Imagining The Future Of AI

34:01 minutes

A panel of professionals and moderator on stage
From left to right, Ira Flatow, Analee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders and Rumman Chowdhury. Credit: Alexander Lim

This interview was recorded live at an event in San Francisco, California. We also talked about environmental justice and face mites.

It’s tempting to think of science fiction as solely the stuff of improbable futures or dystopian nightmares flying cars, omniscient computers, miraculous medicine, and even time travel. But if you’re an avid reader or consummate Trekkie, you might notice these fantastical futures taking your mind all the way back to the news stories and social issues of 2019.

Science fiction writers and Hugo-winning podcast hosts Annalee Newitz (author of The Future Of Another Timeline) and Charlie Jane Anders (author of The City In The Middle Of The Night) talk about their work imagining future worlds and new kinds of technologyplus how all of this fiction traces back to the present. They discuss how Wikipedia edit wars can inspire a story about time travel, and how the way the modern climate crisis is shaping stories that question human roles in ecosystems thousands of years and light years away.

Then, AI ethicist Rumman Chowdhury joins to discuss how social science can help the tech industry slow down and think more responsibly about the future they’re helping to build. She suggests that more companies should be asking how technologies could be abused or have unintended consequences before they’re released, and even ask if some, like facial recognition, should be developed at all.

Further Reading

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Segment Guests

Annalee Newitz

Annalee Newitz is a science journalist and author based in San Francisco, California. They are author of Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age andThe Future of Another Timeline, and co-host of the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.

Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders is author of The City In The Middle of the Night and co-host of the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct in San Francisco, California.

Rumman Chowdhury

Dr. Rumman Chowdhury is founder and CEO of Parity Consulting, and a Responsible AI Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Christie Taylor

Christie Taylor was a producer for Science Friday. Her days involved diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they have any audio of that narwhal heartbeat.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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