74 episodes

In-depth conversations with researchers, explorers and thought leaders from around the world, on cutting edge research and original ideas.

Bridging the Gaps: A Portal for Curious Minds Dr Waseem Akhtar

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 5 Ratings

In-depth conversations with researchers, explorers and thought leaders from around the world, on cutting edge research and original ideas.

    “Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter” with Professor W. Russell Neuman

    “Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter” with Professor W. Russell Neuman

    Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as one of the most remarkable advancements of our time. It is a powerful evolving technology that has transformed the way we interact with machines and perceive the capabilities of computer systems. However, with this newfound power comes a natural apprehension. There is a noticeable fear surrounding the unintentional consequences and unintended implications of Artificial Intelligence. As this technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, the question is: how justified are our fears and just how tangible, and how real is the threat posed by this revolutionary technology? Perhaps, the underlying cause of these fears is our tendency to unjustifiably attribute human traits to the machines we may construct.

    A compelling new perspective suggests that human intelligence will evolve alongside digital technology, leading to a transformative coevolution of human and artificial intelligence. This augmented intelligence will reshape our thinking and behaviour. In his recent book “Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter” Professor W. Russell Neuman offers a remarkably optimistic perspective where computational intelligence not only addresses the well-known limitations of human judgement but also enhances decision-making capabilities and expands our capacity for action. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor W. Russell Neuman. We discuss how our future depends on our ability to computationally compensate for the limitations of the human cognitive system. We explore Neuman’s viewpoint that “if intelligence is the capacity to match means with ends, then augmented intelligence can offer the ability to adapt to changing environments as we face the ultimate challenge of long-term survival”. Professor Neuman's distinctive approach to explain complex concepts through narratives and anecdotes adds an engaging layer of interest to this discussion. This highly informative discussion makes a powerful argument for the continued coexistence of humans and their machines.

    W. Russell Neuman is Professor of Media Technology at New York University. He is a specialist in new media and digital education. He is a founding faculty of the MIT Media Lab. He served as a Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, working in the areas of information technology, broadband policy, and technologies for border security.

    Complement this discussion with “Reclaiming Human Intellgience” with Professor Gerd Gigerenzer available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2023/04/reclaiming-human-intelligence-and-how-to-stay-smart-in-a-smart-world-with-prof-gerd-gigerenzer/
    And then listen to “Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration” with Professor Thomas Davenport and Professor Steven Miller available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2022/10/working-with-ai-real-stories-of-human-machine-collaboration-thomas-davenport-steven-miller/

    • 42 min
    “Design for a Better World: Meaningful, Sustainable, Humanity Centered” with Professor Don Norman

    “Design for a Better World: Meaningful, Sustainable, Humanity Centered” with Professor Don Norman

    Has human behaviour pushed our world to the edge, especially the mistaken belief that the earth’s resources are infinite? And can a shift in human behaviour rescue us? The challenges we face, from collapsing social structures to the climate crisis, have been centuries in the making. It is immensely critical that we take immediate and decisive actions; we must transform ourselves to improve our circumstances. In his new book “Design for a Better World: Meaningful, Sustainable, Humanity Centered” Don Norman offers an insightful analysis of our missteps and provides a clear remedy for making things better. The book suggests that the pivotal factor for change lies in human behaviour. The book explores this through three main themes: meaning, sustainability, and humanity-centeredness. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Don Norman. We dig deep on these three themes and explore the ideas that a meaningful quality of life, rather than mere monetary gain, restructuring our lifestyles to enhance environmental protection, and adopting an inclusive approach that encompasses all of humanity, can empower us to address the challenges confronting us.

    Don Norman is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science and Psychology and founding director of the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego. Business Week has named Norman one of the world's most influential designers. He was an Apple Vice President, has been an advisor and board member for numerous companies, and has three honorary degrees. His numerous books have been translated into over 20 languages including “The Design of Everyday Things” and “Living with Complexity”.


    We start off by examining the pervasive artificiality surrounding us. Misplaced and disjointed elements, such as non-native plants, high density concrete structures and other artefacts, contribute to environments saturated with artificial constructs. Furthermore, we delve into how our metrics of success are also influenced by this artificiality. We measure our success by using metrics that don’t encompass what really matters. This artificiality has consequently led to an unsustainable sociotechnical system. We touch upon the ramifications of distorted capitalism before delving deeply into the central themes of the book: meaning, sustainability, and humanity-centeredness. Exploring the human quest for significance, we discuss why a sense of meaning is essential for every aspect of our existence. Addressing sustainability, we discuss how to rectify the harm inflicted upon the ecosystem. Finally, we discuss a humanity-centered approach to crafting artefacts and lifestyles that offers a pathway to rectify our current predicament. This discussion has been both enlightening and invigorating.


    Complement this discussion with “Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2021/01/philosophy-of-technology-with-professor-peter-paul-verbeek/
    And then listen to “The Good-Enough Life” with Dr Avram Alpert available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2023/09/the-good-enough-life-with-dr-avram-alpert/

    • 1 hr
    “The AI Playbook: Mastering the Rare Art of Machine Learning Deployment” with Eric Siegel

    “The AI Playbook: Mastering the Rare Art of Machine Learning Deployment” with Eric Siegel

    The most powerful tool often comes with the greatest challenges. In recent times Machine learning has emerged as the world's leading general-purpose technology, yet its implementation remains notably complex. Beyond the realm of Big Tech and a select few leading enterprises, many machine learning initiatives don’t succeed, failing to deliver on their potential. What's lacking? A specialised business approach and development & deployment strategy tailored for widespread adoption. In his recent book “The AI Playbook: Mastering the Rare Art of Machine Learning Deployment” acclaimed author Eric Siegel introduces a comprehensive six-step methodology for guiding machine learning projects from inception to implementation. The book showcases the methodology through both successful and unsuccessful anecdotes, featuring insightful case studies from renowned companies such as UPS, FICO, and prominent dot-coms. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Eric Siege. We discuss this disciplined approach that empowers business professionals, and establishes a sorely needed strategic framework for data professionals.

    Eric Siegel, Ph.D., is a leading consultant and former Columbia University professor who helps companies deploy machine learning. He is the founder of the long-running Machine Learning Week conference series and its new sister, Generative AI World, the instructor of the acclaimed online course “Machine Learning Leadership and Practice – End-to-End Mastery,” executive editor of The Machine Learning Times, and a frequent keynote speaker.


    We begin our discussion by addressing Eric's notable observation, highlighted both in his presentations and book, that the “AI Hype” is a distraction for companies. Eric elaborates on this notion, providing detailed insights. Additionally, we explore the suggestion to shift focus from the broad term "AI" to the more specific "Machine Learning." Our conversation then delves into the challenges faced by companies and professionals in conceptualising and deploying AI-driven ideas and solutions. This then leads to the consideration of whether forming specialised teams and developing focused strategies are necessary to address these challenges effectively. Next, we delve into the intricacies of the six-step BizML process introduced by Eric in his book, comparing it to the concept of MLOps. We then thoroughly examine the BizML process, dissecting its components and implications. Overall, this has been a highly enlightening and informative discussion.

    Complement this discussion with ““Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration” with Professor Thomas Davenport and Professor Steven Miller” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2022/10/working-with-ai-real-stories-of-human-machine-collaboration-thomas-davenport-steven-miller/
    And then listen to ““Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2022/06/machines-like-us-toward-ai-with-common-sense-with-professor-ronald-brachman/

    • 45 min
    “Sharing Our Science: How to Write and Speak STEM” with Professor Brandon Brown

    “Sharing Our Science: How to Write and Speak STEM” with Professor Brandon Brown

    Science communication plays an important role in bridging the gap between researchers and the general public, fostering understanding, engagement, and appreciation for scientific explorations and advancements. In an era where science and technology shape every aspect of our lives, effective communication of research findings is more critical than ever. This is also a time where there are conflicting views about scientific work and polarizations in societies. This makes effective science communication even more important not only to ensure that scientific knowledge is accessible to all, but also to empower individuals to make informed decisions, influences policy-making, and fosters trust in the scientific community. However, effective science communication goes beyond simply disseminating information; it requires clarity, creativity, and engagement strategies tailored to diverse audiences. By employing clear language and compelling storytelling researchers can effectively communicate their findings, thereby enhancing public awareness and understanding of the profound impact that science has on society. In his recent book “Sharing Our Science: How to Write and Speak STEM” Professor Brandon Brown, a scientist-turned-writing teacher, provides a highly valuable resource for STEM practitioners aiming to effectively convey their technical work to both specialised and general audiences. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Professor Brandon Brown; we discuss this personal, practical, and inspirational guide for scientists and technical professionals seeking to enhance their written and oral communication skills in STEM fields.

    Brandon Brown is a Professor of Physics and communications specialist at the University of San Francisco. He is an excellent science communicator. He has written for publications such as Slate, Smithsonian, and Scientific American and served as Deputy Director at the Green Science Policy Institute and a Senior Writing Coach for the Strictly Speaking Group.

    We begin by exploring the significance of storytelling in effective science communication, delving into diverse tools and approaches such as tension and narrative to enhance the communication of scientific concepts. We further examine the utilisation of relatable examples, including simplifying large numbers and intricate comparisons like the size of an atom relative to its nucleus, to improve clarity and facilitate comprehension. We also address the detrimental effects of disinformation on science communication, which can lead to societal polarisation and divisions. We also reflect on Professor Brandon Brown's personal encounters, highlighting how adept communication of challenging facts can profoundly influence individuals. This has been both informative and insightful discussion.


    Complement this discussion with “Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “On Public Communication of Science and Technology with Professor Bruce Lewenstein” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2022/02/on-public-communication-of-science-and-technology-with-professor-bruce-lewenstein/
    And then listen to ““The Joy of Science” with Professor Jim Al-Khalili” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2022/05/the-joy-of-science-with-professor-jim-al-khalili/

    • 59 min
    “The Good-Enough Life” with Dr Avram Alpert

    “The Good-Enough Life” with Dr Avram Alpert

    We live in a society driven by a relentless pursuit of greatness, where we are constantly pushed to attain the highest levels of wealth, power, and fame. This relentless fixation on greatness leads to stress and anxiety, strains our interpersonal connections, fosters extensive political and economic disparities, and contributes to the deterioration of our natural environment. In his book “The Good-Enough Life” author and educator Avram Alpert explores the idea of whether embracing our limitations could pave the way to a more satisfying existence and a more harmonious society. He explains why the relentless pursuit of competition within our social structure ultimately yields no real advantages for anyone and offers a vision of an alternative way of life—an inclusive, good-enough life for all. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Dr Avram Alpert

    Dr Avram Alpert is a writer and teacher. He has worked at Princeton and Rutgers Universities, and is currently a research fellow at the New Institute in Hamburg. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Aeon.


    We begin our conversation by discussing the concept of 'Good-Enough,' a central theme in the book. Following that, we explore the notion of 'greatness.' In particular, I engage Dr. Avram Alpert in a conversation about his perspective on the achievements of individuals who attain success and fame through their dedication and hard work. We also talk about people who have done great things and made society better. Then our discussion shifts toward the idea of fostering a more equitable and just society, emphasising the potential benefits of reduced competition among individuals. We explore the possibility of a society where each person can rediscover a sense of purpose and meaning, and have their material and emotional needs met.

    Complement this discussion with “Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World” with Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2023/04/reclaiming-human-intelligence-and-how-to-stay-smart-in-a-smart-world-with-prof-gerd-gigerenzer/
    And then listen to “Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2023/01/cloud-empires-governing-state-like-digital-platforms-and-regaining-control-with-professor-vili-lehdonvirta/

    • 57 min
    “Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness” with Professor Nicholas Humphrey

    “Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness” with Professor Nicholas Humphrey

    We experience, thus we exist. Our conscious perceptions form the foundation of our self-awareness. They play a vital role in shaping our understanding of ourselves as sentient beings: present, alive, and significant. However, what is the origin of consciousness, and how does the process of experiencing sensations and developing a sense of awareness contribute to its emergence? Is this capacity limited solely to humans? Do other animals share this ability? And what about the potential for future machines?

    In his book “Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness” neuropsychologist Professor Nicholas Humphrey uncovers the evolutionary history of consciousness and argues that consciousness evolved to make us feel that life is worth living. Drawing upon his groundbreaking research on social intelligence, as well as his intriguing findings on blindsight in monkeys and profound insights into the philosophy of mind, Professor Humphrey outlines a fascinating narrative to unveil the evolutionary origins of consciousness. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Nicholas Humphrey.

    Nicholas Humphrey, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the London School of Economics, is a theoretical psychologist, who studies the evolution of intelligence and consciousness. He was the first to demonstrate the existence of “blindsight” in monkeys. He has also studied mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey in Rwanda, and proposed the celebrated theory of the “social function of intellect,”. His research holds profound significance in exploring and unravelling the mysteries of the mind and its evolutionary underpinnings.


    We start off by discussing the enigma surrounding the emergence of consciousness and the challenges encountered when attempting to understand its nature and origins. Professor Nicholas Humphrey's book introduces the intriguing concepts of cognitive consciousness and phenomenal consciousness, which we thoroughly explore during our conversation. We then discuss in detail the concept of sentience as presented and explained in this book. We delve into the evolutionary perspective, examining why consciousness became an adaptive trait and how it evolved within living organisms. An intriguing question arises: if our early animal ancestors possessed cognitive consciousness, how did it transition into phenomenal consciousness? Could there exist an observable threshold, such as brain size, neuron count, or processing capacity, at which cognitive consciousness transforms into phenomenal consciousness? We then discuss the fascinating notion of blindsight and its relevance to the theory of consciousness presented in the book. We then delve into the complex concept of sensations, exploring how the firing of neurons and the movement of electric signals within the brain give rise to our subjective experience of consciousness. Lastly, we explore the possibility of consciousness emerging within machines, contemplating its potential evolution beyond organic life.

    Complement this discussion with ““The Case Against Reality” and The Hard Problem of Consciousness with Professor Donald Hoffman” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2022/07/the-case-against-reality-and-the-hard-problem-of-consciousness-with-professor-donald-hoffman/
    And then listen to “From Consciousness to Synthetic Consciousness: From One Unknown to Another Unknown with David Chalmers” available at:
    https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2015/03/from-consciousness-to-synthetic-consciousness-from-one-unknown-to-another-unknown-with-david-chalmers/

    • 1 hr 9 min

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