Greater Boston Full Episode: Mar. 30, 2023

Greater Boston Full Episode: Mar. 30,  2023

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foreign Jared Bowen tonight on Greater Boston from chat GPT and job swallowing robots to keep fake photos developments and artificial intelligence are moving at lightning speed prompting major concerns about not just what AI can do but what it should do I'll talk to Harvard Professor Danielle Allen one of more than a thousand experts calling on an industry-wide pause on AI plus sociologist Michael Jeffries on his new book which Chronicles the challenges of being black and Queer on campus and we'll go into the woods with Tony award-winning actor Gavin creel as Broadway comes to Boston is it time to pull the plug on artificial intelligence advances in AI have brought us some remarkable technological advances in recent years some with life-saving applications like cancer screenings and climate change tracking but then there are programs like chat GPT which has made headlines for launching into unsettling conversations with users not to mention racial biases now as ai's darker side comes into focus a group of Science Tech and ethics experts are calling for a pause on new developments in an open letter more than a thousand industry leaders including Elon Musk and apple co-founder Steve Wozniak right in part recent months have seen AI Labs locked in an out of control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital Minds that no one not even their creators can understand predict or reliably control so the sum 1500 people who have signed the letter already are asking for AI labs to commit to a six-month pause on all development the letter continues if such a pause cannot be enacted quickly governments should step in and Institute a moratorium I'm joined Now by one of the letter of signatories Danielle Allen a Harvard professor and director of the University's Edmond and Lily Safra Center for ethics Danielle thank you so much for joining us glad to be here Jared thanks so much for having me well let's set the stage first of all I have not slept for about the last three months when I since I started really diving into this set the stage for US 20 years from now how are we going to be looking back at this very moment that is a great question and I appreciate your comment about sleeplessness there's a sense of which for me for others who've been in this space this is kind of like the beginning of cobit again to be honest that is the magnitude is so great and things are moving so fast that people are trying really hard to figure it out so I'm glad we're not the one I sleep with ones Jared I'm sorry that you're in that category too but you are not alone I can tell you that so in terms of how we'll think about it in 20 years okay when I have the chance to be talking to technologists about what they say they use really quite extraordinary metaphors so for example one that I recently heard was somebody said it's like the invention of fire so that is the significance that people are accrediting to this and and they're right so I tend to use the metaphors more like the invention of gunpowder or the invention of nuclear powder um these are nuclear power rather sorry you know these are both inventions that just change what human beings could do in fundamental ways society changed around those technological developments so this is really at that scale and we should all be taking it very seriously so take us through the things that are most concerning to you because we talk about this and and some of it I I get has been kind of in joking terms or terms that we don't seem to be so concerned about that chat GPT can write your resume or it can write your biography or it can help students cheat on their exams not that that's a late subject matter by any means but what are some of the darker Realms that we're facing here with the advancement of this technology so what what has really happened is that the last month we've seen a sea change in capability so chat GPT was one thing but at the beginning of this month open AI released gpt4 which is at a whole different level of functionality so chat GPT gpt3 was able to perform at about sort of say the 10th or 25th percentile when you compared it against humans on LSAT or any other number of tests or kind of work computer coders do but it can now perform on par with the top professionals you know in the field kind of across the board so what does that mean for Workforce for example we should probably expect some pretty serious layoffs even or especially in the tech sector I mean that would be one really meaningful near-term impact by the same token though so the person who used the metaphor of fire with me said about it that really you know so fire you know carbonizes it takes carbon and you know sort of turns it into energy and what this does is take content and turn it into energy and what does that mean exactly it means anybody at this point with a digital footprint can't be impersonated okay so chat gbt has the capability of riding an op-ed in the style of Danielle Allen I have a post a call for the Washington Post it could write columns in my voice and you wouldn't really be able to tell the difference and so we are already living in a world that is just drowning when the problem of this information it's about to get worse that's the really scary thing so this letter has gone out there's no reasonable expectation that this pause will happen how is the tech World responding to it especially when uh open Ai and other big tech companies have decidedly walked away from from this letter and have no intention of signing well I honestly think that it is time for governments to step up I think the UN should be involved in this conversation that it's actually time for a global convention to establish a pause and in that regard I would use the analogy to nuclear power right as the nuclear power was developed by governments in the middle of wartime so there are all kinds of things we can say all kinds of things we could critique about how that unfolded but at the end of the day it also there was a sort of pretty rapid period of trying to figure out Global conventions for managing this force that had good things it could do it could provide energy for example but then also obviously just existentially destructive things and so in the same vein this new technology generative Foundation models large language learning models and the like you know they have they can do lots of good for us there's all kinds of ways they can complement and extend human capabilities in the same way that the whole telescope helps us see things in our eye can't see so we want that power and we want to use it but we really need to figure out how to put guard rails on the potential negative Downstream consequences so it is time for governments to step up and say hey tech companies you don't get to decide this one we need a pause well there are many people who point out that the politicians don't understand what's happening let alone a lot of the people in the country as we were talking just before we came on I don't understand why this is buried in the business section of the pages and why this isn't Front Page News which is why we're doing it on the top of the show tonight but if governments around the world don't step forward what does it mean for the first government or corporate entity that takes this and be and really manifests it in a huge way yes well open AI you know what they're doing with gpt4 right now I think honestly we can probably expect the functionality there to begin to be like a utility something that every single person in the entire world is trying to use in the same way that we use electricity so for starters like they're gonna blow up as a massive company they're going to make incredible profits and if they're the sort of sole controller of something that's basically a utility for the entire Globe well you know there you have a problem right there so there's a lot to think about how does the corporate sector engage here how do we think about the impacts on politics because of the problem of misinformation the issues for the workforce and the like but you know you said why is this buried in the business pages and I think that's a really important question the answer is because the corporate sector is what has developed this it has really been a private sector Enterprise and it is time for us to see that the public consequences are so significant that we need the public sector to step up catch up and be ready to help shape and direct this what do we make of the speed of this I think back to a story that I did at the MIT Museum I think it was last fall where I sat down and co-wrote a poem with an AI software and I thought well isn't that cute it teases out the creative aspect and here we are six months later and now we're seeing the darker Realms how it's it we see that it has the possibility to disseminate disinformation it tried to break up one columnist marriage but by the darker ways it was rooting around in his life I mean there are some very dark places this is going already and it's far and away beyond what I experienced last fall because of the rapid development what does this mean that we have to keep up with this pace well and here's how far it's spreading my my son my 11 year old son a couple of weeks ago asked me if he could get a five dollar a month subscription to a service that would let him impersonate anybody's voice okay and his reason was so they could call the school and get excused from school using my voice but you know my 11 year old is already getting the opportunity to take advantage of these Technologies for let's call them nefarious purposes so just imagine in the hands of genuinely Bad actors um what where where this could get and so finally I will check ourselves a little bit you don't think that we're being hysterical there were a lot of people as you pointed out as well as we acknowledge cancer blindness there are very good applications to this there are people who say that we are being hysterical that this is not a doomsday scenario any truth to that so I do think that these are good Technologies and there's a lot of good they can do so I'm not saying we don't need these um I am also a person who was a skeptic okay for a long time like ah we're making way too much of AI and so forth and what people really need to understand is that there has literally been a huge phase shift in the capability of the technology that's the kind of lesson number one most important takeaway today's AI is not Siri all right like we have totally changed categories and that's why we need to have a pause get our arms around the magnitude of the capacity and then proceed well Danielle Allen you're such a great it is your voice on this not your son's voice but your voice on this right exactly thank you so much for joining you never know though all right thank you Jared take care you too the majority of American colleges and universities were designed by and for straight white men and despite more recent advancements in diversity and inclusion as author Michael Jeffries points out in a new book there is still a long way to go for marginalized college students black and Queer on campus shines a light on the experiences of black lgbtq plus students from more than two dozen colleges Michael Jeffries joins me now he is also a professor of American studies and the dean of academic Affairs at Wellesley College welcome thanks for having me so I'm so curious what your interest was for starters in writing this book well I think there were a couple of things one was it was just driven by my experience as a professor you know I have students from all walks of life all backgrounds and some of the conversations that I had with them really kind of clued me into the things that they were dealing with as college students with competing pressures pressures from home pressures on campus and the lack and clear students I talked to they were having some of them at least were having trouble like finding that perfect spot that Niche when they arrived on campus and the other big factor was the black lives matter movement which was founded by queer black women I interviewed these students during the Trump Administration so it was a time of great political upheaval and I was interested as to whether these students kind of saw themselves as the leaders of a kind of political Vanguard given that the black lives matter movement was started by queer Black Folk so those were kind of the two things that really piqued my interest initially which is a lot of responsibility for a young person to bear in any regard let alone whether or not they want to be publicly outward about who they are so how does that break down yeah I mean I think that you said it exactly right it's a huge responsibility and what I found in the book is there's a tremendous diversity among these students some students really do think of themselves as politically radical as people who are politically engaged who take a great deal of responsibility not only for themselves but for the communities that they belong to other students are just trying to lead more ordinary lives as college students right they're just trying to get used to being away from home making new friends finding the studies that they're interested in in school and they don't want to be bothered honestly they have a hard time paying attention to the news and being that engaged with politics so there was a huge range another level of responsibility perhaps this term fly and fabulous which could come out of entertainment culture what does that mean yeah so I think when we talk about black queer fabulousness we're talking about an Unapologetic and very outward sort of outgoing extroverted performance of gender right and we can think about people like RuPaul or Billy Porter queer black celebrities who sort of present themselves in that way and that's a really important source of resistance and joy for queer Black Folk having said that it is not the only way that queer Black Folk live their lives so so what I do in the book is give the students a chance to describe themselves on their own terms without falling back on some of those more widely recognizable stereotypes and again what you find is some students who really Embrace that style of life and other students who who are just more quiet a more introverted and and showing that range I think is really valuable for those quiet introverted kids is there is there a pressure that or an expectation that if you're going to be part of the lgbtq TQ Community then you have to have the fabulousness of Billy Porter I really don't you know it's a great question I really don't think there is I think that for so many of these students they're on a journey it's a gradual process of coming into the life and what they find when and they get to campuses once they find a group of queer black students who have been through some of the same things these are generally very accepting collectives of folk with a great deal of latitude into kind of how you Style Yourself the kinds of things you're into so there's really not that kind of internal pressure from the LGBT community to be a certain type of queer you address there's a stereotype that exists about the black community and that is that the black community is far less tolerant of lgbtq issues how does that how did you see that within the students you spoke to yeah thanks for the question I think it's really important to talk about this because often when we talk about stereotypes of black homophobia black homophobia becomes the scapegoat for all of the institutional forces of homophobia or transphobia that are really the root cause right so when we look at the legal history of homophobia in this country the fact that it was the fact that queerness was designated as a medical illness until the 1970s right those are the real underlying reasons for homophobia And yet when we turn our attention to black people as the sort of flag carriers for homophobia we can miss that history now having said that there are real issues within black communities when it comes to homophobia some of them are tied to experiences within black churches where you have a long-standing tradition of allowance for queerness when it comes to the new music director or the choir but when you look at the pulpit the things that you hear coming off the pulpit are not so accepting so the students in the book really had to wrestle with so many of those things coming up right some mixed messages from within their family within their religious communities and then also just kind of more blatant examples of homophobia and transphobia they had to overcome as young people so for students coming out of these circumstances how are they selecting colleges how are they trying to create those communities to find inclusivity yeah you know I thought that when I spoke with them I would have heard more about students looking specifically for Visible LGBT communities when they were visiting colleges sort of as prospective students but what I heard were the considerations were pretty much the same that we might expect for any student visiting College things like geography The Prestige of the school the financial aid they were being offered those were like the first three things that they talked about right because that is the reality for students trying to make a college selection and then when they got to campus they were picking up on subtle cues especially around black diversity so even if it just if it wasn't around lgbtq visibility it was are there is there a range of Black Folk here so I can find my own uh my own Niche and then once they get there you know this well you're a college administrator where are we in terms of the support in terms of the inclusivity you think about this this is actually something that's only been talked about probably loudly over the last 10 years more openly over the last 20 years that's not a long time yeah I mean I think um when it when it comes to inclusion with respect to lgbtq plus students this really was in the literature in the studies a late 20th century phenomenon so so even if you want to go back 20 years and be generous that's really when we started thinking about this population and how we can support them when they're on the campus and we have a long way to go honestly especially when it comes to queer Black Folk and queer people of color because uh first of all there aren't so many adult role models on campus that these students can look to and say you know I can imagine myself being someone like them when I grow up when I graduate college secondly when you look at lgbtq student organizations the leadership of those organizations that many of the campus I visited were composed of white students and those students it's not that they were insensitive or outwardly racist but they didn't often prioritize the intersection of racism and homophobia or racism and transphobia setting the agenda for that student organization so if you're a queer black student at one of these places you don't feel like your whole self is being spoken to in some of these social situations or in some of the situations where these groups are doing advocacy work so there's a long way to go so finally if you were to write a coda to your book today because I you started out the interview by saying that you interviewed these students during the Trump era when so much hate was being spewed not that it's not now but what's the level of optimism that you see among these students yeah I think it's mixed honestly I mean I spoke with some students who told me you know what a discouraging time it had been who told me that they were really losing faith in their neighbors because again as you just said we were seeing expressions of really toxic hate just out in the open when you think about the terrorism that Charlottesville for example in so many other places so there were many students who were like you know I don't know where we're going I don't know how much hope I had left but then there were others who were really trying to live beyond the moment and look at the long history of the struggle for not only black liberation but lgbtq Liberation in this country and they were they look at that long history and they say you know what it has to get better we've been here we're not going anywhere and there'll be more of us in the future and and the future when you think about it that way it was very bright well as all the historians say the same and at least as your book shows they can talk about it too thank you so much for being here thanks for having me the book again is black and Queer on campus next up Broadway has barreled into Boston with the hit Sondheim musical into the woods after a wildly popular six-month run in New York much of the Broadway cast decided to take the show on the road for a national tour that includes Tony award-winning actor Gavin creel who works double time in the musical performing now at the Emerson Colonial Theater as both the wolf and Cinderella's Oso immodest Prince am I not sensitive clever well-mannered consider it passionate Charming as kind as I'm handsome an heir to a throne girl must be mad and Gavin creel joins me now thank you so much for being here thank you for having me I'm never getting used to watching that ever well it's nice to be here let's talk about Stephen Sondheim and what he's done with into the woods this musical and it was so clever Stephen Hawk Sondheim writing the music in James Lapine the book about taking something that we all have access to all of these great stories like Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood and and Cinderella and so forth but where does he take us beyond that um you know it's it's a question everybody asks is like what is the the relevance of this show why this show why now and I have to say Sondheim and Lapine like you said take something we all know that's sort of part of our heartbeat how we grew up how we learned how to treat one another through these fairy tales and these allegories and they remind us that it's still life's lessons in our faces but they do it with like a little bit of a wicked adult twist you know it's a little spin of the mustache and just reminding us that Jack wasn't that good of a kid you see a little bit of a us uh I I can't say without saying a curse word he was just a little bit off well he was a murderer is what he was yes he was he was okay yeah there he was he was a murderer he was the thief um little red is ravenous in her own way and I think the wolf was a victim I know it's a bad character so I play it I play it but how they took these stories and and made them into something that reminded us that we could they are still applicable to even today well I want to ask you about playing the wolf in a moment but first of all we just saw you uh one of your songs in the show and the complexity of singing Sondheim all of those words consonants are not your friend or are they he was so mathematical the number of times that I have like gone up on lyrics or mixed them up I'm embarrassed to say as many but um he he writes Sondheim writes in a way that makes you want to re-engage each time you sing it and it's like Shakespeare in that way that there's always more to find there's always you can go deeper and deeper and I've been doing the show now for oh gosh 250 times at this point and it's still it still surprises me and I think it's neat because each audience is different so each audience that we have at Emerson Colonial it's just this new discovery we're opening up this gift each time and I have to be reminded like dig into those words because there's a lot of them and and people want to hear them that's what's so great about our production I think is we have the entire Orchestra sitting on stage with us we have this um entire Beautiful cast that is there making the words sit front and center and it and we keep hearing from people I could understand everything you were saying and I got the I got the show in such a way that I've never understood it before so it's pretty special yeah I certainly count myself in that category going back to you playing the wolf what are the mental calisthenics involved in playing two very different characters the wolf and Cinderella's prince within 20 minutes of each other on stage yeah it's pretty quick this we have a little quick change between when the wolf goes to his demise I Won't Give It Away everybody knows he dies um and then I switch very quickly into full obviously my hair is blue in real life but um I have a full wig change for costume change shout out to Sophie Lynn and my wonderful dresser here in town Erica it's a team effort and we it's a lot of fun as far as the characters go I really enjoy physical uh approach to Every Act every part I play as an actor I love approaching it physically so the wolf is hunched and and hungry and and the prince is very upright and Regal and it's it's really it's really fun and Andrea Hood designed two incredible costumes so I just kind of put the costumes on and let them do the work well I want to ask you about another project you're working on this is your own it's called walking through that you're developing I think it's so walk on through sorry walk on through uh What uh in discovering art for the first time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and this is something that you were able to work on during the pandemic and down time I know it had started before that perhaps we'll even see it here in Boston at some point but what was that experience to just to discover the art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York you know I have to say it's it's in the show but it's an embarrassing admission to be you know my early 40s and having never stepped foot in the Metropolitan Museum of Art but I just grew up um with a challenge attention span and um I wasn't versed well versed in Fine Art and art education and I was approached to possibly make a piece of theater in association with the art at the Museum so I literally just went in and started walking around and taking notes at anything I just went huh or wow and over about three years I have created a piece that sort of examines art and life and love and loss and loneliness through about 40 different pieces of Art in the museum and I'm really excited to share it with the world we're hopefully going to have uh production in the fall in New York and and then expand it from there and hopefully be able to bring it around the world I just I'm really excited to share it with with everyone does that exposure to the visual arts has that changed who you are as a Performing Artist question yes I think so when I was in acting school we used to go they used to say go to a museum and try to find Art that the essence of which speaks to the character you're going to play and we would go to like the the library and go through pictures and photographs and try to find things that help bring the character to life but since I spent so much time at the Met and really had a life-changing experience there I think I do see artistic expression kind of everywhere now it's like the museum I always said the show walk on through is the Met is to the world as as me as a as a middle-aged man is like having this midlife crisis and going where do I fit here how about this amazing career and this unbelievable luck but I don't really know where I fit in this building and I realize oh it's not just the building it's kind of like my life at this moment I don't really know where I fit and I thought I had it all figured out and the healing nature of Art in that that I just sort of saw all these names across Crossing spans of time and saying like I'm here too and you're going to be okay just I found it very affirming well it's it's really surprising to hear you say that especially after you had won the Tony for for Hello Dolly and one might assume you're you had already moved to this height of your career actually that was just a way of me to segue to ask if Bette Midler is is really the Divine miss m after your experience working with her the most the most Divine the hardest working the funniest the driest um and just constantly fussing With Every Beat wanting to make things better wanting to like dig deeper she never did the show the same way twice she would find a big laugh in the next night do it completely different to see what else she could find I loved working with her well Gavin Krill you're in it's fabulous to watch you in this show it is just glorious congratulations and thank you for being with us my pleasure thank you very much into the woods is running through Sunday at the Emerson Colonial Theater for more information head to Emerson Colonial well that's it for tonight we'll be back tomorrow I'm Jared Bowen thanks for joining us [Music] [Applause] [Music] tonight is about joining

2023-04-02 15:36

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