Another day at Sun Valley and another round a panel discussions, with attention this year paid on this country’s growing opioid epidemic — i.e. overdoses and prescription drug dependency driven by over-prescriptions of drugs such as pain meds. The crisis is growing at an alarming rate in this country and now is the leading cause of death for those under age 50. Heroin use also is on the rise, a lot of the “black tar” coming in from Mexico.
Moderated by Gayle King, the panel talking about these issues included former Sen. Bill Bradley, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco and also a doctor who has seen it firsthand. There are no easy answers, they said, but there are a lot of things that have been done in this country have had unintended consequences, including the way doctors have been treating pain and how they have been rated on how well they manage pain. There also are a lot of stakeholders involved (Ahem! Big Pharma, perhaps … or maybe lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies “helping” to draft bills, which is what happened recently in Indiana).
The number of opioid deaths has quadrupled from 1999 to 2015 with the average of 91 deaths per day (the same as gun violence numbers, and yes, Michael Bloomberg was there). “It’s so bad, they said, that they guaranteed you know someone or someone you know knows someone who is affected by this,” said one attendee who attended the early-morning panel. CBS This Morning co-host King also got high marks for her smart questions.
The next panel was all about business, with astute businessman Barry Diller, Coca-Cola CEO Muthar Kent and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon talking about how to balance long-term decision making with short-term profitability. “It was really thinking about how do you make money and still plan for the long-term when you have to show profit quarter by quarter” and how that plays into the overall economy. It was moderated by CNN’s Erin Burnett.
Bill Gates was up next and his talk was wide-ranging as he was interviewed by New York Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin (seems to be the favorite journalist of the week). They talked about the market, Microsoft, philanthropy, artificial intelligence (AI) and government spending. “They didn’t talk politics or Trump because, well, probably because Ivanka and Jared were there,” said one exec.
One of the more interesting tidbits of information was about AI and how a lot of that funding now is not coming from the government but rather from the private sector — those like Microsoft and Google. Some of the most innovative technologies right now are coming from AI. Because of that Microsoft, Google, Apple and even Facebook have acquired small AI companies. Google has been working to improve its AI research. AI is used right now in healthcare, security, driverless cars, and even computer games.
Many visionaries like physicist Stephen Hawking, Telsa CEO Elon Musk and even Gates himself have, over the years, been concerned about AI going beyond the control of humans and warn that it will eventually be able to learn and re-design itself. Anyway, interesting topic always.
The last talk of the day was between Charlie Rose and the president of Colombia, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Juan Manuel Santos. Tomorrow will wrap it up with former CIA director George Tenet interviewing its current director Mike Pompeo.