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raceAhead: Fortune’s Brain Storm TECH

July 16, 2018, 5:27 PM UTC
Maroon Bells Lake Reflections in Summer
The famous Maroon Bells reflections on a still standing water of the lake early in the morning in summer.
JurgaR / Getty Images

Fortune’s Brainstorm TECH kicks off today, and if I may be allowed to brag on my colleagues for a moment, the line-up looks stellar. One thing I noticed immediately was the nearly perfect gender balance of speakers and panelists. Well done, team.

There will be lots of reporting of interest to raceAhead readers which I will flag for you in the next few days. But to get you into the mix right away, here are a couple of the main stage interviews that you might want to flag and follow on our live stream. (All times are Aspen local.)

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will take the main stage today at 2:05 and Robert Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners will explore the future of tech investing tomorrow at 12:10, both in conversation with my colleague Adam Lashinsky.

Also tomorrow at 11:20am, Christa Quarles, the CEO of OpenTable, talks about diversity and inclusion, in light of last year’s fascinating town hall discussion on the topic.

One conversation I’ll be moderating on Wednesday morning is right up your alley: Is Technology Inherently Biased? (No live stream, sorry.)

We’ll be discussing the rise of algorithms in decision-making in corporations, in government, in education and beyond. What are the big implications? Can tech ever truly be neutral?

We have some extraordinary experts on deck to lead the conversation, many of whom will be familiar names to regular readers: Julio Avalos, Chief Strategy Officer, GitHub; Jon Cohen, Head of Research, SurveyMonkey; Karla Monterosso, CEO, Code2040; Samuel Singyangwe, co-founder, We the Protesters; and Bärí Williams, Attorney and Startup Advisor.

Anything you’d like to ask them? E-mail, tweet or message me on LinkedIn and I’ll add your voices to the room.

Only one thing has threatened to mar the convening so far. A still uncontained wildfire nearby in the Basalt, CO- area, has filled the skies with smoke, wreaked havoc on travel, and has caused millions of dollars in damage. No lives have been lost so far, thanks in large part to the extraordinary training, in-the-moment-decision making, and courage of firefighters, volunteers and the communities who support them. But the battle is far from over. From the Aspen Times:

Two circumstances and a bold strategy saved the mobile home park. First, Ace Lane’s property just upvalley was a well-watered greenbelt, according to Thompson. In addition, a fuels mitigation project between Lane’s Tree Farm property and the east edge of the mobile home park had removed fuel for the fire.

Still, it took brave action by firefighters from departments through the region to prevent the wind-whipped fire from sweeping through the mobile home park. The crews used multiple flares to ignite fires between the wildfire and residences. That removes fuel and, when done correctly, the wildland fire sucks the lit fire in, delaying momentum at least temporarily.

According to the story, Basalt fire captain Cleve Williams lost his own family home to the fire, but was able to save others nearby, while preventing the fire from crossing into new territory.

It’s a powerful reminder for the world today: Leadership is often about being prepared to make wrenching choices, using the best information that’s available. As fires, both real and symbolic, spark around the world, better data is an indispensable tool in putting out the flames. Unless, of course, it isn’t.

On Point

New scrutiny of Uber’s senior leadership raises questions about culture and commitment to changeNew complaints about racial insensitivity and “blind spots” have been revealed at the company, this time regarding Barney Harford, the company’s still newish chief operating officer. This latest issue is raising questions about the sincerity of Uber’s CEO to transform the culture at the ride-sharing giant. Harford has been the subject of several formal and informal complaints from employees, all related to the insensitive ways the executive speaks about women or ethnic minorities. Harford said in a public statement that the feedback has been humbling and eye-opening, and he’s going to be getting more coaching. “Honest feedback given in good faith is something we need more of, and I’m totally committed to acting on it and improving.”New York Times

Miami police appear to have thwarted a mass casualty attack
An angry resident of a Miami Beach condo was planning on burning down the building, targeting Jews, in particular. Edward Stolper was about to be evicted from his unit on the famed Collins Avenue; the police say that in addition to gasoline and other materials, they found Nazi paraphernalia, books and swastikas in his apartment. Stolper, 72, told a witness that he was “going to burn down the building with all the f------ Jews.” The police are being praised for preventing a mass casualty event, and the district attorney is considering hate crime charges.
Miami Herald

Stacy Brown-Philpot knows how to adapt as a leader
The CEO of TaskRabbit didn’t start out with a hankering for tech. Instead, she built on her humble beginnings, raised by a single mom in Detroit, working hard in school, managing a paper route business and preparing for a future as an accountant. But her circuitous path, more typical than not, is instructive for her willingness to ask for what she needed to succeed in increasingly challenging leadership positions and to take the feedback required to grow into her roles. Click through for a quick master class in leadership, but remember that she’s still a black woman in the world. “I get discriminated against all the time,” she says. “No one thinks I’m a CEO.”
New York Times

Scarlett Johansson passes on playing a transgender man and that’s a good thing
Her withdrawal was short and to the point, and directly addressed the ethical questions involved in the casting of a cisgender person in a transgender role. The Chicago Tribune’s Nina Metz breaks down why this is important, in an interview with Jen Richards, a transgender actor and TV writer.  “The issue is that trans people often can’t even get in the door. They can’t even get auditions. We’re not even considered for parts that aren’t trans, so when we can’t even get in the door for trans roles it just leaves us in a completely untenable situation.”
Chicago Tribune

The Woke Leader

The Healers: black men healing black men from trauma
Mike Newall has become one of my favorite columnists, his ability to elevate important stories in his community with depth and sensitivity is exceptional. This story, about The Healers, a self-named group of young black men who have trained to be trauma experts, is his most recent example. The training is lengthy and intense, but the men are set to become certified peer counselors and will work in emergency rooms where the evidence of violence first presents itself. Young black men rarely find someone who can relate to them in medical settings; instead they face judgment and dismissal, compounding their pain and resignation. All the Healers have personally experienced trauma. “We, as black people, when things happen, we always get looked at like we’re the reason it happened — caregivers become numb,” said one new Healer. “We’re just another black kid in a hospital.” Please read and share.

Remembering the Leesburg Stockade Girls
In July 1963, fifteen black girls from rural Georgia were jailed for challenging segregation laws, after attempting to buy a ticket to from the white-only entrance to a local movie theater. The girls, aged 12-15, were never formally charged. Instead, they were taken without notice to a decrepit Civil War-era building known as the Leesburg Stockade and kept for over a month in disgusting conditions. Their parents were never notified of their whereabouts. It was only after a photographer from the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), following up on a tip and sneaking onto the grounds, published pictures of the girls, that their plight became a national story. Click through for the story, stay for the short video of some of the survivors as they revisit the scene of their illegal incarceration.
National Museum of African American History

Speaking other languages shifts ethics and morals in interesting ways
If you feel, even subtly, that you’re a slightly different person when you speak or think in another language, you may be on to something. Recent studies suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their own. “When we use a foreign language, we unconsciously sink into the more deliberate mode simply because the effort of operating in our non-native language cues our cognitive system to prepare for strenuous activity,” reports Julie Sedivy.
Scientific American


The Jew is the world’s enigma. Poor in his masses, he yet controls the world’s finances. Scattered abroad without country or government, he yet presents a unity of race continuity which no other people have achieved. Living under legal disabilities in almost every land, he has become the power behind many a throne. There are ancient prophesies to the effect that the Jew will return to his own land and from that center rule the world, though not until he has undergone an assault by the united nations of mankind…More than any other race he exhibits a decided aversion to industrial employment, which he balances by an equally decided adaptability to trade.
Henry Ford