Bull Session

Digital / Human

July 13, 2018          

Episode Summary

On the podcast this week, we take a look at the strange new world of developing digital humans — convincing CGI rendering of people in virtual space, which may or may not be connected to AI. Pioneering this category of virtual person are brand influencers and supermodels on Instagram, like Lil Miquela, who conceivably could make money endorsing fashion products like clothing and make-up. In a B2B context, when wired up to an AI-driven chat bot, these virtual people could take the place of person-to-person customer service, as in the case of Ava, from Autodesk. What happens when we’re able to create convincing digital representations of people who can communicate and influence? Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
CGI “Influencers” Like Lil Miquela Are About to Flood Your Feed

Bull Session

Digital Disguises and Facial Recognition

July 6, 2018          

Episode Summary

On the podcast this week, we examine facial recognition software and digital disguises. It seems like AI-driven facial recognition systems are just about everywhere—from the face-scanning technologies for law enforcement and government to everyday social media tagging. Tools like these can be used for the public good or harm. And there’s no doubt that we’re concerned about facial recognition surveillance encroaching on our personal privacy. While clothing like glasses, hats, or even masks can somewhat inhibit facial recognition, it’s not a huge surprise that disguises of a digital nature, anti-facial-recognition systems, are on the rise as well. For example, researchers at the University of Toronto have developed software to hinder facial recognition using an algorithm that slightly alters the images. And while humans can’t really tell the difference, an AI that scans a photo altered in this way, won’t be able to identify a face. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
This Filter Makes Your Photos Indecipherable to Facial Recognition Software

Bull Session

Bio Threat Games

June 29, 2018          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss “gaming” techniques and design fiction for the purposes of imagining possible scenarios around emerging technologies and their effects and consequences.

Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security recently sponsored an exercise in Washington DC, CladeX, to evaluate governmental response to potential future pandemics. This exercise introduced a scenario—using realistic virology and epidemiological models—in which a man-made virus was released as part of a terrorist attack. This CladeX exercise is similar to the type of envisioning practice that’s used in design fiction to work through the implications of a new technology, imagine it within a human context, and look at elements related to its misuse. As a part of the event, the Center for Health Security also presented strategic policy recommendations for preventing or reducing the worst possible outcomes in future pandemics. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
It’s fiction, but America just got wiped out by a man-made terror germ

Bull Session

Super Technologies

June 22, 2018          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss the idea of “super technologies”—the combination and subsequent amplification of emerging technologies like AI, robotics, and the IoT.

The recently released MIT Sloan executive guide “Seven Technologies Remaking the World” highlights pervasive computing, wireless mesh networks, biotechnology, 3D printing, machine learning, nanotechnology, and robotics as “the starting line of a universal technological revolution”. Further, the report continues, “beyond their individual impact, an intriguing and powerful aspect of the seven technologies lies in their potential as combinations.”

On The Digital Life, we’ve previously discussed the concept of super technologies under the moniker of Smartware. Together, these technologies promise to create a radical inflection point at the same scale as personal computers in the 1970s, the Internet in the 1990s, and mobile computing in the 2000s. Join us as we discuss!

Resources:
Seven Technologies Remaking the World

Bull Session

The Future of Food

June 14, 2018          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we take another look at the future of food, in particular, meat. Because the agriculture industry is the source of about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, there are serious environmental concerns about the consequences of producing meat for a growing global population. The UN predicts that the number of people on the planet will grow to 9.8 billion by 2050, from 7.6 billion today. Compared to vegetable protein, raising animals for food is highly inefficient, using more land, water, fertilizer, and pesticides. This won’t work for a population of nearly 10 billion people.

While replicating meat in a convincing way is difficult, companies like Impossible Foods are now selling well-reviewed substitutes for ground beef. To see what the future of food might hold, we try out some meatball sandwiches made of Impossible Foods’ product for lunch. Join us as we discuss the results of our experiment, and the evolution of food tech in general.

Resources:
The Race to Make a Great Fake Steak