“I’ve listened to things you wouldn’t believe”: an interview with In Our Tech Society

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In Our Tech Society is a podcast produced and presented by Palatinate’s very own Patrick Stephens, focusing on how emerging technologies will change the way we live and experience the world, which has just begun its third season. In Our Tech Society can be found on Twitter, and wherever you get your podcasts. 

What was the inspiration for starting In Our Tech Society?

I think that in the media currently there is a lot of fatalism surrounding new technologies – either robots are going to steal our jobs or AI is about to take over the world (both things won’t happen, by the way). We’ve got listeners in over 60 countries now, so hopefully I’m doing something right in opposing that narrative! The podcast is a space to discuss how tech will shift the way we exist in the world – it used to be called Ethics for a Changing World, but I found that you inevitably end up talking about law, or politics, so I decided to change the name. 

What are the dream guests you’d have on the podcast? 

There’s a philosopher called William MacAskill who pushes a view called long-termism – it’s basically the idea that we should prioritising improving the long-term future 100 or 1000 years from now and eliminating massive risks to humanity like asteroids, nuclear wars, pandemic, all super cool things to happen to future generations! It’s a big part of movements like Effective Altruism, which has gained a lot of visibility in recent years following the pandemic but has had some fair criticism levelled at it. For instance, pitting important issues against one another in an attempt to determine which would generate more ‘utility’ if solved first. It would be great to get him on the show and ask him about those criticisms directly. 

If you had the time to develop another podcast, what would the focus be?

I’d want to focus on Chinese politics – I think China is something that is massively and commonly misunderstood by Western media, as well as a hugely  complex topic, and I think that’s something that could really be unpacked in a dedicated podcast. If only I had the time!

In Our Tech Society is primarily an interview format – what is your own personal style of interviewing?

I try to avoid being like Jeremy Paxman! The podcast is about making thorny issues as accessible as possible, and some of the people I interview are pretty inexperienced, so it feels cruel to attempt to press them (although, I don’t mind a little with some of the more politics-focused guests). Sometimes the topics under discussion are also very technical, so I find that it’s best to let the guests explain themselves in their own words and in their own times rather than trying to interrupt. Having said that, it can make the episodes quite hard to edit, but our most listened-to episode is an hour and fifteen minutes long, so maybe people want more long-form content. 

What would you say has been the biggest challenge you’ve found when developing In Our Tech Society?

I think the real challenge is defining what the thing is that you’re producing – establishing a real identity for your podcast is something that’s much more difficult than it sounds, and even In Our Tech Society has gone through a couple of iterations before I found what works best for me. In the podcast space, you’re not going to blow up overnight, so I think the most important thing is to be proud of the stuff you’re producing rather than doing it for attention – people will simply listen to something else if that passion and authenticity isn’t there. 

And finally, for the Daily Mail-style scoop, can you confirm season four?

I’m not sure I can! I think season three might just run on forever, or until I run out on people willing to be interviewed. But we’re on a pretty good run of content at the moment, so I’ll keep producing episodes until people get sick of them, I think!

Image: ThisIsEngineering RAEng via Unsplash

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