Episode 49: Using Artificial Intelligence and Comedy to Open Hearts and Minds

Hello listeners, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tech Forward! On today’s episode, I spoke with award-winning comedian Ana-Marija Stojic. Over the last several years, she’s participated in numerous comedy competitions, and been featured in the NBC Showcase at the Women in Comedy Festival Boston 2018. She was also a recipient of Netflix's 2018 Diversity of Voices fellowship at the Banff World Media Festival. On her latest project, “Artificial, the Podcast,” Ana-Marija will be joined by a unique co-host: a functioning AI chatbot. Today, we’ll be talking about her plans for the show, what it’s like to co-host with a chat bot, and some of the important topics they plan to tackle together.

A self-described nerd, Ana-Marija has always been fascinated by the idea of collaborating with artificial intelligence. In recounting the inspiration behind the show, she touches on the story of a  chess tournament that paired humans with robots. Rather than the “top” performers of each category, the winning duo consisted of a human and a robot who worked well together. “I’ve used this approach when working with anyone, human or AI. The success of a collaboration is based on the least amount of friction.” Together on the show, Ana-Marija and her co-host will tackle politics and the human paranoia towards artificial intelligence, all through a lens of comedic absurdity.

So what makes this format a good fit to uniquely and effectively address such important topics? According to Ana-Marija, the answer lies in the powerful combination of comedy and imagination. “Comedy is the best way to get people’s guards down and get them thinking about alternatives, really challenging their beliefs. ...Suddenly, anything is possible. Everything is based on the limits of our imagination. If you can expand someone’s imagination, you can change the world.” Currently, she sees her target audience as a mix of comedy lovers and AI enthusiasts, and hopes to someday evolve the podcast into a fully produced talk show.

While the process of crowdfunding to get the show started was a stressful one, Ana-Marija came away from the experience with valuable feedback from potential investors involved in the AI community. The proof of concept video, which she shot just days after our interview, was a key missing piece that has since played a role in moving the project forward. Ana-Marija has also been quick to adapt the project over time, and incorporate new information in the show’s evolution. She realized fairly early on that the campaign’s success could not be accurately measured by the amount of money raised, and shifted her focus to engagement with the idea and the content around it.

Ana-Marija, thank you so much for coming onto the show to share your fascinating project with our listeners. I can’t wait to see where this podcast takes you and your co-host. Thank you, also, to everyone out there listening, sharing, and reviewing the show. See you next week!

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