Below is the first installment in our Audio Accompaniment to the series, Leading by Listening. These short audio pieces feature interviews with experts from Machine Learning to Improvisational Theater and shed light on the many ways in which we can understand the act and the art of listening.

Almost all of us have a tiny supercomputer in our pockets – our phones. One of the major advances in the technology on our phones is their ability to understand us, their ability to listen to us. But are our phones actually listening to us when they transcribe our speech or answer a question we asked? How do we have to change our assumptions about the very act of listening when it’s not humans doing it, but computers? Computer listening is made possible by work in an area of machine learning called natural language processing. In the short Audio Accompaniment piece above, Ryan Adams, Harvard professor and host of the podcast Talking Machines, chats with our producer Katherine Gorman about natural language processing, and what it takes to make a computer listen to a human.