Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more.
Episode 638: A New Kind of Bullet
A classic odds n' sods episode.
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Episode 637: The Minimally Viable Log Cabin Channel
Merlin conducts a deep dive on being busy versus being time-constrained, and Dan has some updates on his task management odyssey.
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Episode 636: Honoring My Pivot Table
Dan is navigating the landscape of task management apps, and, shockingly, Merlin has some thoughts.
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Episode 635: Buffet de Canard
Dan and Merlin kick off the new year with a wide-ranging look at how tools and motivations evolve with how we work.
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Episode 634: Nominally Future-Resistant
A fairly epic episode covering health tracking and self-quantization.
Remember: data doesn't have to hurt.
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Episode 633: A Self-Aware Old Man
Your hosts talk about how we perceive the world and the challenge of mindfully updating our perceptions.
Updated for 2023!
After taking a break and checking in again, this show has gotten a lot more fun throughout the last year - I really like the energy of Merlin rolling with Dan lately and it feels a little bit like the early days just without the productivity focus.
I’ve gotten some great recommendations from recent episodes and am back to being a fairly regular listener. If you took a break and happen to see this review, I urge you to check it out again - it’s like catching up with old friends after a while.
I don’t know what specifically happened behind the scenes but I feel like both hosts are doing better behind the scenes and it’s really coming through over the mic. Hope you will continue this show for a long while despite the rocky podcast ad industry.
Dan gets to finish maybe 1 in 4 of his sentences.
(I’ve been listening for many many years, I’m not a newcomer who doesn’t know what this podcast is about).
It’s been fun, but the AI talk is offputting
Back to Work has always been amusing at the very least and extraordinarily helpful when they do actually talk about productivity and work. And right now it’s a crucial time as the specter of “AI” looms overhead, with people on both sides of the “issue” claiming this and that. I think it’s fine that Merlin (and to a lesser extent Dan) are very interested in these chatbots as they are here to stay and people do need to begin wrestling with them, for better or worse, as it encroaches (forcefully by the hands of mostly corporations and bad actors) into all aspects of our lives. We should be learning how to use this stuff to make our lives and our work easier if we can, and Merlin and Dan tinkering with this stuff can be helpful. But I think Merlin is still too dismissive and lacking empathy for the people who are genuinely losing their jobs already because executives are already rushing ahead to using the chatbots to generate content, even in spite of the clear indications that this stuff isn’t ready for prime time and there are no guardrails or limitations for a lot of this stuff legally. It feels a bit like the biggest proponents are in their own world and fail to acknowledge the damage that this stuff is doing, and merely say that people need to adapt, as if that’s reasonable in all circumstances or easily doable. So hearing about AI chatbots with this almost naive enthusiasm and air of dismissal for its opponents has become tiring as I read about a company laying off dozens and then 2 months later looking for an AI editor to handle 200-250 articles a week. Maybe I’ll be back to see if the approach to this stuff changes, but for now I need to hit pause on any new episodes.