10.5 Human Questions for a Computer Age

The Freqonomics podcast explores “the hidden side of everything.” This particular episode does a masterful job of charting the Internet’s trajectory from its inception (and before) to the present. Without being overly technical, it outlines some key trends that may threaten the original vision of the net as an open communication platform for everybody—and may also have profound impact on our greater society.

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We generally think about digital technology as something that’s outside of us. I think there’s a clear boundary between me and my technology. But that boundary is getting fuzzier all the time. In this fascinating talk to the Long Now Foundation, science fiction writer Ramez Naam makes a compelling case that the boundary is about to disappear forever. He discusses cutting edge research in many related fields and the ethical implications of that research as it finds its way into our products and our bodies.

The Long Now Foundation hosts an excellent series monthly talks related to its important mission of helping us see the long view; this is part of that ongoing series. While you’re on their site, take some time to look for other gems.

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The Shameful Side of Internet Culture

July 29, 2015

Shaming and bullying existed long before the Internet age. But social networks have the power to magnify the negative impact of those activities, sometimes wrecking the lives of innocent people in the process. In this fascinating TED talk, Jon Ronson graphically illustrates this phenomenon with a true story and talks about what we need to do to minimize the consequences of Internet shaming.

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How Are Computers Changing Us?

February 17, 2015

This is a big question with a multitude of answers. NPR’s new program/podcast Invisibilia answers with three stories. The first one looks at the big picture with questions about artificial intelligence, wearable computers, and the possibilities for human/computer co-evolution. The other two stories look at specific, personal, right-now examples of human character changes as a result of digital technology.

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Deep Learning: Artificial Intelligence Breakthroughs that Will Change Your Life

January 6, 2015

For decades researchers have experimented with machine learning—software that can improve with experience without being reprogrammed. That research has paid off in a number of applications, including the intelligent search engines that we use every day. But recent breakthroughs in a field called deep learning are likely to bring radical transformations to our lives very soon.

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Automation in Perspective: The Workforce Crisis

December 23, 2014

We’ve speculated for decades about the impact of robots and automation on the future of jobs. But in this eye-opening TED talk, Rainer Strack considers automation as part of the larger question: How will society meet the needs of people in 2030? He raises many profoundly important questions and provides a few answers that we should all consider.

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Does This Video Make You Want to Stop Watching YouTube?

May 15, 2014

Every new technology brings controversy. This short video poetically confronts one of the most important questions of our digital age: If we’re always connected through our devices, will we lose more important connections with other humans?

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Is Privacy History?—Snowden’s Message

January 2, 2014

Earlier this year Edward Snowden made a decision that changed the world. By leaking top secret government documents to the press, he revealed that US surveillance of private and public citizins goes far beyond what most of us had previously imagined. Because of those leaks, people all around the world are asking important questions about the balance between privacy and security in a free society.

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Are Our Intellectual Property Laws Patently Absurd?

June 12, 2013

Patents have been part of American life since the country was born—they were written into the constitution to legally protect and encourage innovation, creativity, and productivity. But today, patents are used by shadowy companies that make nothing more than profits—and the threat of lawsuits from these companies is enough to keep people from creating high-tech products, companies, and jobs. This episode of This American Life shines a bright light on the broken intellectual property legal system by telling the stories of people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by that system.

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The Activist in Your Pocket

May 16, 2013

Did you ever wonder who gets your money when you go shopping? You may, without knowing it, be donating your hard-earned cash to people and corporations who use it to fund campaigns that go against your beliefs and values.

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