Bull Session

The Productivity Paradox

November 16, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we discuss the Productivity Paradox, inspired by the recent article in MIT Technology Review, “Advanced tech, but growth slow and unequal: paradoxes and policies”. While we’re experiencing an unprecedented boom in technology, the accompanying massive productivity boost that we might expect to see has failed to materialize. In fact, in many major economies, productivity growth is slowing. So, what’s the reason for this unexpected outcome? To begin with, our ability to absorb, integrate, and leverage technologies effectively — from mobile to artificial intelligence to the internet of things — has limits. While the technology might be present, it is not been distributed and utilized in ways that have yielded productivity gains in rapid fashion. Constructing the systems, workflows, and roles to take advantage of these new technologies will take time. And, in concert with these, it will be vital that, as a society, we develop policies that support and enable people to shift into new work roles and invest time in learning new skills. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Advanced tech, but growth slow and unequal: paradoxes and policies

 

Bull Session

Emerging Technologies and the Self

November 9, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we discuss emerging technologies and the self. What makes us ourselves, the way we take in information, the way we share, communicate, collaborate and interact with people has gone digital in a number of ways. In particular, we delve into the topic of virtual reality experiences and empathy, based on the article in Aeon, “It’s dangerous to think virtual reality is an empathy machine”. VR can change how we think about the world, helping us understanding different perspectives. For instance, the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University created a simulation from the perspective of a cow, of being raised for the slaughterhouse. There are immersive VR experiences of becoming homeless and experiencing racism. But what is the true impact of these early experiments? Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
It’s dangerous to think virtual reality is an empathy machine
Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab

Bull Session

The Pitfalls of Predicting AI

November 2, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we discuss the pitfalls of predicting AI. AI predictions range from the measured and meaningful to highly unrealistic and downright hysterical. But how can you tell the difference? In this episode, we dig into some rules of thumb for thinking through the AI predictions we encounter, as laid out in the article “The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions” by Rodney Brooks, a founder of Rethink Robotics. From better understanding the properties of narrow AI to asking “how will it be deployed?”, questioning supposed magical properties without limit, to admitting, in the long term, we just don’t know, we’ll explore the many factors that counter the breathless hysteria of AI predictions. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions

Bull Session

Establishing AI Ethics

October 26, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we explore the difficulties of establishing an AI code of ethics, inspired by an article from MIT Technology Review, “Establishing an AI code of ethics will be harder than people think”.

There’s already ample evidence that artificial intelligence can exacerbate existing system bias if left unchecked. And, a set of design ethics guiding AI development may be far in the future, as the difficulty of defining an applicable rule set, and the subjective nature of ethics itself, makes the task extremely difficult. However, such arguments over AI ethics often emphasize top-down efforts rather than bottom-up — for instance, auditing AI decision-making from the initial data curation stage and throughout the process. In this view, AI design and development is not a purely technical practice, but instead incorporates cultural aspects, similar to teaching children right and wrong. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Establishing an AI code of ethics will be harder than people think

Bull Session

Sapiens, Creativity, and Technology

October 19, 2018          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week our special guest is Dr. Carie Little Hersh, an American cultural anthropologist, teaching professor in Anthropology at Northeastern University, and producer and host of podcast Anthropologist on the Street. We chat about human creativity and technology through time, from an anthropological perspective.

Which came first: humans or technology? And what is the relationship between homo sapiens and the species who came before us, or those such as the neanderthals with whom we competed? We consider the anthropological relationship between technology and creativity, as well as patterns in technological progression through time. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
RelevANTH
Anthropologist on the Street