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    • Chris MacAskill

      It was Ezra Klein's recent interview of Chris Anderson, who runs TED.

      Here are some points that stuck with me:

      Chris: The media world is overwhelmingly dominated by politics. The theory is the world is shaped by by politicians. We get terribly worked up about who's winning who's losing and we fight with each other like crazy.

      It may not be true. History is shaped more profoundly by other kinds of ideas — by inventors, scientists, advocates and people who campaign to make change in different ways.

      I look back as an exercise. If you look for when cellphones burst on the scene, you have to look at page 27 of the New York Times in the 70s when everyone was talking about Richard Nixon. Yet that little story on page 27 probably shaped more billions of lives.

      Ezra: What do you think will be definitional in how this era is remembered in, say, 22 or 2300?

      Chris: Definitely one of them is is artificial intelligence. The potential of what we are building is incredible and definitely has all kinds of ways to go horribly wrong.

      In fact, arguably it has already gone horribly wrong if you think about Facebook's algorithms as a form of of incredible artificial intelligence. They've helped discover things about human systems that no human ever knew — arguably mostly through unintended consequence, perhaps fueled by capitalist greed, who knows. They've had disastrous unexpected consequences by fueling human animosity.

      Multiply that 40,000 times and add 20 years and who knows what the story will be. The one thing we do know is that they will be astonishingly powerful.

      I don't believe that humans are bad or good. I think everyone is capable of both and it depends which parts of us are activated.

      The story that frustrates me most is humans respond more to strong opinion from people who think like me but who can say what I feel in a more provocative way. That's who we gravitate towards. That has this this terrible consequence of pushing each other apart and to create online worlds that are optimized for our lizard brains.

    • I don't believe that humans are bad or good. I think everyone is capable of both and it depends which parts of us are activated.

      I believe this is at the very core of the problem we are facing. Something Dr. Peter Whybrow has called out in his book The Well Tuned Brain. I love this quote below from his book. Really speaks well to the issue at hand. Technology has evolved to "activate" this "common behavioral root". Either we begin to realize this and build around it or continue to ride the slippery slope toward hyper mass consumerism.

      Clues may be found to an understanding of how the brains internal market is distorted by
      myopic preoccupation with the short term and by an obsession with continuous growth. In our contemporary experience I conclude that the 2008 financial crisis, the obesity
      epidemic, and environmental degradation have a common behavioral root that is fed by
      the enticements of affluence degrading the brains capacity for self regulation.

    • My favorite podcast episodes of 2018 is quite a bit sillier - I'd have to say it's the How Did This Get Made episode for GEOSTORM, taped on April 12, 2018. The podcast is co-hosted by the inimitable Jason Mantzoukas, June Diane Raphael, and Paul Scheer (photo below from this review of one of their live shows). GEOSTORM is a particularly fun flick starring Gerard Butler who's trying to save the world from a rogue weather satellite - and you'll find yourself laughing along with our hosts as they analyze the film.

    • If you look for when cellphones burst on the scene, you have to look at page 27 of the New York Times in the 70s when everyone was talking about Richard Nixon. Yet that little story on page 27 probably shaped more billions of lives.

      Dave Meslin says that apathy is often the result of obstacles and barriers to our understanding.

      I think part of the problem is having people who understand the value of big ideas and who can also communicate them in a non-technical way.

      Imagine if the 1972 story on the invention of cellphones had led with this:

      Star Trek Communicators may be in our Future with invention of “Cellphones”

      Beam me up, Scotty” is what I said into the new communication device from Bell Labs. A transporter beam did not appear, and I continued to remain Earthbound, but my message was communicated without phone lines to a communications lab several miles away. With no apparent delay, my message was received by Dr. Frans Schaupper and I received his “wireless” response that the transporter room was closed for routine maintenance.

    • Hmmm.

      Yes, we are more or less incapable of strategic, long-term sacrifice.

      Yes, we obsess over politics.

      Too much? That, I'm not so sure about. Maybe our focus is on the wrong ball a lot of times, though.

      I don't think that I agree that non-political events are more important in shaping the future. To me, that sounds like something a man selling a book or speaking appearances might say (forgive me if I'm reading this gentleman incorrectly.)

      Examples:

      Lyndon Johnson -- Civil Rights legislation, Vietnam War.

      Richard Nixon -- created the Environmental Protection Agency, signed into law the Clean Air Act. Congress overrode Nixon's veto to enact the Clean Water Act.

      Ronald Reagan -- the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the marriage between the GOP and the religious right.

      George HW Bush -- overt racism in GOP campaign strategy.

      Bill Clinton -- set the stage for the 2008 financial meltdown that turned millions of lives upside down and may have contributed to Donald Trump being elected (and effects of that will be interesting to measure in the decades to come.)

      George W Bush -- the invasion of Iraq, which has fundamentally destabilized the Middle East.

      Barack Obama -- too early to tell, but a front-runner is the Affordable Care Act. (Possibly white grievance, too, although that may be due to larger social forces like demographic changes.)

    • BTW, my favorite singe podcast episode of the year was a Stay Tuned with Preet.


      June 21, 2018

      Criminal Justice, Part 4: Your Questions, Answered (with Anne Milgram and Lisa Monaco)

      Anne Milgram is the former Attorney General of New Jersey. Lisa
      Monaco was the Homeland Security Advisor to President Barack Obama. They
      join Preet to tackle your questions on the criminal justice system.
      What does collusion mean? What is a constitutional crisis? And is court
      anything like how it seems on TV?

    • I don't necessarily agree with the specifics you've attributed to various politicians, but I agree that they can have enormous impact. I used to travel to Venezuela for business when it felt like a wealthy nation and it feels like political leaders brought it to its current state. My God, just look at WW1 and WW2.

    • I heard that episode! Loved it too, as I do all his episodes. Who knew a soft-spoken attorney could be so fascinating a podcast host?

      Here's another episode that I can't stop thinking about. While Kara was obsessed over Facebook and Google, Sam took the point of view that we give too much time to thinking about current-day problems and not enough to future ones. We have to start focusing on AI as a future one.

    • That was fascinating. I now officially worship Kara Swisher and her swashbuckling, no-BS ways.

      BTW, this question from the audience captures the kind of thing I sense coming out of the Silicon Valley subculture nowadays. And I think the interlocutor's first response is exactly what I feel.

      Chris: I’m Chris. You have made mention before of being
      fatigued from news and that potential resource being repleted. Sam, you
      mentioned the exponential growth curve, I think a nod to the
      singularity. The Weinstein brothers make mention of the sense-making
      apparatus when referring to the news. And I think the disruption of the
      economics that publishing news today. When you believe are going to be
      the upcoming sense-making apparati of dealing with the increasing
      intentional load we’re going to see as our growth exponentially expands?

      Manny Yekutiel: Does someone want to repeat that question?

    You've been invited!