In this episode of Stuck@Om, I chat with John Markoff, a renowned technology reporter for The New York Times. John currently devotes his time to writing a biography of Stewart Brand, a writer, editor, and entrepreneur who is famous for saying, “We are as gods and we might as well get good at it.” John and I discuss topics related to the biography, such as the Whole Earth Catalog and Stewart’s organizations, The Long Now Foundation and Revive & Restore.
During our conversation, John and I talk about the importance of history. As the pandemic is sweeping through the world and we’re losing many of our elderly population, the realization recently hit me that we are losing a piece of our past. Collective wisdom is being snuffed out, and it cannot be replaced.
We also talk about the evolution of the internet and social networks. We once believed a connected world was a better world, but is that our reality? With the coronavirus pandemic, will we see a fundamental transformation of the way we communicate? Children are now accustomed to growing up with iPads, Facetime, and Alexa. We’re already seeing a fundamental shift that will likely be perpetuated.
Could the pandemic be preparing us for something bigger? A changed planet? Perhaps a dystopian future where we are forced to live indoors? John points out that the futures that happen tend to surprise us and come out of nowhere. This world is a giant game of “wait and see.” Listen to this conversation for a full exploration of the future of our world, communication, and technology.
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Outline of This Episode
- John Markoff is staying busy writing Steward Brand’s biography
- The controversial world of Revive & Restore
- John’s origin story is tied to the 1918 Spanish Flu
- Why John had to get out of cybercrime
- The evolution of the internet — good and bad
- Why John wouldn’t permit anonymity across the internet
- The development of language models and artificial intelligence
- The line between machine and human creativity
- A fundamental transformation of the way we communicate
- What the future of tech media looks like
Resources & People Mentioned
- The Long Now Foundation
- Stewart Brand
- Revive & Restore
- BOOK: Facebook by Steven Levy
- GPT-2 Artificial Intelligence
- The AI institute
Connect with John Markoff
Connect With Om
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- Stuck@Om with Herman Narula
- [Podcast] Stuck@Om with Toby Ord, author of The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity.