Thursday, May 18, 2023

Flying Green, Climate Justice, and Higher Prices

One of the great ironies of the world today is that while the problems we face, particularly with respect to climate, must, if they’re ever to be solved, bring the world closer together in seeking solutions. One of the ways that we can come together via travel or in person is also one of the supreme carbon-intensive things that we do to harm the planet.

And yet, the airline industry has committed to at least making the effort towards zero emissions by 2050. Like so much of what must save us from the ravages of climate change, technology lies at the heart of the solution. Along with it, the forces of the market, of innovators, investors, entrepreneurs, and scientists, must move with the same vision that the Wright brothers took to create the idea of flying itself.

Telling this modern story is renowned British journalist Christopher de Bellaigue, a historian, and journalist, known for his reporting and books on the Middle East and environmental and ethical issues. His latest is Flying Green: On The Frontiers of a New Aviation.  

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Christopher de Bellaigue:

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Era of Social Media Journalism Is Over: A Conversation with Ben Smith

In the early 2000s, a significant media-business mistake emerged: the belief that website traffic is a commodity like oil, which would generate increased revenue as advertising improved. However, unlike other commodities, traffic lacked scarcity. The internet made traffic virtually infinite, posing challenges for new media-business models.

In this podcast, Ben Smith, former founding editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, former media columnist for The New York Times, and author of Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion Dollar Race to Go Viral, discusses the rise and fall of new media like Gawker and BuzzFeed, the impact and consequences of megaplatforms like Facebook and Twitter, and the shifting landscape of contemporary journalism.

Smith examines the fluctuating trust in legacy news brands and the growing power of individual voices over faceless institutions, drawing parallels to developments in Hollywood, sports, and politics. Smith highlights the recent decline in both social media’s influence, and as a destination for news and information, and how this has led to more readers visiting homepages directly. He also emphasizes that conservative media outlets appear to have derived the most valuable insights from the social media era, adapting their strategies to thrive in the changing landscape.

Looking ahead, Smith suggests that journalism must help beleaguered consumers navigate the vast information landscape by providing context and a clear voice. He speculates that this may involve a return to some of the principles of print journalism — concision and an editorial perspective — while adapting to the digital era’s demands.

My conversation with Ben Smith:

A Conversation with Hernan Diaz about his Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel "Trust"

Hernan Diaz was just awarded the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for his novel, "Trust."

Last year, I had the opportunity to talk with Diaz about the book, his perspective on the Gilded Age, the persistent myths surrounding wealth, and the impact of these narratives on society as a whole. We also explored how the affluent can essentially "buy" their own reality amidst the enigmatic allure of money. Diaz's novel TRUST couldn't be more relevant to our current times. .

My conversation with Hernan Diaz:

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Are We Creating the Species That Will Replace Us?

As we hurtle towards a future increasingly intertwined with artificial intelligence (AI), what does this mean for society, for jobs, and for our security? Could AI, one day, be used maliciously, or in warfare or terrorism? And if these threats are real, how can we implement safeguards, and ensure the technology we create doesn’t turn against us?

At a time when AI is reshaping our reality and pushing the boundaries of what was once considered mere science fiction, this technological revolution demands our attention. On thisWhoWhatWhy podcast, I delve deep into the realm of AI and its potential impact on humanity with Matthew Hutson, a contributing writer at The New Yorker. Hutson’s work, featured in publications such as Science, Nature, Wired, and The Atlantic, reflects his background in cognitive neuroscience, and his emphasis on AI and creativity. His article “Can We Stop Runaway AI” appears in the current issue of The New Yorker.

At the heart of our conversation lies the concept of the technological singularity — a moment when AI surpasses human intelligence. Hutson details the role of machine- learning algorithms in AI’s remarkable progress, highlighting its capacity to continuously learn and improve. We also explore the growing trend of using AI to enhance AI itself, uncovering the implications and potential risks inherent in this self-improvement process.

My conversation with Matt Hutson: