The 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference convened 3,500 attendees and 900 speakers worldwide in Los Angeles this spring for its renowned conference. The heavy-hitting, star-studded lineup included speakers such as Governor Gavin Newsom, World Bank President David Malpass, musician Demi Lovato, and top executives from the largest companies in the world. The four-day event focused on the theme: “Advancing a Thriving World” and the depth and breadth of the conversations, both on stage and off, were profound.

Here’s what everyone was talking about.

The Economy

Is a recession on the horizon? Are we in one now? These questions seemed to echo through the marbled halls of the glamorous Beverly Hilton. In one session titled “US Overview: Advancing through Uncertainty,” panelists agreed they were bullish on the economy in the mid to long term but lacked confidence in the short term. Former Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, forecasted that interest rates are unlikely to decrease this year and argued the FDIC should increase the insurance limit to $25 million.


McKinsey Senior Managing Partner, Asutosh Padhi, said that despite a choppy near term, “there is no better time to be a CEO.” He says it is time for leaders to differentiate themselves from competitors by driving growth, building capacity, and focusing on financial resilience. Strategic actions today will result in significant advantages in three to five years.

The Energy Transition

Senator Joe Manchin and ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods spoke to a packed house about fueling the future. Manchin, who chairs the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, expressed discontent with implementing the Inflation Reduction Act and said increasing U.S. fossil fuel production is essential for energy security. Woods advocated for reducing emissions by leveraging market incentives and questionable carbon capture technology. The meager applause as they left the stage was deafening.

Conversations about innovation and funding the energy transition sparked more enthusiasm. Corporate leaders from across industries spoke about their environmental commitments and how impactful climate pledges can translate into profitable business decisions. Venture capitalists discussed the unique opportunities for returns in climate investing and the importance of backing scalable solutions.


Artificial Intelligence

Virtually everyone agreed on one point: AI is changing everything. “If you’re a company, and you’re sleeping on this, you’re probably going to be out of business,” said actor and investor Ashton Kutcher. “It’s easy to [see] that this is the most powerful technology of our times,” said Arati Prabhakar, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology. “And what we know about powerful technologies throughout all of human history is that they will be used for good, and they will be used for ill. The job for all of us is to manage that transition and ensure it comes out in a way that advances our future…to seize its benefits; we have to start by managing its risks.”


As always, advances in health and wellness were a central theme at/for the Milken Institute. Experts discussed the benefits of functional medicine, which takes an individualized approach, optimizing diet, lifestyle, exercise habits, and emotional well-being to address the root cause of disease. Psychedelics and mental health were also hot topics at the event. Seth Rogan and Deepak Chopra had fun delving into the importance of purpose, connection, and mindfulness in increasing one’s “health span.” And another well-attended session posed the question: Is the microbiome the new disruptor in healthcare and disease treatment? Short answer— yes.


Many sessions explored heavy topics like the war in Ukraine, societal schisms, the decline in global health, and the increase in global poverty. But hope, resilience, and optimism were intentionally baked into the program. A Wellness Garden hosted yoga, meditation breaks, and even a puppy playpen where attendees delighted in soft snuggles with rescues.

The four days closed with a raft of inspiring sessions. Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Tucker and producer Elle Key discussed the evolution of comedy and why laughter is the best medicine. Snoop Dogg bookended an impassioned invective about fair pay for artists with a “gin and juice” toast and jokes about a smoke-filled green room. Obama Foundation CEO Valarie Jarrett championed action as the antidote to apathy. Columnist and Harvard Kennedy School professor Arthur C. Brooks outlined the four happiness pillars one should attend to daily: faith, family, friends, and meaningful work. And the legendary Diana Ross was the final red chiffon cherry on top, gracing the stage for a closing concert with her signature elegance and joy.