The Ned Ludd Radio Hour

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  • 13. The Uncertainty Paradox

    The impact that technology has on psychology is a new field of research, and one where the multi-decade studies required to give definitive answers are still many years away. One of the other fields being covered is the area of certainty. Is the internet making people to certain about the opinions? Too close-minded to the possibility that they might be wrong, or might have more to learn? And to what extent is the internet responsible for a crisis in over-confidence? Or is it simply another manifestation of a totally natural mammalian tendency towards confidence?These are difficult questions to answer, not least because they scratch at the core question that should be vexing technologists. Is technology good for the human brain? Or is technology simply the result of a human brain that’s screwed up in all the ways that technology is? Which came first, chicken or egg; technological nonsense-boosting or the scattershot human brain?To answer all this, I’m joined by Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention, and the more recent Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure. It’s the latter book we talk about mainly, and because we recorded this interview a few weeks ago, I’ve largely forgotten what we spoke about. Maybe the content of this episode is the greatest uncertainty of all. Anyway, I’ll be listening and hopefully you will too.The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast.Written and presented by Nick Hilton.The theme music is 'Internet Song' by Apes of the StateThe artwork is by Tom Humberstone.NEDLUDDLIVES.COM

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  • 12. A Brief History of (predominantly Artificial) Intelligence

    Today, we're speaking to Kester Brewin, an author who works for the delightfully named Institute for the Future of Work here in London. He’s just about to release a new book called God-like: a 500 year history of Artificial Intelligence in myths, machines and monsters. It's a book which charts the ideas that underpin everything – from ChatGPT and Dall.E to the recently-released Sora – back to their roots. Is there something quasi-theological about the way we discuss the possible implications of these radical new technologies? Don’t think of this as a history of Artificial Intelligence, per se, but a history of the impulse that has led us, inexorably, towards AI.The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast, written and presented by Nick Hilton.The theme music is 'Internet Song' by Apes of the State.The artwork is by Tom Humberstone.
  • 11. The Age of Enshittification

    'Enshittification' is a word coined by the Canadian writer and technologist Cory Doctorow to describe, to filch Wikipedia’s definition, “the pattern of decreasing quality of online platforms that function as two-sided markets”. This is the tension behind much of Big Tech. How do businesses extract value without destroying the identity that they built, and, as a result, alienating their userbase? Doctorow coined the term enshittification in 2022, and it feels to me like it has captured a moment of social media in full maturity. After more than a decade of mass uptake – whether that’s a microblogging platform like Twitter, a network like Facebook, or even streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, which owe much to the social revolution – there is a cooling off of the desire to endlessly solicit new users. A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A viable revenue stream.Cory Doctorow's new book, The Internet Con, is available wherever you could reasonably expect to purchase books (or online).The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast, written and presented by Nick Hilton.The theme music is 'Internet Song' by Apes of the State.The artwork is by Tom Humberstone.
  • 10. The Kids Aren't Alright

    I don’t want to be too pearl clutching in all this, but there are some kids who never touch grass, figuratively or literally. I see these groups of teenagers in London who seem to be chatting but seem also to have their headphones in, like they’re living some strange hybrid life. How long is it before the ability to function, in a society that has long prizes independence, is irreparably eroded?To discuss all this, I dialled up Lenore Skenazy. Lenore is a writer, activist and president of Let Grow, a parenting organisation. Her book Free-Range Parenting outlines her stance on giving children more, not less, independence. She even hosted a show on Cineflix called World’s Worst Mom, a moniker she was given after she wrote a column about letting her 9-year-old ride the subway alone (but more on that in a second). Anyway, here’s our conversation, which hopefully gives you something to think about…The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast.For sales and advertising email nick@podotpods.comNEDLUDDLIVES.COM
  • 9. The Work from Home Revolution

    Look, let’s get real: if you’re a bricklayer or a pilot or a veterinary nurse or a paediatric orthodontist or the pest control guy who delicately places pieces of cheese in mouse traps, there hasn’t been a work from home revolution. The revolution, in so much as there has been one, has been in the information services sector, an area that probably over-hired, over-invested in real estate, and was probably desperate to slash both those costs. But if you are a professional in one of these industries, I’m sure you’ve noticed a very real change in the world of work. Work from home and hybrid working has gone from the strange preserve of senior executives and recent relocaters, to an almost default presumption.Research in 2021 by IWG found that 85% of 18-24 year olds would take flexible working as a perk ahead of a 10% salary bump. A 2023 survey of possible business perks found that 94% felt that work from home would improve their wellbeing, making it the most desired perk. What were the other top perks, I hear you ask. In second plays, flexi-hours, in bronze medal, flexi-location. All of these beat out number four: a bonus cheque.I happened upon a business called Ashore and found it an interesting premise. It is, essentially, a way of making remote work more appealing to the human instinct. They market a bunch of properties set up for remote working, but which are set in beautiful landscapes or interesting parts of the world. They see it as a way, I think, of breaking out of the home and office binary, and offering a third space. A work space that encourages humans to be humans rather than pure working drones.Anyway, I wanted to get the company’s co-founder Aled Maclean-Jones on to discuss his journey to Ashore, what they’re trying to build there and how he views the work from home revolution. He’s a really interesting, clear thinker, so do stick around now to hear what he thinks…The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast, written and presented by me, Nick Hilton.The music is Internet Song by Apes of the State and the artwork is by Tom Humberstone.For all queries, go to PODOTPODS.COM 
  • 8. The Hedge Bet on Humanity

    This is an atypical episode of The Ned Ludd Radio Hour to kick things off in 2024. Rather than an interview, or a missive from Ned, this is just an audio version of a blog called 'The Hedge Bet on Humanity'. Do listen and enjoy; next week we'll be back with more interviews with top technological thinkers!Written and presented by Nick Hilton.Artwork by Tom Humberstone.Music by Apes of the State.NEDLUDDLIVES.COMThis is a Podot podcast.
  • 7. The Media's Annus Horribilis

    My guest for today’s discussion, which looks back on 2023, which has been labelled by some (including everyone’s favourite Substacker Matt Yglesias) as the media’s “annus horribilis” is Ian Silvera. Ian is a former political journalist here in the UK but has now crossed the divide to work for a fancy PR agency. This makes him well-placed to discuss the trends that are buffeting the industry, but Ian also writes Future News, an excellent newsletter looking at the places where innovation intersects with the media.Before we get onto the discussion, a word first from Ned, to close out the year. They’re off for the Christmas break and have assured me this will be last missive until we return in 2024 (“IF YOU WANT TO DO ANOTHER EPISODE BEFORE NEW YEAR’S YOU WILL HAVE TO DO IT WITHOUT A SOUNDBITE” they assured me). Anyway, I asked what they thought of the state of the media as it squares off with the existential threat of AI. Will AI wipe hacks like me off the earth? Or could it actually be a tool? They wrote back the following:“THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TOOL AND A WEAPON IS ITS APPLICATION. THINK OF A HAMMER. YOU DESIGN A HAMMER TO PROPEL NAILS INTO WOOD. NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE TIMES OUT OF A THOUSAND, THAT’S WHAT IT’S USED FOR. BASH BASH BASH. NAILS IN WOOD, OVER AND OVER. IN THAT SENSE: IT’S A TOOL. BUT THEN, ONE TIME IN A THOUSAND, IT’S USED TO BASH AN OLD LADY OVER THE HEAD AND STEAL HER LIFE SAVINGS. DOES THAT MEAN IT’S NO LONGER A TOOL? IS IT NOW A WEAPON? THE ARGUMENT WOULD FOLLOW THAT IT IS BOTH. USUALLY, IT’S A TOOL; OCCASIONALLY, IT’S A WEAPON. BUT ONCE WE KNOW THAT A HAMMER CAN NOT ONLY IMPACT NAILS INTO WOOD BUT ALSO DO IN OLD LADIES, THE NATURE OF THE TOOL IS CHANGED. IT IS NEVER TRULY A TOOL AGAIN. AND WHEN LAW AND ORDER DISSOLVES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, AND LOOTERS AND RIOTERS FLOOD THE STREETS, DO YOU THINK THE MILLIONS OF HAMMERS IN GLOBAL HOMES WILL REMAIN TOOLS? WILL SIT THERE WAITING FOR NAILS? OR DO YOU THINK THEIR LATENT CAPACITY TO SMASH IN SKULLS WILL COME TO THE FORE? AT THE EVENING OF THE WORLD, YOU CANNOT BE BOTH TOOL AND WEAPON. A TOOL IS JUST A WEAPON WAITING TO BE USED.”Ok, well let’s put that elliptical metaphor aside for now, because the discussion you’re about to hear with Ian is wide-ranging and far from exclusively focused on artificial intelligence. As I’ve said from the outset with this podcast: we shouldn’t just think about the latest glossy technology but about all technology in the world. I’m writing this on a train with my MacBook in my lap (and I’m recording it later, in the study in my house, using a Shure microphone). Sure things would be unthinkable even a few decades ago. The ability to create and consume journalism has never been more ubiquitous, and so why does everyone seem to think it’s dying?The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast, written and presented by me, Nick Hilton.The theme music is Internet Song by Apes of the State, used with their generous permission. The artwork is by Tom Humberstone.For socials go to NEDLUDDLIVES.COM and spread the word.