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What’s It Like to Cohost a Podcast With AI? One Creator Is Finding Out
The new comedy show reveals serious truths about working beyond human
For roughly the past year, I’ve been exploring podcasting with Faithful on the Clock, my show for Christian professionals. I really knew nothing about producing a show when I started — I just wanted to try to get a good message to people. But I knew that podcasts are wildly popular, and I started to understand just how quirky the industry can be: I read just last week how podcasters on Spotify are raking in $18,000 per month with white noise shows. (Makes sense, I guess, given that people are stressed, tired, distracted, and looking for anything and everything to help themselves relax.)
Then I got an email about a completely new show, Late Night with Robot. One cohost is a completely normal human being, Ana-Marija Stojic. The other? An artificial intelligence bot. Stojic spends the whole show talking to the machine, which manifests both real and imagined personalities (e.g., Donald Trump). The results are both unexpected and funny. I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world it meant for podcasting as a whole, so I emailed Stojic and asked.
A new show with old roots and big power
Unlike some great ideas creators have, the idea for Late Night wasn’t just a random noodle spiral that suddenly manifested in Stojic’s brain. She told me she’s always been fascinated by AI technology, even talking to Smarterchild (an early MSN AI precursor to Siri and Alexa) by the hour just because she was curious about how the AI worked.
So although Stojic’s show definitely has a comedic approach, she points out that it’s also a serious, intimate way to explore what working with an AI can look like, which has massive implications for just about every industry. Each episode has a “debrief” that gives listeners a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like for Stojic to work with a specific personality via the bot. People also can ask the show’s AI technician, Alan Majer, any questions they have about AI technology and bots. Education and entertainment always are married in each show.
One of the biggest fascinations for Stojic with the project is that AI has the potential to get people to see themselves and others differently. Because of the way the AI will always respond with something, like a theatre actor using the “yes, and” technique, it can help people have new eyes about the real personalities that are portrayed or encourage them to get past biases.
“We initially used glass mirrors to show us our reflection, so we could see how we present to the outside world and if we had anything in our teeth,” Stojic says. “AI personalities can act as a highly advanced mirror. It can show people themselves.”
Where we might be headed
Because of the reflective nature of AI bots, Stojic has a vision of one day using AI with a robotics component within live talk shows. In her vision, it’s possible to have the AI personalities interact with their real-life counterparts and see what hilarity, epiphany, or disaster ensues.
But what about just the podcast industry? Is the field suddenly going to become a gigantic swirl of tech-encrusted, pleasurable weirdness? Probably not. People still like listening to real people. But Stojic anticipates that we might see more bot integration in the future. Just like we got used to talking to gadgets for the weather or to get work reminders, we might gradually incorporate them into podcasting enough that it won’t seem so out of the ordinary.
“I could definitely see podcasts start using AI technology as a kind of pre-programmed live Siri. A custom-built sidekick that can pipe in with relevant information. This information could range from being scientifically informed (like for science-driven podcasts where accuracy is important) to have a certain perspective that could balance out the podcast (like a ‘straight man’ for a comedy podcast that would pipe in with the perfect one-liners).”
The response to Late Night fuels Stojic’s prediction. She says that people are always throwing out suggestions of who Stojic and the AI should interview next, including controversial figures. That, to Stojic, is evidence that people are excited about the project, and that the show is relevant.
To craft our future, we must explore and understand
For my part, as a musician, writer, and content creator, I’m all for giving Stojic airspace. Creative endeavours allow us to express not only ourselves as individuals but also who we are as a culture or society. To that end, we are inarguably a people that dance with technology in nearly everything. Shows like Late Night help us explore and understand all of the good and bad implications of that. It’s that exploration and understanding that help us make conscious decisions about where we want to go for our future and to shape our own world. I don’t underestimate the value of that, and I hope you won’t, either.
If you want to learn more about Stojic’s show, you can check it out on Beams, the mini-podcast platform featuring bite-sized productions. You also can leave me a comment below to let me know what you think of Late Night and its implications for podcasters.
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