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The Past is a Window to Our Future


Jeff Jarvis

This week journalist and bestselling author of The Guttenburg Parenthesis, What Would Google Do? and Geeks Bearing Gifts, Jeff Jarvis joins us to talk media and content in the AI age. Jarvis is considered one of the Top 100 most influential media leaders (WEF/Davos). He believes AI’s impact on our society will be as impactful as the printing press, and helps us understand how institutions and society will likely adapt. We forget the lessons of the past at our future’s peril.

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[Music] this week on the futurists Jeff Javis
we're misusing the technology same thing happens with every technology happened with print it happened with radio and so
how will people take generative Ai and large language models and rethink them
in what they can do and what they say about us in fundamental ways and then break those habits and break
[Music] that
hey there welcome back to yet another episode of the futurists I'm Rob Turk with my co-host Brett King hi Brett hey
hey how you been I'm good I'm um I'm getting ready for the weekend in Bangkok
I had uh a big conference here at Tech Source um and I gave a uh a new keynote
on what Asia is going to look like in the year of 2050 I think um I think you would have enjoyed it you know so um one
of the interesting stats I found during the research is um partially due to whole population growth issues is you
know um Asia's going to max out at about 5.2 billion in the 20 mid 2050s but
because of that population growth it's going to result in you know sort of economic Surge and so if you look at
China and India being two of the top three largest economies in the world in the 2050 2070 period um there are
estimates that up to 80% of global economic output will come from Asia and that's a figure I hadn't heard recently
and we can debate this obviously but um that was um that was um the the ranges
are about 60 to 80% so um but having said that um it was a really nice
opportunity to do do get on stage again uh here in Bangkok and do the Futures thing man yeah good to hear you getting
back on stage uh just before the next wave of coid breaks so I was talking to one of our prev guest yeah Philip alela
as you recall was doing AI monitoring for health purposes and he uh he and I got together recently and he said um
it's back he said there's going to be another break outbreak the numbers are going up etc etc yeah so and also I
don't know if you know but you know you remember the um the book and the movie The Big Short
yeah I can't remember the Investor's name the guy who that but I know who you're talking
he just made he just made a like a $1.7 billion bet that the markets are going to crash so oh really that's concern as
well yeah anyway all right what we right on well Brett it's come to my attention that not everybody loves the term
futurist um in fact you know when we first started the show you and I had a conversation about that because I was a
little um ambivalent about the term myself so uh yes so this is of course
the objective was we wanted to reclaim that right we wanted that's the idea yeah that's the idea we're going to reclaim the idea for us a futurist is
somebody who actually is doing something to create the future taking a kind of an active who comes on our show well that's
fact the case here's the quote because I thought you get a kick out of it okay great here it goes I will not predict
for I cannot imagine a more hubristic and fraudulent self-anointed job title
than futurist and the person who wrote that is with us today so that's G
introduction to Jeff Jarvis Jeff welcome to the show I think I need to leave now I'm sorry about
that thanks for coming Jeff I saw that I was like oh this is
going to be fun so so f for folks who don't know Jeff is um Jeff is the chair
in journalism Innovation at the toe night Center for entrepreneurial journalism at the City University of New
York's Craig Newar Graduate School of Journalism that's a mouthful sorry for that mouthful yes yeah but basically
you're focused on frankly Innovation we think of that as the future in journalism and you've been a journalist
for a mighty long time you're the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly and a TV critic and so forth but one of
the reasons I reached out to you to do the show is because you just published this great book uh so folks we're going to hear a little bit about Jeff's new
book the Gutenberg parenthesis and welcome to the show tell us about the book Thank you so much I'm glad to be
here um quickly the idea of the Gutenberg parenthesis is that we have lessons to learn from our entry into the
age of print as now we now leave it for what follows and I'm not saying that books die or print dies it might for newspapers and magazines but I think
that the internet may prove to be I'm not a futurist so I'm not going to predict but the interet may prove to be
as momentous an invention in society as the printing press was and if that's the case what do we have to learn so the
first half of the book is makes you a futurist Jeff well I'm a pastiest I'm
going to the Past okay all right so the first half of the book is is is a uh loving history of print and then I try
to apply some lessons to today about uh the conversational nature of media and
before it became Mass about the mass as an insult to us in the public about
control of speech through things like copyright and censorship and about the institutions that we're going to need to
either revise or support or replace as we enter the needs of this new age so
that's super relevant to our show because in a number of episodes earlier we've had guests come out and we've touched topics like the turmoil in
politics uh some of the consequences of social media the use of AI for deep fakes and so forth uh the limitations of
capitalism we would love to get into those topics with you so in a way that even though uh it might not be a futurist book it is in
a in some respect it fits our thesis quite well um now folks who are listening you're probably thinking wait another book about Gutenberg there are
literally hundreds of books on the topic that's partly because the printing press invention was so momentous I'm reading
the book right now and I've got to tell you this is a book that's worth getting uh we don't normally do plugs in this show but I'm enjoying the book so much
it's beautifully written it's remarkably concise given the subject matter uh he moves at a Brisk Pace it's very
satisfying reading and the premise is really great because when you say parenthesis that kind of caught me right
because I'm thinking about it like an American I'm like well those are just the brackets what's the Gutenberg parenthesis but you're using it in the
British sense which is the parenthesis is the stuff that's contained within the brackets and your idea is that there's
kind of like a bookmark uh book end on E either end of this era the 500y year era
of the printed book and all the artifacts of that all the the idea of you know linear information flows and
fixed media and the idea of ownership of media and and authorship and authority and so forth all of that is contained in
that 500-year period called the parenthesis and that's all subject to change and so if you think about the
impact of the internet and to give credit where it's due the the the the the theory of the Gutenberg parenthesis and that wonderful title comes from
three academics at the University of Southern Denmark named Tom pedit Lars o sauberg and Maran borch and their
contention is that the period of print culture was an exception and that we
return now to the opportunity to recapture what print changed can we become a more conversational Society
this idea that creativity and conversation become content and property
to be owned and traded which is very much of the Gutenberg age does that change does our sense of authority
change if you look before Gutenberg the scribes were trying to preserve the knowledge of the Ancients in the
Gutenberg parenthesis we honored the author fra doct so who wrote a book now
I don't know who we honor right we don't so much go to expertise David the wonderful friend David Weinberger said
the smartest person in the room is the room itself it's the network that brings out all the best of us and in a time of
AI that becomes very relevant so that's the really important part uh is the idea
that we're moving from an era of U media that's fixed inside of a package or container a book between two covers to
an Era where information flows on a network exactly the way I just said not so there's not Alpha and Omega you know
I think part of the the the the myth we have as as writers and also especially as journalists is that we can contain
the world into a story an article a book that has a beginning and an end and that
is neat well that's that's that's wrong and the the chaos of a constant feed on
the internet uh with links all over is a probably a truer representation of
reality uh Jeff um you know I mean you talk about the fact that various
institutions will have to change I'd love to get into that in a moment but before that I mean one of the things
that happened before um the printing press was of course that um it was much
easier to exercise autocratic control and things like that you know um part of the Big Challenge was to the the church
who was in a a governance and legal legal role um and we're seeing um
obviously gaming of social media and I'm sure we'll sit with AI for various
people to control the narrative or control how information is processed and how we Define fake news versus real and
so forth so um are you concerned about the fact that um maybe we might be enter
you know just like prior to the printing press we might be entering a period where that sort of control over Society
is more possible in a short answer yes I I think it is because there's manipulation but
on the other hand what excites me so much about today is that voices that for too long not heard in mainstream mass
media run by people who look like me old white men now have their place and have
the chance to speak and gather and organize and I find that very exciting I
think that there's a there's a huge opportunity there uh for us to rescale our vision of society down from Mass you
know I'm old enough I'll think you guys are younger I'm old enough to have lived in the
kronite age where he ented every show with and that's the way it is where for many people it wasn't the way it was and
we had a myth that there was a shared National Vision that was a myth of power
and so on the one hand you're absolutely right we see it with the trumpets and afd and Germany and and Brazil the
last presidency and on and on and on where the the autocrats can take over that's the danger but on the other hand
we see the opportunity for communities to finally be able to come the table and
that's exciting but it's messy democracy is messy democracy is cous I think we
had a myth that it was neat and clean and quiet and it shouldn't have been I
do think though there is a element of sort of generational shift to attitudes
and policy certainly in terms of say the role of the corporation in modern society the role of politics um uh you
know values around climate change and how we should be um collaborating together you know my my my
children obviously um think very differently about those things than my
father does you know um and I think there's an element of generational shift that's coming in here but that part of
that is as you say they've built a very different view of community because of their digital native uh platform right
you know that they've been friends with go friends all over the world through this and their sense of community is
quite strong I think rob you were going to say I want to talk a similar point which is
uh Brett's talking about community and um and different generational perspectives on community and we hear
this term come up a lot when we talk about Network Society right online community which really revolves around
conversation because how you present yourself in in an online community I think that that's overblown
and I think these so-called communities on the web are many cases threadbear U people belong to them there are cases
where they go very deep there's no doubt about that and there's cases where they extend to the real world but in many
cases uh what we're finding in social media is that when you're part of a community that has two billion people in
it it's not much of a community at all yes and no but this is the Paradox
of scale online right the the the the rule of the law of networks is you have
to be huge so you can be small and I think that that we thought that for example Twitter was we talked to Twitter
we talking to the world no you're talking to a few people there uh and journalists complain that the Twitter is
not representative well the subscription list of the New York Times is not representative and it's also in the larger scheme of things small and I
think what we can do is join communities in new ways in journalism there's so
much talk these days about local local local we have to save local newspapers and I'll salute that flag sure but I
live in a town with trumpets around me and they don't like me and I don't like a lot of them and so my definition of
local includes other groups right during coid I started a CO Twitter list where I
got very close to a lot of doctors and scientists who were working on that having written a book about Gutenberg I started a a book history walks Twitter
list I've had prostate cancer and I talked to people about that online um and on and on and on and on so my
definitions of local are many and varied in February I was honored to have played
host to a black Twitter Summit at my school and there I think we see a
tremendous example of communities plural that manag to use Technologies in ways
that were not intended for them one of the original coders from Twitter was at our event and he said we made this for
white guys who were going up to South by Southwest but there was a tremendous Savvy that existed in rebuilding this
there's two books to recommend one is by Charlton M Wayne called black software which talks about the precursor to
Twitter all the efforts like Black Planet online to create these spaces and then distributed Blackness by Andre
Brock Jr is a wonderful exploration of black Twitter and and what I say in the Gutenberg parenthesis is that we have
lessons to learn I think from how they used Twitter not just to do black lives
matter which Lord knows is momentous and important but at an everyday level to
find people who are like them who aren't under white gaze who can use their own
language and their own worldview and their own experiences with the everyday Joys and Sorrows of life that's
community and I think we see examples of so you're right Rob where it's touted
and exploit and exploited by others as if well we're all part of the um New
York Times Community or the Twitter Community that's BS but within those things you can find people of like mind
and interest and need and that's exciting so one of the things that's interesting about that is it's uh it's
not geographically condensed right so the preg Gutenberg area if you will people lived in villages right and most
people didn't go much further than a day's walk from their village news traveled slowly if it came by at all it
was a rioter or maybe a town crier but even that was rare it was no printed material of course so people didn't know
much about what was happening even in the village one mountain across uh you know the canyon and maybe on the other side of the ridge um so that's a
geographical Community what you're talking about is kind of a maybe an imaginative recreating of those communities reconvening communities but
in a different way it's a community that shares a common interest um you know a community of practice if you will or of
commitment if you will don't have to be in the same geography you can be geographically dispersed because you're connecting through the network so when
you talk about the Gutenberg parenthesis it's not like you're saying we're going back in time to the Dark Ages we're not
going to go back to the Middle Ages uh in this idea no we're going to build on everything that's there and we're going
to build on print culture and the knowledge that came with it but now we're going to do something different so what does that world look like what what
does that feel like to you this post Gutenberg era well so Tom petett who brought this theory of the Gutenberg
prons to the US is a medievalist and he studied Jeff we're going the wrong direction for a show
about the future I I well I'm a PST man I'm a PST so uh I'll leave again if you want
um so what what he says is that we can learn a lot he would argue and and people who studi Medieval Times say that
there wasn't a dark ages that it's an odd insult from the future to the Past yeah and and so what do we have to learn
from that period for for a next book I'm working on about the internet I came across I'm going to go past again sorry
I came across this concept called f f ma in Latin it means it is said and it's
really about uh the reputation that aderes to a piece of information the
teller The Source the um the subject of information and what it says is that
before there was print before we had these institutions of authority people had to make their own judgments about whom do I believe why do I I believe
them what's their reputation what's my reputation how do I understand what attaches to people and I think we are
returning to that now where um we become responsible at least for now for
figuring out what's true and what's not we can't deputize the institutions we created in editing and Publishing and
newspapers and journalism because they're inadequate to the task of speech the scale of speech today yeah so
responsibility Falls to us now I think we might invent new institutions that come along but the other part that interests me so much is a return to a
conversational nature and what I was surprised by in studying what I did for the Gutenberg
parenthesis is that print in its early days was conversational right Martin Luther was
in conversation with the Pope over their books and burnings of them um uh arasmus
and Sir Thomas mo had literal conversations in letters that they then published as part of their books um
montain when he invented the essay was was creating a conversation with his friends or with the world he wasn't sure
so now we come to today what happened in the meantime mass media happened the steam powered press happened the
linotype happened scale happened Mass broadcasting exactly conversation left
that's right so now I think we're returning to an opportunity to have conversation and we are awful at it we
are out of practice we're bad at it yes the present state of the public
conversation isn't great but I think we can learn again how to hold that conversation in meaningful ways that
aren't summarized in 10 inches of newspaper type or that aren't uh robbed
of their Nuance in opinion polls I think we have the opportunity to have real conversation like we're having right now
really really a very good point right we see this happen all the time particularly in podcasting blogging and newsletters where there are plenty of
smart intelligent articulate people who don't happen to be Journal jals and they're not called journalists and they don't work for a newspaper but in fact
they're sharing information that's informative to large numbers of people right and so what they're doing is building a new kind of authority and I
find this very interesting it's like a non-institutional Authority is possible to do this and you do it Brick by Brick
EP you know Episode by episode or newsletter by newsletter you build up your authority over time one of the things you mentioned a minute ago is um
this idea of who do you trust right this is one of the big concerns back in the day you know preprint
When a Stranger showed up in town is this a threat is this a menace is this someone who's good we don't know we're going to find out and if we don't like
what he has to say maybe we'll burn him maybe we'll hang him a kind of a dicey proposition back in say 1300 um on the
internet you have that every time you run into somebody that you don't know yes right is this a fishing attack is this somebody who's trying to hack into my account is this somebody trying to
steal my crypto so one of the big themes that keeps coming up now and we're going to do a show on this is decentralized
identity uh it's a big web three topic we're going to be hearing a lot more about it in the future and it's an area I'm doing a little bit of work in um
it's important because what they're starting to realize is uh in the Dow space where the number of dows is
proliferating uh you need a portable identity that people can rely on and that is a super difficult problem but
the solution will be incredibly valuable uh the idea there is that you build reputation in one community and then
when you show up in a new community that reputation is almost like the letter you used to carry from the king or from the Duke that said you can trust this guy
he's decent uh it's an endorsement of sorts and interestingly uh decent cized
reputation doesn't need to be um about your your name it can be anonymous because it's a score and so for some
certain groups of people who don't feel comfortable revealing their identity on the web they can still participate and
they can still build up your reputation without revealing their identity this is a super interesting topic I know it's a
little bit off uh off Target but you talked about new Institutions and to me that's one space where we need such an
institution no I I think it's I think it's also I think you see the parallel of it R in in Maston activity Pub Blue
Sky and the The wouldbe Replacements for Twitter where you own your not only your
identity but your social um graph which is part of your reputation and how you can then take that portably elsewhere
because it's you you it belongs to you you know what what Elon Musk has taught us is the danger of leaving things like
identity and public discourse in the hands of a company that could be taken over by one malign actor uh and so how
do we have distributed identity distributed reputations distributed ideas of conversation and um uh and the
social graph I think that's an important development where we're actually just going back to the origins of the
internet and its original model but taking that to the Future right on right
on super fun stuff here um so um Jeff one of the things we like to do in the
show is get to know our uh AUD or get to know our guest a little bit better so we
ask a series of personal questions quick questions uh and the idea here is just short answers uh so if it's okay with
you before we jump to bre break I'm going to do the lightning round Jeff Jarvis here we go okay so
what was your first exposure to science fiction or some visions of the future what's what's the first it could be a
movie or a book or a comic book had to be Twilight Zone um which like U some of
them today made the future scary but also fascinating is there a particular uh
futurist or forecaster or science fiction writer whose work has impressed you personally H um Amy web gets gets
angry with me because she she doesn't like my insult the futurist and she calls herself a futurist but I think she's very smart about um looking at the
trends we have now and trying to uh extend those out yeah I agree she's
let's get her on the show yeah she's great and she's also she covers a lot of turf like she covers a lot of different
subjects yeah you should have her on the show I agree tell her tell her I sent you because she thinks I don't like her because I make jokes about futurists you
you guys are nice enough it's not personal no we don't like the term okay um next one is there a
particular forecast that shaped your career is there something that you came across early in your career that shaped
your trajectory um it wasn't a forecast it
was blogging after 911 which I survived at the World Trade Center and when I saw people link to me and talk to me and I
talked back to them I realized we were in conversation different places and different times that was a Zing moment that utterly
changed my notion of media uh and of community and my career and then I have
tried to take that to the Future to recapture this idea of conversation that's a lot of the reason behind the
book right Jeff just before we go to a Break um I want to ask you one
additional question what do you think is the most important technology Humanity's
invented ah sigh I'm still GNA go with um movable
type and let us be clear that movable type was first invented in China and Korea and where you are uh right now
Brett and that neighbor of the world only a few thousand miles away but hey close enough sure um so Asia deserves
much credit for the invention of paper and the invention of which one could also argue was the key invention uh but
movable type Gutenberg we don't know whether there was any connection from Asia to to mines when he did but I think
it's really important and you know it's amazing for for we're on video on Zoom I'm holding up to the camera right now a
piece of type it's the letter L and you think about it that every single word in
the entire world for for almost a half a millennium was set in type one letter at
a time and what that did to change uh mankind um humankind what that opened up
as possibilities bad and good a 30 Years War but also on enlightenment I think I still got to go with Gutenberg plus I
got a book about him so you know what am I going to do I got to vote for Gutenberg absolutely well you're such a PST it's clear all right
well um thank you Jeff we're gonna take a quick break you're listening to the futurists we're with Jeff Jaris uh we're
talking about his new book the Gutenberg parenthesis we'll be right back after this
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fintech podcast and radio [Music] show welcome back to the futurists I'm
Rob Turk with my co-host Brett King and this week we're talking to Jeff Jarvis the author of the Gutenberg
parenthesis now Jeff one thing I want you to share with the audience today is tell us what the life was like before
the printing press and what was the impact what are all the things that changed that kind of mar mlan idea that
it wasn't just that we put you know we stopped writing by hand and suddenly we could print reproduce books what were the implications of
that manuscripts and text which by the way manuscript writing and scribal writing didn't end after printing it
went on until I would argue the typewriter but it was the only mechanism for sharing stuff and the business model
was one scribe one Patron one book and a lot of time and and Scholars had to
travel to books um they were short and Supply obviously it had a lot of impact
Along Comes movable type and it's important to say that Gutenberg was not a member of the age that he created he
was a member of the scribal age and he tried to recreate Scrib's work and make it more efficient and more beautiful and
more perfect and more economical but he he recreated scribal work quick timeline
here in the 50 the first 50 years of printing are called the incunabular age which is the infant age of print uh it
still looks tribal they still published Aristotle they still went to the Ancients along this turn of the century
1500 the business was in shambles too much Venture money in essence investment
had gone into pring all this stuff the market was slammed there was nothing uh on the on the horizon it looked like a
dead fad and then Along Came Martin Luther and that changed everything because it created a market for
pamphlets and for news and for all kinds of things plus peasants Wars a 30 Years War Reformation accountable Reformation
all of that too but the book as we know it now began to take on the form we know with indexes and titles and title pages
and paragraph indentations and page numbers around 1500 beginning then the
next major Rush of innovation came around 1600 when we saw the invention of the
modern novel with cantes the essay with Montaine a market for printed plays with Shakespeare and the newspaper and so I
think it took that long for the technology to become boring right until we just didn't know what was happening
we didn't care the techn and and what happened with the technology was interesting next major Innovation 1710 which is copyright and a
business model property next around 1800 you see other Technologies for the first time change the technology of print
steam powered presses rotary presses stereotyping to mold complete pages of type um cheap paper made from wood pulp
instead of um your underwear um uh and the lineer type 1920s we get uh radio
broadcast the first competition along alongside film with that 1950s TV here
we are today with the internet what I leave out the internet right so we're a little past a quarter Century beyond
what I think is the introduction of the internet to the general public with the browser in 1994 and so I would argue
that in that sense we're only at 1480 in Internet years and we haven't seen the
form the internet's going to take past the scribal form we haven't seen our Martin Luther yet we haven't se age of
the of the web yes bingo I love that yes wow that's aing I'm really glad we we
don't have books made of underwear anymore that's that's a great Innovation great little fact Brett is that uh rags
and bloomers and such were strategic assets and they were forbidden from
export because you needed them to make paper wow and one thing that printing did that was very important is we we concentrated on books it also created
bureaucracy created uh song sheets and and news books and all kinds of other
forums besides the book it's it's true I was just doing the research on the rise of copyright and and one of the things I
noticed is when after the church was displaced right so you talked about Martin Luther he introduced I guess a
diversity of opinions about the church which they couldn't really suppress uh then we had the 30 Years War and a bunch
of other religious wars in Europe after that Devastation the secular State took over management of the information
economy if you will they displaced the church and that meant that secular States Kings and princes had to hire
literate bureaucrats this is a novel and basically a side effect of of the printing press they had to hire those
people because they were the censors they had to read all the books and um for those who are small government Advocates we've had government
bureaucracy ever since so we can thank Gutenberg for that as well exactly it also changed education uh this is a
marshall mlan notion but I think it's a really good point you know so the term Auditorium is uh from The Middle M ages
and that's because there was only one book at the time so one person read the book to a bunch of people who were listening Auditorium uh and then with
the printing press suddenly you can have a classroom full of people with the same an identical copy of the same text and
the configuration of the room changed and actually that room resembles today's classroom so that's like a pretty
lasting impact it takes us right up to that age of Industrial education that we have today my hunch is that that's ripe
for change as well that's overdue for change hey Brett go ahead I'm sorry I'm just rattling here no no fine Jeff um
what on that point extending from what Robert said um what do what do you think is needs to happen to education
particularly you know with the AI infringement on that now and and the fact that like you know when when I was
a kid we weren't even allowed to bring calculators into school and then when I was by the time I was in high school yes we' done that and we started having
early computers and so forth but this is a this is a real game Cher and that that whole Industrial Revolution model of you
you know the uh um um the manager at the front of the you know the manager proxy
um at the front of the class and you don't speak unless just spoken to and standardized testing and so forth um you
know there's many like Jack Mah and Elon Musk and others that think that this needs a complete rethink for uh um you
know the AI age what do you cover this off in the book um yes I don't want to
agree with Elon Musk about anything but I I do think that education has to change utterly that we're actually we
never full got out of that Auditorium view of the lecture View and I'm a teacher and so I you know I lecture but
I try not to um you know what fascinates me about about generative Ai and I'm not
sure where this really ends where where where it goes I think generative AI could be giving all of artificial
intelligence Kies because there's some things that just can't do well and will never do well and we put it in positions
where it fails but having said that it's pretty amazing to watch and one thing that it does is that it makes the writer
less special and I'm a writer right but here comes a machine that can turn out text Pros that is okay as well as code
and and verse and other things right and that scares some people but I think that
the interesting thing to me is that potentially it extends literacy that in a sense from montain on
to be part of public discourse you had to be literate in not just reading but also writing you had to be able to
express yourself in that way and what generative AI might do is help people
who are scared of writing or illustration or film making to or code
to express themselves in ways that they felt intimidated from doing so I think that's a lot of potential and so
education has to change around that we're not assigning students essays to put more content in the world we got
plenty of content stop stop already go and generate a movie yeah right uh do
something else but what we do need obviously is we want them to think we want them to be critical thinkers we want them to express themselves we want
them to be able to share their lived experiences we want them to Think Through problems um and the education system we've had was
built in two bad ways one was the auditorium was the lecture was you're going to listen to me and the other was
the Industrial view of there's one right answer and you all need to get to it so we can turn out the same Widget the same
way um I think we need to shift our Educational Systems marketly when I
wrote my my first book what would Google do one example from Google was that if you Ed the old ways to figure out things
like misspelling you would have put a dictionary in every machine right but instead Google saw a different way to do
things they saw that by seeing how people misspell things you can help with spelling it's that kind of different
thinking different opportunity that we have to break forward I taught a course in Reinventing the internet a year ago
with Douglas rushkoff author of many books and um it was fascinating U that
the students who were me you know in their 20s were as old as the internet and they didn't experience the internet
we knew in the early days the early hope and the early structure they knew the internet that's corporatized and
centralized and greedy and all the bad things we say so it was hard for them to imagine a future a different future for
the internet unless we kind of break them out of their present views and I think that's the job of education is to
break students away from some of not all but some of the Heritage we give them so
that they can do better uh you know it's interesting you talking about young people uh and their
per their experience the way it's true like they grew up with social media uh at the worst time when social media was all about bullying and that was their
first introduction you know as pre-teens to the web so it's like almost have to have a defensive approach versus anybody
that was on the web in the 90s where it was a very communal space and a very encouraging space they were flame Wars of course but in generally it was there
was a kind of euphoria of ecstasy of communication I think in the 90s a little bit of that's been lost um one
thing that I noticed is happening right now with AI with generative AI is this flood of data this is not news people
have been predicting it and forecasting but now it's here if you look at your spam filter and your email today anyone who's listening I guarantee you're going
to see hundreds maybe thousands of emails that that are basically autogenerated that's not all it's
starting to flood into other places as well interestingly Google the company that invented the Transformer models
that are powering these GPT systems is now suffering from this from their own creation because Google results are
being degraded now on almost every topic you're starting to see Google results full of just garbage has generated by AI
um I was reading Gary Marcus's newsletter which by the way is Excellence Gary Marcus is an AI researcher uh and he just published an
article called the N shic of the web and it's a super fun read because he talks
about how just this vast amount of garbage pure nonsense or inaccurate
stuff that seems like uh you know plausible [ __ ] is being generated by these systems and it's going to create
so much cognitive load for the people who are using it that it's ultimately going to break Google fascinating
premise obviously a little bit of a diversion but here what we're talking about is uh the these are the new artifacts of this new printing press if
you will this new content generation system and they're unexpected right so one of the things that's interesting
about your book is that you you help guide us to uh the unanticipated consequences of these Novelties I want
to talk about we we just covered education and we covered uh youth but um there's another artifact of the printing
press that I think is kind of surprising and that's the invention of the public the reading public right so the print
print creates the reading public because there was people were not printing press
and um and the printing press itself you know obviously initially was aimed at lurgical texts and clerical texts bevies
Bibles and so forth but pretty quickly printers figured out that there was an appetite for stuff that wasn't religious
uh things like romances uh and novels right the the original novels things from uh you know Tales From bachio and
and chower and so forth these proved quite quite popular and quite lucrative and so as a result the printers fed that
appetite and as literacy grew people started to demand more and more reading and all of a sudden you had something
new for the princes politicians counselors and Kings to contend with
which was an opinionated public and so by the 1500s you start to see Kings like Henry VII with their own printing
presses where they're releasing things like he released his love letters to his uh to his his Mistresses he let those
leak out through his printing his own printing press to build up his Public Image and this notion that now suddenly
a leader is accountable to a public an informed public so that's one out
outcome of course today we can talk about all you know the the consequences of that but this is another area where
the internet is going to make a profound impact on the accountability of public figures in fact it's already happening
uh we see it today right Donald Trump is abusing the judges and effect inflicting
tremendous credibility damage to our Judicial System right now uh by attacking the judges who are trying the
case and he knows if they try to shut him down if they take away his Twitter account or his truth Social account he's
going to cry out about free speech and all of his supporters will rally to him and he'll become a martyr uh so he's
abusing the system in a way that I think the courts cannot contend with we don't have a great mechanism for that okay i'
talk too much I'm gonna hold back and allow you guys to try thank you for the yeah you said you covered a lot of of t
let me let me tie two together the idea of content which again is a Gutenberg era idea right aing things content is
now completely commodified you got more than enough of you got tons of it um the
other part of this though is that when you expand the ability of people to to speak and be heard everybody can always
speak but are they heard um there are efforts to control one of my favorite anecdotes from the book is that the
First supposed call for censorship of print came in 1470 nilo poot who was a translator in
Italy was much offended by a shoty translation of Plenty and he wrote to the Pope and said you must do something
about this you must appoint a censor for these presses to approve everything before it comes off someone who's aidite
and smart but it's important and I thought about it robt and and he wasn't asking for a sensor what he was asking
for was the institutions that he a futurist was um anticipating of editing
and Publishing that institutions that would try to uh guarantee the authority and quality
of what would come off these presses and it worked pretty well for 500 years but it's not up to the task now but what did
come later as you say was censorship was the need to um and look at the Catholic
Church its reaction in great measure to Luther much delayed was the index of forbidden books was trying to Tamp down
on this but Luther the important thing that Luther did to you're pointing about the public now is that he chose to
publish in German yeah he didn't publish in Latin he published in German and thereby he created to public habas would
argue that the public sphere came much later in the 18 late 1700s with the
coffee houses of London and the magazines there and so on so forth and publs were indeed there but Luther
created a public around German and and and not only that by standardizing
German as he did in his Bible translation he he standardized the idea of
germanness of of of a community an imagined Community as Benedict Anderson
around the language yeah and one could argue that that was the birth of the nation as well yeah certainly a national
identity in German because it was fragmented across UHA dozens of principalities and this notion of
standardization is Big let's bookmark that because I want to hear from Brett No I um I mean one part that I'm I'm
interested in is is and this is where I think there's a diverence right now um
from printing um and that sort of type of uh content that you've talked about
is um that you you have the elements of factual newsworthy type information and
as you said we've been challenged with that being um filtered and and shaped for since the the printing press but the
other side of it seems to be the creative element the storytelling and so forth and the two sets of tools that
might emerge around those different types of uses of content or communication seem to be quite different
so what where do you think they share trajectory versus where there's a Divergence or or you know and is there
an analogy to the the Gutenberg day it's a great question Brett and and you know
technology isn't neutral but neither is it determinant it doesn't determine the path it's how we use it right and I
think that generative AI has been misused so far and news organizations shouldn't use it because we know it
can't do facts Microsoft shouldn't have put it on a search engine because we know it's not going to return facts and I was just I'm on a new podcast on the
twit network work uh we're working on one about Ai and yesterday I was having the conversation and it occurred to me in the middle of the conversation that
maybe generative AI should have been presented originally as a creative machine this is just for fiction just
for songwriting just for for right and if we' done it that way then it wouldn't
be saying oh it hallucinates it gets things wrong it lies it lials no it makes up and it's good at that it's
really good it's a really persuasive [ __ ] artist yeah and it uses all of our Bull from the past it just Rec our
clich upon us right it brings it back to roost but instead it get said oh my God
we're going to replace all these jobs we're going to do all this stuff with this stuff with with this new machine that's amazing and and I think that that
we're misusing the technology same thing happens with every technology happen with print it happened with radio it's
well look the technology companies let's get real they just shotgun this stuff out there and they just throw us as much
as they can against the wall and they're hoping that some of it will stick and by the way right now it's not necessarily working so well for generative AI
because because the revenues are not there to support the valuation so it's right jary Marcus's next piece was about
about whether generative AI is a dud because there is there yeah it's certainly over it's probably overvalued
I don't get Gary's positioning on this as a as an Enthusiast for AI he seems awfully down on on much of what's
happening in AI right now but's a Critic of Genera AI he's a Critic of generative just that's what he thinks it's misused
it's kind of just well the other I don't know whether you guys into long-termism
and tesol and all of that which is kind of a scary let's not go down there Rabbit Hole yeah exactly but you want to
talk about people who think they're futurists right uh that's a fascinating part of all this no I know it's like a
new I I I do want to put you on the spot a bit
Jeff in that you say you're a pce but one of the things that we like to do as
we finish off this show is we like to look a little peer into the future a little bit B so and I know you you know
I'm not asking you to make a prediction here but I'm asking you to make some reasonable forecasts in terms of are
there things that you can see emerging that that are going to be quite different in the future that could be
game changers or is there something um that you know some characteristics that you think will emerge over the next 20
or 30 years that um that Intrigue you I think we're going to see replacements for a lot of things that is to say what
I what I you know we see the newspaper in print form is going to die uh newspaper news organizations as they've
existed I think have a limited term I just wrote a little book uh about the magazine kind of an elegy to the form
the magazine had its time it could have been at the center of community it wasn't I think it's going to die
broadcast linear television is dying the mass is dying so that much I think um
takes time as Tom petett said the other side of the parenthesis is not a a sharp line it's going be it could go on for
Generations but um I think we're going to see opportunities open up and we see
this in journalism where the newspapers are now in United States most of them are owned by hedge funds it's a it's a cluster F and um you see uh new
generative efforts from communities to create their own journalism it's Hit or Miss it's good and bad it it's not
supportable yet but there's Innovation going on there you see um YouTube uh as
a huge for in creativity now Tik Tok I love Tik Tok because it's a collabor
it's the first collabor yeah so I think that you see and television I was an old television
critic I started ENT weekly I loved movies and television I think they're crap now there's this you know the
between Breaking Bad and succession there's few and far between so yeah emergent creativity from from the public
a lot of it it's going to be crappy but it's going to be wonderful it breaks down the gauntlets that people had to go
through to share what they wanted to um uh so I think let me ask you a related
question we'll see those efforts yeah go ahead let me ask you a related question so here is my last question for you um
I'm curious about the how we unconsciously carry artifacts of the past into the future with us and you
know you mentioned one good example which is that when Martin Luther began printing he wasn't trying to make books
he was trying to replicate and mechanic kind of do mechanical versions of script
of black letter script and they're beautiful books if You' have ever seen a gber Bible he he did that quite well
right um another example of course is in early days of Television they tried to recreate radio plays and now as we move
into this generative age uh you touched on this earlier um you know because generative AI is trained on existing
works and decades and Decades of existing works and because those existing works are by and large written
by um white men there's a lot of existing bias pre-existing bias that's
baked into those models and so that's another example of us unconscious ly carrying forward artifacts of the past
into the future and of course that's going to have an influence on the future it's going to have so why don't you comment a little bit about that because
I'm curious to hear your perspective particularly with regard to journalism I I think you're exactly right and and and
you know if I had a machine that mapped the relationships of all the available words from all those white men in all
the internet I would not use it to create more the same I would query it
about the biases and the myth that exist from that and then beat them and then
and then and then try to break those habits and break what that is um and I think some people probably will I think
that that again Andre Brock Jr in in in distributed Blackness says that what's
notable about black Twitter was that this was the technological Savvy of the users of black Twitter they took tools
that were not meant for them and they put them to their purpose and so how will people take generative Ai and large
language models and rethink them in what they can do and what they say about us
in fundamental ways and then break those habits and break that I think the old companies the the old media companies
and journalists uh are going the wrong path where they're trying to use these to recreate what they already do and we
have enough of that and we see a lot of resistance right certainly in at the college and high school level you see
teachers Banning it and forbidding it and this also sort of sounds like an echo of the Middle Ages where we try to
like prohibit but we had that with social media and other stuff in you know in the in their times as well I think
that's just CC I remember when I was in grade school you weren't allowed to bring a calculator into the classroom right
exactly Stephen Johnson says uh I think I think it was he who said it it's a word calculator that's all AI is right
on well Jeff it's been a tremendous pleasure having you on the show thank you very much for carving out time to come and visit us thank you for making
some forecasts see you're a closet futurist I knew you would be uh it's great to have you on the show this week
how can people find out more about you and your book uh if you just go to Gutenberg parenthesis. comom you can get
a 25% off discount I know we don't do in commercials but what the heck you know a disc special for our listeners um and so
you can find out there and then my blog is Buzz machine or I publish at Jeff jarvis. medium.com as well great and
follow you on Twitter X and and blue sky and masterdon yes wow when do you find
the time well great to have you with us this week Brett always fun to see you big thanks to Kevin hsan for producing
our show this week and to all the folks that provoke media to make the show possible uh We've enjoyed this week's
episode of the futurist and we will be back next week with another person who is working hard to create the future of
their Vision until then Brett we will see you see you in the future in the
future well that's it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share
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