of the sessions were actually videoed and are available in streaming at http://2013.presidentconf.org.il/en/video/video-d2s20/

So I'll have to get around to catching the missed session soon.  I am interested to see what Yair Lapid, Israel's recently risen political star, had to say.  As well as the others on that panel.

But for US, the next session was a series of "One-on-One" interviews conducted by Israel Channel Two's Udi Segal with an extremely unlikely collection of subjects:

 John Chambers, Chaiirman and CEO of Cisco

 Robert DeNiro

 Welli Dai, Co-Founder of Marvell Technology Group

 Boris Collardi, CEO of Julius Baer Banking, Switzerland

 Sharon Stone

Not pictured: John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada.

What did these people all have in common?  Nothing.  SOME of them had some things in common.  Three were major political or economic figures.  Two were Hollywood stars.

Chambers (of Cisco) was one of a number of big tech industry honchos who loudly proclaimed how great it is to do business in Israel.  Why does Cisco find Israel attractive?  We found leadership willing and able to do the work we asked for.  Bring electricity to the Internet:  In the future, EVERYTHING will go over the Internet, including health care and electricity

I’ve never seen a country as critical of yourself as this country!  

In the world of business, you NEED to change.  Just the nature of the world we’re in.  My competitors from 15 years ago are pretty much all gone.  We get rid of more each year.  But if WE don’t change, we’ll be roadkill!

The next big thing is how you connect all the devices in the world in ways we’ve never done before.
Build a foundation of fiber and mobile.

We need to build a middle class in Palestine.  We’ve been working on it.  It has gone from 1% to 6% in a few years.  Get to 20% and it will be a very different reality.  To create peace in the middle east, to create employment, (Peres understood 5 years before me that) companies can move faster than governments.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird:  You don’t want to be popular.  You want to be respected.  We think that unilateral actions are unhelpful.  (Palestinians at UN, World Court).  Only way to achieve peace is together.  “Palestinians will pay a big price if they turn to the Hague.”  It’s not ultimately in their self-interest.  We hope that both parties will engage with John Kerry.

We need to stop arguing over symbolic minor points.

Baird was asked "Is Netanyahu serious about peace?"  His answer: "Canada will support Israel’s leader, whoever it is.  I have been most impressed that no Israeli leader has expressed desire to rule over the Palestinian people."

Next up was Robert DeNiro.  This proved to be a rather embarrassing interview.  DeNiro is known for not being favorably disposed toward interviews and this encounter showed why.  The interviewer asked such inane questions, that DeNiro had to choose between a) giving answers as silly as the questions, b) staring at the interviewer in disbelief, c) storming from the stage or burying the interviewer in a barrage of sarcastic answers.  DeNiro came closest to b).  I took so many notes on so many conversations -- but had almost nothing to write about DeNiro -- and it wasn't his fault.  He seemed like someone who IS an interesting guy -- but the interviewer was so blissed out to be in the presence of a HOLLYWOOD STAR that he swung and missed.  The one thing of some interest that DeNiro shared was that this was his 5th or 6th trip to Israel (Thank you Mr. DeNiro) -- and his first visit to the Old City -- a place that really amazed him.

Back to business -- almost -- for a conversation with Welli Dai, Co-Founder of Marvell Technology Group. Ms. Dai arrived in 1979 from Shanghai at age 17.  She described semiconductors (which is Marvell's business -- they are the "other guy" compared to Intel) as the pizza dough of high tech – connecting all the various platforms.  Her prediction:  Big change for the future: In the past, there were stand-alone products.  In the future, everything will be made to fit.  Make the object fit our needs.  

I saw Ms. Dai at least twice -- maybe 3 times -- over the course of the Conference.  There was something a little disturbing about her:  She insisted on calling herself a geek, on talking about how she's just a mom.  She is one of the most powerful women in corporate America!  And I heard her say the thing about semiconductors being the "pizza dough of high tech" at least 3 times -- probably 5 or more.  It was clear to me that she has certain shtick that she goes to over and over and over.  On the other hand, that can also be called messaging.  And it has clearly worked for her, hasn't it?!

Swiss superbanker Boris Collardi was next.  His views:  The world is doing okay.  It’s bottomed out and will be getting better.  Despite uncertainty, all the tools are present for Israel to be a great success.
He was asked, "Why is Italy such a mess when it has so many things going for it?" Because of huge inefficiency and a handicapped (or handicapping) economic system.

We need Europe to move from austerity and invest in growth.   
China and the U.S. don’t need the same policies – just some successful bridges, but this will be difficult, because of the large cultural differences.

2008 was a wake-up call to governments and banks.  There has been strong movement on the regulatory side.  I love banking – next to maybe movies.  But it’s not considered an attractive profession: College grads rate it 10th out of 10 professions when asked what they would like to do.  

"How did you get so far without college?"  A peculiarity of the Swiss system: You can advance through it based on intelligence.  I got into banking because when I wanted to do an internship as a young person, I couldn’t get into the chocolate, cheese, or watch businesses, the ones everyone wants and does.  I got “stuck” with the bank internship.

About rich people and their money -- and how this can help solve big problems in the world:  One of our easiest conversations with rich people is to get them to do good.

Finally, last and least was superstar Sharon Stone.  I had wondered what she was doing on the Conference Program (and had wondered similarly about DeNiro.  He didn't have much to contribute -- but that was at least because the interviewer failed in HIS task).  

I thought that the interviewer did a better job (surprisingly given how he failed with DeNiro) of asking reasonable questions, but Ms. Stone blathered about a good deal of the time.  The more she talked, the more I wished she'd stop.  (I had been hopeful, because her list of accomplishments isn't insignificant.  She was an early supporter of AIDS activism and research and has done huge things in that area.  She was LA Citizen of the Year, which should mean something.  And she has started (and bankrolled?) the Yaalah Youth Organization for peace around the world.)  

The world has 7 billion people, but 6 billion cellphones.  We need to be able to have everyone working together for a better world.

I believe that we can look at peace in a new way, like we did at AIDS.

What really distressed me was what she did to the English language.  There had been a bit of a controversy (I later read) that she had, for years, passed herself off as a member of MENSA -- and it turned out this wasn't true.  Now I don't care a whit about MENSA and I don' t necessarily admire people who belong to it or brag about it.  But someone who claims to but doesn't?  A bad sign. . . She used the following words in her conversation:  ethniticity, criseses, drownded and instinctually.  It turns out that instinctually IS a word -- but I don't think it was the one the sentence called for.

She was informed by the interviewer that "Shimon Peres blames men for the problems in the Middle East.  What do YOU think?"    Mothers make men.  We have to make the right kind of men.  We can stand up for our true desires – to love and be loved.  If we reach for goals through argumentation, we won’t get there.  Through love, anything is possible.  As long as the Middle East is fighting, the world will be fighting.

Her son was Bar Mitzvah at the kotel the day before the session.    She said that she married 2 different Jewish guys – so she is Jew-ish.  Gulp.

The Evening Plenary was The Global Economy's Tomorrow-- an all-star cast of international economic heavyweights (not my area so I really wanted to listen closely).

Hosted by
 Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, Very Major Dude in the Israeli Economy

An opening speech by:
 Larry Summers, Past President of Harvard, Director of Business and Government at the Kennedy School, Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton Administration, Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama Administration.  

Responses by:
 Ronnie Chan, China, Chairman of Hang Lung Group and the Co-Founder of the Morningside Group
(big Chinese venture capital outfit)

Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of the Blackstone Group

Rodrigo Vergara, Governor of the Central Bank of Chile

To sum it up for you:  The world economy (World Economy?) is going to be all right.  The US will be strong. Things are going okay in Latin America and will continue to get better.  Some of this took a long time to say, but what was MOST interesting was Mr. Chan, who wasn't at all shy about saying that China and Asia are way more important than anybody in the room seemed to realize.  He wasn't being critical of the U.S.  He said that the U.S. is great and is in great shape economically and a great place to invest, do business, etc.  But that there was just a smattering of Asians present at this conference and that, 10 years from now, it should be HALF Asian.

Finally, two notable photos to close out the day's events (Day 1 of the two-day conference)  

 Could it be? Yes it could?  Somethin's comin', I don't know if it's good.  But that's the first public sighting for ME of Google Glasses.  No that's not my son Ben -- looks like him in this picture.  But the guy and his wife?sister? business partner? associate?  seemed to have a pair or two.  We saw them the next morning too.  I dunno about this Google Glasses thing.  Looks like more trouble than it's worth.  And somehow reminds me of Dick Tracy's special watch.  Much more interesting to me, and pleasant and inspiring. . . 

The gorgeous bridge over which the Jerusalem Light Rail Train travels near Central Bus Station.
Taken in early evening.
Evocative (so they say) of David's Harp.

That's it for today.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Peres Conference Day 1 -- Post 2 -- Media Session

After the euphoria of the program with Bill Clinton, President Peres, Tony Blair and Rahm Emanuel, I attended a breakout session entitled "Has Traditional Media Been Caught in the Web?"

Moderated by Jane Eisner, Editor of The Forward, the panel included Aluf Benn, Editor of Haaretz (Israel's NY Times-ish liberal literary newspaper); Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC; Ed Morrissey, a Conservative blogger; Renana Peres (Assistant Professor of Marketing at the School of Business Administration, Hebrew University of Jerusalem); and Richard Piepler, CEO of HBO.

Here is the whole panel -- l. to r. Aluf Benn, Phil Griffin, Ed Morrissey, Richard Pepler, Renana Peres, Jane Eisner.

At the outset, the panel was asked to examine what it means to present the news in today's world.  The moderator asked at the beginning of the discussion how many people had received/read a printed newspaper or instead consulted an online version or had watched television news.

Dinosaur that I am, I receive two newspapers daily (at home) -- the Columbus Dispatch and the New York Times -- and I receive the Forward (the leading Jewish weekly newspaper) in print every week.  I consult the online version of the Times quite a bit.  The others -- not so much.  I do read the Haaretz online edition every day -- it's one of my 3 home pages, and I probably read 2-4 articles every morning before I even step in the shower (partly because Israel is 7 hours ahead of the US most of the year).  It's sad for me to think about how few people in the room -- or in the next generation -- do receive a printed newspaper.  Saves ink I suppose, but definitely the end of an era.  A very long and significant era.  Really a change in the way of life.

Aluf Benn of Haaretz talked about what a revelation it was to him to see how the world had changed so completely just before he took over as Editor-in-Chief of Haaretz.  "I saw that we had more readers on-line than in print.  You realize as editor you need to learn a new language and a new way of storytelling.
Gathering and dissemination of news becomes continuous.  At the same time, you can't just tailor your product only for the online only readers.  You've got print readers who expect a certain reading ritual.  They don’t want to change that, and they pay plenty to get what they want.  Haaretz LOOKS conservative but has always been the R&D (research and development) end of the business.  The first ones to do EVERYTHING."  

A daunting challenge:  How do you provide content to viewers that advertisers want to support?

Phil Griffin of MSNBC described how MSNBC found its niche.   In the broadcast news business, cable was the first disrupter.  The first wave in this regard was CNN.  Then other networks tried to respond.  The next big change was the web.  MSNBC was started in 1996 with the intention to be a general news and information outlet.  It turned out that people weren't really looking for general news and information -- at least not in large numbers.  FoxNews and its architect, Roger Ailes, soared because they reached an audience that felt ignored.  MSNBC succeeded when they found their niche – a political channel with a progressive point of view -- one opposed to the Fox News view.

He stressed that success in the emerging media is based in part on having a point of view, but even more with doing a good job with good content, and having the right personalities.  He particularly highlighted the case of Rachel Maddow -- who went from being almost unknown to being nationally prominent in almost a weekend -- and by word of mouth among viewers.  Old-fashioned advertising turned out to be neither necessary nor pertinent.

HBO CEO Richard Piepler spoke with Master of the Universe confidence about what made HBO a huge power player with a mix of entertainment that included significant documentaries.  "We were the ultimate disrupter."  Breaking up the network broadcast tri-ish-opoly.  "Our storytelling needed to be utterly original.  We are not an ad-supported business.  Ratings aren’t our #1 criterion.  What’s important for us if we’ve captured the imagination of the public.  People don’t just LIKE our stuff. . . they are obsessed with it.  They’ve got to see it."

He pointed out that, from the beginning, HBO was TV that people PAID for -- a huge departure.  This is why it has been important to create content that people are so connected to.

He spoke about the future -- which in his mind is that you will (soon and partly at present) be able to see HBO in every possible platform -- on all your devices.  A crucial element for HBO's success has always been content --and it's no accident that they now own all of Warner Brothers, Universal and Fox movies.   

Very interesting presentations all around -- by people who have kept ahead of the curve and made decisions that have really shaped media, entertainment and news in our time.

But -- it seemed ultimately out of sync with the inspirational message I heard upstairs.  I asked in the discussion that followed the initial presentations of the panelists -- "It seems like the speakers upstairs (Blair, Peres, Clinton) are calling for us to unite -- to create a growing US and a diminishing THEM.  But the news outlets, especially FoxNews and MSNBC, rely on creating a sense of anger about THEM.  And seem to be very much dependent on keeping us apart and not bringing us together.  If this is the way that we get news (which means that we choose the kind of news we want and avoid the kind of news we don't want), won't it be almost impossible for us to move forward?

In the time devoted to answering the question, MSNBC's Griffin indicated that they had indeed found too much anger to be destructive even within their medium, and had pushed aside a small number of too-angry voices.  But the challenge remains.

My hope is that somehow we develop a habit of listening to a variety of sources -- try to develop some empathy for those whose opinions we think we despise.  I know that, over the years, I try from time to time to listen to those with whom I'm likely to disagree -- spend some time with Rush Limbaugh, follow some Fox News, listen to some Catholic Radio, pick up the Wall Street Journal, peek at the National Review.  It can be hard; maddening; make me want to yell at the TV or radio.  

When Bill Clinton became President, I thought we might have arrived at a time that people could work across the aisle and find the middle -- because he was a more conservative Democrat than I was -- because he was such a powerful people-person -- because it would be good for the country.  Unfortunately (my recollection is that the) first thing that happened in his first administration was "don't ask don't tell" -- and it just sent everything in the wrong direction.  Interestingly enough, although we have never recovered from the negativity that followed, what was such an incendiary issue approached with lack of conviction THEN is almost a non-issue today.  Amazing to think how this matter ultimately HAS been accepted throughout the military -- and that the Supreme Court ruled on the gay marriage issues the way it did last week.  We've come a long, long way on policy-- but we've also fallen down a deep, deep hole in terms of the way that we regard each other.

I thought that Barack Obama might have the smarts to bring people together -- but he doesn't seem to have really had the interest to do so.  He seems to be content to be right -- and that's just not sufficient in today's world.

Is there any way that we can fix this disconnect between left and right in a world in which people are more and more separated from information that challenges their own information?  And at a faster and faster pace?

I guess I'll keep praying and keep trying to work on it.  And I hope you will, too.