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[announcing] the "AI across America" podcast project

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Olivia Jeffers

May 7 · Issue #26 · View online

Welcome to Compassionate Technologies. Here you'll get a dose of real science and business in your inbox every Sunday morning. Why? Because cutting-edge research shouldn't be locked in an ivory tower. This newsletter covers the relationships between machine learning, robotics, genetic engineering, and climate science. It's all connected, and it's my passion to simplify and make clear those connections for all of you. Love, Olivia.


Dear readers, thank you so much for your support!
While I am on pause from the newsletter, I want to let you know that I have been ramping up the publishing side of Compassionate Technologies, and will be adding some new writers to the mix. So get ready for some cool topics on food technology and blockchain.
I am also working on an exciting new podcast project called “AI across America” out of the PRX Podcast Garage in Boston - you can support the project here.
** We are also looking for large sponsorships in the $5k-$50k range for the podcast and for the Compassionate Technologies newsletter and publication. Know someone who knows someone, who might love to be a sponsor? Pls forward this email :)

Why travel across America?
There is kind of a media bubble, and it looks like this. It also happens to overlap with the tech bubbles, focused mostly in Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York and Boston.
The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think (Politico)
The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think (Politico)
The wonderful people who are pioneering artificial intelligence are often quite removed from what most Americans would call normal life. They kind of have to be, who else wants to sit and code on a computer all day?‍
This project is a way to bring “the people” to the techies, and vice versa, through short interviews with Americans from all walks of life - truck drivers, warehouse laborers, secretaries, retail clerks, and chefs.
Few from the tech world venture into the middle of America, and few from the middle of America know anything about the tech world. But both sides seem to have a lot of opinions and thoughts about the other.
Underneath the emotional headlines, what is real?
Are you ready to find out?
The Problems Aren't What they Seem
With family roots in Ohio, and a mischievous grandfather that did not want to be a coal miner, I am distantly familiar with aspects of white working class culture, close but not too close.
Listening to ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by JD Vance helped me, and so many Americans, put words to a cultural malaise that is hard to ignore and even harder to talk about.
The ‘loud’ discussion about America and technology centers around China stealing manufacturing jobs, robots replacing workers, or truck drivers losing their jobs to self driving trucks. In other words, the problems are all outside.
But I suspect, and want to find out, if the problems aren’t exactly what they seem. Warehouses struggle to fill jobs because workers aren’t skilled enough, yet many workers in the area can’t find jobs.
Vance highlights in his book, the severe sense of “lack of agency” that many working class whites feel, and suggests that the solution to white poverty lies not in government solutions but from changes within the family unit and culture itself.
Questions I'll Ask
Few things are more powerful than voice and simply saying what you need. During the interviews, I’ll ask three questions:
  • What are your greatest needs right now?
  • What do you hope for yourself and for your family?
  • How do you feel about technology?
I hope to learn what people really need, what is their context in life? How did they become American? How do they feel about their status in life, and how do they feel about technology? What does AI mean to them? How do they feel about God and humanity?
These are not separate topics, but are all intimately connected - because that’s the equal part beauty and equal part frustration of the way the human brain is wired.
We are feeling machines that happen to think. And the discussion in technology is too focused on thoughts, separated from the feelings that are really driving the conversation.
So, let’s talk to the feelings.‍
The Big Questions for Technologists
Design is inherently emotional. It’s about what feels right for the designer, and what consumers will want to use. Why they might choose one product over another.
Soon we will be designing intelligence. And it’s important that we understand how our own feelings shape our lives and the technologies that we design.
As a technologist, what would you expect to feel hearing the voice of someone your product might be displacing? Would that change how you design the product?
Help Us Make this Real
Anything helps! Compassionate Technologies is run on a low budget entirely off of volunteers, but it’s time to scale up. You can contribute monthly here on Patreon.
We are also looking for large sponsorships in the $5k-$50k range for the podcast and for the Compassionate Technologies newsletter and publication. Know someone who knows someone, who might love to be a sponsor? Pls forward this email or have them contact me directly at olivia@compassionate-technologies.org
Thanks from Olivia :)
Me and Gita at MassRobotics in Seaport :)
Me and Gita at MassRobotics in Seaport :)
Useful Links...
The Media Bubble Is Real — And Worse Than You Think
Review: In ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ a Tough Love Analysis of the Poor Who Back Trump
Why America Has a Shortage of Skilled Workers
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