Trevor Noah on the Future of Entertainment and AI

Trevor Noah on the Future of Entertainment and AI

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I think one of the most important discussions  we should be having is around people, purpose,   and the plans around what we are going to do  when these technologies evolve, as opposed to   thinking of the technologies as some sort of  boogeyman, because the technology isn't. Hi,   I'm Reid Hoffman. And I'm Aria Finger. We  want to know what happens if, in the future,   everything breaks humanity's way. We're  speaking with visionaries in every field,  

from climate science to criminal justice, and  from entertainment to education. This is Possible. Welcome to the Possible podcast. Our  illustrious guest is Trevor Noah,   who has hosted the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning  show, The Daily Show, from 2015 to 2022; he's the   author of The New York Times bestseller book, Born  a Crime; he's been a comedian for over a decade;   he speaks about seven languages; and he  calls New York City home, just like you,   Aria. But with his breadth, I anticipate we  are going everywhere. So, Trevor, welcome to   our Possible podcast about what is possible.  I cannot I tell you how excited I am to see   you and and have a little bit of a chance to turn  the microphone having gone on your shows before.   So welcome to Possible. Thank you so much and good  to see you again, good to chat here again. I'm  

excited for the conversation. So, Trevor, I'm  excited because Reid and I have a little East   Coast, West Coast battle, me being a New Yorker  and him being a West Coast-er. So, when you hosted   the Grammys and you talked about LA maybe not  being the greatest city in the world, I'm just   gonna pretend that you think New York is actually  the greatest city in the world. [laugh] Oh, that's   funny. I love how everyone thinks it's in relation  to their city. Yeah, I'm always intrigued by how  

everyone thinks their city is the best city.  Here's the thing I always ask New Yorkers. I go,   if New York is the greatest city in the world,  why does everyone have to leave it every weekend   if they get a chance? [laugh] That's the one thing  that sticks out for me. I think it's a phenomenal   place. Don't get me wrong but everyone's quick to  say "greatest city." I feel like everyone has to   say "greatest city for..." and then have the input  that, you know, what is the specifier that makes   it the greatest city for something? And then I'll  agree with you. So, “greatest city for ‘nonstop?’”   New York. I'm in. All right. I’ll take it. I’ll  take it. I know actually, from various contexts,  

you actually work on technological projects.  Everything from, you know, thinking about where it   plays in the future, and everything else. And you  voice the artificial intelligence system in Black   Panther. Is the topic of AI something that you  were following intensely? And was there anything   that you were thinking about – when you were doing  the “Wakanda Forever” AI voice – about what role   AI will be playing in the future? Yeah. That's  an interesting question, you know, because in  

many ways, like when I when I would talk to Ryan  Coogler, the director of Black Panther, I would   always ask him what he envisioned his AI to be,  because I think everyone has a different idea of   what AI is. And I've come to realize some of the  conversations people have about AI are endearing,   but misguided, often. So some people will talk  about AI, but really they're just talking about   like simple machine learning. Sometimes people are  talking about AI and they're just talking about   processing a very simple command. I think AI, the  way I understand it, it’s a computer model that's  

getting to a place where it understands, or it  processes logic, in a way that a human would be   familiar with. So when I was thinking of that  for the Black Panther role, it's an AI that is   intelligent, but at the same time, still at the  mercy of the people who have created it. I think   that's what we would hope AI will become, is a  tool that we are using, but then somehow interacts   with us in an almost personal way, which,  which will be interesting for us to try and,   I think, grapple with, because then we're gonna  ask ourselves questions of sentience, and we're   gonna ask ourselves questions of life, and what is  and isn't, and what is personality. So definitely,  

for that role, it was interesting thinking of an  AI that is for all intents and purposes, feeling,   but is still not. I do think that right now,  actually, in AI, we're much more like tools than   like beings. And the tool being question is one of  the central ones that's beginning to start in the   dialogue. But this gives me a natural translation  of another question I want to ask you because you  

know, at OpenAI, we have this GPT-4 that will  be coming out later, but I have access to it.   I actually, in fact, generated some light  bulb jokes because I personally have an   affectation for light bulb jokes, because  I think they're a form of cultural haiku.   They're a very short form lens into, you know,  kind of reflecting a bias or reflecting a meme,   or something else. We’re going to read you a  couple of the light bulb jokes about Trevor   Noah that GPT-4 generated, and we’d love you to  reflect on what that means on GPT-4’s sense of   humor, on what you would improve. You know,  that kind of stuff. So I’ll kick it off and   then we'll trade. How many Trevor Noahs does it  take to change a light bulb? None. He just shines   his smile and brightens the room. Oh, wow. All  right, we started with the easy ones. We started  

with the kind ones. Oh, okay. [laugh] Yes.  Wow. That’s, that’s “GPT my mom.” I like that.   Exactly. It’ll get a little bit – “Artificial  Mom-telligence.” I like that. That. Yeah. The   prompt was: “in the style of Trevor Noah’s mom,  give us a…” Yes, that’s what that seems like. All right, so the next one. How many Trevor   Noahs does it take to change a light  bulb? One, but he has to do it in six different accents and explain the  cultural context of each one. [laugh] Oh,   I like that. Okay, I like that. And you can tell  GPT-4 does have some knowledge of you when we ask  

these questions. So, and now we’re getting into  a little bit more of like the knowledge of you   on The Daily Show. How many Trevor Noahs  does it take to change a light bulb? Two:   one to change it, and one to roast Donald  Trump for not knowing how to do it. Oh, okay. All right. That joke’s a little simple,  but, I’ll take it. No intelligence there. All  

right, joke number four. How many Trevor Noahs  does it take to change a light bulb? One,   but he has to wait for Jon Stewart to  retire first. That's funny. [laugh]  Yes, that’s funny. See, that’s a great joke.  That’s actually a very nice light bulb joke.  

Good, we have similar judgments. So, what do you  think about GPT-4 and, in this little microcosm,   does it have a sense of humor? So, I will start  with the second question first. Does it have a   sense of humor? I don’t know the answer to that  question, and I don’t think any of us knows the   answer to that question. Does it understand what a  sense of humor may be? I think the answer is yes.  

It is able to learn how we use language to create  what we call a sense of humor. Understanding   is – maybe that’s one of the most difficult  questions to ask about AI, I find, because   we don’t know what understanding even is. And I  know you’ve done a lot of work in this, Reid, but   one of the most fascinating stories in AI I came  across was – so you know this, I’ve been working   with Microsoft for years. I’ve been lucky enough  to consult with them. It started in hardware and   then we work in philanthropy together, and then  it spilled over into AI and everything else.   So, I’d go to Redmond [Washington] and I’d work  at the campus and I’d travel around the world   with Brad Smith, and sometimes we’d be at events  with Satya [Nadella] and Panos [Panay] and the   team out there. And one of the more fascinating  stories I came across involving AI was there was   a model that they were trying to train, and this  model had an almost perfect track record picking   between pictures of men and women. Men and women,  men and women. It was really simple in what it was  

trying to do. What it failed at consistently was  picking out Black women from the men and women   sample. If it was Black people. And try as they  may, they could not get this AI to get it right.   And they kept on loading more images, more images,  more images. Training it, training it, training   it. More images. They were like, is it a bias? Is  it this? What is happening? What is happening? It   kept on mislabeling Black women as men. And this  is one of the most fascinating stories ever:   what they did, essentially, was they sent the AI  to Africa. I think it was to one of the centers  

in Kenya that Microsoft has. I mean, it sounds  like a really ludicrous story, when you go like,   “ah, we sent the AI to Africa to learn!” And  essentially what they did was they started   training the model out there. And, over time, the  model a) got exponentially faster at understanding   the difference between Black men and Black women.  But the reason was most interesting. They realized   that the AI never knew what a man or a woman  was. All it had drawn was a correlation between   people who wear makeup and people who don’t  wear makeup. And it had decided that that was  

man and that was woman. And so the programmers  and everyone using the AI had assumed that the   AI understood what a man was and what a woman was,  and didn’t understand why it didn’t understand it.   And only came to realize when it went to Africa  that the AI was using makeup. And because Black   people, and Black women in particular have been  underserved in the makeup industry, they don’t   wear as much makeup. And so they generally  don’t have makeup on in pictures, and they   don’t have makeup that’s prominent. And so the  AI never knew. It never understood man or woman,  

it just went, “ah, red lips, blush on cheeks,  blue eyeshadow: woman,” and that was it. And so,   I think whenever we have these conversations about  that, about understanding, I think we are still   at the very basic stages of understanding what  understanding even is. And then trying to draw   all those correlations between all the different  data points of what a thing is thinking or not   thinking, or is it just inferring from an idea.  You know what I mean? Yeah, a hundred percent. One   of the things that I think about 2023 being this  year of large language models and acceleration of   a variety of AI things, is we’re now actually  gonna get much more sophisticated. We kind of  

apply this human metaphor: understands, speaks,  has a sense of humor. And we kind of do it poorly   when we get to animals because we presume that  they’re less intelligent, because they don’t   really have that same model. And yet they do  have a model of the world and they do have some   feelings and all the rest. And we do it really  crazily when it gets to, like, “my car, you know,   is feeling bad today.” Or something like that.  Now we have to be much more sophisticated and   understand what understanding is. That it isn’t  just the question of, well, does it understand   the way Trevor does or the way Aria does, or the  way Reid does? But it’s like, okay, what is that   notion of understanding and how does it apply  here? And how does it apply here? I completely   agree. Yeah. And so, to answer the second question  you had, what do I think of ChatGPT and GPT-4,  

which I’ve tested a little bit. It’s one of the  biggest leaps in technology and in the evolution   of how we do things that we have experienced  in decades.I always think back to major moments   in time – what was it like when the steam engine  was created? What was it like when the telephone   was created? All these moments where, all of a  sudden, you were able to do in ways that you never   imagined possible. That’s where we are with GPT.  And I think in the same way, I am cautious, or I   try to tell people to be cautious about thinking  about how bad it can be. I’m also cautious to  

think about how good it can be. I go, we genuinely  don’t know which is good and bad. We don't know.   We don't know what we don't know. But from what I  have seen it's a really fantastic tool. It could   be one of the biggest leaps forward in helping us  understand how thinking even works, in a strange   way. From what I’ve seen, it’s problem solving.  You’ve seen it solve problems that haven’t even   existed. Its ability to try and understand logic  using just, you know, natural language. It’s a  

brilliant, brilliant tool. Well, to your point,  it’s limited on the data that it’s trained on.   And I do appreciate, I feel like right now in the  AI discussion, it’s like you either have people on   Twitter saying that the robots are coming for  us, or you have people saying, “it’s amazing,   don’t worry, these aren’t the droids you’re  looking for.” And so I loved your woman versus man   Microsoft story. They had to go retrain the data.  I'm just wondering like do you see that as an   unhopeful story? Because, you know, this is often  created by White men, and so there’s limitations,   whether it’s bias, anti-women bias, et cetera.  Or do you see that as a hopeful story where,   actually, once we find out what’s wrong, we can  sort of fix the model? How do you see that in   the evolution of AI? I’m eternally an optimist in  this space and, you know, you can probably play   this recording back when the earth is burning and  the robots have put us into prisons. [laugh] But,  

for me it’s a hopeful story, because – let me ask  you this. If you have an AI model that you realize   is biased, you are able to find and correct  that bias in a time that is almost impossible   to recreate in a human being. So, I think about  how biased the world is that we live in and how   impossible it is, it’s almost impossible to  change those biases that people hold. So, if   you say judges are sentencing people from poorer  backgrounds and, you know, people of color and   Black people are getting higher sentencing from  a judge, how do you now go and undo that? And so   that’s why people talk about dismantling a system  and recreating a new one, et cetera, et cetera, et   cetera. But I argue in the world of AI and in  these models, you can actually create a system   where you are constantly refining it and it does  not have any ego attached to its decisions or the   way it processes information. And so, I think, for  me, that’s more hopeful. I think the ability to   change your mind is something that most human  beings struggle with. Myself included, like,  

I always ask myself the question, I go, How do I  know I'm wrong? How do I know I'm wrong? What if   I’m wrong? What if I’m wrong right now? What if  I’m wrong? You know, that’s, I’m always playing   that in my head because I always have to think  about the possibility that I could be wrong,   because everything I learned in life is because  I was wrong. Somebody had to teach me something   else. And with AI, I don’t think we have that  limitation, you know? Yes, we have to be aware,   but the fact that we are having the conversations  means we’re at least aware. And it means when   we discover it, just like we do with every other  technology – you know, you discover, oh, this car,   the brakes were, yeah, they have a recall. And  they go like, all right, let’s fix the brakes.  

And now you have over the air updates. Gone are  the days of getting a cartridge from Nintendo,   and that’s the game, and it’s done. Now, you  get a game and in the first week you’ve got your   first patch. On the first day often. It's like  I download the first patch. We found bugs. We've   got fixes. We've got changes. We've got tweaks.  I think that’s hopeful because you would want a   system that is constantly changeable and a system  where you’re constantly trying to resolve all of   those bugs along the way. I mean, you hit on an  issue I care deeply about. If we could just like,  

send patches to the criminal justice system and  make it not discriminatory, I’m in. Exactly.   That’s what we should be doing. Yes. [laugh]  A thousand percent. I watched your interview   with Mira Murati on The Daily Show, and one  of the things that I – you know, because she   shares a lot of beliefs – we work together in the  OpenAI context. She shares this view of, actually,   in fact, of amplification, and she was talking  about that with you, with DALL-E and other things   I didn’t quite get from the show how it sat  with you. Like, do you think AI is going to  

be a really useful tool in augmenting writers and  artists? Will there be some replacement? You know,   how – when you were having that dialogue,  you were doing a very good job of, as you do,   of bringing her out. But I was curious about what  your reflections within your industry are of what   the next year, three years of this will look  like in terms of producing perspective, news,   entertainment. Right, right, right. Yeah.  So here’s the biggest thing I’ve enjoyed,   but in a, like, a curmudgeon-y kind of way in this  conversation. I found it particularly interesting   that everybody says the phrase, or not everybody,  but a lot of people will use the phrase, “AI is   going to replace these jobs. These jobs are gonna  be taken away by AI.” It is going to and I’m like,   people, I think everybody needs to take a step  back and realize you’re not afraid of AI, you’re   afraid of the companies and the employers who are  gonna look for any excuse to get rid of somebody   and replace that person with either AI or with one  person who can do multiple jobs. In the same way   it took what, 20 odd people to, you know, farm a  piece of land, then the tractor was invented, and   then those 20 people immediately became obsolete,  and one person was pulling this was driving this   tractor that was pulling the plow. I think one of  the most important discussions we should be having  

is around people, purpose, and the plans around  what we are going to do when these technologies   evolve, as opposed to thinking of the technologies  as some sort of boogeyman. Because the technology   isn’t. The boogeyman is capitalism. That’s the  truth. So you have to figure out how you manage   in a world where some people’s purpose may change  and be moved around. And I think, to be honest,   you see a lot of classism in this conversation  because when these conversations center around   manufacturing jobs or mining, you’ll see a lot  of people saying like, look, you gotta reskill,   you’ve gotta retool. That’s what happens. Totally.  At the end of the day, you know, it’s like mining   won’t be around forever, you gotta learn about  green energy. That’s just life. And then now AI  

comes and it’s threatening more white collar jobs,  and all of a sudden those same people are like,   “you can’t just have this technology – there  are writers in Hollywood that are gonna be out   of jobs. There are journalists that are – is it  gonna write articles for them? We can’t just allow   this.” And it’s like, oh, now, first of all, you  see what it’s like to have a technology that may   replace you and you understand how callous a lot  of your comments have been. But also, I think it   gets everybody, it should push everybody to the  real conversation, which is, what are we trying   to do? One of the most wonderful quotes I ever  heard was, I think it was Sweden’s – it either   was like Minister of Finance or somebody  high up in Sweden’s government. And he said,   in Sweden they don’t care about protecting jobs,  they care about protecting workers. The people  

aren’t the jobs. And so in Sweden, what they say  is, “hey, we’re just gonna make sure that you are   always fine. Your job can go away and your job can  disappear, but you don’t disappear with it.” And   I think a lot of the fear that we’re experiencing,  especially in America, is in and around the fact   that so many people’s livelihoods are tied  to their jobs. So, if you don’t have a job,   you don’t have healthcare. If you don’t have a  job, you don’t have a credit report. If you don’t  

have a job you don’t have access to… If you don’t  have a job, sometimes you don’t even exist. Like,   what you do is more important than who  you are. And so, I think in and around AI,   the reason I’m an optimist is because I go,  we can create this tool, but it is forcing   us to have a larger conversation around what  is the job, what isn’t the job? So, you know,   when you ask me what I think of it, I think it’s  a fantastic tool. It’s the same way I remember   when Windows 3.1 launched in my life, I was like,  this is the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced,   ever. I don’t wanna type, “d i r slash page,”  I’m done with that. You know what I mean? I   don’t want to be going through every single  file and searching for a folder and typing   every command prompt out there. I don’t want to  do that. The graphical user interface changed  

everything. And I think this is, in many ways, a  different type of graphical user interface where   it’s gonna enable us to either program faster, or  to write quicker, or to summarize information in   a way that we never have before. And in doing  that, we can do more. The question is, how do   we protect people from the inevitable conclusion  of capitalism, which is a company’s going to try   to make as much profit as possible because of a  thing called quarterly earnings, which I hate. By   the way, this isn’t really our subject here, and  we will get to a funny GPT-4 thing as part of it,   but I do think it’s important for me to say. When I was an undergraduate, I was kind of,  

like, very opposed to the philosophy of  capitalism. Like, I would say it’s a great   technology and a bad philosophy, you know,  a little bit kind of “the meaning of life.”   You know, I’ve now kind of come to the view  that it’s like, look, what we’ve been doing   as a technology is we’ve been modifying it all  kinds of ways. And a lot of where we’ve gotten   to – because it’s, you know, amongst some circles  it’s fashionable to be critical of capitalism – is   like say, well, actually a lot of the progress  we’ve made since the middle ages in terms of,   you know, manufacturing, a bunch of other stuff,  all comes through capitalism and does come through   mechanisms like quarterly profits, which have some  negative side effects, too. But, we’ve also gotten  

a tremendous amount out of it. So I tend to be  – how do we mod it, or if someone has a better   idea than it entirely, like with a new idea. But  it’s like, oh, we’ve gotten a lot of good things   about it. So I tend to be a “modify capitalism”  person. Oh yeah. But I think if you look at it,   there’s no denying it comes with good. Many things  come with good, you know. Like I learned working   with my mom in the garden, which I hated: every  single plant, given the opportunity, will try   to destroy every other plant in its ecosystem  if it’s not meant to be part of it. You know?   And I think we shouldn’t take that for granted in  terms of how, to your point, capitalism has been   designed in the way we think of it now. Like what  is it actually trying to do? Everything is good,  

but everything taken into an extreme will have  disastrous effects. You know? So, fasting is   good for you. Fasting perpetually is starvation.  So, drinking is good for you. Drinking perpetually   is drowning. I think the same thing goes for  this. We have to ask ourselves the question:   if we’re going to exist in a society where  people’s livelihoods, literally their livelihoods,   are dependent on a thing called “job,” what  happens if “job” no longer exists? And what   if “job” is replaced by AI or robot or machine  or anything? And so I think when we look at AI,   I think we will yield better results if people  aren’t spending half their energy worried that   this thing is coming to get them and can spend all  of their energy working on using it for what it   can be used for. And so, I think that’s what we  need to be thinking about now with AI is, okay,   how does this make people’s jobs as opposed to  take people’s jobs? And then for me, which is   my passion, I go to, well maybe it means it’s not  an eight hour workday anymore, it’s a four hour   workday. You know? I mean, I know I’m delusional  in saying that, because it’ll never happen. But,   that’s honestly my dream, is that people will use  these tools and then we just have more time in   life. Trevor, let’s pull that thread for a moment.  So this is your dream, like one of your big ideas:  

let’s go to the four hours a day. Paint the  picture in 20 years, what would that be like?   Think about it, Aria, what are we trying to  do? You know, everyone thinks the week – so,   during the pandemic, I realized how many of our  ideas are actually just constructs that we’ve   created. Monday through Friday. Yeah, what does it  even mean? We’re so confident. We’re so confident   that a weekend is two days and then you work for  five. Everyone goes like, “this makes complete   sense.” But then you just read a little bit and  you realize, oh wait, the weekend was invented.   Because labor unions at some point said it is not  sustainable to work every single day of the week.  

And they had to force manufacturing plants and  factories to give workers time off. Imagine that:   the weekend was invented as we know it. So when  you see these discussions now with the pandemic,   people being like, should we do a four day work  week? And what do they find: productivity doesn’t   actually drop. And you’re like, huh. And I will  challenge anyone listening to this podcast right  

now, tell me how much time you spend in an  office where you’re not working. Just be   honest. [laugh] From the time you walk in, to the  time you turn on your computer, then you walk over   to the coffee machine, and then you waste time,  then you chat to people, you catch up with them   about their lives, talk about something. Then you  talk about scheduling a meeting. You don’t need   to schedule a meeting. You get to the meeting, you  talk about what your kid did at school and a funny   story. They chat about something that happened  at the teacher’s association. You talk about your  

gripes in the neighborhood, the trash didn’t get  picked up, you have a bit of a meeting, then you   schedule another meeting. No one’s working at  work. We’re all lying. [laugh] None of us are   working at work. Most people are not working at  work, especially in office jobs. And so I think   if we have an honest conversation, we can get to  a place where we go, you know what? We don’t all   need to be in work for as long as we think we do.  And I almost feel like we get out of the world of   saying people are paid for their time, but they’re  paid for their productivity, in a larger sense.   And then you go like, yeah, how many hours a week  a week do you work? Depends on how long it takes   for me to get my job done. And with AI it doesn’t  take that long and I’m an AI technician, you know.   That’s what it should be. I mean, I love it  about office workers because I’m always like,  

take any office worker and let them be a teacher  for just one week, where they actually have to   work all day long. And they’ll be like, where was  my coffee break? [laugh] Yes, exactly. So I’m with   you. To transition a little bit, we talked about  how AI could be a tool for the future of the   entertainment industry. We shared with you a story  that was written by GPT-4. And so, if you hate it,   I didn’t write it. That’s fine. [laugh] You’re  only hurting GPT-4’s feelings. [laugh] It posited  

a future where there was “The AI-ly Show.”  Okay? And it was a show in 2033 where the AI   was customizing the show to who was watching. If  the person was 70, it was explaining what TikTok   was. If the person was 40, it was talking to them  about LeBron just getting over the scoring title.  

What do you think about this story? Or how would  you use AI in the next, you know, five, 10 years   to create a better entertainment show, to create  a better media show, to create something in your   industry? So there were two parts of the story  that I really enjoyed. The idea of creating a show   for every individual person that catered to them  is, I think, one of the most exciting advances in   technology and in entertainment we could possibly  pursue. Because, while it is normal for us to,   like, learn together, grow together, go  together, et cetera, you can’t deny that   means a lot of people get left behind because  of a standardized anything. So, imagine if you   had a news show that catered to your level of  knowledge about the subject matter and knew   how to filter out what you already know, and  what you should know, and what you don’t know,   and what you need to know. That would be  amazing. I think that would be phenomenal.   The one downside, though, is I think we should  never take for granted what we lose in society,   the more niche and individualized our experiences  become. I think it’s important for us to remember  

how much being a part of a society comes from  having a shared experience of what reality is.   That’s why I’m a big fan of cultural touchstone  moments. I love big events like the World Cup,   you know, the Super Bowl, you know? Any of these  things that everybody is watching, like a space,   you know, like a moon launch, a moon landing.  All of these big moments. Because what they do   is they just make everybody agree on reality for  a moment. “Where were you the moment that…" That’s   such a powerful tool that we take for granted and  that we are losing in a world that becomes more,   you know, individualized. So it is good. Yeah, now  we can watch whatever TV show, we can listen to   whatever song. But it also means there’s fewer of  us humming at the same frequencies. There’s fewer  

of us laughing at the same moment. You don't  remember the times when you and your entire   family would sit in front of a TV and watch  the same show. Whether it's Family Matters or   All in the Family or any of these shows, but it  meant we all just had like a moment where we're   almost resonating at the same frequency, which I  think helps us come to consensus in other areas of   life that we take for granted So while it’s good  and amazing, I think for learning, especially,   I think there’s also an element of bringing it all  together that would also be crucial. And maybe it   could do that, you know, maybe at the end of the  day, Reid watches something, you watch something,   I watch something and it makes sure that we  all know that LeBron James has now surpassed   the all-time scoring record. But the way in which  we learned it was completely different. And then   maybe that could be what sort of brings us back  together. And that’s kind of the thing that I’m  

hopeful for. And by the way, to your earlier work  comments, which I basically completely agree,   it’s like, how do we use this tool? How do we do  it? I think there’s a whole bunch of human work   that we essentially have almost infinite demand  on. I’ll use a parallel from LinkedIn, which is:   when we started LinkedIn, people said, “oh, this  is gonna put recruiters out of work because it’ll   amplify the ability for recruiters so much  that you’ll have one versus 10." And what   I’ve seen over the last 20 years is we have, if  anything, the same number, or more recruiters,   because we have kind of infinite demand for it.  It’s not every job. Like, we don’t have infinite   demand for tractor drivers. There are places  where that 20 becomes one. By the way, that was a   particularly nice job to give the other 19 better  jobs than hoeing in the fields. Most people don't  

like the hoeing in the field job. Right. Right.  It’s not particularly meaningful for most people   but I think that kind of amplification, and I  think that AI in the media space, can be used   to build bridges and build bridges also to share  truth. Like, obviously everyone’s worried about   misinformation, and can be used that way, and how  groups politicize. I think you talked about that  

with Mira on The Daily Show. But I think it can  also be: how do we use it to find a common truth,   partially through common events as well?  And I think that’s one of the things that we   should be asking for the creators of AI  to be paying attention to and to doing.   And I think that’s one of the reasons why the  public dialogue about it is so important. Right,   right. I think it can be achieved. You know, I  always think of Wikipedia as a great example.  

Everytime people talk about misinformation  and, you know, society being bad and whatnot,   I disagree. I disagree because I look at Wikipedia  as a perfect example of what naturally happens   when there isn’t an external factor pushing the  platform to make decisions that are suboptimal   for the facts that it is trying to push out.  And because of Wikipedia’s business model,   it’s accurate. And you would think – think of  the internet, think of the world we live in,  

think of what we think of ourselves as people.  You would think Wikipedia would be trash, and   everything would be a lie, and everything would be  a scam. And it’s not. People pride themselves on   being really good at putting out good information.  The community prides itself on self-policing,   on self-regulating. And what you end up with is  one of the most accurate sources of information   you’ll ever come across. And, it’s also balanced.  You know, so you’ll go into a Wikipedia article   and you can type anything. Vaccines. And  it’ll say to you, “now, some people have  

thought this and it has been disproven by this,  and these are the studies, and this is the that,   and this is the…” And it’s there, it’s all laid  out for you. And so, I think we should never take   for granted – that’s why I keep going back to the  capitalism of it all, because to speak about AI   in a vacuum is ignorant, in my opinion, because  AI is not existing in a vacuum. Let’s go to one   other kind of non-AI angle of technology, because  you have this broad technology interest, and AI is   obviously one of the ways. There’s all of this  other sort of things: AR, VR, even, you know,   holograms, you know, StarTrack, Smellovision.  You know, all of this stuff. Is there anything   that – either AI combining with that or other  things that you see coming – that you think will   be particularly useful for the kind of society,  social, media? Oh, definitely. I think there are  

many places where I’m excited to see AI contribute  beyond creative expression, idea generation and   information gathering. I think one of the more  exciting aspects of AI for me right now is seeing   what it’ll be able to do in terms of being an  assistant. I think people take for granted how   wonderful and powerful AI could be as an assistant  for everyone in everything. You know, your   grandmother using it to tell her about her  medication, but really break it down. Your child  

using it to ask a question to further understand  what the homework assignment is actually about,   as opposed to just sitting at home blank and not  understanding. Somebody at work asking for a piece   of clarification with some of the materials that  they may be using. In, I don’t know, everything   from building a power plant to compiling an  an Excel spreadsheet, whatever it is. I think  

those areas are really exciting. And so, in the  world of like AR and VR, I mean, we don’t know.   I’ve often thought, – like, I’m a gamer. I love  gaming. I love thinking about how AI could combine   with gaming. I think of worlds that we already  experience in video games. And now imagine if AI   is generating all of the conversations that every  character in Grand Theft Auto is having as you’re   walking through the street. All these NPCs, these  non-playable characters, you’re walking around  

and they’re all having real conversations that  are being generated – the possibilities almost   endless. And then what does that mean for a  world like Second Life? What does that mean   for the metaverse, if it ever exists? What does  that mean for all of it? And then you think of,   you know, small things like, training. You’re  training to be a doctor, an engineer, a pilot,   uh, you know, a mechanic, whatever it is.  Imagine a world where your instructor is AI.  

You are wearing goggles that are showing you what  you’re gonna be doing. You are able to stand in   front of a Rolls-Royce engine on a Boeing 787,  or whatever plane it’s on, and you’re able to   meticulously work on it and work to the level of  skill that you need to to be able to get that job   in a way that you wouldn’t have before. You  couldn’t have flown to the right academy. You   wouldn’t have been able to live where you  needed to live. You wouldn’t have afforded  

accommodation on campus. And yet, now you  could do all of this, and your instructor   moves at the pace that you need them to move  at as opposed to moving at the pace that they   have to because of the hour hands on a clock.  I think all of those applications are really,   really, really fascinating because it can become  everybody’s personal professor, where you can say,   “professor, I don’t understand that. Could you  repeat that? Could you go back? Could you slow   down? Could you elaborate? Could you break it  down? Could you give it to me in an analogy? Could   you…” Whatever it might be, it means that you  almost have an infinite capacity for learning and   applying that knowledge. Yeah, every avenue I see  it co-used in, I find particularly fascinating.   I love that so much. Reid actually wrote an  article called “A Co-Pilot for Every Profession,”   that was similar sort of in vein to what you’re  talking about. Like, everyone thinks about like,  

“oh, but isn’t a real life teacher better than  an AI tutor?” And it’s like, well, if you’re a   kid at home, to your point, like sitting after  school for three hours with no adult, like,   oh my God, an AI tutor is so much better. And so  the possibilities are endless. Like one thing we   talked about was truth, information. You talked  about social media, how the capitalism profit   motive has sort of disrupted that cycle. Do you  have any hopes for how to make the social media   atmosphere better? How to, not necessarily with  AI, with anything, how to make the disinformation   cycle better? I mean, this is something you talked  about on The Daily Show for the last six years.   Like, how do we fix that part of society? Or are  we hopeless? [laugh] Well, I, no, I don’t think   we’re hopeless. I think we are misguided. In my  opinion, trying to fix disinformation is trying   to undo humans. I am yet to discover a period in  time when there wasn’t disinformation. You know,  

it’s literally as old as time. Go read the Bible.  There’s people lying and telling stories in the   Bible. When I think of it that way, I go like,  instead of trying to fix disinformation, first of   all, we try and understand why people do it, why  they don’t do it. We’ll always study that forever.   What I look at with social media, rather, is how  do we protect ourselves from something spreading   as quickly as it does? So, it’s the same reason  we don’t allow people to own bombs. You know,   unfortunately in society, most humans don’t  want to hurt other humans. Most humans. But,  

for those outliers, we don’t want them to have  an outsized ability to inflict harm upon others.   And so, we try and limit their access to these  weapons or to these tools of destruction. I   think the same goes for social media. The one  downside of social media is it’s designed to  

create engagement. And I think sometimes we block  ourselves when we talk about it being good or bad   It’s not good or bad, it’s just, it is designed  to maximize engagement. Unfortunately, for humans,   and maybe this is because of our reptilian  brain or whatever, we engage with danger and   we engage with what we don’t agree with. Way  more than things – if you read a tweet that   you like, if someone tweets something out there,  they go like, “nothing better than the first day   of spring!” You just read it and you’re like, yep,  keep it moving. Happy, happy, keep it moving. You   might not like it, you might not retweet it, you  might not anything. But if somebody writes there,  

they go, “spring is the worst season ever  invented. I wish it was winter perpetually.”   You would go, all right, I need to engage with  this psychopath, and it’s on. [laugh] That’s   engagement. And so, unfortunately what happens  is because the model needs engagement to remain  

profitable, it then has to encourage the thing  that is not best for us, and that is conflict.   So, how would we change that? I honestly don’t  know. I mean, I look at – what’s interesting is,   like, look at how China has handled their social  media. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we   should move to China’s model. [laugh] But,  there are a few interesting elements in how   they’ve decided what you can and cannot do for  the health of a community. You know, you cannot  

just inundate people with TikTok videos that  basically mush their brains. They are TikTok,   and yet here they are saying, “no, this is how  we think TikTok should be applied to our country,   and how kids should use TikTok, and what should  be on TikTok, and how many hours of TikTok,   et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” I don’t think  that’s meritless, you know, I’m not saying we   should move to a Chinese clamp down system, but I  don’t think it’s meritless. The same way, at some  

point, the US government said, “hey, vape pens –  actually, what’s happening here?” The same way,   you know, the US government decides how much  alcohol can be in a bottle of alcohol. We   decide all these things. We decide, often times,  what is best for the health of human beings.   And I think it should be no different with social  media. There has to be some sort of reckoning and   some sort of conversation around: can it just be  unbridled? Can you just use it infinitely? Can   it just spew as much hatred at you as possible?  When I open my phone, I’m just gonna see every   racist incident that’s happened in the last  15 years. To be honest with you, I do think   social media companies should be held responsible  for what is, not put on their platforms,   but for what is pushed on their platforms. And I  think a lot of social media companies have tried  

to duck and dive there and be like, “oh no,  we are just a public messaging board. We’re a   public square. We don’t, we don’t want to decide  what people say or don’t say.” And it’s like,   yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. But if that’s the truth,  and if that were true, there’s no public square  

that amplifies somebody’s speech on their behalf.  If Reid goes and stands in a public square and   says something, the public square doesn’t  send that to me at home. And so, I think   there’s a level of culpability that social media  companies wish to avoid. And I think at some point   – like, I think of the most dystopian version  of this is, I can see a world where somebody,   and I think there may be a case that’s heading up  either to the Supreme Court or somewhere, where   somebody’s gonna do something and it’s gonna be  something terrible. And their defense is going   to be that they thought they were acting either  in self-defense or protecting their country or   whatever it may be because of the reality that  they were presented with by social media. And I   think it is then going to be an interesting case  study in how much does social media play a role   in determining what people do or don’t do? Because  if you are watching, let’s put it this way, if you   were watching the local news, or even the news  like the national news, and someone like Lester   Holt came on and said, “breaking news, America’s  being invaded right now. There are aliens out,  

everyone get outside and take your pots and  pans, fight, fight with all your might.” And   you walked outside and you saw aliens, or you  saw what they said were aliens. They said they’re   gonna be dressed like this, and this is – “fight  with all your might.” And the President put out   an address and said, “there’s aliens. We’ve gotta  fight these aliens.” You would do it most likely,  

right? You’d either lock yourself in your house  or you’d go outside and you’d fight the aliens.   And then the next day someone comes and  goes, “ah, actually that was all fake.   Yeah, it was, it was actually just like a, it was  a fake news report. We don’t know what happened.”  

Are you liable for all the aliens that you’ve  killed that weren’t aliens? What do you do now?   You’re like, oh, they were actually humans.  Are you, are you fully liable or aren’t you?   We wanna make sure we capture a few rapid fire  questions. And I will open with: is there a movie   song or book that fills you with optimism for the  future? So, a book. One of my favorite stories is   by Roald Dahl. It’s, I think it’s “The Wonderful  Story of Henry Sugar.” I love that story,  

yeah. It’s such a wonderful story because it’s  the story of a man who has everything in life,   wants to get more of everything in life, and on  that journey discovers that he was trying to fill   a bucket full of holes, essentially, which was  himself. And on this journey of trying to become   the richest, the everything-est, he discovers  that he doesn’t need all of what he was chasing.   And he actually pares down his life and he becomes  more philanthropic and he gives away more. It’s a   beautiful story about what, you know, what people  can be and what we shouldn’t forget we’re actually   trying to do. I think that's more important to  me is what are we actually trying to do. It’s   a really wonderful story because it reminds me if  we can find ways to tap into what we actually need   in society, we can find a cleaner path to getting  there. All right, rapid fire number two. Where do  

you see progress in society that makes you hopeful  or that inspires you? Like what good is going on   that you feel really good about? Oh, everywhere.  Everywhere. I think one of the downsides of a   nonstop, 24 hour news, both on television and on  online, has made people a lot more cynical than I   think we should be. You know, because news has to  be bad in order for you to find it interesting, in   order for it to generate that engagement we talked  about. And what that means, unfortunately, is you  

can live in a space where you only think bad is  happening. And I’m not saying bad isn’t happening,   but it is not happening at the rates and the scale  that most people think it is. You know? I’ll ask   people questions, someone will be like, “oh, this,  this city’s not safe.” And I’ll go like, “oh,   what makes you say that?” “Oh, you know, crime has  gone up and it’s just dangerous now." And I go,   “okay, have you been in danger?” “No, but-” “Have  your friends?” “No, but I, I heard of, and I saw,   and I-” And I’m like, where? And the truth  is, it’s just how it’s told to us. You know,  

it’s that great quote: “For the great majority  of mankind are more concerned by things that   seem than by those that are.” And so, what  makes me hopeful is the things that actually   are. Standards of living increasing across the  globe. Yes, we’ll have moments where we backslide,   we’ve always got to fight against those. But just  like a drought in, you know, in the Serengeti,   there will be moments of that in life,  unfortunately. And what we are always trying to   do is immunize ourselves from the effects of those  backsliding moments and hedge ourselves. But,   but we shouldn’t forget that we are constantly  moving forward in all areas. You know,  

I look at how tech, a world where it was once so  homogeneous and blindly homogeneous, has become   completely comfortable having conversations now  about like, “all right, but what about women in   the space? And what about people of color in the  space? And how are we making this more equitable?”   People take for granted how, not just unheard  of, but impossible those conversations were a   few decades ago. And now people just have them. I  think that’s fantastic. I think that’s a wonderful   place to see technology moving forward. I think  in order to be a technologist, in order to be   somebody who loves creating technology and working  on designing a future, you have to be an optimist,   because you have to believe the future you’re  designing for will exist. Or, you have to believe  

that what you’re creating will contribute to  that future. So, as somebody who loves working   on technology and working in technology, I, yeah,  I can’t help but be an optimist. It’s not even   like I made myself that way. I am that way. And  that’s probably why I gravitate towards the world   of tech. Me too. Is there a particular technology  that you’re watching to help us regain optimism   or to shape – to make sure we don’t – because  we are collapsing in the pessimism in various   ways. Is there anything that you’re particularly  paying attention to there for reconnecting us,   intellectually and emotionally, on a broader  societal basis, with possibilities for optimism?   Although it has many downsides, I have been  really intrigued with how TikTok operates.  

And look, it’s still relatively young versus the  other social media platforms. And so I don’t know   what it’ll evolve into. It may go downhill, I  don’t know. But there’s something wonderful in   how they’ve managed to not just curate and create  positive worlds for people, but they’ve also found   a really interesting way to introduce new ideas  to people and poke holes in their bubbles. And I  

look at how much joy people have. That’s  often times how I measure things. You know,   I don’t know if you remember, do you remember  the period in life when everyone would say,   “have you seen this YouTube video? Oh,  Charlie Bit My Finger. Have you seen this   YouTube video? The cat playing piano? Have you,  oh, I watched this YouTube video the other day,   this YouTube video.” Those are magical moments.  Now, YouTube has become a lot more long form,  

and people don’t really go to it for that  type of information or content. But that’s   beautiful. That’s really, really cool. And I  think TikTok is in that infancy right now. I   think most social media platforms actually start  there, funny enough. You know, I remember I was  

on Twitter when it was all about jokes. All people  made was jokes. And it was fun, and it was cool,   and it was reckless as well, but that’s what  it was. And now it’s become a lot more serious   and a lot more angry and a lot more determined.  But I think TikTok is in that space right now,   and so I’m always excited to see where these  technologies are going to go. How do they connect   people? How do they inform people? How do they  bring them joy? A person will always smile to   you and be like, “I watched this TikTok the other  day. Oh, have you seen that TikTok where…?” That’s   wonderful. I don’t think we should ever take for  granted how powerful joy can be. Well, Trevor,  

you set us up really well to the final question we  ask everyone, which is, leave us a final thought:   what is possible to achieve if everything broke  humanity’s way? Like, if everything went right,   if we achieved the possible, what does that  look like for us? What is that future? What   is the first step to get there? This is gonna  sound weird. I hope we don’t ever get there.   I’ve recently been reading a lot about how we  see the world and how puzzles and challenge and   difficulty are the reason we survive as  a species. And unlike any other species,   I wonder what would happen to us if we have no  challenge and everything does fall our way? Does   it mean we become less resilient? Does it mean  we become less resistant to what may impact us?   Does it mean we don’t survive pandemics? Does  it mean we – because once something pops into   our world that’s an outlier, that doesn’t go our  way, does that wipe us out? Do we become such a   fragile species that we don’t know how to deal  with adversity. I don’t know the answer to these   questions. I keep talking to people much smarter  than me to try and to try and figure it out,  

and I like thinking about it myself, but yeah,  I hope we get to a place where everybody finds a   solution to an almost artificial scarcity that  we’ve created in some aspects of what we do,   and we sort of come to exist more as opposed to  just living to do. I sort of can’t articulate it,   but I think about how important it is to have  art, like a sculpture, a beautiful building,   a painting, music. People take all of these  things for granted. You don’t see it in schools.   You see them getting cut from curriculums.  And I understand why people go like, “wow,   I’m not gonna pay so my kids learn how to play the  clarinet, are you kidding me? A recorder? That’s   – what’s the point of that, you can’t get a job.”  Yeah. But it’s more than just about jobs. And so,  

if everything fell our way, I would hope we live  in a world where not everything is about do,   but everything could be about be. Then a teacher,  a painter, an architect, an engineer, a pilot,   a comedian, everyone could just find their purpose  and meaning in a way that doesn’t threaten their   livelihood. Because I think if we completely  lose that, then we just become like a worker   species that has no flare, no personality, and  no creativity. And so yeah, I hope everything   falls in our way in that direction. We gotta  keep that grit and keep that joy. For sure.   Thank you. And on that note, we look forward to  having you voice the AI on a future Star Trek  

episode. [laugh] because it has a very parallel  and Trevor as a friend and as an amazing humanist,   thank you very much for joining us on Possible.  Thank you so much. Possible is produced by Wonder   Media Network and hosted by Reid Hoffman and Aria  Finger. Our showrunner is Shaun Young. Possible is   produced by Edie Allard and Sara Schleede. Jenny  Kaplan is our Executive Producer and Editor.  

Special thanks to Chelsea Williamson, Jill Fritzo,  Stephen Fertelmes, Jennifer Sandler, Mahdi Salehi,   Surya Yalamanchili, Saida Sapieva, Ian Alas,  Greg Beato, Ben Relles, and the team at City Vox.

2023-06-06 14:56

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