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YANSS 145 – Douglas Rushkoff explains why we should revolt against the algorithms so we can get back to our essential human messiness

January 19, 2019 - 21:22

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we sit down with one of the original cyberpunks, the famed journalist, documentarian, media theorist, all-around technology superstar and weirdo, Douglas Rushkoff.

MIT considers Rushkoff one of the “world’s ten most influential thinkers,” and in the episode we talk about his latest (and 20th) book, Team Human

The book is a bit of a manifesto in which he imagines a new counterculture that would revolt against the algorithms that are slowly altering our collective behavior for the benefit of shareholders. Instead, he implores us, we should curate a digital, psychedelic substrate that embraces the messiness of human beings: our unpredictability, our pursuit of novelty and innovation, and our primate/animal/social connectedness.

The book is presented in a series of aphorisms that add up to a rallying cry for building communities outside of what the machines that tend our walled gardens might suggest we build. As the title suggests, he would prefer that we turned our technological attention to encouraging and facilitating teamwork.

In the book, he says that any technology whose initial purpose is to connect people will eventually become colonized and repurposed to repress and isolate them. But, the good news is that we’ve seen this pattern so often that we can now stop it in its tracks and choose to build something else. In the interview, you’ll hear what his thoughts are on all this — and much more.

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first
purchase.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show by donating through PayPal at this link.

Douglas Rushkoff is a professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at the City University of New York and a titan of technology journalism who coined the terms viral media, digital native, and social currency. His bestsellers include Coercion, Present Shock, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc, and Media Virus, and his famed PBS Frontline documentaries include Generation Like, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His latest project is the Team Human podcast.

 

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Douglas Rushkoff’s Official Website

Douglas Rushkoff’s Twitter

The World’s Most Influential Thinkers

Team Human Podcast

Team Human Book

Generation Like

YANSS 144 – The Backfire Effect – Part Four (rebroadcast)

January 19, 2019 - 18:27

In 2017, You Are Not So Smart produced three episodes about the backfire effect, and by far, those episodes were the most popular the show has ever done.

In fact, the famous web comic The Oatmeal turned them into a sort of special feature, and that comic of those episodes was shared on Facebook a gazillion times, which lead to a stories about the comic in popular media, and then more people listened to the shows, on and on it went. You can go see it at The Oatmeal right now at the top of their page. It’s titled, you are not going to believe what I am about to tell you.

The popularity of the backfire effect extends into academia. The original paper has been cited hundreds of times, and there have been more than 300 articles written about it since it first came out.

The backfire effect has his special allure to it, because, on the surface, it seems to explain something we’ve all experienced — when we argue with people who believe differently than us, who see the world through a different ideological lens — they often resist our views, refuse to accept our way of seeing things, and it often seems like we do more harm than good, because they walk away seemingly more entrenched in their beliefs than before the argument began.

But…since those shows, researchers have produced a series of new studies into the backfire effect that complicate things. Yes, we are observing something here, and yes we are calling it the backfire effect, but everything is not exactly as it seems, and so I thought we should invite these new researchers on the show and add a fourth episode to the backfire effect series based on what they’ve found. And this is that episode.

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first
purchase.

Beachbody On Demand is an online fitness streaming service that gives you unlimited access to a wide variety of highly effective, world-class workouts, personalized to meet your needs. You can watch the libraries of familiar brands like PiYo, P90X, Insanity, 21 Day Fix, T25, and 3 Week Yoga Retreat. Right now my listeners can get a free trial membership, access to the entire platform, when you text SMART to 303030.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show by donating through PayPal at this link.

Tom Wood is a political scientist at Ohio State University where he studies political behavior, campaigns, vote choice, and elections. He also studies how conspiratorial and magical thinking influence attitudes and votes, especially when voters experience anxiety and uncertainty. He tweets @thomasjwood.

Ethan Porter is a political scientist at George Washington University where he studies where he studies public opinion, political communication, political psychology, and experimental design. He is working on a book, The Consumer Citizen, which explores how consumer decision-making affects political attitudes and behavior.He tweets at @ethanvporter

Brendan Nyhan is a political scientist at Dartmouth College.  He is a contributor to The Upshot at The New York Times and served as media critic for Columbia Journalism Review. He was co-editor of Spinsanity, a non-partisan watchdog of political spin, and co-authored All the President’s Spin. He is currently research “fake news,” and he tweets @BrendanNyhan

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

When Corrections Fail (the original research)

The Elusive Backfire Effect (the new research)

Why We Fight

YANSS 143 – How to Talk to People About Things

December 18, 2018 - 01:02

In this episode, we sit down with negotiation expert Misha Glouberman who explains how to talk to people about things — that is, how to avoid the pitfalls associated with debate when two or more people attempt to come to an agreement that will be mutually beneficial.

Misha Glouberman teaches negotiation, both in the classroom and within organizations, and he also works as a professional facilitator, which means he helps people design and run conferences and meetings. He also lectures, hosts Trampoline Hall (which has a podcast) — where he interviews the speakers afterfield and fields questions from the audience — and he is the co-author of the book The Chairs Are Where the People Go, a collection of his dictated musings about life recorded and edited by author Sheila Heti. 

To put it simply, Misha is an expert on communication, and people pay him to help them communicate better. In our long, wide-ranging conversation, you’ll pick up a zillion nuggets of wisdom that will help you the next time you set out to negotiate, facilitate, or solve shared problems with people through conversation.

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first purchase.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show through PayPal by clicking this link.

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Misha’s Website

Trampoline Hall

How to Ask a Proper Question at an Event

YANSS 142 – The impact of public debate on social change

December 18, 2018 - 00:41

Parker Wiseman ran for student office in high school with photocopied flyers. He debated the public school system in social studies class. In college he took the courses and shook the hands that would help him join that peculiar Southern subculture of the embattled Mississippi Democrat, a pugnacious sort who plays darts and drinks whiskey while wearing penny loafers and forces smiles meant to fool no one. People close to Parker Wiseman were not surprised when, at the age of 28, he became the youngest mayor in Starkville history.

When I met him, he was deep into his second term, 34-years-old with bright blue eyes neatly obscured by thin-framed spectacles hugging a cleanly shaved head. I had to wait for the person before me to finish a meeting before I could take up time in his schedule, but when the door opened he traded off quickly and was all laughs and smirks as I unpacked my bag. In conversation, he moved between two poses, leaning forward with shoulders high and elbows planted wide so he could clasp his hands and focus when I was talking, and reclined in an unwound ease when he was answering, one arm propping him up so he could lean into the back the chair with his rear scooted to the forward edge of the seat and his feet as far apart as could be achieved with manners in dress slacks.

I wanted to meet Wiseman because he had concluded a long, difficult battle to bring social change to a city in the Deep South, to Mississippi, one that made national headlines.

In January of 2013, under Wiseman’s leadership, the Starkville Board of Alderman proposed a 208-word “Resolution Supporting Equality.” It stated the city would henceforth make it public policy to prevent discrimination in Starkville.

In the text, the Resolution established that the City, as a whole, believed diversity was critical to the success of its community. It deepened the bonds between neighbors, they said, in addition to stimulating job growth. Despite this, the Resolution continued, the city realized that discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity and expression, age, marital status, sexual orientation, familial status, veteran’s status, disability, and source of income” persisted, not just in Starkville, but across the world, and with that in mind, the City declared such behavior was “anathema to the public policy of the City.”

Wiseman recalled it seemed like a simple and uncontroversial idea at the time, and it passed without much discussion. The Board didn’t linger on its implications and soon moved on the tedium of sewer lines and traffic lights and the usual business required to keep a small city running and its residents happy.

No city in Mississippi had ever included sexual orientation or gender identity in such a resolution, a fact that the Human Rights Campaign pointed out in its blitz of publicity after the measure passed. In one release, they wrote, “This is the first time any municipality in Mississippi has recognized the dignity of its LGBT residents,” and the president of the HRC, Chad Griffin, personally thanked the city.

A flurry of media attention followed with TV stations, newspapers, and LGBT organizations producing state and national headlines, some entertaining the notion that Mississippi might be changing its mind faster than other parts of the country usually thought of as being considerably more progressive, and others expressing awe at a declaration of tolerance within a state synonymous with bigotry. Within a month, a town to the south, Hattiesburg, passed a similar resolution, and seven more cities would follow. Each time, Wiseman recalled, Starkville was mentioned.

“Of course,” Wiseman told me, “things went sideways later in the year.”

The pushback started with one of the more conservative aldermen who proposed repealing the resolution once the glow of the publicity began to fade. At first, the alderman couldn’t get get any traction, and the backlash may have ended there, but Wiseman decided he wanted to push for more change by proposing a measure that would allow employees of the city to extend their insurance coverage to domestic partners, including partners of the same sex. For many in the community, especially those who had bit their tongues concerning the anti-discrimination resolution, this crossed the line. Wiseman told me that when the HRC publicized the fact that this would potentially allow insurance coverage for gay couples within the city it became an explosive political event.

“I wish I could tell you exactly why that’s when everything exploded,” said Wiseman. “I can’t. We could probably spend the next couple of hours analyzing all the different reasons, but that was the point that I would say communication in the public square about LGBT issues began in earnest.”

In this episode, you’ll hear that debate unfold as we spend time in Starkville exploring the value of argumentation and conversation in the process of change, progress, and understanding our basic humanity.

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first purchase.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show through PayPal by clicking this link.

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Wiseman reflects on time in office, staff commend his leadership and guidance

YANSS 141 – How politicians misrepresent science

November 21, 2018 - 22:04

In this episode, science journalist Dave Levitan talks about his new book: Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science.

In the book, Levitan takes us through 12 repeating patterns that politicians fall into when they talk about scientific research. Some are nefarious and intentional, some are based on ignorance, and some are just part of the normal business of politicians managing their public image or trying to appeal to their base. Not only do they often get the science wrong, they sometimes fail to communicate the nature of scientific inquiry and the goals of the scientific process itself.

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first purchase.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show through PayPal by clicking this link.

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Not A Scientist

YANSS 140 – How we uploaded our biases into our machines and what we can do about it

November 21, 2018 - 21:46

Now that algorithms are everywhere, helping us to both run and make sense of the world, a strange question has emerged among artificial intelligence researchers: When is it ok to predict the future based on the past? When is it ok to be biased?

“I want a machine-learning algorithm to learn what tumors looked like in the past, and I want it to become biased toward selecting those kind of tumors in the future,” explains philosopher Shannon Vallor at Santa Clara University.  “But I don’t want a machine-learning algorithm to learn what successful engineers and doctors looked like in the past and then become biased toward selecting those kinds of people when sorting and ranking resumes.”

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first purchase.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show through PayPal by clicking this link.

Like all learning systems, our algorithms must make sense of present based on a database of old experiences. The problem is that looking backwards we see a bevy of norms, ideas, and associations we’d like to leave in the past. Machines can’t tell if a bias from a generation ago was morally good or neutral, nor can they tell if it was unjust, based on arbitrary social norms that lead to exclusion. So how do we teach our machines which inferences they should consider useful and which they should consider harmful?

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, three experts on artificial intelligence help us understand how we accidentally transferred our prejudices and biases into our infant artificial intelligences. We will also explore who gets to say what is right and what is wrong as we try to fix all this. And you’ll hear examples of how some of our early machine minds, through prediction, are creating the future they predict by influencing the systems they monitor — because our actions folds their results back into their next prediction.

Those experts are:

Shannon Vallor — a professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University. “My research explores the philosophical territory defined by three intersecting domains: the philosophy and ethics of emerging technologies, the philosophy of science and phenomenology. My current research project focuses on the impact of emerging technologies, particularly those involving automation and artificial intelligence, on the moral and intellectual habits, skills and virtues of human beings – our character.”

Alistair Croll — who teaches about technology and business at the Harvard Business School. He is an entrepreneur, author, and event organizer. “I spend a lot of time understanding how organizations of all sizes can use data to make better decisions, and on startup acceleration. I’m also fascinated by what happens when the rubber of technology meets the road of technology.”

Damien Williams — an artificial intelligence expert who writes about how technology intersects with human society. “For the past nine years, I’ve been writing, talking, thinking, teaching, and learning about philosophy, comparative religion, magic, artificial intelligence, human physical and mental augmentation, pop culture, and how they all relate.”

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

ProPublica’s report on machine bias

The Affirmative Action of Vocabulary

Joanna Bryson on A.I.

Jana Eggers on A.I.

Shannon Vallor’s Website

Shannon Vallor’s Twitter

Damien William’s Website

Damien William’s Twitter

Alistair Crolls’ Website

Alistair Crolls’s Twitter

Machines taught by photos learn a sexist view of women

Semantics derived automatically from language corpora necessarily contain human biases

Men Also Like Shopping: Reducing Gender Bias Amplification using Corpus-level Constraints

How Vector Space Mathematics Reveals the Hidden Sexism in Language

Content analysis of 150 years of British periodicals

IMAGE: The DNA Machine from Blade Runner 2049

 

YANSS 139 – The life-threatening impact of loneliness and how to combat it in our modern, insular world

November 21, 2018 - 21:21

On this episode, journalist Kate Leaver talks about her new book, The Friendship Cure: Reconnecting in the Modern Worldin which she explores the crippling, damaging, life-threatening impact of loneliness and the severe mental health costs of living a life disconnected from a support network of close contacts. But…as she explains in the episode, there is a cure…learning how to connect with others and curate better friendships.

In the interview we talk about loneliness, how to make friends, the difference between male and female friendship, platonic friendships, friends with benefits and lots, lots, more, including the Sardinian secret to a long life surrounded by friends, family, and lovable assholes.

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world by lying to itself and others. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

There is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace is a simple, intuitive process. You can add and arrange your content and features with the click of a mouse. Squarespace makes adding a domain to your site simple; if you sign up for a year you’ll receive a custom domain for free for a year. Start your free trial today, at Squarespace.com and enter offer code SOSMART to get 10% off your first purchase.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

You can also support the show through PayPal by clicking this link.

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

The Friendship Cure