Are you overwhelmed with emails? (This newsletter aside, of course). Would work be better as a game? And how will artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies and other new technologies change the way we all work, live and play? This week on a technology-themed edition of Wherever You Get Your Podcasts, we explore some podcasts featuring thinkers who are attempting to answer these questions.
Sean Braswell, Head of Audio
pod of the week
Freedom From the Tyranny of Your Inbox
Though we at OZY cannot imagine a world without email, Cal Newport, a Georgetown University professor and productivity expert, can. Newport tells Rufus Griscom on The Next Big Idea podcast that such a world can’t come soon enough. Over the past 25 years, a “hyperactive hive mind” has taken over many workplaces, he argues, resulting in a “digital tragedy of the commons” in which we all obsessively check our email, Slack, and other messages (once every 6 minutes on average) in a manner that makes us anxious, fatigued and less capable of deep thought. Fortunately, Newport has some strategies to help improve your plight.
Nobel Memorial Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has a new fascination: “noise.” It’s his term for the natural variability humans bring to our decision making, from medical diagnoses to judicial sentencing. And, as he explains to New York Times contributor Kara Swisher on her podcast Sway, this noise can have a number of deleterious consequences, including unfair systems and outcomes. But do you know what can help silence the noise and improve our lives, according to Kahneman, if we only give them a chance to help more? Artificial intelligence and algorithms.
The cryptocurrency craze, and Bitcoin’s staggering jumps in value, have drawn millions of retail investors, most of them ordinary people. But investors and spectators alike are wondering if it’s sustainable. In a recent episode of the BBC and OZY production When Katty Met Carlos, Katty Kay and Carlos Watson look at Bitcoin’s latest price fluctuations, and discuss how it and other digital currencies are being adopted around the globe. Carlos enjoyed the collaboration so much that he asked Katty to join OZY full time, and she said yes.
For every task you complete and every goal you reach, what if you could score 100 points or unlock a new tool or reach a new level? In the latest season of The Future of X, OZY explores the future of the workplace, including how through games — even if we lose or fail — we can slowly improve ourselves and the performance of our organizations.
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“The racial inequity in tech, it was glaring from my very first day walking around Hacker Square,” Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh says of his experience working at Facebook years ago. And diversity across Silicon Valley has not improved much since then, with Black and Latinx employees still underrepresented across the industry. In a recent episode of Sudhir Breaks the Internet from the Freakonomics Radio Network, Venkatesh talks to Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, a senior campaign director for nonprofit Color Of Change, about how old-fashioned agitation and organization can put pressure on powerful tech companies to pursue change.
2. How Air Conditioning Changed American Politics
Home air conditioning transformed Americans’ lives — and eventually their government as well. In OZY’s history podcast Flashback, we learn how even the most welcome technologies can have unintended consequences. Thanks to the spread of air conditioning during the 20th century, places like Washington, D.C., became far more habitable during the summer months, triggering one of the biggest internal human migrations in history and laying the groundwork for the expansion of the U.S. federal government and a new political geography — one that continues to impact our elections today.
“The computer is my instrument,” claims musician, tech entrepreneur and philanthropist, will.i.am. In a recent episode of The Carlos Watson Show, he explains why he calls himself much more of a computer scientist than a musician, as well as how he got his first record deal, his passion for technology and how he wants to see the younger generation get involved in robotics.
What do WWE wrestler CJ Perry and Princeton Professor of African American Studies Eddie Glaude Jr. have in common? More than you might expect. And nowhere but on The Carlos Watson Show would you hear from both. Check out both of their episodes this weekend and hear from Perry about her path from a Soviet ballet school to backup dancing for Rihanna to slaying in the WWE as “Lana.” Meanwhile, hear Glaude explain how he works to keep the legacies of Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson and James Baldwin alive.
The streaming giant Netflix is getting more involved in the world of podcasting. The company has started entertaining pitches from external audio production companies and even posted a job opening for a head of audio. This expansion will build on the company’s existing podcast collection, which mostly consists of companion podcasts to its popular television shows. Netflix is just the latest streamer to throw its hat in the audio ring, following the lead of HBO and Apple TV.
2. The Sound and a Lot Less Fury
Spotify will begin allowing original podcasts on its platform to use full songs in their shows, rather than just snippets. The move comes as a big relief for podcasters, who have previously had to navigate the complex world of music licensing. The songs will either appear in full in the episode or will come in the form of a link. Artists will then be paid when these songs are played, as they would anytime one of their songs is streamed.
3. NPR’s Podcast Perch
The consulting firm Triton Digital just released its most recent podcasting report for April 2021, and it showed that NPR is still the king of audio. Despite having only 54 active podcasts, NPR topped the charts with 35.6 million weekly downloads and 10.2 million weekly users. NPR shows accounted for six of the top 15 most listened to podcasts.
The Voice of a Tech Giant
Everyone knows Alexander Graham Bell as the man who invented the telephone, but many don’t know that he also pioneered some of the first ways to record sound. In a trove of his old recordings, the Smithsonian discovered a recording of the inventor himself from April 15, 1885. The sound quality is as bad as you’d imagine and the content is not particularly exciting (it’s mostly just Bell reading numbers) but being able to hear a recording of such a tech giant more than 135 years later is pretty amazing.