A terrific podcast about Artificial Intelligence

I started listening to Sleepwalkers a couple of weeks ago. The hosts talk to software developers, ethicists, artists, doctors, military professionals, and other people who are creating, using, regulating, and thinking about AI and how it’s affecting every aspect of life on Earth. Instead of inviting guests into the studio, the hosts go into the field and talk to their guests where they live and work, which makes all the difference. — MF

Transformational talks

Most of my audible credits tend to be spent on audio from the Sounds True library. I’ve listened to all the Brené Brown training talks they offer (like condensed versions of her books) and working my way through the Clarissa Pinkola Estés collection of healing stories and myths. But right now what I’m really enjoying is the very trippy 14-hour-long Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives. It makes my commute mind-expanding. — CD

Podcast search engine

One way to find new podcasts is a website called Listen Notes — a search engine for almost all podcasts around the world. You can search for topics or a specific person and find related episodes. Or set alerts for keyword mentions. I’m not a daily podcast listener but every once in a while I’ll want to hear what people are saying about a certain news story or random topic on my mind, and in those cases Listen Notes is very useful. — CD

Tales from the hacker underground

Much of our digital technology is built simply to prevent the harm created by a very few bad actors, mostly kids making mischief. The Reply All podcast episode “The Snapchat Thief” is a marvelous, head-scratching, world-opening, deep dive into this invisible alien hacker underworld that rewards every second of your listening. Highly technical and emotionally satisfying. — KK

Big ideas in conversation

The economist Tyler Cowen has been a prolific blogger; he is now a prolific podcaster, and one of my favorite interviewers of big thinkers. A really great example of his craft is his interview of David Brooks, the political pundit and op-ed columnist at the New York Times. Their fun public conversation, recorded as a podcast, about the necessary moral dimension of life, and the role of religion in modernity, is super important, but often not talked about. But any Conversation with Tyler is engaging. — KK

Advice book on Audible

At the behest of my best friend, I finally downloaded the Audible version of Tiny Beautiful Things, advice on life and love from Cheryl Strayed’s column Dear Sugar. The book is a collection of the most heartbreaking and honest letters seeking help and the advice given. Strayed’s thought-out responses pull from her own life experiences dealing with her mother’s death, drug addiction, divorce, and now as a happily married wife and mother. They are beautiful written and incredibly moving. This book elicits empathy, laughter and at times, lots of tears. There were a few times I was literally sitting in traffic and sobbing listening to her stories. I highly recommend. — CD

Long conversations

A “long conversation” is a new format for a conference. Two speakers begin a conversation on stage. After 15 minutes one of the two speakers is replaced by a new speaker and the conversation continues, and every 15 minutes for the next 8 hours a speaker is swapped out. (Each speaker converses for 30 minutes.) The day is engaging, unpredictable, passionate, diverse, informative, and entertaining. It’s a format invented by Long Now Foundation that is worth stealing. For an example, here are highlights from a long conversation held at the Smithsonian. — KK

A fantastical factual podcast

I am thrilled by this new quirky podcast, that is both fictional and factual. In “Everything Is Alive,” the host interviews inanimate objects, like a pillow or bar of soap. By any logic, this should be flat-line boring, but unexpectedly, each episode is brilliant, funny, informative, and remarkable. Other than the fact the objects talk, everything they say is true. Just listen to the can of cola talking about his life in the first episode and you’ll be hooked. — KK

Increase your consumption of podcasts

I found a great way to increase my consumption of podcasts without adding more time — by playing the episodes at 1.5 times speed. Most podcast players will give you this option. My friends who are serious listeners play theirs at 2X. You quickly get used to the speedy talk (there is no change in voice pitch). Twice the content in the same time! Try it. — KK

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Long-form listening

One of the best books I ever listened to is Shantaram. This very long story — 43 hours! — is the fictionalized autobiography of an Australian outlaw who hides out in the slums of Bombay, is thrown in Indian prison for drug dealing and eventually follows his guru to fight for the muhadjin in Afghanistan. He is a holy thief, a wise sinner, a coyote trickster, and this meld of the sacred and profane is what gives the story its epic rousing power. The narrator in the audible version does hundreds of foreign accents pitch-perfectly and captures the enthusiasm of the Indian sub-continent. Even after 43 hours I wished the story-telling would never end. — KK

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Ready Player One audio

I liked the movie, I liked the book, but the best format for Ready Player One is to listen to this fun science fiction story as narrated by the actor Wil Wheaton. He tells it fast, with gusto, humor, emotion, and tons of nerdy details. I listened to it once and then re-listened as my wife audited it as well and realized it’s one of the best audible books ever. It’s 15 hours of joy. Available on Audible. — KK

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The Gateway by Gizmodo

I was on edge weekly waiting for the next episode of Gizmodo’s 6-part podcast The Gateway. Journalist Jennings Brown investigates the dangerous effects of Youtube guru Teal Swan on her loyal Facebook followers. Teal, who has no degree or professional experience, admits to using SEO and tags to target depressed and suicidal people and has created her own therapy practices to treat them. She is hypnotic and alluring and adamant she is not the leader of a cult, although her followers do call themselves the Teal Tribe. There’s much more to this story that I can’t give away, and it made me wish this podcast would never end. — CD 

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Long-term thinking

To encourage me to take a long-term view, I’m a regular at the Seminars for Long-term Thinking hosted by the Long Now Foundation (where I am a founding board member). The hour-long talks (plus 30 minute Q&A) happen once a month in San Francisco. The topics are surprisingly diverse, ranging from ancient history to speculative futures, from food to nuclear power, from Silicon Valley to the Silk Road — all with a slant to the next 10,000 years. Several hundred past talks are archived and available to the public as free podcasts. For those outside San Francisco, or disinclined to travel unnecessarily, a membership to the Long Now gives you access to a real-time streaming version of each talk; you can even ask questions live. — KK

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X-ray into music

You know about Song Exploder, yes? It’s this amazing podcast that takes one well-known song each week and explodes it into its separate components. The musicians who wrote and perform the song take it apart track by track, sometimes beat by beat, explaining what they were thinking as they created the pieces: what challenges and dead-ends they met along the way, how the song changed as they worked on it, and why they like the final version. It’s the x-ray into music I always wanted. — KK

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Vital podcast

Supreme Court decisions can be monumental in their consequences, but they often hinge on very specific, sometimes messy cases. More Perfect is a super podcast from the folks at Radio Lab that burrows deep into the specifics of Supreme Court cases, in order to illuminate their logic and meaning. All the episodes are fantastic, but a recent one on the Commerce Clause in the US Constitution — One Nation, Under Money — is especially great. I was shocked how little I knew about this clause, and consider this audio lesson to be essential listening for any American. No matter what your political tilt you’ll be perturbed and educated. Afterwards, listen to the rest of the shows. — KK

Listen to thisClaudia Dawson