Podcast reviews

Sleepwalkers: a podcast about our relationship with AI

Do you feel like you ought to know more about artificial intelligence? Machine learning? Skynet? I suggest checking out Sleepwalkers, a podcast about the potential — and the potential perils — of AI.

Sleepwalkers cover

I found Sleepwalkers via another podcast (I can’t remember which one). I wanted to learn more about AI and the impact it can have on our society. Sleepwalkers fit the bill. The podcast is very even-handed. It doesn’t demonized the technology, but also doesn’t worship it. And it presents information in a very accessible manner as it discusses the issues and interviews experts from a variety of disciplines.

The potential of AI

A robot with a flower, which has nothing to do with AI but I liked it

One of the episodes delves into the potential of AI to help in medicine. And they address the comment that AI in medicine will dehumanize it. But they talk to Siddhartha Mukherjee, who’s take on it was really inspiring: If AI can take over some of the routine diagnostic tasks — and probably do them better than humans — it frees health care professionals up to be more creative in understanding root causes and developing treatments. BTW, he’s the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which you might have heard of, besides being one of those super smart people.

I’ve thought more than once recently, given the ability of technology in general to take on so many tasks in our lives, that emotional intelligence and creative thinking are the most critical skills to teach kids nowadays. That maybe even more true in the age of AI.

The perils of AI

Sleepwalkers doesn’t shy away from the perils either, especially if we don’t understand the AI, can’t see how it’s making its decisions, or use flawed data sets for it to learn from (for example, filled with our biases). It delves into deepfakes, which was quite interesting…and terrifying, but also talked about the efforts to use AI to detect deepfakes.

The potential of deepfakes makes me wonder if we’ll start to seek out more in-person experiences, things we know are real because they’re right there in front of us. Will we see more live stumping of politicians, for example, when we can’t trust what we see in any other medium? Or will we not care, as long as it resonates with our personal echo chamber? Or will we have some sort of blockchain for identity?

I’m assuming ‘sleepwalkers’ refers to us, and our current lack of knowledge about AI and machine learning as we head into the future. If you want to be a little less uninformed, I’d recommend this podcast. There’s a second season coming soon, apparently.

Why a podcast review? Well, I walk to work at least a few times a week. It takes just under an hour, which might seem like a lot but 1) I need exercise, and 2) the other option is the bus. But I need something to keep me entertained, so I listen to a number of podcasts. I figured I’d add them to the things I review.

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