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Raw Data

Author: Stanford and PRX

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We’ve entered a new era. The creation and collection of information play an ever-increasing — yet often hidden — role in our lives. Algorithms filter all sorts of experiences, from the mundane to the monumental. The fuel that powers and curates these experiences is…data. Data are the new oil; whoever controls data has power. Is this making things better? Worse? Raw Data is a show about how information becomes power. What are the implications for all of us, now that mountains of data are more accessible and malleable than ever?

Episodes post on Thursdays. From Stanford and PRX.

Hosted by Andrea Mustain and Mike Osborne.

We love hearing from you! Please email us at hello@rawdatapodcast.com
59 Episodes
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Technically Sweet

Technically Sweet

2019-11-2100:27:201

Chocolate is beloved by...well, most humans, it would seem. But this sweet treat that, for many of us, brings instant happiness, has a nasty secret: most of the world’s cocoa comes from a place where child labor, and sometimes even enslavement, is rampant. For decades, the giant companies that dominate the chocolate industry have said that it was impossible to know if their cocoa was tainted by labor abuses — the supply chain is too long, how can you possibly track cocoa beans back to a small farm in West Africa? Enter technology. But, it turns out, technology may not truly offer the answer to the intractable problem of child labor. The solution may, in fact, be lurking in plain sight. We talk to Nathan Hodge, of Raaka Chocolate; Charity Ryerson, of Corporate Accountability Lab; and Frans Pannekoek, of Tony’s Chocolonely. Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Training Computers to See

Training Computers to See

2019-11-1400:17:56

Over the past few decades, computer vision has held the promise of making the world a better place, from aiding the blind to helping doctors better analyze medical imagery. But as it turns out, teaching computers to see has some unintended consequences. Joseph Redmon, a researcher at the University of Washington and computer vision researcher, tells the story of the history of this quickly evolving technology, as well as his own experience seeing a something he built be put to uses he’d never envisioned — applications that might, quite literally, be used to kill. Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
In June 2017, something weird — and very alarming — started happening at a company in Copenhagen. It seemed that hackers had shut down the company’s network, and were demanding a ransom. But it turned out this was no ordinary cyberattack. What unfolded was the most devastating cyberattack in history — one that brought operations to a screeching halt in companies across the world, and cost billions of dollars. Andy Greenberg, writer at Wired Magazine and author of the book Sandworm, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the attack, dubbed NotPetya — which, in its aftermath, was revealed to be not a sophisticated tool to steal money, but instead, a weapon designed to destroy a nation.  Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Originally broadcast in April 2019. As we approach the end of 2019, the Financial Times recognizes Shoshana Zuboff's "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" as one of the best business books of the year.Shoshana Zuboff doesn’t mince words when it comes to the data economy. According to Zuboff, author of the recent book *The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, *our very souls are at stake. But the seeds of surveillance capitalism were planted rather innocently, back in the heady days of the dotcom bubble. As Zuboff tells it, it all began with Google. When the young company entered crisis mode, they needed to find new ways to make money. And a whole new economic logic was born — one that has now spread across every sector of the economy, and has invaded every facet of our online lives. Zuboff warns that surveillance capitalism threatens much more than just our privacy.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Prediction (BYTE)

Prediction (BYTE)

2019-10-2400:10:35

When humans predict something, it’s basically an educated guess, based on our experiences. When a machine makes a prediction, it uses data and math. And we are increasingly relying on machine prediction to help make decisions in everything from banking to insurance to education. But Meredith Broussard, a professor from New York University, argues that this has all gone too far, especially when you look at what data are being used in machine predictions. And that the “futures” that machines predict should be taken with large grains of salt.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide

2019-10-1700:28:14

Imagine a life without the Internet. No email, no Instagram, no texting, no Google maps, no Netflix...what would you do? A “normal” life would be next to impossible. But huge numbers of Americans face this very problem. Access to high-speed Internet is still an enormous challenge for a lot of people. We talk with Nicol Turner Lee, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, about what it means to be “digitally invisible,” and the toll lack of access takes. It’s a complicated problem, and one with no easy answers. And, for some context, we take a trip through time to see how America tackled a similarly dire issue at the height of the Great Depression.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Hacking (BYTE)

Hacking (BYTE)

2019-10-1000:12:59

In the world of computer science, being a hacker means you know what’s up, and you have street cred. Outside of technology circles, though, hacking is more associated with things like data breaches, ransomware, and malware. So where does the term come from, and why does it have different meanings to different people? In our conversation with Meredith Broussard, a professor at New York University, we explore the roots of hacking, and what it says about society’s relationship with technology today.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Machine Learning (BYTE)

Machine Learning (BYTE)

2019-10-0300:18:47

It’s 2019, and machine learning is everywhere. It might not be Skynet, but it can still sound a little scary. If the robot apocalypse isn’t around the corner, what is? We talk to Kantwon Rogers, a lecturer at Georgia Tech and frequent guest of the show, to demystify this increasingly omnipresent technology. We learn about about how the heck machine learning actually works, how it’s being used to improve our lives, and what should be keeping us awake at night when it comes to this powerful technology. (Hint: It’s not because of killer robots. Not yet...)Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Memory (BYTE)

Memory (BYTE)

2019-09-2600:12:23

What exactly is memory? And why is it so important to how our devices work today? Friend of the show and Georgia Tech computing lecturer Kantwon Rogers breaks it down into bits and bytes — and hints at what kinds of clouds the future may bring.BONUS: Andrea offers up her global solution to solve the issue of tailgating.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
The Answer Machine

The Answer Machine

2019-09-1900:27:53

Google has become our yellow pages, our atlas, our library, our medical consultant, our shopping guide. Which means it is, basically, a giant, virtual confession booth. It knows our most intimate secrets and our most mundane desires. Which has some really amazing upsides; we get a smorgasbord of answers in milliseconds. But behind the scenes of every search, there’s a bidding war going on. Whoever wins that war has the power to shape not just how we spend our money, but also, perhaps, our political views, and maybe even our will to live. We talk to Patrick Berlinquette, a search engine marketer and certified Google partner, about how our searches are, literally, for sale, and get some perspective on the world of digital advertising from NYU’s Vasant Dhar.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Algorithms (BYTE)

Algorithms (BYTE)

2019-09-1200:13:091

Simply put, we (humans) can’t possibly process all of the data in the world, which is why computers are so useful — and why algorithms have become so necessary.In this mini-episode, we go back to the basics. We talk to Georgia Tech computer programming lecturer Kantwon Rogers, a self-declared “eternal optimist,” who breaks down where algorithms came from and where they might be taking us. Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Your Data Are Showing

Your Data Are Showing

2019-08-2900:26:201

What could someone learn about you from your location? What about your Facebook likes? What about just...your face? You’re probably thinking — not much. But Stanford researcher Michal Kosinski says that even superficial data have the potential to expose some of the most intimate details of our lives. Kosinski’s research is provocative, and he has a track record of drawing attention to unexpected risks that come with digital technologies. He argues we live in “a post-privacy” world, and he says the sooner we admit to that reality, the sooner we can start working to improve it.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Originally broadcast in March 2019, this episode has a new introduction, with an update on the Trump administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. At the birth of the United States, the new nation faced a problem. How do you make a crazy new idea — power coming not from a king, but from the people — a reality? There was no handbook; the framers of the Constitution had to just kind of make it up. They landed on the idea of a census. You count the people in each state, and apportion power thusly. A great idea, and certainly a totally new one. But also one that, over the centuries, led to a multitude of unforeseen crises. It turned out that keeping representative democracy on the rails required some technical innovations — and led to the invention of a magnificent, and very significant, machine. Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Power Lines, Post SCOTUS

Power Lines, Post SCOTUS

2019-07-1100:31:171

Originally broadcast in May 2019, this episode has a new introduction, with an update on the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering.The United States is a pretty divided country; which may just feel like an inevitable product of our times. But it turns out there’s one partisan tool, in particular, that bears at least some of the blame. It’s something that is used behind closed doors, and that, thanks to the power of software and data, has turned into an ever more powerful partisan weapon. One that has now gone so far that some are saying it’s subverting democracy. And without any intervention, there’s no reason to think the situation will change for the better. Has our democracy crossed a line? And if it has, what is to be done?Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Conspiracy Tyranny

Conspiracy Tyranny

2019-07-0400:20:141

If the rise of despots around the world seems bewildering, especially given our unprecedented access to information in 2019 — therein might lie the very problem. A new kind of propaganda has taken hold, one that relies on too much information, instead of too little. In Part III of our mini-series on Russian disinformation, we take a look at how Vladimir Putin, leveraging 21st-century technology, engineered a media climate rife with conflict and conspiracies at home, and then took the strategy global. Not only to our shores, but to places around the world. And with deadly results. We talk with journalist Peter Pomerantsev about his early warnings around Russia’s new menace, how it plays to the advantage of authoritarians — and how we now see their techniques put to use by politicians in the United States.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Kinetic Effects

Kinetic Effects

2019-06-2700:19:361

We know that Russia has been honing its tools of disinformation since the Cold War, but how did Soviet Era sabotage make the jump into the digital age? How have imposters on social media caused real-world tumult? In Part II of our miniseries on Russian interference, we get into the mechanics of it all, by taking a look at two specific instances when Russia tested out its disinformation strategy inside the United States. Renee DiResta and Kate Starbird, leading experts in the burgeoning field of digital misinformation, bring us up to speed on how Russia honed their misinformation campaign in the lead up to the 2016 election. Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Dezinformatsiya

Dezinformatsiya

2019-06-2000:37:021

Russians posing as Americans. Wild conspiracy theories about political figures. Outright fabrications. All part of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections, certainly. But it turns out this kind of disinformation has been around for decades, since the early days of the Soviet Union. It’s just gotten a lot more powerful, thanks to tech and social media. But to understand what is happening now, we have to understand how we got here: the end of communism in Russia, the rise of democracy, and, ultimately, its demise at the hands of the man behind all this modern-day manipulation — Vladimir Putin. We get a front-row seat to the story with former ambassador to Russia — and a guy who knows about disinformation on a very personal level —  Michael McFaul. First of a three-part series.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Climate change is already reshaping the natural world, but how does it affect human behavior? Economist Marshall Burke is part of a growing field of scientists uncovering interactions between global warming and humanity. The connections are vast: wars, violent crime, suicide rates, and income inequality. The emerging research may have the power to help us adapt...if we choose to pay attention to it. Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
Power Lines

Power Lines

2019-05-1300:27:57

The United States is a pretty divided country; which may just feel like an inevitable product of our times. But it turns out there’s one partisan tool, in particular, that bears at least some of the blame. It’s something that is used behind closed doors, and that, thanks to the power of software and data, has turned into an ever more powerful partisan weapon. One that has now gone so far that some are saying it’s subverting democracy. And without any intervention, there’s no reason to think the situation will change for the better. Has our democracy crossed a line? And if it has, what is to be done?Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
There’s an epic struggle under way: a challenge to lead the world in A.I. — artificial intelligence. But this space race for the 21st century doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention from at least one of the world’s superpowers — the United States. Futurist Amy Webb tells the story of the world’s leading artificial intelligence companies, and the struggle between East and West in her new book, The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans & Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity. We learn about China’s growing dominance in A.I., and how U.S. companies, in spite of stunning technological innovation, might someday fall behind. What’s at stake is nothing less than the future of power, governance, and freedom.Find out more at rawdatapodcast.com
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