Bull Session

The Human in Tech

August 24, 2017          

Episode Summary

For our podcast topic this week, we discuss the digital life, automation, and eliminating the human in our digital interactions. In an essay in MIT Technology Review, David Byrne of Talking Heads fame postulates that “part of making something ‘frictionless’ is getting the human part out of the way.” He goes on, in his essay to reflect upon how automation is eliminating the human in areas as varied as e-commerce, digital music, online education, and even social media. Does this elimination of the human element lead to less tolerance and understanding of our differences? If cooperation is what has made us successful as a species, how do we survive if we’re only self-interested to the exclusion of others? And, is technology headed in this direction?

Resources

Eliminating the Human

Bull Session

Technology and Immortality

August 17, 2017          

Episode Summary

On the podcast this week, we discuss advances in the digital life and in biological engineering that are fueling the human search for immortality. It seems like humans have always been obsessed with living forever. The path to immortality, however, has necessarily been more fantasy than reality. Even The Fountain of Youth, one of the most famous fables of immortality, was erroneously connected to the biography of the conquistador Juan Ponce de León, perhaps to give the legend more weight.

It’s a natural human desire is to try to extend our lives as much as possible. We’re getting better at fighting off diseases, although we’re encountering new ones all the time — obesity, various cancers, and even West Nile virus are all examples of relatively new threats. Digitally, we’re finding better and better ways of preserving our perspectives in 0s and 1s. And, there’s an interesting sociological thread that’s tightly connected with such technological advances: Who gets to live the longest, and most desirable life? Whose ideas are maintained and propagated? Join us on the podcast, as we discuss.

Resources:
What are the ethical consequences of immortality technology?

Bull Session

The Trials and Tribulations of the Early Adopter

August 10, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss the difficulties that early adopters can encounter when using new consumer technology. In many instances, the first version of a tech product is no better than a beta release. Initial consumer iterations are often test cases for unproven inventions that can barely survive QA. Today, with so many tech products being released on a regular basis, the role of the early adopter is akin to that of an innovation guinea pig. So, why be an early adopter?

Resources:
The Trials and Tribulations of the Early Adopter

Bull Session

The New Technology of Storytelling

August 3, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss 21st century storytelling in light of emerging technology, which has given us a wide variety of media possibilities.Technology and storytelling have always gone hand in hand. For instance, the novel has historical roots going back hundreds, maybe even a thousand years, the technology of paper and writing language underpining its evolution. And the motion picture began in the 1930s as a storytelling medium, although the technology itself was invented 40 years prior. In the 21st century, the media for telling tales, real and fictional, is ever expanding — from video games to chat fiction to virtual reality movies. And with the possibilities of emerging tech like brain-computer interfaces and the IoT, the potential for immersive stories seems vast. How can reality compete? Join us as we discuss.

Resources:

Wattpad takes ‘chat fiction’ beyond text with launch of Tap Originals
I just saw the first movie from Oculus, and it is the future

Bull Session

AI Goes to China

July 28, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss China’s push to dominate AI, the interplay of technology and politics, and the competitive stakes in the rising digital global order. The State Council of the People’s Republic of China country announced a development plan last week to build a domestic industry worth almost $150B and become the world leader in AI by 2030. The Chinese government will be investing heavily to ensure it moves to the front of the line when it comes to AI. Will China become the same kind of economic powerhouse in AI, as it has in manufacturing? With the US cutting back on science research, it seems possible, even likely. Regardless, the race for AI leadership is on.

Resources:
China Plans to Use Artificial Intelligence to Gain Global Economic Dominance by 2030
Chinese State Council Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence
In China, cutting-edge innovation often comes with orderly, numbers-heavy government mandates.
China’s Artificial-Intelligence Boom
Beijing Wants A.I. to Be Made in China by 2030