Exponential View Podcast Series

Hacking Democracy

A recording of an Exponential View salon held in London in May 2017. On the panel Azeem discusses these questions with Carole Cadwalladr, Luciano Floridi, Hari Kunzru, Tom Loosemore.

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” said Winston Churchill.

But whatever you think of it, democracy has served us well. An increase in democracy is almost always matched by an increase in GDP.

According to MIT economist, Daron Acemoglu, a country that switches from autocracy to democracy achieves about 20% higher GDP per capita over roughly 30 year period.

Yet, data at the end of 2016, research suggested that in several advanced economies, including the US and the UK, those born since the late 1980s, value democracy less than older cohorts.

Yes, we’ve witnessed something. Driven by the underlying shifts - in media, in technology, in the expression of state power, in cultural values, in big money funding data. And what we’ve experienced is a manifestation of new behaviours around the democracy process: the transition from broadcast media to niche media moderated by dominant social media platforms.

The use of microtargeting across social media to better address niche voters; The interference of states in more or less significant ways in the political processes, at least of the US election. The bypassing of electoral laws. The spread of fake news across social platforms.
The maturing of our information systems have closed our ability for discussion.

Questions are predicted. Answers are echo chambers.

Have these behaviours hacked our democracy? For better or for worse?


Exponential View Podcast Series

The state of machine learning: A conversation between Azeem Azhar and Dr. Danny Lange

With more than 40% market share in mobile games, a billion monthly active users and 2.6 billion unique devices, Unity has a profoundly important role in booming gaming and VR markets.

In this episode, Azeem talks with Dr. Danny Lange, VP of AI and machine learning at Unity about the role of these technologies in revolutionizing the ways games are developed and monetized. Dr Lange talks about the significance of the undergoing paradigm shift in computing, OODA loop in machine learning, and what happens to software engineers when their trade goes obsolete.

Dr. Lange is VP of AI and machine learning at Unity Technologies. Before joining Unity, he led the machine learning efforts at Uber, Amazon and Microsoft.

Through his work on General Motor’s OnStar Virtual Advisor, Danny provided the foundation for the development of one of the largest deployments of an intelligent personal assistant until the arrival of Siri. 

Prior to joining General Magic, Dr. Lange was Visiting Scientist at IBM Tokyo Research Laboratory, 1993 to 1997, where he is known for his invention of the Java Aglet, a lightweight mobile agent for the Java programming environment. In addition to his software agent work, he has also made significant contributions in the areas of hypertext technology, object-oriented database modeling, and Design Pattern visualization techniques.

This episode was supported by SVB, Silicon Valley Bank.

Exponential View Podcast Series

Code as the Key Driver of Human Development: A conversation between Philip Auerswald and Azeem Azhar

For the tech community, code almost exclusively has a uniform meaning: a set of instructions, until recently only written by humans, that specifies any action a computer should execute.

In his most recent book, Philip Auerswald talks about “code” in a broader meaning of the word — it is the “how” of human productivity, the manner in which we create, refine and implement the infrastructure that forms a human society. The advance of code, from the Neolithic era to the modern times, has been driving the identity and work reinvention. Philip argues that we are at one of those crucial stages now, and through his book offers a guide to the future.

Philip Auerswald is an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government and a co-editor of Innovations, a quarterly journal about entrepreneurial solutions to global challenges. He currently leads the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network, an initiative of the Kauffman Foundation. His most recent book, The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand-Year History, explains how code has been a key driver of human development.

You can find Philip's book here: auerswald.org/2016/12/30/the-cod…sand-year-history/

Exponential View Podcast Series

Basic income: A conversation between Scott Santens and Azeem Azhar

Scott Santens is a writer and an advocate for universal basic income. His articles have been featured in TechCrunch, Boston Globe, and Politico, among others. Scott coauthored two books: “What Do We Do About Inequality?” and “Surviving the Machine Age: Intelligent Technology and the Transformation of Human Work”. He moderates /r/BasicIncome community on Reddit.

In this episode, Scott talks about why he believes “citizens’ salary” is a necessary measure for our societies to deal with tech unemployment by providing an independent income floor. He finds it paradoxical that we keep on developing technology to help us do more, while ending up being afraid of tech taking over our jobs. In these circumstances, he notes, a new model of ownership needs to be implemented, with everyone starting off from the same point.

For further reading on Scott's work and UBI, visit:




Exponential View Podcast Series

Marko Ahtisaari on AI music party tricks, and how music could take the place of drugs

Marko Ahtisaari is the CEO and co-founder of The Sync Project, a collaborative venture of scientists, musicians, technologists and patients, working towards developing functional music that responds to each individual body and serves as precision medicine.

Marko is also a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab working on the Open Music Initiative to develop a new distributed-ledger system to identify and compensate music rights holders and creators. He was executive vice president of design at Nokia, and worked on award-winning N9 and Lumia products. His startup Dopplr was acquired by Nokia.

In this episode Marko presents ideas and undergoing projects born out of the vision that in the near future people will use non-drug modalities to heal, enhance well-being, and assist in therapy. He guides us through the most recent experiment Unwind.ai, which uses your heart rate to select the tracks that will bring you a piece of mind - at least for 5 minutes.

For further reading on the Sync Project and music in medicine please see:

Understanding Music As Precision Medicine: syncproject.co/blog/markoahtisaari-qanda

SYNC MUSIC BOT: Finding the best music for working to using cutting-edge music recommendation technology: medium.com/sync-project/sync-m…-music-f58136378561

UNWIND.AI: Using biometric data to generate music for sleep algorithmically syncproject.co/blog/unwind-music-to-help-you-sleep

Sync Project Science Advisor Dr Robert Zatorre on studies in neuroscience revealing music's effect on the reward system syncproject.co/blog/2015/sync-se…on-robert-zatorre

Clinical evidence supporting uses of music to manage pain: syncproject.co/blog/2016/7/26/mu…r-pain-management

Using music to support KPIs for physical activity and sports training: syncproject.co/blog/2015/12/4/music-and-sports

More on music recommendation/analysis technology in general: syncproject.co/blog/2016/10/12/a…dation-technology

Exponential View Podcast Series

AI, automation & the economy: In Conversation with Jeff Sachs

A discussion with Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Jeff is one of the world’s foremost thinkers on economic development; he advises the UN and a host of governments.

In a wide ranging podcast we talk about how technology has improved the lives of countless humans. We explore how automated systems will increasingly replace routine and highly-trained jobs. How will our societies cope with those changes? What will we do with the inequalities that will be increasingly produced by the technology revolution? What is the role of basic income? We even have some time to talk about Aristotle.

Exponential View Podcast Series

HomoDues: In Conversation with Yuval Harari 

We cover the compelling insights Yuval makes in his new book Homo Deus. Where are we, as a species, going now that we have conquered main of the things that ailed preceding generations?

How will the twin advances of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence come together to transform humans and human society?

Exponential View Podcast Series

The Future of Longevity: In Conversation with Dr Shamil Chandaria

Philosopher and investor, Dr Shamil Chandaria, investigates how we might live much longer lives and asks how we can make those longer lives more meaningful.

He dives into the emerging medicine and science of life extension in a deep but accessible way. He explains how we should consider super-longevity and super-wellbeing in tandem. And in discussion with an audience we explore the motivations for and ramifications of much longer lives.

A video version of this talk is available here. 

Exponential View Podcast Series

Wealth of Humans: In Conversation with Ryan Avent 

A powerfully prophetic discussion about the meaning of work in the 21st century as technology transforms all areas of the global economy.

Ryan Avent, economics columnist at The Economist, and Azeem Azhar, curator of Exponential View, explore issues around how digital technologies are, and will continue to exponentially change the relationship between capital and labour.

They discuss what new social contracts will ensue, and how we will see the reshaping of social and cultural capital in a dramatically reordered world. What role for the human in this altered landscape, how will they find meaning and purpose in redefined and irrevocably renegotiated relationships to productivity and the market?

This conversation was recorded as a fireside chat in front of a live audience at a private Exponential View event in London.