The Tech That Could Define 2023 (and Beyond) – CNN One Thing

David Rind (clip)


Okay. Let’s give this a shot.

David Rind (Host)


A few weeks ago, a lot of people were posting these long essays on social media, but these weren’t the result of hours spent putting pen to paper. They weren’t even written by humans at all. They were the work of an artificial intelligence chat bot from the company Open AI. Basically, you type in a prompt or a question and no matter how weird or specific, it’ll pump out a block of text meant to mimic human writing.

David Rind (clip)


So I’m going to write “write an intro for a CNN podcast…”

David Rind (Host)


So I thought, Hey, my job involves a lot of writing. I wonder if it can imitate a podcast?

David Rind (clip)


…”discussing the latest technology trends…”.

David Rind (Host)


And so I took it for a spin…

David Rind (clip)


Gonna hit enter and see what it comes up with. All right. We have text that’s going across the screen and writes a lot faster than I do, that’s for sure. So here’s what Chat GPT came up with: “Welcome to the CNN Tech Trends podcast, where we discuss the latest developments in technology and their implications on society, from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things. We’ll explore the ways in which these technologies are changing the way we live and work. I’ll also delve into the potential consequences of these trends and how they may shape our future. Join us as we shed light on the most exciting and important tech developments of today.”.

David Rind (Host)


Okay, not horrible. But I think I would come up with something a little sharper than CNN Tech Trends podcast.

David Rind (Host)


It was a fun little experiment, but of course, there are plenty of potential issues that come along with tech like this. What if students use it to cheat? Could its machine learning perpetuate harmful biases? For its part, Open AI says it uses a moderation tool to warn against or block unsafe content and is collecting user feedback for future improvements. The point is, as we enter 2023, Happy New Year, by the way, there’s a lot of new technology to keep track of. Luckily, my guest today has spent the last year doing just that. CNN’s Anna Stewart is the host of Decoded, a show that tries to make sense of the latest advancements in the industry and why they matter. From the metaverse to AI, Anna has tried it all and we’re going to talk about it from CNN. This is One Thing I’m David Rind.

Hey there Anna, great to see you.

Thanks for having me, David.

David Rind (clip)


I wondered if we could start with the metaverse. Can you first tell me, like, what the heck is it?

I knew you were going to ask that. You know what? That is the hardest question to answer. And no matter who you speak to, everyone has a slightly different definition of the metaverse. And really the main reason for that is it’s just not finished yet. This is something that is evolving. Now, if I were pushed to it, I would define this as the Internet gone three dimensional, as in a platform where you can socialize, you can work, you can experience things, but you do so with a digital representation, an avatar.

David Rind (Host)


Right. So talk me through what you saw your experience when you got to actually try this out.

Here’s your device. You can use the straps to just fit it onto your head.

The first time you put on a headset, you’re very aware of wearing a headset. I think the first few minutes was incredible. How quickly forget all about it.

Phillip Rosedale


You can see this is a place with pets.

Anna (metaverse)



And you could just see colors.

Phillip Rosedale


There’s your lion.

Anna (metaverse)


This is amazing.

You can see beautiful landscapes.

Phillip Rosedale


I’ve lost you. You’re flying around in the world like Iron Man.

Anna (metaverse)


It’s really quite overwhelming. It’s really immersive.

Drive, drive, turn around. Yeah.

Anna (metaverse)


Oh no, What happens if I crash it?

Anna (metaverse)


There was a point after a few days of filming in the rest of us where actually got slightly lost touch with reality. And we were looking out. We were driving in the real world and someone said, “Oh, look, the mist cleared.” I thought, “Oh no, but the sky was so blue yesterday.” And they all looked at me and they were like, “what?” And it’s cause I’d forgotten.

Anna (metaverse)


Have I done any real damage to this virtual car?

No, it’s not good. That’s the positive part.

Anna (metaverse)


Bye everyone, see ya.

You kind of come crashing out. You take your headset off. Oh, it’s really hard coming back to reality. And the lights are too bright. And everything feels very quiet because you’ve had so much noise in your head.

David Rind (Host)


Is that concerning, though, that you want to stay in this this virtual world and it’s just kind of draws you in that way?

I mean, maybe because there are moments when I really did prefer the metaverse to the real world that I was coming back to, and I really dislike the feeling of taking the headset off. I’m really interested to see whether the mixed reality where you can still see the real world will actually maybe help with that sensation because it’s really quite discombobulating leaving the metaverse. I’d rather stay in for a bit longer, but I’m not sure that’s a healthy thing to do. Some people are living a lot of their lives in this space, and like anything, you wonder whether you can be in it for too long, you know?

David Rind (Host)


Yeah, for sure. But I guess, you know, not everyone is thinking about that. For anyone who does want to spend time inside the metaverse like this is their thing. What can they actually do in there?

The first surprise with the metaverse is simply that there’s not just one, David. There’s so many platforms. Generally, I mean, I’ll speak to Meta Horizon Work Rooms, which is one of the main platforms that you kind of use for work.

David Rind (Host)


And this is the company formerly known as Facebook. Right. Just so we’re on the same page.

This is the company formerly known as Facebook, which is honestly betting its whole future on the metaverse. It is investing billions of dollars. And as anyone who’s seen recent financial results for Meta will know, it’s not necessarily working out all that well just yet. You know, sometimes it’s just sitting down and having a chat with someone, an interview. And that’s actually where the Decoded team often will have a meeting. Does that is like a big screen. I can watch the latest edit of the show.

David Rind (Host)


Really? You’re having meetings in the metaverse?

Yeah. And you feel like you’re right next to someone. And we can make edit notes, we can watch the video go out and listen. That is way better than Zoom. And half my team are in Dubai, so that makes great sense to me. You can do all sorts. You know what? When you think about the metaverse, you have to think about it beyond just I know something that Facebook’s creating. Think of all different platforms, including video games. Fortnite is actually a metaverse platform, so people have been in it without even really knowing they’ve been in it.

David Rind (Host)


Right. Right. So I guess beyond, you know, playing some games, having some meetings, what are like the bigger implications here beyond just killing a few hours, you know, floating through cyberspace?

Listen, there’s a lot of hype in the metaverse and all the platforms. And I speak to people about the metaverse and they roll their eyes. They all that’s the gen something else. And in some ways, I think we have to wait to see what happens in the metaverse. I think once, you know, crazy amounts of virtual real estate is selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, I don’t believe that will continue. I think there’s a bubble in virtual real estate.

David Rind (Host)


People are buying real estate in the metaverse.

Yeah, people are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Anna (metaverse)


Ali, when I buy a property and I have before, I’d like to I’d like to touch it. I’m nosey. I want to look in all the drawers. Oh, look, we’ve cutlery the good to go. So why would anyone buy a property that they can only see on a screen?

So what we’re doing is quite unique. We’re building the virtual properties to enable you to buy the real property.

Brands want to be in it. I went to the headquarters of a very well known drinks brand in Decentraland and there was no one there. There were some really bad games. And you know what you can’t do in the metaverse? One of the few things you got you can’t drink, right? I mean, you’re like, why are you there? But they’re spending a lot of money.

Anna (metaverse)


Do brands really know, though, what the value is yet in the metaverse? Are they wasting their money investing in a space they maybe don’t fully understand yet?

No, definitely not. I mean, you know, history has proven that being early testing and learning is definitely a way to to capture a disproportionate advantage.

David Rind (Host)


Okay. So it’s interesting, but here’s where I’m at. Anna if you can gather from my tone at the start, I’m pretty skeptical about this whole metaverse thing, this whole idea. And I guess I am, because, you know, we’ve already seen the negative impact social media can have, especially on kids. So I guess I’m wondering what are the potential pitfalls of going even deeper into a virtual world like you talk about where you don’t want to come out of it? What are the ramifications of that?

The metaverse, unfortunately, raises a lot of the same ugly issues that we’ve seen already in social media, and if anything, it could amplify them. And if we look at how much user data will be generated by the metaverse, it is huge. And primarily at the moment the metaverse is being carved out by big tech companies and not many people trust them. Particularly Meta.

Anna (metaverse)


In terms of trust. Of course, Meta has lost a fair bit in recent years.

And that’s something I spoke to the CTO of Metro about…

Anna (metaverse)


Should you be trusted with the metaverse?

Nobody is more focused on this problem then than it is for us to come to the metaverse and be building it from the ground up with lots of other companies, with all the benefit of the knowledge we’ve gained over the last five or six years, especially as consumers have changed their opinions on privacy. That’s a really powerful place to start.

Essentially, there is a lot to mistrust about some of the firms that are trying to carve up the future of the metaverse. I worry about user data privacy. I worry about kids. I worry about it becoming an echo chamber. I worry about online bullying and harassment. When I look at Twitter and I see how many people are horrible to each other and can really hide behind the anonymity of just a username. I dread to think what that could become in the metaverse when you hide behind an avatar and you can be really up in someone’s face.

David Rind (Host)


Because it’s not just words on a screen anymore. There is some physical representation of kind of what you’re doing.

Yeah. And I think, you know, for kids at school who maybe experience bullying day to day, to then go home and into the metaverse and see all the same kids online, I dread to think what could happen there and who’s going to police it and how are you going to know what’s bullying and what’s not? Not enough is being done with social media firms. So yeah, I think this is a big concern.

David Rind (Host)


Okay. So let’s shift gears here. Anna I want to talk about artificial intelligence, because I think for a lot of people, it’s a catch all term for, you know, a lot of different things like self-driving cars use A.I.. A.I, can create images from just a few search terms. We’ve seen an AI create whole essays responding to questions that people ask. So how did you approach the idea of artificial intelligence in your reporting?

So artificial intelligence has been a really interesting one to decode, partly because everything I thought I knew about A.I was wrong or disappointing.

David Rind (Host)


How So?

Desdemona is fantastic to meet you.

Well, people that are scared that, you know, AI robots are going to take over the world. Fear not. Because I met one of the best A.I. robots in the world, and she’s got some way to go.

Desdemona, can you remember my name?

I am sorry, but I must have forgotten. Please tell me again.

My name is Anna Stewart. I work at CNN and it is a pleasure to meet you.

Nice to meet you, Anastasia.

It wasn’t great. She forgot my name a few times. You know, she. I asked her what CNN stood for.

David Rind (Host)


Oh yea What? They come up with a.

Convoluted neural network come on.

David Rind (Host)


No, not quite.

The robots are interesting. A lot of people are interested in A.I. robots. I think as soon as you make something look like yourself, it grabs attention. Every tech summit I go to, there’s always a robot somewhere. People gravitate towards that. I was at Gitex recently in Dubai and there was this this robot and…

What a lovely smile you have it is infectious.

This is my favorite robot. I love a compliment robot.

She was actually being really I know fluent interesting funny she kind of mocks me she complimented me and I was like, wow, why are we interviewing this? Very well. And it suddenly turned out that there was a man in a room. It was just speaking.

David Rind (Host)


Oh boy.

It was all a lie. But people think that’s what I robots can do and they can’t. But the space is so interesting because this is going to be one of the biggest solutions to climate change, one of the biggest solutions to treating diseases that we’ve been trying to cure for decades now.

Nats (Tom Cruise deepfake)


Hey, listen up. Sports and Tik-Tok fans, if you like what you see on Twitter, what’s coming next?

David Rind (Host)


What about deepfakes? Like, that sounded a lot like Tom Cruise just now. And if you watch the video, it looks just like him. But it wasn’t. That was all created by A.I.. We’ve seen less frivolous examples of this, too, like a fake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that went around in the early days of the war in Ukraine. Very real implications of that kind of stuff catches on. So I guess my question is, why did you volunteer to have this done to yourself?

Nats (Tom Cruise deepfake)


Yeah. It’s not often you are asked to be deep faked, is it? But.

David Rind (Host)


It’s usually something you don’t want.

Let’s see what you can do. We did it two ways, actually. First of all, I asked a company in Korea to deep fake my voice.

If you send us a short recording over your own voice, we can do a lot of things with just 5 seconds on the audio clip.

This company has brought Freddie Mercury back from the dead so that he can sing in Korean and he can sing new songs.

My name is Anna Stewart. I live in London and I like cats.

When they sort of made up my voice, I was a little surprised.

My name is Daniel Stewart. I live in Dubai and I like dogs.

See I can tell the difference. But I imagine a lot of people might not.

It wasn’t really sounding like me. At least I didn’t think so.

We are about to capture your image and your likeness.

We then went on to a greenscreen and we went to a different company called Hour One that’s in Israel and we looked at how they could capture me from all sorts of different angles and then be able to make me say anything. And this is something social media users and business leaders are actually using already. It’s a way to not spend hours in a studio when you just need to deliver a simple message.

The only movement that you’re going to do, though, in this shot is with your head.

It involves making very small micro movements of your face.

But I’m not just a journalist. I’m also the mother of two cats.

It’s one of the most uncomfortable few hours I’ve spent where they just ask you to talk for minutes and minutes and minutes without really moving too much of your face.

Now I’ve been created. I can do an honest job for her.

It’s played back and it looks good.

I can be translated into hundreds of languages and placed in front of infinite backgrounds.

This sounds incredible. This sounds like I’ll never have to go back into the scene in studio ever again,.

But it looks like a very controlled version of Honest You. Anna Stewart The fake version is a very sort of much more graceful sort of character, I would say,.

With a rise in synthetic media. How do you even know this is me? This could be a virtual version of me. And it is…

She doesn’t move around. You know, I’m a lunatic that sort of waves my arms in the air or my face going everywhere, deep fake at us. It’s pretty calm.

David Rind (Host)


Huh? So you’re saying it could be a while before podcasters like me or TV journalists like yourself are put out of a job?

I think we’re safe for now, David. I think we’re okay for now.

David Rind (Host)


Okay. That’s positive. Anna, thanks for trying to decode it with us. Appreciate it.

David Rind (Host)


One Thing is a production of CNN audio. This episode was produced by Paola Ortiz and me. David Rind. Matt Dempsey is our production manager. Faiz Jamil is our senior producer. Greg Peppers is our supervising producer and Abbie Fentress-Swanson is the executive producer of CNN Audio. Special thanks. This week to Stephanie Blenders, Ali Dan and Alasdair Skene. Thanks for listening. And if you needed a New Year’s resolution, I’ve got a suggestion for you. Rate and review this show on Apple Podcasts really does help us out and it might make you feel good, too. We’ll be back next Sunday. Talk to you then.

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