Babbage from The Economist

Babbage from The Economist

By The Economist

Babbage is our weekly podcast on science and technology, named after Charles Babbage—a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing. Host Alok Jha talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry shaping the world. Published every Wednesday.


If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription.


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Episodes

Babbage: Teens and their screens

Ever since there have been smartphones and social media, there have been concerns about how they might be affecting children. Over the past decade, doctors have seen a decline in mental health in the young in much of the rich world. But whether that rise can be attributed to technology is still a matter of fierce debate. Nevertheless, demands are growing to proactively restrict teenagers’ access to phones and social media, just in case. How concerned should parents and teachers be? Or is this just another moral panic? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Tom Wainwright, The Economist's technology and media editor; Clare Fernyhough, co-founder of Smartphone Free Childhood; Carol Vidal of Johns Hopkins University; Pete Etchells, a psychologist at Bath Spa University and the author of “Unlocked: The Real Science of Screen Time”.Listen to what matters most, from global politics and business to science and technology—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
01/05/2442m 16s

Babbage: The science that built the AI revolution—part one

What is intelligence? In the middle of the 20th century, the inner workings of the human brain inspired computer scientists to build the first “thinking machines”. But how does human intelligence actually relate to the artificial kind?This is the first episode in a four-part series on the evolution of modern generative AI. What were the scientific and technological developments that took the very first, clunky artificial neurons and ended up with the astonishingly powerful large language models that power apps such as ChatGPT?Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Ainslie Johnstone, The Economist’s data journalist and science correspondent; Dawood Dassu and Steve Garratt of UK Biobank; Daniel Glaser, a neuroscientist at London’s Institute of Philosophy; Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Yoshua Bengio of the University of Montréal, who is known as one of the “godfathers” of modern AI.On Thursday April 4th, we’re hosting a live event where we’ll answer as many of your questions on AI as possible, following this Babbage series. If you’re a subscriber, you can submit your question and find out more at economist.com/aievent. Get a world of insights for 50% off—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
06/03/2442m 57s

Babbage: The hunt for dark matter

Dark matter is thought to make up around a quarter of the universe, but so far it has eluded detection by all scientific instruments. Scientists know it must exist because of the ways galaxies move and it also explains the large-scale structure of the modern universe. But no-one knows what dark matter actually is.Scientists have been hunting for dark matter particles for decades, but have so far had no luck. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held recently in Denver, a new generation of researchers presented their latest tools, techniques and ideas to step up the search for this mysterious substance. Will they finally detect the undetectable? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Don Lincoln, senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; Christopher Karwin, a fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; Josef Aschbacher, boss of the European Space Agency; Michael Murra of Columbia University; Jodi Cooley, executive director of SNOLAB; Deborah Pinna of University of Wisconsin and CERN.Get a world of insights for 50% off—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
21/02/2443m 47s

Babbage: Sam Altman and Satya Nadella on their vision for AI

OpenAI and Microsoft are leaders in generative artificial intelligence (AI). OpenAI has built GPT-4, one of the world’s most sophisticated large language models (LLMs) and Microsoft is injecting those algorithms into its products, from Word to Windows. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Zanny Minton Beddoes, The Economist’s editor-in-chief, interviewed Sam Altman and Satya Nadella, who run OpenAI and Microsoft respectively. They explained their vision for humanity’s future with AI and addressed some thorny questions looming over the field, such as how AI that is better than humans at doing tasks might affect productivity and how to ensure that the technology doesn’t pose existential risks to society.Host: Alok Jha, The Economist's science and technology editor. Contributors: Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist; Ludwig Siegele, The Economist’s senior editor, AI initiatives; Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI; Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft. If you subscribe to The Economist, you can watch the full interview on our website or app. Essential listening, from our archive:“Daniel Dennett on intelligence, both human and artificial”, December 27th 2023“Fei-Fei Li on how to really think about the future of AI”, November 22nd 2023“Mustafa Suleyman on how to prepare for the age of AI”, September 13th 2023“Vint Cerf on how to wisely regulate AI”, July 5th 2023“Is GPT-4 the dawn of true artificial intelligence?”, with Gary Marcus, March 22nd 2023Sign up for a free trial of Economist Podcasts+. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
24/01/2445m 0s

Babbage: Science book club

Books are the original medium for communicating science to the masses. In a holiday special, producer Kunal Patel asks Babbage’s family of correspondents about the books that have inspired them in their careers as science journalists.Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Rachel Dobbs, The Economist’s climate correspondent; Kenneth Cukier, our deputy executive editor; The Economist’s Emilie Steinmark; Geoff Carr, our senior editor for science and technology; and Abby Bertics, The Economist’s science correspondent. Reading list: “The Periodic Table” by Primo Levi; “When We Cease to Understand the World” by Benjamín Labatut; “A Theory of Everyone” by Michael Muthukrishna; “Madame Curie” by Ève Curie; “Sociobiology” by E. O. Wilson; “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins; “Why Fish Don't Exist” by Lulu Miller; and “How Far the Light Reaches” by Sabrina Imbler.Sign up for a free trial of Economist Podcasts+. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
20/12/2342m 23s

Babbage: Fei-Fei Li on how to really think about the future of AI

A year ago, the public launch of ChatGPT took the world by storm and it was followed by many more generative artificial intelligence tools, all with remarkable, human-like abilities. Fears over the existential risks posed by AI have dominated the global conversation around the technology ever since. Fei-Fei Li, a pioneer that helped lay the groundwork that underpins modern generative AI models, takes a more nuanced approach. She’s pushing for a human-centred way of dealing with AI—treating it as a tool to help enhance—and not replace—humanity, while focussing on the pressing challenges of disinformation, bias and job disruption.Fei-Fei Li is the founding co-director of Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centred Artificial Intelligence. Fei-Fei and her research group created ImageNet, a huge database of images that enabled computers scientists to build algorithms that were able to see and recognise objects in the real world. That endeavour also introduced the world to deep learning, a type of machine learning that is fundamental part of how large-language and image-creation models work.Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Sign up for a free trial of Economist Podcasts+. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
22/11/2338m 58s

Babbage: How to avoid a battery shortage

In the coming decades, electric vehicles will dominate the roads and renewables will provide energy to homes. But for the green transition to be successful, unprecedented amounts of energy storage is needed. Batteries will be used everywhere—from powering electric vehicles, to providing electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. The current generation of batteries are lacking in capacity and are too reliant on rare metals, though. Many analysts worry about material shortages. How can technology help? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Paul Markillie, our innovation editor; Matthieu Favas, our finance correspondent; Anjani Trivedi, our global business correspondent. Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
25/10/2344m 44s

Babbage: Trailer

Babbage is our weekly podcast on science and technology, named after Charles Babbage—a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing. Host Alok Jha talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry shaping the world. Published every Wednesday.
06/05/152m 0s
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