tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN April 11, 2015 3:00am-5:01am EDT
a moral and even idealistic foreign policy and they have to be woven together. when i was at a tough time we invited everybody on the cover back and i thought, i wonder if dr. kissinger will come back because he was annoyed at parts of the book. i got to phone call saying well walter even at 30 years the war had to end at some point, so i will dom your dinner. he has a good sense of humor and you don't always have to agree with especially the certain things that the nixon foreign policy did when it came to cambodia and dealing with the bombing of north vietnam and a lot of things one could second guess, but if you read him you feel a deep understanding for statescraft and the creation of world order and speaking of the cold war, he was able to do a brilliant out of the box thinking with nixon to balance
off russia and china to create a triangular diplomacy where opening to china and a detente with russia as we pulled out of vietnam, preserves the united states' influence and power in the world after a retreat from vietnam by doing this tray triangular balance with russia, china, and to me that was a creative leap that even the bright people the best and the brightest, the mcgeorge bundies hat not thought spoof that helped preserve ore influence in the world. >> host: the wise men, six friends and the world they made, averill herry man, georgetown ten net, dean acheson, robert love vet john mccloy. were they the establishment? >> guest: they were. i wrote that book with a friend evan thomas, because i was knew at "time magazine." i was covering ronald reagan -- these people handing out
leaflets and evan, a friend of mine from college, he had come from a more prep school background. i said evan, what's this establishment thing? then we decide to demystify is buy writing a book at six people who at the core of the establishment -- there were three republicans, tree democrats, had a passion for rising above politics. they are creative. they think out of the box. after world war ii in which russia had been our ally suddenly we have to contain russia. so they create new institutions. nato marshall plan world bank radio free europe even the aspen institute, we have to win the war of ideas, of economy and a defensive struggle against soviet-backed threat of communism. that was thinking out of the box. today, we're engaged in a whole
new type of struggle against terrorism, islamic radical terrorists. and we're still using the old institutions to that -- still trying to make nato and the imf deal with it. wish we were as creative as they were think another off the box and say what international anti-terrorist organization should replace nato. what should we do instead of radio free europe to fight the hearts and minds of people around the world. so, i like the creativity of the wise men. clearly it was weird too have two very young people myself just out of college, go to a publisher and say we want to write about six people you barely heard of in a time that was far distant. seem simon & schuster, my editor said -- chev said yes i've always wanted to do that book and call it the wise men. like the best and brightest, the generation before, and she was able to make that book good. she was able to untangle a
pretty complicated narrative and make it flow chronologically, which is why every book ever since then has been publish bid simon & schuster and edited by alice because i feel such a sense of loyalty that they would and she would publish a book about these statesmen nobody ever heard of and make it into a book that actually made sense after we turned in a manuscript that needed some untangling. >> host: alice mayhew pops up on booktv quite often as the editor or best selling authors of nonfiction books. what is it about her from an author's perspective? she sees the big picture and detail which is the essence of creativity. whether you're a bob noyce or steve jobs you care about each -- the beauty of each curve in the computer you're making, but also moving to a mobile system. that was steve jobs' genius,
people like kissinger had that as well ben franklin seal the big picture and also know that the devil and god is in the details. i remember the very first chapter of the wise men and it was trying to keep harriman and love vet together with acheson, who went do school together and part of skull and bones at yale and she wrote in the margin all things in good time. don't get ahead of theonology don't get behind it. keep itonnologial. don't flash forward, don't have to flash back. that was the first piece of advice i ever got on a book, and every book i've done since then may not have been as brilliant as a james joyce or faulkner who can move around in time but i realize that in our lives, we build on me moments that happened before, and that you
should keep all things in good time, you should do things chronologically, you should start the biography with the person being born and end with the person dying and show how it builds up. all things in good time. >> host: a handful of men you write in -- you quote there, handful of men and few of their close colleagues knew that america would have to assume the burden of a global role out of duty and desire. they heeded the call of service. they were the original brightest and best men whose outside personalities some forceful actions brought together -- brought order to the post war chaos and left a legacy that dominates american policy to this day. well, we have spent an hour talking with walter isaacson. we'll begin taking calls e-mails, tweetses and facebook comments and we-flash the
addresses and phone numbers on the screen one more time. this is an e-mail from jim gibb in east peoria illinois. mr. isaacson, big fan, i'm currently reading your biography on kissinger. of your biographies on kissinger, franklin, einstein, and jobs who do you identify with the most and why? >> guest: well, ben franklin. and i'll leave the woffords to -- the words to my daughter who, when she was young and i had down these books. she said, you know, all biography is auto biography. i think emerson said. she said when you're writes about ben franklin you were writing about yourself. she said, that's who you wanted to be a publisher, editor, person in the media and also cared about diplomacy and liked science and juggled a few things. so, ben franklin was your idealized self. i said yes that makes sense. then i said what was i doing when i wrote about einstein?
and she said, you were writing about my father an engineer at times, wonderful guy who loves electrical engineering, has halo of hair and said you were doing -- because your father really loved einstein, and you were trying to -- i said, that's great. and what was i doing when i was doing kissinger? she said you were writing about your dark side, too, and i said oh, watch out. so when i did steve jobs, she said i can't quite figure out what you're doing when you did steve jobs. i said i was writing bat young person who could be a little bit bratty a little bit pushing love beauty and technology but was a kind of hard to deal with, and then i stared at her and she said -- i said no, no. but i love ben franklin. i think that ben franklin is the one -- i get to talk to some members of congress later this week, at the library of
congress they have a gathering that david reubenstein helped to put together, and who do you want to talk about? talk about ben franklin ben franklin is the person who was able to do the practicality and holding true to values that we like the most in this country and so i can't say i'll ever be a benjamin franklin but if i wake up eave morning and say what should i aspire to be issue read ben franklin's autobiography. >> host: matthew foley from indianapolis e-mail. very much enjoyed your book on franklin. been a number of years since i read it but i recall you writing that during the revolution and the latter part of franklin's life there was animosity towards franklin from many of his peers. i recall this animosity continued past his death and it took a number of years before he was appreciated. >> guest: yes. the happens to everybody's reputation in public life, more so now than back then because
with all of our media you can be tore down pretty quickly. franklin was somebody who was very much a compromiser. he believed that compromisers may not make great heroes but they make great democracy. so there were passionate people on either side who felt he was too willing to compromise. secondly franklin rubbed a few people the wrong way because just of his jovial personality bringing people together. so i think anybody who is powerful well-respected greatest scientist of his ear roo, greatest diplomat of his era, a great statesman, you have people who resist evidence him and he was not the most profound of our thinkeres. he was not madison, not jefferson. and so there was a genial surface quality to him that i argue in the last chapter of the
book ran much deeper that the ability to say we should all -- the collegiality and working together is the essence of what america is about. some people felt that was a shallow and even a mark twain or others disparage the autobiography of ben franklin, how to succeed how to win friends, how to influence people side of ben franklin. i think it goes deeper to that and i tree to show that. >> host: ann in california you are the first call for walter isaacson. >> caller: yes. i've been reading the "innovators eye" and trying too figure out if there's any particular symbolism behind the design of the cover over -- cover of the book snooze no. i wish steve jones helped more. i wanted to show interconnected. i wanted to show that people
wove together. i wanted to make it feel a bet creative but also show some of the pictures but there was not a grand secret design but thank you for ask. >> host: four people on the cover. >> guest: there's ada lovelace of course, at the very top. steve jobs, bill gates, and then allen touring. they're about 30 main characters in the innovators-but those four i felt were the ones that inspired me. >> host: bill, portland, oregon good morning to you, your on with walter isaacson. >> caller: good morning, thank you, c-span for taking my question. and i appreciate you mr. walter isaacson, and i think you're a great man. and i -- >> guest: i write about great people. i don't think i can -- >> caller: i wish you well a long life. and to keep bringing the history and icons to us common thinking
folk. first, a question and just an additional question. with the server farms are cloud computing and 3-d printing do you see that as an evan to all change or industrial revolution to the whole world? and my second is, when does elon musk going to talk with you? >> guest: yes, i see that the cloud computing, 3-d printing mobile -- will have a transformative effect. we're already seeing it now. which is really since the industrial revolution the way we organized work is through firms or corporations or whatever because you had to be a big company to have all of the equipment you needed to manufacture things. to distribute things to bring together the people in a working environment to do the creativity. nowdays i think we're beginning to see that anybody can be an
on-call worker if they want. whether it's driving an uber or designing something really cool that stores in the cloud or uses server farms in order to -- instead of having their own big old servers and having to do it there, and then 3-d printing so things can be manufactured in a tailored way. when lord byron was worrying about the advent of mechanical looms he thought we would be butting out the same fabric over and over. now we can go back to the period where art artisans create what they want to and instead of having it be ms. produced and mass marketed by mass corporations, i think the notion of cloud computing the notion of 3-d printing the notion of on-demand services will allow people to be more
entrepreneurial, create especially if we get digital currency that allow easier transactions and sales online that allow people to create on their own rather than being part of large industrial organizations. >> host: richard in palm springs, california. go ahead with your question or comment for walter isaacson. >> caller: mr. isaacson, it's fast nitting listening to you. i have two questions. first, where would you place stephen hawking in relation to einstein and you mentioned the imitation game. of course the theory of everything is also another film about stephen hawking, and secondly in the imitation game, ellen touring was having a problem with charles dancer's character, until his request got to winston churchill and churchill signed off on it, and i have read that winston
churchill loved these sort of slightly outside the box ideas, the bouncing bomb, and all those different inventions of world war ii. will you talk about winston churchill, who i personally regard as the greatest figure of the 20th century. thank you very much. >> guest: absolutely. i'm going to wind the tape because i forgot to talk about elon musk as well. so i'll do elon musk and steven hawking and winston churchill. i interviewed elon musk. i was on stage with him. i admire the way elon musk is doing inknow vacation because it's easier to do innovation in the information technology and digital space because there's less regulation. you can do it in a garage or dorm room, create facebook or apple. but doing something like cars or batteries or rocket ships, that requires a larger degree of
collaboration and a higher degree of difficulty because we have so many regulations it's hard to innovate in those fields. so his ability to think outside of the box is something i deeply admire. stephen hawking. stephen hawking is somebody i've also deeply admired and we wrote about in and i spend time dealing with at "time magazine." he takes a -- a strange thing about einstein's theory of general relativity, which einstein was uncomfortable with at first, if the equations are true you could have black holes. all of a sudden, even gravity -- everything comes in on itself and like asing singularity and stephen hawking hemmed us understand how that works. i see him as one of the great thinkers of our time and i love the movie about him. and finally, winston churchill.
the good thing about churchill is he encouraged out of the box thinking. somebody who did indeed, as the movie shows -- the movie simply identifies it agent built but when the letter comes in saying we need these resources, churchill understands how important it is. however, as much as i admire churchill, talk about him being the greatest figure of the 20th century. when i was at "time magazine" we had to pick the person of the century. we spent five years doing conversations, working on it, public event, to discuss it. it came down to four or five people. if you thought it was a century of great political struggles against communism against naziism, fascism, then you have people like franklin roosevelt and winston churchill who stand up. also a century of civil rights, where women and blacks and colonial people all get their own individual rights, and then gandhi or martin luther king as
far as that. and finally, you think it as century in which science and technology took us to the moon and everything else. einstein to me, his fingerprints are on it. we ended 'going with einstein, and one thing that sort of in some ways cut against structure as much as i admire him-he was on he wrong side of history when it came to colonial rights when it came to the rights of everything from blacks and women and his clash with gandhi was legion and in the end, the side of history was towards more individual and civil rights and empowerment, and churchill, who was ahead of every game when it came to fighting communism, fighting naziism, he is sort of caught behind on that one. so when we look at history, we admire the strength of great people but we also have to look at gee where did they turn out not to be as right as they could have been?
>> host: how much conversation about albert einstein being person of the century. >> guest: i was interested in einstein when i was studying him to say person of the century. i realized there was no biography of him written since his papers became available, and no biography pure to the end chronological biography written in english. it realize it i would be fun to write a biography of him. obviously you can probably tell from things i've said that my vote in the end as much as i like churchill and gandhi and franklin roosevelt and king my vote was for einstein because some centuries become remembered. maybe five six, ten new jersey from now will be remembered for huge advances in science. the fact we went to the moon. the fact we invented the microchip, the computer the internet.
that we had an entire new revolution that was based on digital technology on splitting the atom on the way elooktrons dance on -- elooktrons dance on the surface space of conducting material. all of that creates a revolution just like the 18th century with benjamin franklin and thomas jefferson, was a century of states craft and revolution that was political, and just as other new jersey will be remembered for other things. so i came down on the side of einstein. >> host: you were the editor at the time -- >> guest: well i -- we went up to hyde park. certainly went to churchill's war rooms in england. we had fun exploring this. i read all of gandhi. i went to south africa where gandhi started. i loved to soak myself into the history of that, and a great debate. obviously no right answer. that's why it's interesting -- i kept saying, steve jobs would
say the journey is the reward, meaning instead of the destination. not sow much einstein the destination being the award. the able to talk it through and we did for two years in our magazine, have people talk through what matters? what will matter a century from now? what will matter ten centuries from now? and you could come down on churchill chore -- churchill or franklin and be just at right but the conversation was a fun one to have. >> host: bernie in howard beach new york, you're on with walter isaacson on booktv. >> caller: thank you. mr. isaacson, i enjoyed the kissinger book very much. i haven't seen the touring film. i'd like you to help me out. i know basically the geometry of the enigma machines, electronic and mechanical device. so two people want to communicate, so the one who
wants to send the message, he uses hissing anything ma machines to put -- his enigma machines to put his message in the cipher and the one who wants to decipher has to have the identical member and settings to decipher it. >> guest: what happens is -- this is the enigma machine -- the code changes each day for how you cipher it. they only have -- they show this in the movie -- 24 hours to be able to break exactly what the deciphering -- that the letter w in the code actually refers to the letter p or something, and there were multiple rotors so very difficult to break the code for which letter food for what. a few thing that helped them is part of the process was no letter could stand for itself. so w couldn't be representative of w. but it was still very hard to
break until they realized there were certain phrases they could use. now, one thing the movie does not show fully that i think is important, is that the -- breaking the enigma code dog by the bombe, was an electromechanical device with rotors inch the movie they show him building an electronic device, one that uses vacuum tubes and that was called colossus. it was not an electromechanical device. was a device that use electronic circuits to do it. that was something that wasn't really built by allen touring. even though his ideas and he was part of the whole team, his ideas were used on it. many people like max newman who was a professor at came bridge, who helped do it. so it's good to read. i hope the andrew hodgess enigma book or read the chapter in my book that talks about how colossus -- which is one of the first all-electronic computers
was built. >> host: nance in la grange georgia, hi nancy. >> caller: hi, thank you and good afternoon. it's a great honor to speak with mr. isaacson. i called to ask if he is aware of james lovelace's -- relates to the discussion he had about franklin and voltaire and i wonder if he is aware of voltaires and how that was -- british unitarian minister who said the purpose of miracles is to prevents the knee for miracles. >> host: why is this of interest to you. >> gus baas of the fossil water in the aqua fer. the debate between the american philosophical society about voltaire's theory of
spontaneous -- is because of sea shells in the andes and jefferson didn't think it was a miracle. he did this before the plate tectonics and i'm concerned about protecting the water in the aqua fer but down in the last ice age, 10 to 12,000 years ago, and i think we're living as a similar time now, and james love locke british biologist and ologist, has posited that the earth -- the name for the earth is gia, and he thinks we have developed these communications systems which i can't use. i have naoto sensitive enlens see -- >> host: nancy, we'll leave it there. >> guest: i think that if you look at einstein jefferson and franklin they were -- why the fossils were leonardo da vinci
figures its out too. it's not just miracles. it's natural explanation. the important thing in life is not to debunk natural explanations but try to appreciate the beauty. there was something -- we used the word mesmerized. there was something -- mesma was a person that believed that the french king asked ben franklin to do a test. mesmer right and you have this magnetic forces that are super natural, and franklin just does a controlled study, doesn't tell people which trees were quote, mesmerized and which weren't. he said there's a natural explanation, it's not some strange mystery. so i think although we can appreciate the beauty of life we should always look for natural explanations. >> host: rob is in fairfield connecticut. hi robb.
>> caller: hi, peter. i hope you and mr. isaacson will find it amusing that my minored niece and my stenin other words nephew are constantly debating when the is more boring, when uncle robby watches booktv or their father watches golf. but my question to you, mr. isaacson i am a secular agnostic european american and i can't figure out how martin luther king or other social leaders have impacted my life positively, one half of one percent. and i just wonder if you think -- if you could comment if we as a country, perhaps because of guilt, place an inordinate amount of import on social leaders as opposed to the salk, the henry padreses, the steve jones, the bill gates and i'm ashamed to say i don't know the man or women who created
chemotherapy and radiation. if you would comment. >> guest: when it was at time "time magazine" i felt that political leaders got on the cover but it was odd that the person who invenned television, whether it -- you can debate -- that was never a cover of time, or the people -- and sew that's what why i wanted to make andy grove when he was iraning intel man of the year, or david oh would created medical treatment that involved aids and combination therapies or the people who sequenced the jean genome because to me these people are as important in affecting our lives. so, when we were looking for persons of the century, as i described, you have to look at great political and social leaders, great scientific leader as well as great political and military leaders. all play a part but in my write little especially after i did ben franklin who i began writing about as a diplomat and
states crafter and i realize head was a really good scientist. we also have to look at the scientists and technologists and engineers of the internet and the computer are the two most important inventions 0 our time. they're changing our lives more than most any other thing that is happening. and yet most people do not know who invented them. so my book the inmotivators" says this is how the internet was invented. or search engines or whatever it is was invented. so i think it's important to celebrate those people as much as we might celebrate a political leader or a social leader. >> bonny lincoln, ford myers, florida, e-mail. you say one of your strengths as a biographer is your able to listen. i'm curious, hough did you listen to ben franklin and albert einstein? >> guest: the great thing about
benjamin franklin and albert einstein, they wrote letters every single day. and as i said earlier you can go online and just search einstein papers project, and you'll see every letter he wrote, dozens, in a given day and the papers he wrote, and so if you go chronologically, and back then before it was online --...
>> guest: so conversations happen not just by interviews. one of the things i learned writing about kissinger the wise men and others you read the documents they'll give you part of the picture. then you interview people and they say, oh yeah here's the real reason i wrote it to herriman or here's the real reason that memo to henry kissinger was that way. so it helps to combine archival research with old-fashioned journalistic interviews. and as i said i may not be the best journalist, and i'm certainly not the best archival historian, but i was able and have been able, i hope to combine the two to read the documents and then do the interviews. >> host: hakim is in san jose california. hi hakim. >> caller: hello. thank you for taking my call. something very insightful that
mr. isaacson, you said, we need to rethink institutions such as nato and think outside the box for current-day applications. i used to volunteer with the late doug franco, james franco's father, and he would say -- we would do orphan development projects in high-conflict rural areas, and he would often say orphan development is the front line on the war on terror. what are your thoughts about these types of approaches towards leading with peace initiatives? >> guest: absolutely. and, by the way we did that at the beginning of the cold war. we didn't just create nato, we did the international monetary fund and the world bank. but also all sorts of social organizations around the world world health organizations development groups and u.n. development projects. at the aspen institute, we have a middle east investment initiative, for example, that helps palestinians and others in the muslim world create small businesses often with loan
guarantees or loans from the israeli banks so that you get people working together. this is something benjamin franklin understood in nebraska. it wasn't just about -- in philadelphia. it wasn't just about big organizations, it was about people getting together to form civil corps or militia or a lending library that could be done that way. i think as we fight this new global struggle, it really helps -- i just met sue desmond hammond who's the new head of the bill and melinda gates foundation. the development work that the gates foundation is doing on world health the types of things i hope we at the aspen institute are doing on creating, you know empowerment of people around the world through nongovernmental organizations, i think that's part of the forefront of winning a war that demands we win both hearts and minds and the loyalties of people feeling there's an opportunity in this world that i can be a part of. >> host: what is the aspen
institute? >> guest: the aspen institute is sort of like a think tank. we have 30 policy organizations that look at everything from education reform to relations with russia to, you know, strategy grooms, arms control -- groups, arms control environment, energy. it's also a lineup institute where we have a young leaders program around the world starting about a dozen in the united states in different fields, and we bring young leaders together to try to come to common ground based on pragmatic, fact-based, you know things, to be nonpartisan. and whether it's rodel program that hats half democrats, half republicans working together on projects, or a henry crown program who bring entrepreneurs and business leaders together to find sense bl solutions -- sensible solutions to our problems, we try to turn thought into action. so it's basically a think tank in which we groom young leaders to turn thought into action.
>> host: founded -- >> guest: 1949 by a group of chicago industrialists. and, you know, one of the earlier questions was talking about don't you like scientists, technologists, engineers as well as political leaders, we also have to realize that like steve jobs and others, industrialists, business leaders, people like bob noyce who helped start intel that it's good to look at the business and entrepreneurial community too. so there were these business leaders in chicago in the late 1940s who realized at the beginning of the cold war you not only neated nato -- needed nato, but you needed think tanks that would look at democratic values, the values of free minds and free markets, and figure out how those would help make a better world. and that group of business leaders, led by walter pepke who ran container corporation of america, henry crown of the crown family, they helped create
an institute that would look at our values and how they could, you know, help shape a better world. >> host: how'd you get the name? >> guest: it has a campus in aspen, colorado, which is useful and confuses people because we're here in washington doing this show our headquarters is actually in washington. but one of the glories, one of the hundreds of glories of being part of the aspen institute is that when it gets really hot in washington in june july august, most of our programs are done on the campus in colorado in aspen. >> host: walter isaacson is the ceo of the aspen institute also an author and biographer, and we've got a little over an hour to go with our quest. but every guest who's on "in depth" we ask what they're reading, some of their influences. here's a look at mr. isaacson's answers. ♪ ♪
♪ ♪ >> host: walter isaacson, who is walker percy? is. >> guest: he was one of my original heroes mentor, uncle of a friend of mine, ugging by -- uncle by marriage. we called him uncle walker. we used to go across lake pontchartrain in new orleans where i group, and percy was a friend of ours. we couldn't figure out what ann's dad did. what's your dad do? a writer. and it wasn't until the movie goer came out in the early 960s -- 1960s, and i was 9
or 10 years old, and i go oh a writer that's something you can be when you grow up just like a fibberman, a doctor an engineer. and and so i took sort of an enter in, you know, dr. percy, uncle walker. and, you know, i would sit there, and i'd sort of read his books and say, well they're sort of deep, philosophical religious messages, especially in the moviegoer the last gentleman. and he'd say things like, you know walter, there are two types of people that come out of louisiana; preachers and storytellers. he said, for god's sake be a storyteller, the world's got too much preachers. so he wouldn't answer my questions. he'd say do it to the story the way the bible does it which is not just commandmentses, it's storytelling. and he said the storytelling is the most effective way to get across the type of things your interested in. -- you're interested in. so he became somebody i deeply, deeply admired and, of course every couple of years i'd just reread the moviegoer which is one of the greatest of all
times. >> host: somebody you're currently writing, dave eggers, he's new orleans-connected, isn't he? >> guest: well, he came down after the storm. and if you're from new orleans you say to yourself i'll judge people by what they did after katrina. eggers comes down he writes a great book that involves two of the characters coming out of the hurricane. but i admired dave eggers who's not from new orleans well before the hurricane. when i was at time mag he went to cuba for us once. i think bicycled around cuba and reported on it. and then when his book, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius came out about his helping to raise prison brother after his parents -- his brother after his parents die,-like, wow, a voice our generation can relate to. so so if i had to pick novels including "the circle," "hologram to the king," "the circle" came out a bit of a warning over the use of
overreliance of the digital revolution. those of us who love the digital revolution have two or three devices at all times and watch you follow a twitter feed is like that's great, but it's good to read a novel like "the circle" that says okay, let's take a little bit more detached view of all of this. >> host: what's it like to grow up in new orleans? what is it about new orleans? >> guest: new orleans has a creativity that comes from a diversity of people. ben franklin goes wow, there's quakers and anglicans and jews and that makes for creativity. new orleans you had that, you know triplefold. you had in my neighborhood of broadmore in central city right in the heart of the city a very mixed neighborhood mixed economically mixed racially mixed ethnicically, and you realized the same neighborhood that is 00 -- 100 years before louis armstrong had grown up in that neighborhood, one of the
great central streets in new orleans. and louis armstrong growing up there is influenced by, you know, the great french opera singers and also the slaves coming back from the plantations singing, you know, spirituals. but also the sang the uh-uhfied church -- sanctified church, people coming back from the spanish-american war so that a jewish family in that neighborhood could help them get a horn out of hock and start playing the trumpet. you know, complicated family life. and you see in that questionersty what do you get? you get -- diversity, what do you get? you get jazz. buddy bolden kid oliver and all of a sudden he's doing a 17-bar riff to open west end blues, and you say, whoa, where did that come from? it comes from being exposed to a diversity of interests and talents and musical influences and that's also true of the food of new orleans. i just carpal back my -- came
back my wife and i go quite often, just came back last week, and just looking at the creativity of the restaurants the architecture. you say, okay, i didn't think the city would come back after the storm. it's been ten years now. we've been creative about the school system, creative about a entrepreneurial economy. places like idea village that tim williamson started there which is an incubator for cool people who just wanted to create. and i think that the next wave of entrepreneurship and innovation comes not just from information technology or digital technology, but connecting the creative industries and arts to digital technology. theater, that becomes him mersive and interactive. immersive and interactive. food and music i new forms of it that we can do. i see that happening in new orleans as well. >> host: phone lines are all
jammed. we'll put the numbers up just in case and we'll also put up our social media addresses if you want to get in and talk with walter isaacson. ben franklin, the autobiography, one great moral issue historians must wrestle with when assessing america's founders is slavery, and franklin was wrestling with it as well. slaves made up about 6% of philadelphia's population at the time, and franklin had facilitated the buying and selling of them through ads in his newspaper. >> guest: yep. in the pennsylvania gazette when he first started it, you can see ads for buying and selling of slaves. he even owned, ben franklin did, two households of slaves. and when you look at jefferson, who was a big slave owner that's what you've got to wrestle with. the thing where the ben franklin bookends and his life ends is that everybody makes deep moral mistakes at times. i said that ben franklin's strength was that he knew how to compromise, knew i how to, you know, at the constitutional
convention as he said shave a little from one side of the joint and another until you had a piece of wood that would hold together for centuries. he compromised on slavery as they do in the constitution, and he realizes that's a deep flaw a mistake he had made. because he's introspeck ty. -- introspective. that's what we all have to learn. gee, i know some mistakes i've made, neither my greatness nor my mistakes are high or half as low as ben franklin, but he did that from the very beginning of his life. he kept a ledger and i mean a real one where he made a chart of every error mistake or moral mistake that he made. and then on the right-hand side how he had rectified it. so, for example i think it begins with running away from his brother's print shop in boston because he was apprentice to his brother james and he was not allowed to leave. when you're assigned an apprenticeship, you had so stay
throughout before you could leave. he runs away secretly because he doesn't want to work for his brother james. he calls that an error, a moral lapse. he rectifies it when james dice, benjamin -- dies benjamin franklin provides for the education of james' kids. but at the very end there's the big one, he had tolerated and compromised on slavery. of course, he feels this is an error, but very old to, late in life -- i think he was about 80 -- he becomes the president of the society for the abolition of slavery. and his last great piece, he always wrote hoaxes and jokes and parodies, was a piece called the speech by the divine of algiers which was about a leader in algiers explaining why he was putting white europeans into slavery in algiers, and it was palleting all the arguments, but also ridiculing. it was a brutal piece against the arguments that were being made in congress to justify
slavery. so this is how he tries to rectify a deep moral error. and when you get to the compare and contrast franklin and jefferson, you know, jefferson never quite gets it -- jefferson's from virginia, franklin's from pennsylvania maybe it's a little easier. but still as brilliant as jefferson was he doesn't get to that same moral place that ben frank does of being a-- franklin does of being appalled that he had compromised on the issue of slavery and tries to rectify it. >> host: wise men, co-author evan thomas, came out in 1986. kissinger biography, 1992. benjamin franklin: an american life 03. ion tine is '07. steve jobs, 2011. walter isaacson's recent book is "the innovators: how a group of hackers, geniuses and geeks created the digital revolution." somebody's going to buy one of your books wants to read it,
which one do you suggest? >> guest: you know, now a days we talk about ben franklin being the person i relate to the most, if you want to sort of understand the role you can play in your civic life and in pulling people together, you know, when i graduated from college i didn't remember who my graduation speaker was, but there was a minister in the memorial church, and he gave a sermon could what we -- called what we forgot to tell you. we told you that this was an exclusive college, and you got into classes that were very exclusive and probably clubs that were exclusive, but what we forgot to tell you is that life was about inclusion, and you will be judged about how many people you bring together not how many you exclude. that was the point of ben franklin's life. somebody who was able to bring people, different races creeds together into a sense of civic, you know, community. and so to me, that's still the most important lesson. you know during his lifetime he
donated to the building fund of each and every church that was built in philadelphia, and at one point they were building a new hall for wayward wandering preachers of the great awakening. and so he writes a fundraising document. he says even if the must havefy of constantinople were to send someone here to preach islam to us, we should offer a pulpit, and we should listen for we might learn. on his deathbed, he's the largest contributor of the synagogue in philadelphia. so when he dies instead of his minister accompanying his casket linked arms with the rabbis, the jew and marched with him to the grave. that was the secret sauce of the nation we were crating back then. one of -- creating back then. one of inclusion. and that's what we're still fighting for whether it be in paris, in syria, in ferguson today. and so to me, he's the inspiring
of how do you live your life. obviously, einstein if you want to understand the beauty, the spiritual beauty of the elegance of the laws that are manifest in the -- that manifest itself in the universe, einstein. and steve jobs if you want to know how to really make a dent in that universe by having a passion for making beautiful products, that's steve jobs. so obviously like your kids you like all the books. but there's a certain partiality if you're going to say how can i make my little world a better place, i'd start by reading ben franklin. >> host: what's your next book? >> guest: you know i've always been -- there are two books i'm juggling with, and maybe people can be by twitter tell me what to do. i really like this notion, i talked about new orleans, where diverse strands and people come together and that's how creativity occurs. like ben franklin would want when we respect different -- you get jazz whatever.
and to me, the tale of louis armstrong's life is a tale of creativity born of a love for different influences and diversity, and it's a life of the arts but just connected to a lot more. i have trouble -- can i've studied armstrong. as i say i played growing up, so i played with some people who played jazz with louis armstrong, so you feel a kinship, but i'm still not sure i fully understand whether he was happy. the other which is going into the way back machine for a while would be the ultimate connection of arts and engineering, the ultimate connection of the person with science and the person of the humanity, and that, of course, is leonardo da vinci who the man in the circle that's the symbol of the connection that we in my mind the symbol of the connection between the arts and the sciences. and that, to mel, is such -- and
he left so many notebooks and so many drawings that geeking out on those notebooks and seeing how he thought of himself as an engineer and how he did autopsies and anatomy on cadavers, but how that's reflected in each of the paintings he does, to me, that's an exciting thing too. >> host: we just learned walter isaacson is writing two books one on leonardo da vinci, one on louis armstrong. cat in wyoming, you have -- kathy in wyoming, you have been very patient. go ahead. >> henry kissinger was interpreted this week and not surprisingly john mccain called the protesters low life scum while demanding their removal. i think activists are some of the greatest people of our time. do you see this protest as --
did you see this protest, and and do you have any comments about it. and what do you think about nonprosecution of warmongers? thank you. >> guest: sure. i, obviously, saw it on tv. i was not sitting there. i think that the ability, you know starting with people like thomas paine to people today in our society to protest and have free speech and our comfort with protest and free speech that makes us a stronger society. and you look at societies like china where the free flow of information or protests, free flow of ideas is too much repressed and censored, never be successful in the digital age. i do think that was an unfortunate approach to protests, that we certainly have better ways than sort of making a piece of dumb, in my mind theater against, you know george schultz, madeleine albright henry kissinger sitting there. i think that there are ways to express and study one's feeling
about kissinger's decisions. i do not think he was a warmonger, but even if i did i would hope i would find a better way to try to convince others of that than doing that i think not very useful bit of theater. and i did, you know, i did admire and read the testimony of henry kissinger. and if you're looking for books to read and you want to understand kissinger where he's really coming from read "world order." it's a great book. you may say well, he's a warmonger. no be, here's a structure of thought that leads to his sense of what makes for a stable good order, and you can disagree with it, but then push back intellectually instead of this thing that i found kind of disturbing. >> host: david is calling in from st. thomas, virgin islands. david, you're on with walter isaacson.
>> caller: mr. isaacson, i am a new fan since i saw you on booktv the other day. if you'll indulge me for a moment, i'd like to make a quick comment to our friends in connecticut, scientists create technology social leaders and artists teach us what to do with the technology. >> guest: uh-huh. >> caller: i'd like to go on with my question. i feel much at least the last several millennia of human history have been about de-evolution of power from -- more to individuals. as we become more thoroughly interfaced with our technology, as we move toward becoming sigh borks, i guess how -- cyborgs i guess, how do we protect ourselves from losing our individual uniqueness in that process? >> guest: i think you answered your question in the very beginning of the statement which is it's the humanities and the arts that make us unique. one of the things about that
alan turing movie, in the end he's a human. in the end, he has his own creativity. and so the end of the innovators, there's a chapter about this. i also did a lecture the jefferson lecture last year which is the importance of connecting the humanityies to the sciences. why? because it's about the importance of connecting humanness to our machines instead of letting our machines sort of run away without us. a lot of people fearing artificial intelligence singularity, the robots taking over. but as long as we understand our connection our interfacing with our machines, i think our creativity our art our moral sensibilities, those are the things we have to understand. and to understand the moral aesthetics and sensibility, it really helps to understand the humanities and the arts.
>> host: athe tila bay posts on our facebook page, of your books which do you find teaches most about learning about culture or a culture? >> guest: well, the benjamin franklin invents a new form of culture, a culture in which there's a tolerance of people different religions backgrounds, ethnic groups to create a democracy based on individual liberty that also has a spirit of community to it. that's one of the strands of america, and i even think tocqueville didn't fully get it right. he thought our forming of associations was in conflict with our individuality. ben franklin knew that our individuality and our ability to come together to form militias and street-sweeping corps and libraries and hospitals, that was a core of a new form of culture. but to me if i had to answer in another way, the very interesting cultural situation is when einstein is in germany wrestling with general relativity. that comes after the 905 -- 1905
miracle of special relativity. he now wants to tie gravity into it. he wants to make it a way to tie in the whole forces of the universe and have a neary of gravity that relate -- a theory of gravity that relates to even space and time. the grandest and most elegant of all theories. but he's doing it in germany as a jew when anti-semitism is rising. he's a member of the prussian academy, but he's gotten -- he's split from his wife he's being ostracized more and more by attacks on what is called jewish science. and so watching that drama as from 1914 to 1915 with the 100th anniversary now of general relativity which is 915 and, as i say, the most elegant theory in my mind of all of science, as he marches to that great theory with these huge social forces sort of pushing in on him, racing to get that theory right.
to me that's the most dramatic period the summer of 1915, when all of this is happening in germany, all of this is happening in europe. and he's trying to figure out the spirit manifests in the laws of the universe. >> host: another facebook comment: being in the field of science education both as an educator and researcher, i'm always puzzled how little emphases is placed on history and philosophy of science innovations in primary and secondary school education. what are your thoughts on this issue and how that might help students pursue science? >> guest: i think it's a great question because i've come to believe that one of the best ways to teach science and to teach the human the cities is through the history of -- humanities is through the history of science. starting with the scientific revolution. starting with galileo kepler and others as they start doing
experiments and they test certain theories and copernicus comes along. reflect with our religious convictions that, you know, the sun revolves around the earth as opposed to a solar system or whatever. and then seeing how the scientific method has progressed all the way through, helps teach us how to think, helps teach us how society progresses, but also how to combine an appreciation for the humanities for that matter religion art, you know whatever particularly is important to you. how that gets reconciled with science! my daughter, she's trying to figure out what to major in and the college has a great history of science department, and she mailed me and said i didn't know science had a history. but now that i look at the history of science, i see how we build on things ask how there is a method -- and how there is a
method that then -- as i'd said about frank lin and jefferson -- can be transferred to how we make a constitution, how we make a democratic system, how we make a society. so i think an appreciation for the history of science is something that our society, you know should grab onto more. and it may be the coolest way to teach. you know, we do teach physics. we teach biology whatever. but if you want to understand where biology is going and where it came from read the double helix by watson and craig. that wonderful, you know, rushing into the eagle pub in cambridge having decoded the dna and announcing it to the other people in the pub, that gives you an excitement of science but it also helps you figure out how human creativity can decode the structure of dna. >> host: you've mentioned betsy, your daughter, who introduced you to ada lovelace, but you also in all of your books mention a woman named kathy. >> guest: oh my wife. you know, she's got the most
common sense of everybody, and she is the first and last reader of every book, you know, when i do the first draft and before i turn in the last draft. and, you know, there's a -- when you connect the humanities, kathy's somebody who, you know, she's been a lawyer, but she works on the washington women's foundation, new york women's foundation, you know helping other people. that notion of being engaged in society is always helpful when you're trying to write a biography and say how will that connect to other people in society? >> host: facebook comment: in the wise men you write about the mesh establishment -- american establishment. is there an establishment mentality today? if so, what is it, in your opinion? who or what determines those within this blushment? >> guest: yeah, there is an establishment mentality, and i mean that neither to elevate it, nor to denigrate it. there's a general consensus that i would call, you know, we have some at the aspen institute, the aspen strategy group. our aspen strategy group is run
by brent sew craft who was george bush the elder's national security adviser and a great professor at harvard, bill nye. but likewise, council on foreign relations, the various sort of established view of the world which believes in free minds, free markets a liberal democracy. it believes in balancing a realist view of foreign policy meaning what are our national interests, and say if we're going to talk about ukraine and russia, is this the best place to assert it? is there a balance we can do with russia? how do we get out of this? with an idealistic approach to foreign policy which is we want a democracy. we want, we want to fight against people who are tyrannical. so that wrestling with a balance between idealism and realism and with interventionism versus a more humble foreign policy, you could see that happening in the
american establishment. the good thing about united states is the establishment is always being challenged. so whether it's, you know a ted cruz or, you know, a rand paul in the republican party or in the democratic party people who are more against the general consensus that led us to a lot of interventions, some of which i thought were misguided in the past 15 years including, in my opinion -- i may be wrong -- you know, the invasion of iraq. i thought that was a misguided and ended up being miscalculated but also not thought through enough. so challenging the establishment view. and by the way, the american foreign policy establishment from democrats and republicans were generally in favor of the invasion of iraq. that was a mistake. so that says, hey, we need outsiders who are going to challenge that view. say what are we thinking? why are we getting into this? so the balance between an establishment view which the wise men represented in the late
1940s and the outsideers, this is why democracy tends to be so much better even -- that's one of my criticisms of henry kissinger is he doesn't realize that's the strength of democracy, when people from the outside get to challenge you and get to say no, what are you doing? why are you going into cambodia vietnam, those type of things? that, to me, makes democracy stronger at waging foreign policy. >> host: the wise men, of the six how many did you to get to talk to? >> guest: well, george kennon very much so. chip bolan was no longer alive. spent a lot of time with john mccloy who was, you know died right as the book came out. but he gave great interviews. likewise with avril hairyman. and i remember at the end as we were finishing the book, his wife would let us sit by his bed
and talk about -- and lovett, mccloy herriman and kennon bolan and acheson had both died. obviously, i talked to a lot of bolan and acheson's children and colleagues. but working with evan thomas my co-author on that book, we were both journalists. once again it was a chance to look at archives look at all the letters. acheson -- i'm sorry, herriman and lovett who were both the brown brothers herriman when lovett and hairyman were then going into government, wrote each other twice a day. so you got the conversation in the letters, and then you could go to governor herriman and say, okay what did you mean about this thing on laos when you wrote the lovett? and so one of the things evan and i were able to do in writing that book was combine the ability to go to the archives, new york historical society had the brown brothers/herriman archives. also then go to the people and
say -- who were involved -- and say when you got that letter what were you really aiming at? and that's why i like this intersection that i've been able to be part of between the journalistic approach to history and an archival academic approach to history. >> host: are we losing some of that with today's technology? >> guest: oh yeah. >> host: often people e-mail a couple times a day. >> guest: look, i remember sitting at steve jobs' house and i said what about the e-mails when you were first coming back to apple, 1997 '98? hugely dramatic period. you didn't write letters, you didn't keep a journal. your memory's pretty good, but you know, all memory's are bad and maybe yours, you know whatever. he said, yeah, i got those e-mails and it was the next computer. he had it in his house. and he in and all sorts of techies tried to figure out how do we get access to these e-mails that were composed on a
you nix-based -- unix-based operating system, and he couldn't even get those e-mails. so i stoims talk to archivists nowadays. we did something at harvard that john hue by and others did which is to try to get oral histories but also get people's e-mails. i went back to my e-mails from the early 1990s, and after four or five techies helped me, i found all the e-mails where we were arguing with cbs and trying to create pathfinder and roadrunner and broadband systems. i said here's all my e-mails but i would hope that university libraries when they get the papers of bill gates, they get the papers of arthur rock let's say, who started venture capital in the west coast, they say we not only need your papers but give us all your old computers we want to save your e-mails. because i worry we're not
archiving e-mails very well. i just read an unbelievably good good piece last night by jill lepore in the new yorker about the internet archive which i'd always admired but never quite knew how it worked. and these are people who are this in san francisco but now in consortiums around world archiving every, you know, you're looking at your twitter feed. well look when twitter is affecting the events in ferguson or the events in tahrir square, how are we going to the get those tweets 50 years from now when we're writing about what really happened? how are we going to get those e-mail, those facebook pages, how are we going to get even the web pages that somebody may have put up when it's 50 years from now and god knows where they are? so i think we have to have a real effort to archive people's e-mails voluntarily, you know? not like the nsa may be archiving our e-mails when we
don't want them to. but if you're donating your papers and you're bill gates, make sure your e-mail's a part of it. and if we're trying to archive all the newspapers let's also archive the twitter. twitter is doing that now, but facebook and all the web pages. people should read jill lepore's piece -- >> host: and, of course jill lepore was a national book finalist last year for her biography on jane frank lin. the sister. >> guest: yeah, jane, the sister of ben franklin. and this is the cool thing, they wrote letters all the time. so you have the letters ben franklin is writing to the french foreign minister but you also have the letters he's writing jane talking about, you know, what he's doing. and, of course, that's a different conversation. and it's great the way. >> she has tried to create a biography even though we don't know much about jane, but create a biography that is based on the letters to her brother and from
her brother. >> host: elizabeth in willowby ohio, you've been very patient. you're on with walter isaacson. >> caller: thank you. first of all, you have to do innovators, part two. i -- there's a lot of information that you have been covering in innovators that i really am looking forward to reading about especially the women in i.t. >> guest: right, right. >> caller: having studied i.t., i know it's hard for us to get into it, first of all. the second thing is maybe i would like to see that book on da vinci because after taking a math class and i.t. classes and an art class sometimes all at the same time, i'm beginning to understand we don't understand the interaction between the arts music and engineering. and the other half of our lives. >> guest: absolutely. and when mozart -- i mean, when
einstein is trying to do general relativity as i described before in 1914,-15 and all hell is breaking loose, he believes that mozart's chords help him connect with the harmonies of the universe. ben franklin is that way. ada lovelace, as i said earlier is great at connecting art to science. leonardo is the greatest. but you get back to the part two of the innovators i mean one problem, you know, with the innovators and criticism of it is every day i get four or five letters saying you left out, you know seymour clay or you left out the people who did basic at dartmouth, whatever. i would like to someday have a multimedia crowd-sourced open source book maybe with a digital royalty system in which people take a book like "the innovators," and that's there you know, as the foundation, but they write are other chapters
like ornaments that they put on. they say, you know here's what happened at bell labs or xerox park, or here's what happened you know, with this innovator i worked with who was doing supercomputers at mit or carnegie mellon. all these people have written in saying here's a story you didn't put in and then somehow or another have a way to crowd source but also let an author cure rate a living and grow book. i hope we have that and i hope that's an innovation we'll have in five years or so especially if there's a way to have a bitcoin or cyber currency that allows anybody who creates something for a book like that to get a piece of the royalties or a piece of the payments for the book. >> host: and there's one vote so far for da vinci. we'll see how this crowd source goes in the next 40 minutes. alan in fullerton, california you're on booktv on c-span2 with walter isaacson. >> caller: thank you. thank you for taking my call. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: thank you
mr. isaacson, for the wonderful books and helping us understand a little bit more about the people that are shaping the way we live. look forward to the next book. in your opinion is there another trait or characteristic that all these innovators share something that in your view transcends time, space background gender? i feel that they innovate in spite of all the turmoil and all the stuff that's going on around there, they just challenge that. >> guest: right. >> caller: what is your opinion? thank you. >> guest: i think there are a couple of traits that are important as different as ben franklin is from a steve jobs. they both have a rebellious -- they all do. i mean, einstein runs away from high school, benjamin frank lin does steve jobs drops out of college. maybe that's why i don't get asked to speak at a lot of graduations, because most of the people i seem to know run away or drop out. so they have a rebellious spirit to it. steve captured, steve jobs captured that when he comes back
to apple and had to write a manifesto that becomes a television ad. and you may remember it, here's to the crazy ones, the misfits the rebels, the round pegs in the square holes. the people who think different, the people who are crazy enough to think different are the ones who do. and steve had a motto when he was doing the original mcinso much when he put up a pirate flag and said it's better to be a pirate than to join the navy. i think you would find that in einstein, you'd find that in franklin. that ability to question conventional thinking to think out of the box while still knowing what was in the box and to challenge conventional authority and received wisdom. that, to me, is awesomely important if you're going to be an innovator. >> host: benjamin sorenson tweets in who in today's world most closely lives up to those
featured in your book? is innovation limit less? >> guest: it is limitless. as i said about elon musk -- who's answer number one to that question -- it's harder to do in the nondigital world than in the digital world. in other words, you can do facebook. in your dorm room i but if you're going to do things like biotech or rocket ships or batteries or electric cars, that is, you know you face a lot more regulation you face the need to not only innovation, but to collaborate, build teams and push the bounds of reality. i love what larry page is doing at bag google. i think jeff bezos is awesome because he's connecting commerce to innovation. and just like bursting out into cloud computing suddenly. so we're all empowered to put us, you know, to create businesses in the cloud as ubm is doing as -- ibm, as others are doing now. but i just think bezos is truly awesome. i think sheryl sandberg and mark
zuckerberg the way they're doing facebook, a platform upon which to build things, that's really cool. i think we're seeing innovation all over the place. i ran into tony friday dell yesterday, you know, he was the person who helped design the ipod. but now he's creating an internet of things where my thermostat and my garage door and my whatever it may be are all connected and i can, you know, sort of help my life become better through connecting things. so there's just enormous innovation. one interesting question is everybody i've mentioned, you know is in the u.s. why is it we're a more innovative society? i think because we allow people to question authority. there was a discussion about code pink earlier. i didn't like -- i mean, i was appalled and horrified and didn't like what the code pink people did to henry kissinger. but you know what? we live in a country where that happens. in china in other places there
isn't as much questioning of authority, so you don't get as much innovation. >> host: tweet, as head of the aspen institute, who is the most fascinating speaker you've heard in the last year? >> guest: you know, we've had great world leaders from tony blair to, you know, shimon peres, hillary clinton, you know people -- or barack obama was there before, george bush people -- the elder george bush have all spoken at the aspen institute. i find the people who are doing new things, who are at the cutting edge of say, science and policy and technology who are less well known will come to aspen ideas festival or come to our action forum or come to our strategy groups, you know like eric lander. take him. somebody you may not know. i hope he writes a book someday so you'll have him on. but he does -- he's helping do, complete more sequencing of the genome at mit and hard voir --
harvard. but he's a humanist as well so he understands how we're going of of the day that bases that are going to help us build -- databases that are going to help us build new drugs, but how our privacy concerns are going to be affected. we may have to have a system where we say, count me in. i want my genetic, you know, information to be shared so that people can make things or i don't want it. those fascinate me and that's why i like being at the institute. it's not just about political stuff, it's about real interesting issues where science intersects with society, policy and business that i hope we can have practical solutions. >> host: lee bullhead city arizona. please go ahead with your question or comment. >> guest: thank you. took me seven calls and about an hour to get through. >> host: welcome. >> guest: second on da vinci. okay. i want you to think of a baby for a minute. a baby's born, knows nothing. knows no language. doesn't know house from a dog.
but what they do is they watch and they listen. and as they grow older, they begin to get more curious about this and that. and i think that curiosity is the key to all these people. some other things are the rebellion i agree with, collaborating, because you can't live on an island. challenge -- all those things are true. i but i think that curiosity is the key to everything. >> host: lee, what do you do in bullhead city? >> >> caller: pardon in. >> host: what do you do in bullhead city? >> caller: i'm retired and i've read about 500 books in my motel room. >> host: from what are you retired? >> caller: of what am i retiring? >> host: from what are you retouring? >> caller: i don't think you got the time -- [laughter] the most important one to me was when i was recorder and editor for a newspaper. >> guest: oh, same with me. >> host: thank you sir. >> guest: you talk about curiosity, yes.
that to me, is something that you see in every great innovator. i'm so glad you raised it. let's take einstein, for example. when he was about 6 years old, his father gave him a compass and he looked and the needle twitched, and it pointed north no matter how he turned it and he was mesmerized by it because nothing's touching the needle, there's no particles hitting the particles in the needle. so he's trying to figure out what is a force field, you know? how does a field work like that? now, look, you and i probably remember getting a compass when we were kids and it was like, wow, it points -- and then a moment or two later we're like oh look a dead squirrel. and we're on to something else. there was a passionate curiosity for einstein on that compass needle that when i said he was on his death bed trying to connect gravity, particle physics and relativity and all of his theories, the unified theory, it was basically still that curiosity that came from
why does a compass needle twitch and point north? you can see that from benjamin franklin. why does it take a ship a little less time to get to europe than to come back? and he measures the temperatures of the water as he's sailing to england for the first time, and he's able to chart the gulf stream. so how, you know, einstein worrying about why is the sky blue, things you and i might not even question or keep being curious about he questions the obvious. so if i had to list traits, i would put collaboration or, i'd put rebelliousness, i'd put a passion for perfection like steve jobs had but i'd also put curiosity up there. >> host: dean barker, new york city. this probably isn't the way to ask a question of mr. isaacson live on booktv at the moment but if it is, here's my question. this is the way, dee barker, why does the innovators not include jack kilby in.
>> guest: i love jack kilby, he's in the book in two different places and, i mean, jack kilby's great, plus when he gets the nobel prize, and he has such a wonderful answer when the swedish academy says the whole digital revolution comes from your thinking. he said it reminds me of what the weaver said to the rabbit -- the beaver said to the rabbit at the foot of the hoover dam which is no, i didn't build it, but it's based on a idea of mine. kilby and noyce kilby from texas instruments, the ability to have that rivalry and that race but then also to collaborate and work together, maybe the index is messed up. is it in the index? >> host: yeah. >> guest: okay. i urge people to read about jack kilby because i truly admire his spunk, his spirit, his ability to figure out how to etch
transistors on silicon. so creative. and then doing it, and they have an intellectual property dispute, you know? a trade -- a patent war over who did it. and it took years to get through the courts and finally people at texas instruments like kilby and noyce say let's just settle it, let's move on. >> host: yeah. big section in the innovators. brian in texas, you're on air. please go ahead. >> caller: oh, hi, good afternoon. just wanted to say that i'm really enjoying the conversation. and i wanted to -- the reason why i'm calling is i'd like to put a, place a suggestion to mr. isaacson since he's the head of the aspen institute. and, actually, i'm doing it more in the way of a plea. the suggestion is this is this. the aspen institute focuses on
developing leadership, and there are two critical issues that are illustrated by three books one of which you referenced in your either books that influenced you or books that you're currently reading. well, those two areas that i'm thinking about are the problems that exist currently with wall street and what i specifically have in mind is the behavior that wall street engaged in that eventually resulted in the recession. the second thing -- and this relates to the book that you referenced -- is the disfunctionalty in our health care system. >> guest: right. >> caller: and there are three books that i have in mind -- >> host: hey, brian, can you get to, can you list those three books so we can get some more calls in here? >> caller: sure. three books that i think do a
really good job analyzing this. the book america's bitter pill another book called 13 bankers by simon johnson and then another book called in bed with washington, i believe, by larry doyle. but i think those areas would be excellent areas for you to, you know focus -- >> host: thank you. we get the point. >> guest: i agree with you. stephen brill's book, "bitter pill," which started as a time magazine cover is an amazing look at the dysfunctionalty of our health care system, and i would certainly tout it and ask people to read it. i haven't read the other two books. i think when it comes to the financial industry, one of the best things we could do is have a disruptive technology. you see it in bitcoin as people build coin base and block chain type systems we'll be automobile to have a digital and cyber currency that provide alternatives to some of the banking system. and it might enable commerce in a better way.
>> host: george is in fort myers, florida. hi george. >> caller: hi. >> host: george, we're listening. >> caller: can you hear me? >> host: we are listening, sir. please go ahead with your question or comment for walter isaacson. >> caller: okay. einstein described himself as a determinist just like mark twain did. and i'm wondering how they got there. >> guest: you know, the issue of free will versus determinism is one of the richest, most difficult topics that people have wrestlinged with since plato -- wrestled with since plato and socrates, certainly einstein wrestles with it, certainly steve jobs wrestles with it. and i'm not sure anybody's ever going to resolve it. it's at the core of alan turing's imitation game question which is do we have free will in a way that's different or consciousness and free will in a way that's different from a preprogrammed machine?
einstein was a determine cannist, but, of course, he wins the nobel prize for his quantum mechanics or quantum theory paper on the photoelectric effect which basically says that at the subatomic level things happen by chance. there's statistics but not determine city. and there's an indetermine that city which by the way means there's an indeterm city at the basis of the universe. so einstein, as much as he likes to believe in a deterministic universe comes up with theory that says the universe may not be that way. so even einstein never cracked the issue of determinism and free will, so certainly i'm not going to be able to. ..
their certain laws that can be expressed in the equations of special and general relativity. what happens though is people who look at the theory of relativity, especially anti-semitism is growing in germany think it's sort of ties into april of this stick morality and you know, people who are doing art and plays and music for stravinsky were the
old laws of tumbled cords are being broken and there is a resistance. by the way, we see that today. people who resist modern i.d. whether it be in the muslim world or america, who resist change. there is einstein saying that the fundamentals you've always believed in there's a relativity. now he was sent as they say of relativist beauty believed thomas of nature but the people who criticize say we want certainty and that was part of the anti-semantic backlash against what was called jewish science. >> host: where do you write? >> guest: i ride at home usually at my ride at night. i am somebody who from 9:00 p.m. until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. when the phone is not going to ring or the iphone will not do a lot for things aren't going to pop
up or whatever, i can be in my home office writing hard and writing alone. i am not one of this person who tries to be an iron person and gets no sleep. one of the choice about being at the aspen institute is i can convince people that know great ideas have been before 9:00 a.m. and we shouldn't get into early. there was a job at cnn were ahead to be at 630 clock or 7:00. i like to write at night and sleep in until 8:00 or 9:00 when i can. >> host: do you write on an apple product? >> guest: i use dropbox. when i'm writing, i put it in the cloud. you could use amazon ibm or microsoft has a great cloud service now, but i've always used dropbox. i can be on the train going to new york on my ipad. i get to my office in which we use dell computers that are networked in the office.
on my iphone i can pull it up. on any device i want to. so i am not as wedded to hardware and one of the great we have now is having class services. for if we took a break here and i want to pull up something i'm writing, i can just pull it up out of either dropbox or whatever cloud service i use. >> host: do you worry about security in that way? the security of the material. >> guest: no. i worry about security. we've got it at the asp institute and part of me said we want people to read our reports. if they are spending their time translating all of our reports come it will be good for them then it will be good for us. i think the things you have to worry about our privacy and security. but somebody reading the first
draft of one of our books doesn't keep me up at night. >> host: dennis in chicago heights, illinois. hello, dennis. >> caller: hello. i want to thank c-span for this program today. i especially want to thank the author because i read all of his books and i've enjoyed all of them. everything from the beginning wisemen up until his last book. the question i want to ask is on the "kissinger" book. that is what the release of the white house staff and the nixon administration and the like i think dennis brinkley was part of it. has he changed his ideals to mike kissinger was a child at least in looking at the page. he is a lot worse than what he's portrayed in your book on kissinger. >> guest: yeah, i think we're always getting more material. i listen to a lot of things before i wrote that book.
there were many many of them available. i've watched the new ones as they've come out. there is no fundamental holy cow, who is totally different than we thought. it tapes really are revealing because they show private conversations where kissinger didn't know he was being taped. and so you see him sometimes cater to the darker side of richard nixon's personality. to wrinkly did a great job adding some of those tapes and i'm glad they're coming out. i have a friend as in thomas who we talked about, who did the wisemen with me his writing a biography of mixing based on those new tapes. i mean, those tapes are weird that historians cannot we used to have letters we used to have diaries. we used to taped conversations and meetings. that is a treasure trove for historians but i don't think
there's anything that has come out since my book that fundamentally changes the book. >> host: chapter 32 january 1977, for the first time in eight years, henry kissinger arrived in new york city without the luxury of being borne by one of the air force chance of the presidential fleet. it was the week after jimmy carter's inauguration and the cherished perks of power were starting to slip away. but unlike any other previous secretary of state, indeed unlike even any past president, kissinger would be able by dint of his dedicated efforts and larger-than-life personality to personality to retrieve the trappings of granger long after he had left office. >> guest: so we are here in washington. yesterday, kissinger spoke at a lunch at csis one of the greatest think tanks. how it involves ukraine in
particular russia. that was still as brilliant as any analysis you'd want to see. likewise, he was in front of john mccain's armed services committee giving testimony. u.s. last night. henry kissinger just his ideas his thoughts and rival. his intellectual rigor retains the trappings of power and that's 1977. let's do the math. it's been 38 years since he was last in government. most people were born probably until he was last in government. and yet he is still somebody, who as much as you may want to be appalled at the code pink saying, it does show how he is still a dominant part of our
thinking and of our debate over how idealistic worse is how realistic our foreign policy should be. so i definitely respect that. as i said, i depict a book of understanding. i think read world order. henry kissinger wrote a book many years ago starting with richelieu and met vick and how world order happened how the treaty of her side how the west alien system of nationstates cons and even now many years later, he is still able to apply the rigorous intellectual framework in this world. >> host: do the clintons hold that the clintons sold their fame or? >> guest: certainly. they are running for president. bill clinton has that. when he comes to the aspen institute we have, as i say people of both parties. but even the republicans in our audience asked even when bill
clinton is there doing his tour of the world than just answering questions and remembering everybody and having read wonky policy papers on how urban revival happens in older cities and how the creative class moves in or how micro-payments help women in indiana. he understands and knows more than anybody else and is absolutely hypnotizing when he's giving a dissertation. so he has that definitely. >> host: latecomer stand to retail california. thanks for holding on. uri with walter isaacson. >> caller: hello mr. isaacson. i'm 15 years old. before i ask a question, i would like to say i'm in favor of the da vinci book of wealth. it seems that a lot of people my age don't get into biographies that much. i would like to ask you because
the steve jobs book was my favorite book of all time. i'd like to ask how your writing sets you apart from others because you are seems to be the only one i can connect to in that genre. >> guest: first of all you want to give steve jobs credit. if you like about this because steve jobs is a truly interesting person and was able to be you know revealing and dealing with the biographer. so i doubt i deserve the credit for the fact the steve jobs biography is very interesting to you. there is a larger issue which i think historians especially historic biographers come you sometimes write about the great forces of history. the very beginning of my "kissinger" book, but the epigram is something that he wrote on one of the shuttle missions back and forth to the middle east. he said something when i was rather harbored, used to think
history was made by great courses but now that i'd get up close i see the difference individuals make. so we biographers believe in the role of an individual to bend the forces of history a little bit. we also have to understand because this is why i wrote "the innovators," that sometimes we biographers distort history. picnic it seem like it is just one person sitting in the garage and having a lightbulb moment and innovation happens, when in fact it is great innovators and thinkers, great individuals who know how to collaborate in forms teams. so that is what i tried to do in my latest book. but what sets me apart maybe from other academic historians is maybe if you just tell the story but here is the beginning and here is the person. here is how he grew up in you listen to that person, read everything that person did and you can say that you can tell the history of our time to
people and to me that is the best way to appreciate the creativity that goes into making history. >> host: as a professor i tend to think of history is run by impersonal forces. but when you see it in practice, you see the different personalities make. henry kissinger 1974 after his first middle east saddle. >> guest: between gola malar anwar sadat but great leaders which we don't have now. you are not dealing with the golden aa or or shimon peres orin and marjah.. -- anwar sadat. by the way that is the quote i was thinking of. >> host: walter isaacson, you haven't written about anyone who has been elected to office. >> guest: wow i never thought of that.
franklin does get in the colonial assembly of pennsylvania. your point is correct. i hadn't really thought about that. i do think that it is important and great to get in electoral office that has so many impediments to it. it is something i never did and should've done. if i could rewind the tape put yourself out there appeared run for office. run for city council. and those people do get to make a difference. public service is a very noble calling. those of us in the press can sometimes make it difficult sometimes make it increasingly difficult to put yourself out there and be in public service in the run for office. and so maybe after da vinci and after leonardo and after louis armstrong. >> host: if you were to write about american president, is there one that pops in mind? >> guest: theodore roosevelt
and i of course loved the bully pulpit as someone who is totally fascinating to me because he rises above party. he's both a republican and a bull moose party, that he is somebody who wonders and the importance of the bully pulpit, of traveling across this country and saying he wanted a square deal. you know, it is almost lake a time of prosperity, a time of great technological change. people moving from the farm to industrial. great technology exacerbating the divide between rich and poor. make it harder for the middle class for the middle class. so they comes up with a square deal and unlike some of our leaders today, he says i'm going to do it and i'm just been a go for 90 days on a train and talk in every single talk about the malefactors of great wealth. the bankers who was friends at jpmorgan nobody called the malefactors of great while to say we have to have a square deal.
so i love teddy roosevelt and never surpassed was good when i know. >> host: william is calling in from hot springs national park in arkansas i believe. hi william. call code minus my comment and a question perhaps. many of the things i've been appreciated today have argued that answered and discussed. i would like to think c-span for the wonderful presentation that is made available to all of us and then i would like to express my deepest appreciation to mr. isaacson for presenting to us to determine up the trail of some of the less familiar maybe the forgotten characteristics of so many of our great people. one other comment i would like to make as i have a very deep affinity for ben franklin. i had the great good fortune as they used to work in a small
country printshop that printed the community weekly newspaper and old ben would have been right at home. i did it on the washington hen press. i became the operator of the press later. >> host: >> guest: you probably see the great connection to someone like that who believes in the spread of information, who creates a postal system so ideas can move about like the internet. and so i really do admire that part of benjamin franklin, dead like me and you worked at a newspaper, book printing, love the free flow of information and ideas. >> host: and from trent trees ben franklin book and 21st century a successful networker with an inventive curiosity he would've felt right at home in the information revolution and his unabashed striving to be part of an upwardly mobile the
made him and david brooks' phrase, our founding yuppie. as to what one point was there some resistance to franklin? he was entrepreneurial. he was upwardly mobile. he was born of a foreign working-class, candle maker becomes somebody who really want to succeed. so i think there was that enthusiastic yuckiness that i find appealing, but also what people say a little too ambitious little to brass. >> host: kristin spokane. >> caller: hi, i am a big fan mr. isaacson. thank you for taking my call. if the powers came to you and said here is the key and i open up all of it to you. who would you ask to talk to be
the most influential person in the person at the very bottom of the list. >> host: chris, who would you talk to? who would be at the top of your list? >> caller: i like da vinci. at the bottom of the list i would like to talk to hitler. >> host: thank you man. >> guest: i would love to talk to leonardo da vinci about one thing that is still a mystery to me is that he was a total genius. there is so much that he didn't complete. at&t didn't complete, design for engineering that were never done. is it because he has a passion for perfection? is it because he didn't focus and try to do so much arisen because once he had broken the code on some team, he didn't
deal he needed to put the finishing touches on a quiet that is what i am working on as i read his notebooks trying to get that question. likewise if i talk to louis armstrong, who would be okay i know everything about you. everything you did every day, but i don't know whether you're happy. i don't know what you felt about white people or whatever. i had the wonderful fortune to be able to do that with steve jobs. every now and then i would do a person who is alive like a kissinger or steve jobs. every now and then i will do a franklin or an einstein. when you get to talk to somebody, you say i know everything about you but this is still a mystery. at least in the case said steve jobs, page after page of my book is him trying to explain those things. >> host: new orleans finally get some love. duane bohne for tweet in. we armstrong would be a great companion to terry teachout.
>> guest: terry teachout does a very good book on armstrong. but i don't know much of teachout, but i think that has everything about louis armstrong in it. i still find this a mystery. what was the cause of the smile and the happiness? so to me i also would like to wrestle with that whole question of new orleans and the diversity in the mix of people. i would say that tolerance, but also the intolerance. i mean he is arrested on new years day so it's not exactly ferguson, but what is happening with kids on the street back then and now. what is happening when story though opens and the great sense of tolerance, but also a tolerance for sin.
you know his mother is probably turned tricks shall we say in parts of new orleans. so while it that gives you a sense of what is going or his mind and i would like to try to deal with that. to me new orleans is such a fascinating place. obviously, it is fascinating in a complex way. to me it is a beautiful way. it is a city of math. as we speak today the carnival season is beginning. the first parades are rolling. louis armstrong watched the zulu parade when his father, who didn't really raise them, he really didn't know his father that well. in whiteface and a mouse signifying in a strange way playing all those symbols of
worries in say the early 1900 throughout new orleans is a city of mask. you mask for mardi gras. you wear your mask. louis armstrong himself and always wore a mask. i think that smile was part of a mask. now, what shakespeare teaches us especially growing up in henry the fourth is we be calm but mask we wear and not too is an interesting topic to explore. >> host: all right. we have four minute left. i've been waiting for a caller to bring this out. two questions. did albert einstein fail math? in a few years ago, a book came out, einstein's bright. >> guest: what happens when einstein died without much authority from the family, he take his brain. like hey you don't want to lose this thing.
takes his brain puts it in a jar of fermata hide and keeps einstein's brain. over the years he would parcel of pieces of einstein ring against people would say i want to figure out, why was he so smart quiet there is a larger issue here which is really interesting. you can look at a beautifully old and this or that was different, but are we just machines? you can find in a size a little part of his brain, the explanation for einstein's genius. i don't ink so. i think we are not machines. we are humans. as much as they carve up the brain, as much as they try to find the secret. i said early on, you have to look for explanations of things but that doesn't mean under microscopes you can find genius by looking at the cells of the brain. and no he never failed math. in fact he was really good at math almost as good as he
needed to be when he was finally doing general relativity. he laments the fact that is not as a little bit better because the calculus are starting to sound. he gets some good friends to help. he did fine and not. but it is a good mix to have because i saucon says who did the academy, he is doing a thing called you can learn anything. i urge our viewers. you can learn anything. you can learn math. you can learn relativity. go to cannes academy. one of the video of the videos about inspiring people that you can learn anything since learn anything if there's einstein and the baby in about the same there was a time even einstein didn't know how to add numbers. you can learn anything. >> host: where is the majority of albert einstein's brain right now for >> guest: i think most of it is now at him. but it was sort of parceled out. >> host: was not a fun chapter to write? at semi-amused. >> guest: it was semi-amusing.
but it was a really amusing book about it. it was fun to write, but partly because they got to the larger issue. can we just look mechanically and figure out why he was a genius? now, you need the whole book, not just a microscope on his brain to say what made einstein into einstein. >> host: david england shot, pennsylvania. david you are the last word today. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. i read quite a few of your books, mr. isaacson. the last two books i read was professor todd coons, the teacher of the mind and your "the innovators." i read them because i saw you in 10 talking about them on booktv. it's such a wonderful format to have. i read a lot. i read all nonfiction. i am currently reading the doubles pay about buford at gettysburg. one of my questions is do you
think sometimes historians and people that read your works don't understand and don't bother to look at that time that the person you are writing lives in or lived in and therefore they are making assumptions about that person based on our point of view of today? >> guest: yeah, that historicism or that historic fallacy has many names to it and which you impose the standards or ideas that today on a person. i think it is really important for readers and historians to wrestle with that. an obvious example is when you're doing slavery and you're trying to judge thomas jefferson or ben franklin or whatever. to me you have to rise above and be ahead of some of the moral sentiments of your time to be a great person which is why i think i can judge jefferson more harshly than others would because he didn't do that. or even churchill did not get on the right side of history. but that is me imposing a later
judgment on that. you have to be aware of it. the last chapter of my "benjamin franklin" book was the most fun to write because it's however new generation discovers benjamin franklin and new and seasoned differently. and in an age of great economic struggle he is revered as a self-made person. in a romantic period like the 1820s and 1830s people look down on and because he is not romantic and material enough. so when "benjamin franklin," we see a reflection of our own time. we have to be aware that we as is judging him in the context of his time, but judging him in the larger context of history. >> host: so, does frank and deserve the accolade accorded by his great contemporary david hume of america's first
philosopher, walter isaacson writes. this theology was an important achievement of the mint and franklin was an "avatar" in america. in addition by relating the rally to everyday human consequences, franklin laid the foundation for the most influential of america's homegrown philosophies, pragmatism. that is from walter isaacson's and american life benjamin franklin an american life. the first book came out in 1986 co-author with six friends in the world they made. "kissinger" a biography of 1992. "benjamin franklin" the note three. "einstein" 2007 "steve jobs" which is going to be made into a movie 2011. and "the innovators" a group of hackers geniuses and geeks created the digital revolution. you have been watching booktv on