The Sleepwalkers Podcast Forces Your Eyes Wide Open

I’m about halfway through the Sleepwalkers podcast and loving it, though it’s quite terrifying. It’s is about the effect of AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology on all aspects of human life – from dating to health, creativity, deflecting potential terrorists, and more.

Hosted by Emmy and Peabody Award winner Oz Woloshyn and co-hosted by Karah Preiss, former host of The Huffington Post science show “Talk Nerdy To Me”, the podcast reveals the fundamental implications of AI and how we can leverage it without letting it take over completely.

Woloshyn interviews top tech executives, politicians and authors to unpack the advantages, challenges and surprises associated with today’s AI revolution.

Listen to the Sleepwalkers trailer and download all the episodes wherever you get your podcasts.

Jon Ronson Uncovers Who Really Pays the Price for Free Porn in The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson is a seven-part series on Audible and is the most compelling audio I’ve listened to since S-Town.

Jon Ronson describes it beautifully:

“It’s sort of about porn, but it’s about a lot of other things. It’s sad, funny, moving and totally unlike some other nonfiction stories about porn – because it isn’t judgmental or salacious. It’s human and sweet and strange and lovely. It’s a mystery story, an adventure. It’s also, I think, a new way of telling a story. The flap of the butterfly’s wings is a boy in Brussels having an idea. His idea is how to get rich from giving the world free online porn. Over seven episodes I trace the consequences of this idea, from consequence through to consequence. If you keep going in this way, where might you end up? It turns out you end up in the most surprising and unexpected places.”

Here’s an excerpt, from This American Life.

Get it now on Audible for free or wait until November for iTunes and everywhere else.

See my previous post about Audible.

The Discussion Around ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’

I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone so was compelled to read the article Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? that has been widely read and debated this week.

Through her research, Jean M. Twenge found that: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millenials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.”

She calls this new generation that has grown up with smartphones ‘iGen’ and there are some startling facts and figures about how they behave and feel.

“The portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation,” she says. “In the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression.”

Whilst this article was interesting and somewhat shocking (though unsurprising if you’ve witnessed teens on smartphones), I found the response Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying a Generation, But Not of Kids by Alexandra Samuel more helpful and insightful.

She paints a less dire picture and asks us to “Consider another possible explanation for why our kids are increasingly disengaged. It’s because we’ve disengaged ourselves; we’re too busy looking down at our screens to look up at our kids.”

She suggests we stop paying attention to alarmist attacks on kids’ screen time and pay attention to our kids. Her research suggests the way forward is to: “Embrace our role as digital mentors: actively encouraging our kids to use technology, but offering ongoing support and guidance in how to use it appropriately.”

Sage advice, though it does feel as parents and/or adults, we’ve been sucked into the smartphone void as well and need to find ways to get it under control in our own lives first.

Pocket App – Save Articles and Videos to View Later

The next time you find an article, video or link you want to read or watch later, save it to Pocket. It’ll sync across your phone, tablet, and computer so you can come back to it whenever and wherever you’d like, even when you’re offline. It lets you read what you save in a distraction free layout, i.e. no annoying ads, and if you’re too lazy to read the article you can also convert it from text to speech. There’s an option to subscribe to the Pocket Hits curated newsletter (you can choose how often you receive these emails) that showcase the very best stories in Pocket. I’ve found some interesting and worthwhile reads through this. Plus, the Pocket app is free. Find out how it works and how you get it.

Using Design Thinking to Get Unstuck in Life – A Hidden Brain Podcast Episode

It’s a new year – the time of year when many resolutions are made (and often broken) around how you think you should be living your life, so this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast ‘Getting Unstuck‘(#56) is perfectly timed.

It explores the psychological traps we construct for ourselves that keep us from living our best lives and why the normal questions we ask ourselves like ‘What should I do with my life?’ and ‘What does my ideal life look like?’ are counterproductive to getting us unstuck. Don’t write it off before you listen as waffle from a self-help guru or psychologist.

The approach comes from the technology world concept ‘Design Thinking’ which is about recognising your constraints, realising there isn’t just one answer, trying something, getting information from it, and then trying something else. The episode runs for 28 minutes.

Find out more and listen.

See my previous post on NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast.

Speak, Memory: A Story About Artificial Intelligence and Grief

A thought-provoking story about how a programmer used artificial intelligence (AI) to keep talking to her friend after his death.

Speak, Memory asks whether AI can help to ease grief and ultimately, just because we can, does it mean we should?

Modern life all but ensures that we leave behind vast digital archives — text messages, photos, posts on social media — and we are only beginning to consider what role they should play in mourning. In the moment, we tend to view our text messages as ephemeral. But as Kuyda found after Mazurenko’s death, they can also be powerful tools for coping with loss. Maybe, she thought, this “digital estate” could form the building blocks for a new type of memorial.

It’s similar in concept to the Black Mirror episode Be Right Back’

Read the full article here.

Black Mirror TV Series Season 3

Black Mirror is a TV series created by Charlie Brooker.

Best described as a modern-day Twilight Zone, it provides a chilling insight into how technology can shape and destroy our lives.

The series first aired back in 2011 (there have been seven episodes to date including a Christmas special) and season 3 will be available on Netflix on 21st October with six new stories that will no doubt again leave you disturbed and uneasy about our obsession with technology.

Watch the trailer.

I Used to Be a Human Being – Confessions of a Manic Information Addict

Great article about our smartphone addiction and the impact it’s had on society. A lot of what Andrew Sullivan writes here I feel many of us are experiencing but not able to articulate as well. Love the thought that perhaps the only safe space we have left is the shower.

Also: “We all understand the joys of our always-wired world — the connections, the validations, the laughs, the porn, the info. I don’t want to deny any of them here. But we are only beginning to get our minds around the costs, if we are even prepared to accept that there are costs. For the subtle snare of this new technology is that it lulls us into the belief that there are no downsides. It’s all just more of everything. Online life is simply layered on top of offline life… You are where your attention is. If you’re watching a football game with your son while also texting a friend, you’re not fully with your child — and he knows it. Truly being with another person means being experientially with them, picking up countless tiny signals from the eyes and voice and body language and context, and reacting, often unconsciously, to every nuance. These are our deepest social skills, which have been honed through the aeons. They are what make us distinctively human.”

Time will tell if it hasn’t already.

Read the full article here.

Fight Information Overload – Podcast for Clearer Thinking


Back in March I posted about the Note To Self podcast that helped you fight information overload and rediscover the magic of clear thinking. In this latest episode, they are focusing on single tasking which was the challenge they found worked the best, the behaviour change most people wanted to keep and the one people found the toughest. It covers why multitasking is a myth, the price we pay for rapidly switching tasks, and provides an effective way to tackle information overload. I found the part around interruptions being self-perpetuating interesting and very true for me. Listen, download or find out more here. (Tip: skip the ad at the beginning and start at the 1:50 mark and you’ll finish it in under 20 minutes).

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