The Culture Creating A.I. Is Weird. Here’s Why That Matters.
In recent months, we’ve witnessed the rise of chatbots that can pass law and business school exams, artificial companions who’ve become best friends and lovers and music generators that produce remarkably humanlike songs. It’s hard to know how to process it all. But if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s this: The future — shaped by technologies like artificial intelligence — is going to be profoundly weird. It’s going to look, feel and function differently from the world we have grown to recognize.
How do we learn to navigate — even embrace — the weirdness of the world we’re entering into?
Erik Davis is the author of the books “High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Experience in the Seventies” and “TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information” and writes the newsletter “Burning Shore.” For Davis, “weirdness” isn’t just a quality of things that don’t make sense to us, it’s an interpretive framework that helps us better understand the cultures and technologies that will shape our wondrous, wild future.
We discuss how Silicon Valley’s particularly weird culture has altered the trajectory of A.I. development, why programs like ChatGPT can profoundly unsettle our sense of reality and our own humanity, how the behaviors of A.I. systems reveal far more about humanity than we like to admit, why we might be in a “sorcerer’s apprentice moment” for artificial intelligence, why we often turn to myth and science fiction to explain technologies whose implications we don’t yet grasp, why A.I. developers are willing to keep designing technologies that they think may destroy humanity and more.
This episode contains strong language.
Pharmako-AI by K Allado-McDowell
“AI EEEEEEE!!!” by Erik Davis
“The Merge” by Sam Altman
“The Weird and the Banal” by Erik Davis
“There Is No A.I.” by Jaron Lanier
God, Human, Animal, Machine by Meghan O’Gieblyn
Psychonauts by Mike Jay
Weird Studies (podcast)
Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at email@example.com.
You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.
This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Mixing by Efim Shapiro. The show’s production team is Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld, Roge Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.