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In the last few years, artificial intelligence has gone from a novelty to perhaps the most influential technology we’ve ever seen. The people building AI are convinced that it will eradicate disease, turbocharge productivity, and solve climate change. It feels like we’re on the cusp of a profound societal transformation. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling we’ve been here before. Fifteen years ago, there was a similar wave of optimism around social media: it was going to connect the world, catalyze social movements and spur innovation. It may have done some of these things. But it also made us lonelier, angrier, and occasionally detached from reality.

Few people understand this trajectory better than Maria Ressa. Ressa is a Filipino journalist, and the CEO of a news organization called Rappler. Like many people, she was once a fervent believer in the power of social media. Then she saw how it could be abused. In 2016, she reported on how Rodrigo Duterte, then president of the Philippines, had weaponized Facebook in the election he’d just won. After publishing those stories, Ressa became a target herself, and her inbox was flooded with death threats. In 2021, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I wanted this to be our first episode because I think, as novel as AI is, it has undoubtedly been shaped by the technologies, the business models, and the CEOs that came before it. And Ressa thinks we’re about to repeat the mistakes we made with social media all over again.


How to Stand Up to a Dictator” by Maria Ressa

A Shocking Amount of the Web is Machine Translated: Insights from Multi-Way Parallelism” by Thompson et al.

Rappler’s Matrix Protocol Chat App: Rappler Communities

Democracy Report 2023: Defiance in the Face of Autocratization” by V-Dem

The Foundation Model Transparency Index” by Stanford HAI (Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence)

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy

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