In a region known for invention and scientific breakthroughs, as the country hurtles toward another major election year, the question on many people’s minds is not what will shape and define the future, but who?
The Boston Globe’s third annual Globe Summit aims to convene an influential group of creative thinkers, change-makers, and risk-takers for three days this week to address the most pressing challenges facing our communities, centered around the theme: “Today’s Innovators. Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
With more than 30 panels and speakers, including Red Sox manager Alex Cora, NCAA president and former governor Charlie Baker, and Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, the free, interactive event series will touch on issues ranging from artificial intelligence to urban planning to climate change.
“We are honored to welcome an amazing group of leaders, experts, authors, educators, and innovators ... to explore the ideas, people, and companies that are shaping actionable next steps and solutions for a more equitable, innovative, and resilient future,” said Erika Hale Smith, vice president of events and sponsorships for Boston Globe Media, in a statement.
This year’s summit, which is open to the public, is a hybrid event that will kick off Tuesday morning at WBUR’s CitySpace, as well as online via a livestream broadcast. The event has an additional focus this year on female leadership, and each day will begin with an all-women panel discussion led by Boston Globe Media chief executive Linda Henry, spotlighting higher education, media, and climate policy.
“We are proud to serve as a catalytic convener for our community,” Henry said. “We bring our journalists and global change-makers together, giving attendees a front-row seat to hear creative ideas and innovations on a live stage.”
Tuesday’s programming revolves around trailblazers in artificial intelligence and new technology, including a panel on how to solve AI’s diversity problem moderated by Globe columnist and podcast host Shirley Leung that includes experts from Harvard and MIT, as well as the chief executive of The Tech Connection, Melissa James.
“A lot of people think of AI’s diversity problem as being in the future, but the future is now,” said Leung, host of Globe Opinion’s “Say More” podcast. ”Even in their infancy, these large-language model systems — ChatGPT and beyond — already exhibit bias. That’s because these systems are built on existing data sets that are shaped primarily by white men who continue to dominate technology.”
Leung said the panel “aims to look at how we can course correct and create AI systems that are inclusive and equitable before it’s really too late.”
The conversation will then turn to environmental justice for the headliner session on Tuesday, “Climate Change and Spirituality with Rainn Wilson,” the climate activist and actor best known for playing Dwight Schrute on NBC’s sitcom “The Office.” Boston Globe climate reporter Sabrina Shankman said she is looking forward to digging into Wilson’s new book “Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution” and the way that the climate crisis intertwines with spirituality and humans’ relationship to the earth.
“What I’m excited about is that you don’t often think about Rainn Wilson and the hats he wears as an author and an activist, and yet that appears to be a significant part of who he is,” Shankman said. “There is a sort of spiritual reckoning that comes with climate activism, or even just thoughts of: How did we allow this to happen to our planet, and where do we go from here?”
Shankman said she hoped Wilson’s story would shed light on “how climate activism can come in lots of different shapes and forms.”
It could be “a teenage activist from Sweden calling out global leaders, in the form of Greta Thunberg, or it can come in the lovable, recognizable form of Rainn Wilson,” she said. “The question is really how do we lower the barrier so that more people feel like they can engage and advocate for environmental change?”
On Wednesday, discussion pivots to business and health, touching on everything from the impact of technology on mental health to pondering what it will take to reignite Boston’s business districts. Conversations include a panel moderated by real estate reporter Catherine Carlock that convenes celebrated Black restaurateur Nia Grace with leaders in real estate management and business improvement.
David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting and March For Our Lives cofounder, will also chat with health editor Anna Kuchment about youth advocacy and how the intersection of gun violence and mental health has spurred teenagers and young adults to political action.
“Even though he’s most closely aligned in people’s minds with March For Our Lives, Hogg started a new political action committee recently called Leaders We Deserve that’s focused on encouraging people 35 and younger to run for office,” Kuchment said. “So I definitely want to ask him what election-year issues young people are most engaged in, what led him to start this PAC, and why gun control is an issue that brings young people out to the voting booth.”
But Kuchment said she’s also hoping listeners will learn from Hogg’s lived experience as a survivor of gun violence and the way he’s immersed himself in the issue since 2018.
“Gun violence is, in part, a public health issue, and there’s a vicious cycle in terms of how it intersects with mental health,” she added. “So I’m interested in whether he’s had time to process everything he’s experienced, and how he sees gun violence through the prism of public health and our failure to care for people’s mental health.”
As part of the interactive model, moderators will solicit questions from listeners and audience members at the events, and Kuchment encouraged people to submit any questions they have.
The final sessions, on Thursday, will focus on lifestyle, culture, and sustainability, with in-depth discussions about the transition to clean energy balanced by reflections on music, fashion, and art, including a fireside chat with Oscar-winning writer and director Siân Heder and a sit-down with entertainment and nightlife mogul Michael L. Bivins.
To register to attend, and for a full schedule and list of speakers, visit Globe.com/Summit.