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In Conversation: Laurie Segall on CNN’s “Mostly Human”

On Thursday, March 23, 6:30 – 8:00PM, Laurie Segall discusses her latest series, Mostly Human.  The series tackles the uncomfortable questions about our increasingly complicated relationship with technology. Featuring stories of those falling in love with robots, re-creating digital versions of the deceased, experimenting with VR therapy in psychiatric wards and infiltrating hacker communities, Segall examines the promise and power modern technology holds, while exposing the darker side. Here, she discusses her new series – and a few of her favorite NYC finds.

Your focus has primarily been on innovation and entrepreneurship. What inspired you to shift towards looking at the impact of technology on a broader, more human scale?
I got my start interviewing founders like the folks from Twitter, Instagram, and Uber. It’s been incredible to see technology shape culture. Now, what’s most interesting to me is the cultural impact of tech. How does it impact love, war, life, death? What are the larger philosophical questions we need to ask? There are a lot of ethical questions that have come along with innovation. Throughout my new show, you’ll see me ask a lot of those ethical questions. How attached to our devices are we? How much control do they have over us? What’s the human impact of a hack?

 Mostly Human covers everything from falling in love with robots, to infiltrating hacker communities. Is there a specific “relationship” with technology that you find most interesting – or alarming?
I interviewed a woman who brought her dead friend back to life in a way using artificial intelligence. Using all his texts, social media, and “life data,” she was able to use AI to create a chatbot based off of her friend, Roman. It texted like him, had the same fears as him, same taste in music, but it wasn’t him. That was a mind bender. It got me thinking about all the data we spend our lives creating and what could be done with that. We created a “Laurie Bot” using text messages with my good friends for the last four years, and I had this digital version of me with no filter texting crazy things to the entrepreneur who created it. It was scary and fascinating. That was an interesting one. And yes, as part of this show, I’ve spoken to a woman who says she prefers mechanical flaws to human flaws and therefore loves a robot, and I’ve hung out in hacker communities to understand how someone turned from good to evil and used his hacking skills for ISIS. Never a dull moment.

 In light of recent television shows like Westworld and Black Mirror, do you think your series is an example of life imitating art?
I think the creators of Westworld and Black Mirror were asking these more philosophical questions through fiction but they were based off of some real fear and larger issues at play: artificial intelligence, robots, our relationship with tech. Technology is only getting more human, and our relationship with it is changing us. These shows capture some of the larger issues that if you actually dig around and talk to folks in Silicon Valley or look at these fringe stories, they may be closer to reality than you think.

What’s one fact we can’t learn about you by googling?
I’m obsessed with the movie, E.T. It’s strange but give me anything E.T. related and I am over the moon.

Favorite place in NYC to shop?
Otte. It’s a great boutique in the West Village. I have to literally cross the street to avoid going in if I don’t want to do damage.

Favorite place in NYC to eat?
I’m a big fan of Meme. It’s a little mediterranean place that always makes you feel welcome.

Favorite instagram feed?
@jodifried – she just started her own line of clothing. She uses the most amazing fabric. Her feed is full of beautiful dresses and shirts with a mix of of her gigantic, amazing dog named Wallice.

A post shared by Jodi Fried (@jodifried) on

What album or song would you consider your personal soundtrack?
Billy Joel’s “Vienna Waits For You” has always been a bit of an anthem for me. And if it were the end of my life and the credits were rolling, I’d love to hear Angels and Airwaves, “The Adventure.” Lately I’m listening to the soundtrack from Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway and singing “Waving Through a Window.” It’s just so, so good.

Join us for more great conversation with Laurie! RSVP Through our event page!