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Physical Attraction

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We are a physics podcast. But not just that - interviews with scientists, scholars, authors and reflections on the history and future of science and technology are all in the wheelhouse. Over the years, for over 200 episodes, we've had shows on the astrophysics of stars, a comprehensive history of nuclear fusion, thermodynamics, particle physics, climate change, economics, philosophy, the psychology of conspiracy theories, and even the lives of Louisiana Senator Huey Long, or scientists under Stalin in the Soviet Union. 

We are an independent show: everything you hear is created by one person out of passion and love. My aim in producing this show is never to talk down to people, but instead to discuss fascinating and vital subjects with scientific rigour, compassion, and an eye for narrative: to educate, inform, and entertain. I hope that you, the listener, will find something you like here. 

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We had a sister podcast, Autocracy Now, which deals with the lives of famous historical dictators. You can find some of their episodes on our feed, or the show itself at 

Sep 3, 2020

I’m very excited today to talk to Dr Robert Elliot Smith, who – after a thirty-year career working in AI and working with algorithms - has written one of the best books I’ve ever read about artificial intelligence and the impact of algorithms on society – Rage Inside the Machine. More than this, though, it’s really about… the dangers that can arise from trying to boil down complex aspects of what it means to be human, or what is valuable and important, to numbers and metrics which can be processed by these machines. Which I think is a much more fundamental issue, and lies at the heart of a great deal of systemic injustice and misunderstanding, even before the age of algorithms came along to turbo-charge all of these problems.

We had a wonderful, wide-ranging interview and Dr Smith was very patient and willing to deal with my pretty scattershot questions attempting to cover a lot of what is in his book. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed our conversation.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Physical Attraction, and thanks again for Dr Smith for coming on the show. His book, Rage Inside The Machine, is one of the most brilliant texts you’ll read on AI – a glorious mix between technical detail explained in a way that’s not too oversimplified, personal stories profound insight into this interface between computers and algorithms and what it means to be human. It’s genuinely great, we just scratched the surface here really, and I know I’ll end up reading it multiple times for the full detail of what’s being said… and just because it’s also one of those books where you feel your brain expanding when you read it. In a good way. Do get a copy.

You can find that at Rage Inside The where you will also find Rob’s blog and some of his other appearances on podcasts if you are interested. He’s also an occasional Tweeter at Dr RE Smith, so go check it out.

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