Finance & Economy

Government & Policy

A wide-ranging chat with Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox

August 16, 2023

A wide-ranging chat with Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox

Ezra Klein

Co-founder of Vox.com, Journalist, political analyst

Willy Walker sat down recently with Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox, to discuss his perspective on AI, zoning and homelessness, and more.

The Walker Webcast recently featured our highly anticipated interview with Ezra Klein from the Sun Valley Writers' Conference. Ezra is a journalist, political analyst, New York Times columnist, award-winning podcast host, and author of the book Why We're Polarized, among many other things. On this episode, Ezra and I sat down to discuss his unique perspective on AI, the tie between zoning and homelessness, polarizing politics, the intersection of government and technology, and so much more.

Will the progress of AI backfire on us?

With the recent developments made in artificial intelligence (AI), many believe that we are in for a movie-like ending. After all, large language models and other forms of AI are becoming exponentially more intelligent by the day. This raises the question, if we treat everyone in society so instrumentally, what happens when we create a better instrument than people? What happens if that instrument decides to instrumentalize us?

Additionally, Ezra believes the innovations that are being made in the artificial intelligence space are very utilitarian in nature. Many of the AI tools that have been created are just that–tools. People then take the tool and wrap it with a thin facade of human-like behaviors/features and interact with it. This is essentially training both ourselves and the AI to trick people into believing it has human-like qualities.

The difficulty surrounding driverless cars

In 2015, Elon Musk said that the world would have self-driving cars by 2017. Here we are in 2023, and Elon’s prediction did not come true. In fact, McKinsey estimates that roughly $165 billion has been spent on driverless car technology. While there has been much progress in the space, there still aren’t any fully driverless cars as of today.

This is mainly because when driving something as dangerous as a car, a driverless system can’t be effective just 85 percent of the time—even a 99 percent effectiveness won’t cut it. A driverless car needs to be 100 percent effective for it to be safe to implement in society, which the largest auto manufacturers have found to be very difficult to achieve.

Addressing California’s homelessness myths

Although some believe that people move to California to become homeless, as it is viewed as a nicer, more amicable place for those who are less fortunate, Ezra pointed out that this isn’t the case. Roughly 90 percent of the homeless population in California had their most recent address in the state of California. Approximately 75 percent of people experiencing homelessness in California have a most recent address in the county they’re currently in. This means that people who are on the brink of homelessness are not migrating to California. In reality, the homelessness problem in California is more closely related to housing unaffordability in the state.

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