Civil Discourse About the Geopolitical Climate
Knowledge is power
It's not surprising that one of the biggest topics highlighted at this year's Milken Institute Global Conference is politics and the geopolitical climate. With panels that consist of members of the new administration's Cabinet, public and private sector political experts, investment gurus and international dignitaries, the annual Global Conference is buzzing with political talk.
One theme that appeared consistently in many of the government affairs and geopolitical panels was education. Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, alluded to the need to make “vocational training noble again” and integrating that into the nation's more theory-based education system. His panel, “The First 100 Days—and the Next 1,000,” dissected the current administration and provided insights on its strengths and weaknesses.
Education reform needs to start at the state and local levels and grow from there—that was the view of William Bennett, a former U.S. Secretary of Education and Chairman of the Conservative Leaders for Education as well. All in all, this panel of distinguished speakers, with significant experience in the realm of government, had insightful critiques offset with praise for the newly inaugurated Trump administration.
The focus on education continued throughout the day, coming up in the “Bridging the Gap Between the Military and Silicon Valley” panel. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, shared his insights on how tech companies can help the government play to its strengths but also innovate. Raj Shah, Managing Director of the Defense Innovation Unit, also weighed in on the importance of attracting young, talented Silicon Valley engineers to government work, where they can get involved in global issues and make a difference. It all starts with education and communication between the private and public sectors to create a channel, rather than allowing ignorance to separate the tech and political worlds.
Whether that education comes from schools or a different realm of expertise, open communication and sharing of information should be a priority.
Who will take the lead?
Another consistent theme in the global affairs panels was the responsibility of leadership. At a time when we need leaders most, it seems like no one is stepping up to the plate. But who should lead?
There was significant discussion around the issue of addressing the institutions that should be held accountable for claiming leadership over myriad of challenges. During the “Confronting Terrorism at Home and Abroad” panel, social media';s responsibility in the fight against homegrown violent extremists was discussed. Terrorist groups frequently use social media as a tool to garner support, and it is imperative that it be part of the counterterrorism discussion. Nick Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, challenged the industry to focus on action-oriented dialogue between itself and government to maintain transparency and relevance.
The responsibility of leadership was discussed in detail during “Bridging the Gap Between the Military and Silicon Valley” as well. Norton Schwartz, President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security and former Chief of Staff for the Air Force, spoke about how the military needs to be encouraged to take risks. According to the panelists, more power and leadership responsibilities should be placed in the hands of generals who could be assisted by a new advisor—an innovation officer. Such an officer can instill a risk-taking mentality into the traditional military system when it comes to technology. Silicon Valley is a model for the military on how to innovate amid the challenges of a digital world.
From tech start-ups to government institutions, our panelists challenged one another to work together and learn together. The general consensus: We all need to get better at helping each other out.
Day one was exciting and illuminating. The sessions addressed sensitive yet essential topics that challenge the foundations of global affairs and speak to the need to invite technology and social media into the conversation around the geopolitical future. Global leaders, elected officials, executives and experts will continue the dialogue, addressing political polarization, global collaboration and the recent election';s impact on international relations.