SPOS #932 – Nicholas Mattei On AI And The Future Of Smarter Machines

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Welcome to episode #932 of Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast.

Here it is: Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast – Episode #932. Nicholas Mattei is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Tulane University. Nick has dedicated his career to exploring the theory and practice of artificial intelligence, with a focus on decision-making systems for both autonomous agents and humans. He’s been into AI since he was young, influenced by his mother (a program coordinator at a science center, and his father, a professor). His early fascination with computers and programming laid the foundation for a career that has spanned prestigious institutions and cutting-edge projects. Before joining Tulane University, Nick worked as a Research Staff Member at the IBM TJ Watson Research Laboratory, where he tackled complex problems in question answering, natural language inference, decision making, and the ethical implications of AI on society. Prior to his time at IBM, he contributed to the AI & Algorithmic Decision Theory Group at Data61 in Australia. His work there and his involvement in organizing workshops on computational social choice highlight his commitment to advancing AI research. He also spent time at NASA in engineering where he was responsible for the design and implementation of control systems software for multiple small satellites. All cool stuff. At Tulane, Nick is not only advancing AI research but also emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. He works closely with the law school and sociology departments to study the societal impacts of AI. His leadership at the Tulane Center of Excellence for Community-Engaged AI demonstrates his dedication to ensuring that technological advancements benefit the wider community. Nick is passionate about education and mentorship, continually striving to inspire the next generation of AI researchers. His ability to bridge the gap between theoretical AI and practical applications makes him a valuable asset to both the academic and broader communities… and business thinkers like you. If you’re trying to understand the distinctions between traditional coding and AI, the nuances of machine learning, and the evolving landscape of AI technologies, this one is for you. Nick reflects on the challenges and opportunities presented by Generative AI, as well as his thoughts on the ethical deployment of AI systems, offering a nuanced perspective on the future of technology. His pragmatic approach to AI, coupled with his optimism about its potential to create value, provides a balanced view that is both insightful and thought-provoking at a time when we need it most. Enjoy the conversation…


  • AI involves making computers appear intelligent and capable of simulating human intelligence.
  • Generative AI, such as ChatGPT, uses large language models to generate text based on patterns in data.
  • The transformer architecture has revolutionized AI by enabling more efficient training and generation of text.
  • Generative AI has the potential to create intimate and personalized experiences, but it lacks true understanding and creativity.
  • The impact of AI on work and employment is significant, with repetitive tasks being the most vulnerable to automation. 
  • The creative class may face challenges as AI becomes more capable of performing creative tasks.
  • Training and education are crucial to adapt to the changing nature of work.
  • Responsible deployment of AI is essential to avoid negative consequences.
  • The concept of AGI and its potential risks are subjects of debate.
  • Alignment, or ensuring AI works in accordance with human values, is a critical consideration in AI development.


  • 00:00 – Introduction and Background
  • 06:31 – Defining AI and Coding
  • 10:38 – Delineation Between AI and Generative AI
  • 14:40 – AI’s Ability to Reason and Explain
  • 19:30 – The Power and Limitations of Generative AI
  • 23:47 – The Significance of the Transformer Architecture
  • 32:42 – The Intimacy of Chatbots and the Future of AI
  • 39:26 – OpenAI’s Approach to Generative AI
  • 41:22 – The Impact of AI on Work and Employment
  • 42:17 – The Value of AI and the Potential for Extremism
  • 44:04 – The Impact of AI on the Creative Class
  • 45:02 – The Historical Context of AI Displacing Jobs
  • 46:14 – The Evolution of Work and the Need for Training
  • 47:23 – The Creation of Value and the Changing Nature of Work
  • 48:44 – The Challenges of Responsible Deployment of AI
  • 49:50 – The Debate Around AGI and its Potential Risks
  • 1:01:04 – The Importance of Alignment in AI
  • 1:04:08 – The Power of Model-Free AI and Changing Perspectives

Download the Podcast here: Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast – Episode #932.

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