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FT Tech Tonic

Author: Financial Times

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We are in the midst of a digital revolution, where the line between our physical world and cyberspace is blurring. Tech Tonic is the show that investigates the promises and perils of this new technological age. 





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What are the ideas driving the pursuit of human-level AI? In the penultimate episode of this Tech Tonic series, hosts Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill look at some of the futuristic objectives that are at the centre of the AI industry’s quest for superintelligence and hear about the Extropians, a surprisingly influential group of futurists from the early 1990s. Anders Sandberg, senior research fellow at Oxford university's Future of Humanity Institute, sets out some of the ideas developed in the Extropians mailing list while Connor Leahy, co-founder of Conjecture and Timnit Gebru, founder of the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR) explain why they worry about the Extropians’ continued influence today.Free links:OpenAI and the rift at the heart of Silicon ValleyWe need to examine the beliefs of today’s tech luminariesOpenAI’s secrecy imperils public trustBig tech companies cut AI ethics staff, raising safety concernsTech Tonic is presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill. Senior producer is Edwin Lane and the producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Clips: Alcor CryonicsRead a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Are generative AI systems such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT really intelligent? Large language models such as GPT 4 appear to use human-level cognitive abilities when they engage in legal reasoning, write essays or solve complex problems. Hosts John Thornhill and Madhumita Murgia speak to Emily Bender, professor of computational linguistics at the University of Washington, to find out what’s really happening under the hood, and also hear from Pablo Arredondo of CaseText, which develops AI tools for lawyers; influential computer scientist Melanie Mitchell, professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and Konstantine Arkoudas, an AI expert who’s worked on Amazon’s Alexa. Free links:OpenAI set to launch store as ChatGPT reaches 100mn usersHow to keep the lid on the Pandora’s box of AIWe need a political Alan Turing to design AI safeguards‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: how OpenAI’s dramatic weekend unfoldedTech Tonic is presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill. Senior producer is Edwin Lane and the producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
If even AI companies are fretting about the existential threat that human-level AI poses, why are they building these machines in the first place? And as they press ahead, a debate is raging about how we regulate this emergent sector to keep it under control. In the second episode of a new, five-part series of Tech Tonic, FT journalists Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill hear from Anthropic’s co-founder, Jack Clark; Dan Hendrycks, founder of the Center for AI Safety; Yann LeCun, chief AI scientist at Meta, and Emily Bender, professor of computational linguistics at the University of Washington.Free links to read more on this topic:Algorithms are deciding who gets organ transplants. Are their decisions fair?‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: how OpenAI’s dramatic weekend unfoldedHow to keep the lid on the Pandora’s box of AIWe need a political Alan Turing to design AI safeguardsTech Tonic is presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill. Senior producer is Edwin Lane and the producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
In the first episode of a new, five-part series of Tech Tonic, FT journalists Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill ask how close we are to building human-level artificial intelligence and whether ‘superintelligent’ AI poses an existential risk to humanity. John and Madhu speak to Yoshua Bengio, a pioneer of generative AI, who is concerned, and to his colleague Yann LeCun, now head of AI at Meta, who isn’t. Plus, they hear from Eliezer Yudkowsky, research lead at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, who’s been sounding the alarm about superintelligent AI for more than two decades. Register here for the FT's Future of AI summit on November 15-16Free links to read more on this topic:How Sunak’s Bletchley Park summit aims to shape global AI safetyOpenAI chief seeks new Microsoft funds to build ‘superintelligence’We must slow down the race to God-like AIThe sceptical case on generative AIAI will never threaten humans, says top AI scientistTech Tonic is presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill. Senior producer is Edwin Lane and the producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
 In a new series of Tech Tonic, FT journalists Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill look at the concerns around the rise of artificial intelligence. Will superintelligent AI bring existential risk, or a new renaissance? Would it be ethical to build conscious AI? How intelligent are these machines anyway? The new season of Tech Tonic from the Financial Times, drops mid-November.Presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill. Senior producer is Edwin Lane and producer Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive produced by Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
As the race to human-level AI accelerates, researchers are increasingly confronted with the question of what it would mean to develop conscious AI. Will sentience emerge naturally from powerfully intelligent artificial systems? Or is consciousness incompatible with disembodied AI? As some human users become more attached to romantic chatbots, will the moral questions surrounding conscious AI become more pressing? In the final episode of our series on artificial general intelligence, the FT’s John Thornhill and Madhumita Murgia speak to Eugenia Kuyda, founder and chief executive of Replika, Anil Seth, ​​professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex, and Henry Shevlin, director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge.Clips: TalkTVLinks:Blake Lemoine transcriptSci-fi writer Ted Chiang: ‘The machines we have now are not conscious’Google places engineer on leave after he claims group’s chatbot is ‘sentient’The golden age of AI-generated art is here. It’s going to get weird EU agrees landmark rules on artificial intelligence Tech Tonic is presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill. Senior producer is Edwin Lane and the producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
A hardware revolution in recording devices and a software revolution in artificial intelligence has convinced some scientists that humans will eventually be able to ‘translate’ animal and even plant sounds into human language. But what would be the consequences of humans learning to ‘speak whale’, chat with bats or converse with elephants? The FT’s innovation editor John Thornhill and producer Persis Love explore the ethics of potential human-to-animal communication.Presented by John Thornhill, produced by Persis Love, sound design by Breen Turner and Sam Giovinco. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Cheryl Brumley is the FT’s head of audio.Free links:Google Translate for the zoo? How humans might talk to animalsKaren Bakker, scientist and author, 1971-2023How generative AI really worksCredits: Elephant bee rumble from Lucy King; plant sounds from Lilach Hadany Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
A hardware revolution in recording devices and a software revolution in artificial intelligence is enabling researchers to listen in to all kinds of conversations outside the human hearing range, a field known as bioacoustics. Some scientists now believe these developments will also allow us to ‘translate’ animal sounds into human language. In a new season of Tech Tonic, FT innovation editor John Thornhill and series producer Persis Love ask whether we’re moving closer to being able to ‘speak whale’ or even to chat with bats.Free links:Google Translate for the zoo? How humans might talk to animalsKaren Bakker, scientist and author, 1971-2023How generative AI really worksCredits: Sperm whale sounds from Project CETI; honeyhunter calls from Claire SpottiswoodePresented by John Thornhill, produced by Persis Love, sound design by Breen Turner and Sam Giovinco. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Cheryl Brumley is the FT’s head of audio.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Canadian scientist and author Karen Bakker, who died unexpectedly in August this year, was a leading voice in the bioacoustic research community. Her 2022 book, The Sounds of Life, explained how it might one day be possible to create a kind of Google Translate for animals and was the inspiration behind this Tech Tonic series. This episode contains the full interview that we recorded with her. We are posting it as a tribute to her remarkable work. Free links:Google Translate for the zoo? How humans might talk to animalsKaren Bakker, scientist and author, 1971-2023How generative AI really worksCredits: Elephant bee rumble from Lucy KingRead a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Some scientists believe that rapid advances in artificial intelligence may also hold the key to decoding animal sounds, allowing us to ‘translate’ them into human language. In a new season of Tech Tonic, FT innovation editor John Thornhill and series producer Persis Love explore how the same technology that powers ChatGPT is being applied to research in animal communication. Could we one day learn to ‘speak whale’ or even chat with bats? And if so, can we trust ourselves to do so responsibly?Presented by John Thornhill, produced by Persis Love, sound design by Breen Turner and Sam Giovinco. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa and Cheryl Brumley is the FT’s head of audio. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
In the final episode of this Tech Tonic season, FT correspondents weigh in on the trends that will determine the future of social media. From Meta’s Threads to artificial intelligence, we ask how platforms will look and feel in years to come. The FT’s deputy Lex editor, host Elaine Moore, speaks with social media reporter Cristina Criddle, global technology correspondent Tim Bradshaw and San Francisco-based tech reporter Hannah Murphy. Plus, we hear from Evan Henshaw-Plath, one of the creators of Twitter.Presented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon, executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Further reading (free to read) on FT.com: Cristina Criddle: TikTok reshapes ecommerce unit in bid to crack western markets Cristina Criddle: TikTok prepares ‘Project S’ plan to break into online shoppingTim Bradshaw: Meta’s Threads is a throwback to the giddy early days of Twitter Hannah Murphy: Meta to release commercial AI model in effort to catch rivalsHannah Murphy: Linda Yaccarino’s vision for Twitter 2.0 emergesRead a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Can we get rid of the bad bits of social media and keep the good? Is it possible to create a more positive social media experience than the one we get from the platforms that dominate the landscape today? In this episode, Elaine Moore asks what the social media platforms of the future should look like, and whether platforms designed for smaller groups of users with shared interests are the way forward.We hear from writer and tech historian Benj Edwards about the BBS era of the early 1990s; University of Massachusetts professor Ethan Zuckerman; Sarah Gilbert, researcher at Cornell University and Reddit moderator; and Jonathan Abrams, partner at 8-Bit Capital and the creator of Friendster.Presented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon, Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Special thanks to Hannah Murphy.Mentioned in this podcast:The Lex Newsletter: Reddit and the API apocalypseDiscord has won over gamers. Now it wants everybody elseReddit stands firm in clash with users as blackout on forums escalatesRead a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Social media today is less about making friends and more about following popular content creators. While those creators are starting to hold some power over the platforms themselves, they’re also looking to become less reliant on the platforms that have enabled them to find fame and fortune online. What does it mean for the future of social media platforms? Our producer Josh Gabert-Doyon travels to the VidCon convention in Anaheim, California to speak to the people at the heart of the creator economy.We hear from Kris Collins, a TikTok and YouTube star who goes by the name @KallmeKris and her agent Keith Bielory, as well as Megan Lightcap, a VC investor who specialises in the creator economy, and Lindsey Lugrin, founder of the creator start-up Fuck You Pay Me, which is pushing for pay transparency and higher remuneration in the sector.Mentioned in this podcast:Why social media is hardly social any moreYouTube Shorts takes on TikTok in battle for younger usersWhat de-influencing tells us about the state of the creator economyPresented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Special thanks to Hannah Murphy and Cristina Criddle.We're keen to hear more from our listeners about this show and want to know what you'd like to hear more of, so we're running a survey which you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will be in with a chance to win a pair of Bose QuietComfort earbuds.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
There’s a growing feeling that social media is bad for us: bad for society and bad for our wellbeing. That trend has culminated in a new wave of legislation in the United States aiming to address social media’s impact on young people’s mental health. But in this episode, Elaine Moore, deputy editor of the FT’s Lex column, looks at some of the unanswered questions over whether social media really causes us harm, and what legislation will mean for the future of the social media business model. Are we in the throws of a technological panic? In this episode, the third in a series on social media, Elaine speaks to Emma Lembke, co-founder of youth advocacy group Log Off; Katie Paul, director at the Tech Transparency Project; Amy Orben, head of the Digital Mental Health Group at the University of Cambridge; and FT tech reporter Hannah Murphy.Since the publication of Katie Paul’s investigation into the trade of looted Middle Eastern antiquities on Facebook, Meta has changed its policy on the sale of historical artefacts.Presented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon, Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.We're keen to hear more from our listeners about this show and want to know what you'd like to hear more of, so we're running a survey which you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will be in with a chance to win a pair of Bose QuietComfort earbuds.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Mark Zuckerberg used advertising to turn Facebook into the first global social media giant, boasting 3bn users around the world. But today there are questions about the business model that has powered it for the past 15 years, and what Zuckerberg’s new focus on building the Metaverse means for the platform that started it all. Elaine Moore speaks to veteran Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee, one-time advisor to Zuckerberg; writer and researcher Tim Hwang, author of Subprime Attention Crisis; and Steven Levy, editor at large at Wired and author of Facebook: The Inside Story. Meta declined a request for an interview for this episode, but directed us to their Q1 2023 earnings.Presented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon, Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Special thanks to Hannah MurphyClips: Meta, US Senate.We're keen to hear more from our listeners about this show and want to know what you'd like to hear more of, so we're running a survey that you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will be in with a chance of winning a pair of Bose QuietComfort earbuds.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Elon Musk took over Twitter with the promise of promoting free speech and making the loss-making platform profitable again. But his critics say he’s destroying Twitter’s culture and driving it to bankruptcy. How much danger is the company really in? In the first episode in a new series of Tech Tonic, Elaine Moore, deputy editor of the FT’s Lex column, asks whether Musk will save Twitter or destroy it.In this episode we hear from Evan Henshaw-Plath, one of the original creators of Twitter; Rumman Chowdhury, Twitter’s former head of machine learning, ethics, transparency, and accountability who was laid off by Elon Musk; and FT tech reporter Hannah Murphy.Presented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon, Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Special thanks to Hannah MurphyClips: TED Conferences, CBS, Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, MSNBC, CNNWe're keen to hear more from our listeners about this show and want to know what you'd like to hear more of, so we're running a survey which you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will be in with a chance to win a pair of Bose QuietComfort earbuds.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Social media platforms have defined our experience of the internet for nearly two decades. But as host Elaine Moore, deputy editor of the FT’s Lex column, outlines in this new six-part season of Tech Tonic, there are signs of trouble. User growth at some of the biggest platforms is slowing down, privacy changes are making it harder to make money and data scandals and disinformation mean platforms have lost some of the trust of their users. Meanwhile, younger users call Instagram cringeworthy and say Facebook is for boomers, TikTok has been threatened with bans and new apps such as Clubhouse fall out of fashion as quickly as they arrive. So what does the future hold for social media? New episodes land every Tuesday, starting June 27.Presented by Elaine Moore. Produced by Edwin Lane and Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.We’re keen to hear more from our listeners about this show, so we're running a survey that you can find at ft.com/tectonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and we'd appreciate your feedback. It will take you around five minutes to complete and you'll be in with a chance to win a pair of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds!* Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
A bonus episode to go with our Quantum Revolution season. The FT’s John Thornhill and Madhumita Murgia host a panel of experts at the Founders Forum conference, discussing the promise of quantum computing and the state of the quantum industry today. Featuring Steve Brierley, founder and chief executive of Riverlane, a company building the algorithms and software for quantum computers; Ilana Wisby, CEO of Oxford Quantum Circuits, a company building commercially available quantum computers; and Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners and an investor in quantum technology.All six episodes of The Quantum Revolution are available now on the Tech Tonic feed.Presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill, produced by Josh Gabert-Doyon and Edwin Lane. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
In the final episode of this series, we hear how radical quantum ideas are reshaping our fundamental understanding of the universe. Nobel Prize winner Anton Zeilinger tells the FT’s Madhumita Murgia about the future of teleportation and the quantum internet; quantum computing pioneer David Deutsch makes the case for the theory that we live in a multiverse; and FT innovation editor John Thornhill speaks to physicist Carlo Rovelli about relational quantum mechanics.Presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill, produced by Josh Gabert-Doyon and Edwin Lane. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.We're keen to hear more from our listeners about this show and want to know what you'd like to hear more of, so we're running a survey which you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will get a chance to win a pair of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Quantum computers aren’t the only form of groundbreaking technology that use quantum physics. Madhumita Murgia hears from Dr. Margot Taylor, neuroscience researcher at The Hospital for Sick Children, who’s using quantum sensors to unpick the mystery of how autism first appears in the brain. And we speak to Matthew Brookes, physics professor at Nottingham university in the UK, who helped build the quantum brain scanner she’s using. Plus, John Thornhill speaks to Stuart Woods from Quantum Exponential about the potential for quantum sensors to change our understanding of the world around us, and to Jack Hidary from SandboxAQ about how sensors and communications networks might fit into a wider quantum technology ecosystem.Presented by Madhumita Murgia and John Thornhill, produced by Josh Gabert-Doyon and Edwin Lane. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original music by Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Special thanks to The Hospital for Sick ChildrenWe're keen to hear more from our listeners about this show and want to know what you'd like to hear more of, so we're running a survey which you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will be in with a chance to win a pair of Bose QuietComfort earbuds.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
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Sep 11th
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Jul 31st
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Victor Gasp

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Feb 24th
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