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The Ars Technicast

The Ars Technicast is the official podcast from Ars Technica, where we bring you you the latest in the worlds of computing, technology, science, and everything else in between. Ars publishes original news and reviews, analysis of tech trends, and expert advice on the most fundamental aspects of tech and the many ways it's helping us enjoy our world.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Ars Technicast Experimental #4.1: Rob Reid and Stephen Webb, 1 of 3

This week we ponder Fermi's Paradox with British astronomer Stephen Webb. This is the question of why can’t we detect any signs of intelligent alien life when we look to the skies. No signs of astro-engineering projects. No signatures of relativistic space travel. No obviously artificial electromagnetic waves, and so forth. And when you think of it, this is rather surprising. Or at least it was surprising to the ingenious physicist Enrico Fermi, who first drew attention to the matter.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

33mins

10 Jul 2018

Rank #1

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Ars Technicast Experimental #13.4: Rob Reid and Naval Ravikant, 4 of 4

Today we’re presenting the fourth and final installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. The theme of today’s installment: there’s hope. Yes, really! If there’s one thing that any religious, national or political mindset should agree on, it’s that we don't want some maniac wiping us all out. This creates an extreme good-guy-to-bad-guy ratio, which itself could be decisive—even if lone destructive actors become massively empowered. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

31mins

20 Jun 2019

Rank #2

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Ars Technicast Experimental #12.3: Rob Reid and Sarah Parcak, 3 of 3

Today we present the third and final installment of my interview with Sarah Parcak, a prominent founding figuring the emerging field of astroarchaeology. Most of today’s installment concerns a crowd-enabled detection project Sarah created with proceeds from the TED Prize. It’s called GlobalXplorer. Partly inspired by Galaxy Zoo, it let armies of “citizen scientists” scan twelve million quadrants of Peruvian satellite imagery for hints of archaeological remains. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

33mins

2 Nov 2018

Rank #3

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Ars Technica Live #21: The tech boom and the fate of democracy

Right now the U.S. tech economy is booming, but what will be the long-term effects of automation and AI? Are robots about to steal our jobs? Will Facebook throw the next election? Is social democracy doomed to be a casualty of the tech revolution? To answer these questions and more, we're turning to UC Berkeley economics professor Bradford DeLong. He's in conversation with Ars editor-at-large Annalee Newitz. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

1hr 2mins

18 Apr 2018

Rank #4

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Ars Technicast Experimental #7.1: Rob Reid and Tim O’Reilly, 1 of 3

Our guest is tech’s preeminent publisher and top prognosticator Tim O’Reilly. O’Reilly Media has published a huge share of our world’s top books for as long as I’ve been around – even as it led the charge with ebooks, digital training, and other disruptions to its ink-on-paper legacy. But Tim’s real mojo comes from being the industry’s convener-in-chief.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

25mins

31 Jul 2018

Rank #5

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Ars Technicast Experimental #7.3: Rob Reid and Tim O’Reilly, 3 of 3

In today’s installment, Tim rejects the fashionable forecast that automation will eradicate all human jobs next week. Being closer than most of us to Jeff Bezos, he knows a thing or three about operations at Amazon, which presents a fascinating case in point. Then Tim goes a bit dark. With reference to Facebook and Google, he compares the world economy to an optimizing algorithm that’s gone off the rails. Tim closes with a nuanced take on our future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

28mins

2 Aug 2018

Rank #6

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Ars Technicast Experimental #13.2: Rob Reid and Naval Ravikant, 2 of 4

Today we’re presenting the second installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. Today, we focus on that time-honored Hollywood staple—super AI risk. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

39mins

18 Jun 2019

Rank #7

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Ars Technicast Experimental #1: Rob Reid and George Church, 1 of 3

Genomicist George Church talks about his disappointment with the Human Genome Project. He argues that his field’s true golden age began right after the Genome Project ended, and is now building extraordinary momentum. We discuss the blistering price/performance improvements in both DNA synthesis and sequencing. And for those who are new to this field, we arm you with highly accessible definitions of its four major domains (sequencing, DNA synthesis, DNA editing, and assembly). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

30mins

12 Jun 2018

Rank #8

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Ars Technicast Experimental #10.1: Rob Reid and Sam Harris, 1 of 4

This week my guest is Sam Harris: a neuroscientist turned bestselling author turned podcasting colossus. Sam has described his job as “thinking in public.” The uniqueness of Sam’s perspective is evidenced by his ability to trigger comparable gusts of outrage from both the left and the right (generally from the extremes of each camp). Also, he made Ben Affleck really angry on Bill Maher's show this one time. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

33mins

16 Oct 2018

Rank #9

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Ars Technicast Experimental #13.3: Rob Reid and Naval Ravikant, 3 of 4

Today we’re presenting the third installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. In this segment, Naval and I move on from yesterday’s topic of AI risk to the dangers inherent in the rise of synthetic biology, or synbio. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

32mins

19 Jun 2019

Rank #10

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Ars Technicast Experimental #4.2: Rob Reid and Stephen Webb, 2 of 3

Today we present the second installment of my interview British astronomer Stephen Webb on the subject of Fermi’s paradox. We open by talking about the second category of solutions to the paradox. This is that intelligent aliens out there, but we just haven’t detected them yet. We then go on to the third category—which is that we are quite alone in our galaxy, and perhaps in the entire universe. Stephen then lays out the solution to Fermi’s paradox that he deems to be most plausible. No spoilers h Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

38mins

12 Jul 2018

Rank #11

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Ars Technicast Experimental #7.2: Rob Reid and Tim O’Reilly, 2 of 3

Tim and I start off today talking about "The Whole Internet User’s Guide & Catalog," which he published in 1992. And yup—that’s a two at the end of that number. Jumping forward many years, Tim tells us about convening a small summit of tech honchos, which quite literally named open-source software. This launches a tour of Tim’s thoughts about platforms & tech ecosystems, and their abusers. This leads us to his very nuanced takes on Uber, AirBnB, and others—all of which surprised me on one or mor Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

26mins

1 Aug 2018

Rank #12

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Ars Technicast Experimental #8.1: Rob Reid and Don Hoffman, 1 of 3

Today’s guest is UC Irvine quantitative psychologist Don Hoffman. In today’s installment, he lays the foundation of this wildly contrarian worldview. An ardent Darwinist, Don argues that evolutionary forces will almost always favor perceptive systems that present a simplified, even dumbed-down take on reality. This is the start of a pretty wild ride, which I believe any curious mind will enjoy—even ones which fully reject Don’s perspective. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

27mins

2 Oct 2018

Rank #13

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Ars Technicast Experimental #10.2: Rob Reid and Sam Harris, 2 of 4

In today’s installment, we discuss some of the experiences that shaped Sam's perspectives. As a freshman at Stanford (where he and I happened to overlap as undergraduates), he recalls being irked by the special treatment he felt the Bible received in a required course on western culture. However, he didn’t label himself an “atheist” at the time – although in retrospect, he essentially was one. Everything changed when he tried the drug MDMA (which is more commonly known to its friends as Molly, or Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

38mins

17 Oct 2018

Rank #14

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Ars Technicast Experimental #4.3: Rob Reid and Stephen Webb, 3 of 3

Today we present the third and final installment of my interview British astronomer Stephen Webb on the subject of Fermi’s paradox. we open by talking about some of the amazing instruments and projects that are coming online in the coming decade – both to extend the search for extraterrestrial life, and to advance the much broader field of astrophysics. The episode concludes with a conversation between me and Tom Merritt, of the Daily Tech News Show.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

26mins

13 Jul 2018

Rank #15

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Ars Technicast Experimental #3.2: Rob Reid and Mary Lou Jepsen, 2 of 2

Today we open by talking about some astounding work of UC Berkeley neuroscientist Jack Gallant—in which he trained an AI system to infer what test subjects were viewing on a video screen just by watching their brains light up on an MRI. We then get to the truly speculative stuff. Could near-infrared light be used to excite, or trigger neurons? If so, could some creepy descendant of this technology be used to implant memories, or desires into people? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

32mins

29 Jun 2018

Rank #16

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Ars Live Episode 16: The Silicon Valley equality crisis

Ars Technica's Annalee Newitz and Cyrus Farivar talk to Catherine Bracy, founder of the TechEquity Collaborative, about Silicon Valley's equality issues and how to make the tech industry work for everyone. Recorded live August 16, 2017 at Eli's Mile High Club in Oakland, CA. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

43mins

22 Aug 2017

Rank #17

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Ars Technicast Experimental #10.3: Rob Reid and Sam Harris, 3 of 4

Today, we start off discussing Sam’s first bestselling book, The End of Faith. It was inspired by September 11th attacks. Having recently spent ten years on his own self-styled spiritual journey, “I immediately recognized the spiritual intensity of that enterprise,” he recalls. Of Osama Bin Laden, Sam says, “He was not faking his belief. He believed what he said he believed, and it was only rational to take his stated beliefs at face value.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

40mins

18 Oct 2018

Rank #18

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Ars Tecnicast, Episode 22 – Tech horror stories

Most computer and gadget owners have lived through the nightmares of failed hard drives, fried circuits, cracked screens and other horror tales. Here at the Ars Technicast, we have had our own shares of tech mishapss. On this episode, Senior Apple Editor Jacqui Cheng, Ars Contributors Andrew Cunningham and Casey Johnston, and Social Editor Cesar Torres share their own tech horror tales, but they also share some of the ways they solved the problems. You'll also want to watch this archived clip of the day Jacqui's phone shattered, and everyone at the table laughed.  What is your tech horror story? Leave us a message in the comments and tell us what you did to resolve it. If you have pro tips on how to dry out hardware or perform extensive backups, share those with us, too.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

32mins

15 Mar 2013

Rank #19

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Ars Technicast Experimental #8.1: Rob Reid and Don Hoffman, 2 of 3

Don and I open this episode by discussing his take on space-time. He refutes that the notion that space itself existed at all before consciousness. Don essentially believes that if you’re alone in a room and look at a chair, that chair ceases to exist when you look away from it. Almost inevitably, we get into quantum physics. But rest assured, Don isn’t some New Age guru citing spooky physics as part of a healing crystal sales pitch. He’s a serious thinker who understands this stuff cold. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

28mins

3 Oct 2018

Rank #20