Wednesday, December 20, 2023

TIME Earth Award winner Claire Vlases, CEO of the Year Sam Altman, Athlete of the Year Lionel Messi, plus bonus Padma Lakshmi

I closed Taylor Swift is Time's 2023 Person of the Year by noting "At least one of [the candidates for 2023's Person of the Year], Sam Altman, has won another accolade for CEO of the Year. I'm waiting to see if any of the others earn consolation prizes." They didn't, so it's time to follow through. Before I get to Altman, I'm sharing Youth Climate Activist Claire Vlases Accepts TIME Earth Award After Major Legal Victory.

Climate activist Claire Vlases received the Earth Award from TIME on Tuesday after the 20-year-old helped secure victory in a landmark climate case earlier this year.

Vlases is one of 16 young plaintiffs who sued Montana for violating their right to a clean environment. In August, a judge ruled that Montana must consider climate change effects when approving fossil fuel projects. The court declared that Montana’s laws promoting fossil fuels violated constitutional rights.
In the absence of TIME announcing its Heroes of the Year, although Swift could be that, too, I'll take Vlases and her fellow plaintiffs as suitable stand-ins. Congratulations to them for their victory on behalf of kids and the climate!

Now I'm sharing TIME CEO of the Year 2023 | Sam Altman.

It was a strange Thanksgiving for Sam Altman. Normally, the CEO of OpenAI flies home to St. Louis to visit family. But this time the holiday came after an existential struggle for control of a company that some believe holds the fate of humanity in its hands. Altman was weary. He went to his Napa Valley ranch for a hike, then returned to San Francisco to spend a few hours with one of the board members who had just fired and reinstated him in the span of five frantic days. He put his computer away for a few hours to cook vegetarian pasta, play loud music, and drink wine with his fiancĂ© Oliver Mulherin. “This was a 10-out-of-10 crazy thing to live through,” Altman tells TIME on Nov. 30. “So I’m still just reeling from that.”

We’re speaking exactly one year after OpenAI released Chat-GPT, the most rapidly adopted tech product ever. The impact of the chatbot and its successor, GPT-4, was transformative—for the company and the world. “For many people,” Altman says, 2023 was “the year that they started taking AI seriously.” Born as a nonprofit research lab dedicated to building artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity, OpenAI became an $80 billion rocket ship. Altman emerged as one of the most powerful and venerated executives in the world, the public face and leading prophet of a technological revolution.
I think Altman does double duty as Innovator of the Year. Normally, I'd have given him first billing, but I realized I hadn't given Vlases and her fellow plaintiffs in Montana any attention at all, let alone what they deserved, so they got it instead. Priorities.

Follow over the jump for the videos honoring Lionel Messi and Padma Lakshmi.

Watch Lionel Messi | TIME Athlete of the Year 2023.

That this moment unfolded, on July 21, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale still feels surreal. Lionel Messi, in his first game wearing a pink Inter Miami jersey, was awarded a free kick in the final seconds of his Major League Soccer (MLS) debut.

Messi placed the ball on the grass. Kim Kardashian and LeBron James were in the crowd that night, but not a soul was looking at them. The ball left Messi’s left foot, and as the shot began to curl around a wall of a half-dozen Cruz Azul players, Yedlin, who was standing on the field behind Messi, spread his arms in a victory pose.

Lionel Messi is TIME's 2023 Athlete of the Year.
I'm old enough to know that people have been predicting the rise of soccer in the U.S. for at least 50 years. Outside of women and children, I didn't think that had happened yet, despite my marching in a band that performed at a professional soccer game in 1976. I think that's changed with the success of Ted Lasso, Welcome to Wrexham, and now Messi; soccer has reached critical mass in the U.S. Speaking of Ted Lasso and Messi, Apple TV+ shares both of them and I found the subscription numbers for the service because of Messi astounding. That convinced me that soccer has reached critical mass in the U.S.!

I close with Padma Lakshmi on the Importance of Telling Immigrant Stories.

After almost two decades of hosting Top Chef, Lakshmi announced her departure from the show earlier this year. That gave her more time to spend producing Taste the Nation—her foray into showcasing a wider variety of cuisines and amplifying the stories of immigrant communities. The award-winning Hulu series reflects a seamless blend of food and politics for American viewers. “While the analysis of food is interesting and it’s important, the people that make the food, they are truly fascinating,” she said in Tuesday’s speech.
I second what Lakshmi said about immigrants powering the economy. I've seen it again and again, both in California and in Michigan, and I'm glad Time gave her the opportunity to repeat this message, which she also told in the Gold Derby interview I embedded in A late celebration of RuPaul's birthday with the Emmy nominations for 'Drag Race'. In the absence of Time awarding an Entertainer of the Year, although Swift qualifies for that, too, I'll take Lakshmi.

That takes care of Time's people of the year. Stay tuned for Winter Solstice/Yule followed by a string of holiday posts. I love holidays!

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