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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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197 Episodes
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Since the emergence of chatbots like ChatGPT, China has made building its own advanced AI a priority. But to build AI it needs the most advanced computer chips, and the US has banned companies from selling them to China. The FT’s James Kynge visits China to find out how the country is turning to smuggling to get its hands on high-end chips for AI research. And he visits Chinese tech giant Huawei — one of the companies at the vanguard of China’s efforts to start making its own advanced AI chips. Presented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from 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 China, you can find robots serving food in restaurants, delivering room service in hotels, and cleaning floors in office buildings. But it’s in factories where China wants robots to make the biggest difference. China’s population is starting to shrink. With the number of workers set to plummet, will robots be able to fill the gap? The FT’s James Kynge visits Chinese robot makers in Shenzhen, and speaks to demography expert Wang Feng about the scale of the demographic challenge facing China today. Presented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from 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 this episode, long-time FT China correspondent James Kynge travels to Lagos to hear about the success of Chinese-backed companies in Nigeria – and some of the looming concerns. We hear about Transsion, a massive Chinese mobile phone company that perfected its business model in the street markets of Nigeria, and the Chinese-owned online lending apps that are facing scrutiny from regulators. James speaks to Yang Wang, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, Babatunde Irukera, former director-general of Nigeria’s Consumer Protection Council, Adedeji Olowe, board chair at Paystack, and Moses Nmor, co-founder of BFREE Africa.Presented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from 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.
China’s BYD has become one of the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturers, thanks to its low production costs. The US has slapped a 100% tariff on Chinese EV imports to protect its own sector but BYD has its sights set on Europe. The FT’s James Kynge reports from Germany to find out what established European carmakers make of this burgeoning competition, and how the EU is handling it. We hear from the FT’s June Yoon, automobile analyst Stefan Bratzel, European Commission spokesperson for trade Olof Gill, and Manuel Kallweit, chief economist at German car lobby group VDA. Presented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley.Clips: Bloomberg, CNBC, DWRead a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
How did China go from tech imitator to innovator? The FT’s James Kynge reports from Shenzhen, known as China’s Silicon Valley, where he explores the city’s vast electronics markets with inventor Noah Zerkin, an American who’s based himself in China, visits robot start-up Youibot and hears from DJI about how it became the world’s biggest drone manufacturer. Plus, Matt Sheehan, a China watcher focused on technology at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Qi Zhou, a venture capitalist based in Shenzhen, explain why China’s tech success stories are turning established narratives on democratic freedoms and innovation on their head. Presented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from 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 season of Tech Tonic, longtime FT China reporter James Kynge travels around the world to see how China is pushing towards tech supremacy. Will China be able to get an edge in crucial technological areas? What does China’s attempt to leapfrog the west look like on the ground? A six-part series looking at China’s tech industry.Presented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. Executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from Metaphor Music. The FT’s head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
China is pushing the frontiers of scientific research, launching missions to the Moon and exploring the remotest places on Earth. It’s part of China’s grand plan to be the world leader in science and technology. But why are science and tech so important to Beijing, and is China’s rise as the next tech superpower inevitable? James Kynge concludes this season of Tech Tonic with Eleanor Olcott, the FT’s China tech correspondent, Matthew Funaiole from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Matt Sheehan from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Yasheng Huang, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Clips: BBC News, Sky News Australia, DW NewsPresented by James Kynge. Edwin Lane is the senior producer. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon. The executive producer is Manuela Saragosa. Sound design by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco, with original music from 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.
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.
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Sep 11th
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Victor Gasp

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Feb 24th
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