January 12, 2023

Autio App Review: Audio Learning While Road Tripping

Recently I drove from California to Texas and back for the holidays and I downloaded and tested out an app for my iPhone that I’d heard of called Autio (it used to be called HearHere). The app features over 10,000 location-based audio stories across the United States. The short audio stories are narrated by many professional narrators. Actor Kevin Costner is a co-founder of Autio and also narrates some stories. I love taking road trips and I love learning about where I’m driving through, so I decided to purchase the very reasonable Autio annual membership at $35.99 and test it out. Note that the app is currently only available on iOS for iPhones and is not yet available on Android phones.

You can check out the Autio website here:

Autio.com Website

And you can download the Autio iPhone app here:

Autio: Location-Based Story Guide App

The app is very easy to use and intuitive, showing you all the audio stories on a map as markers that you can easily click on to listen to. The map shows your location, so you can pick out audio stories which are coming up on your journey. You can also scroll through all the names of the stories on the map to pick out the ones you’re wanting to listen to. The audio stories are short (usually under 5 minutes). The content of the audio is basically like a museum tour for the open road. It’s straightforward and factual with narrated recordings of well-written short-form content that usually pertains to the history of the area. One thing I thought that might’ve improved the audio stories was maybe having some recordings that were more like conversational podcasts. Like if they interviewed local historians about a particular place it might make for a more compelling listen. Also for major landmarks on the road, it might be nice to have some longer form audio content than just a 5-minute story. But that might not be scalable if you’re doing over 10,000 audio recordings! There were always plenty of audio story landmarks on the map to choose from which was nice.

One of the other challenges if you are out on the open road is having internet service to be able to stream the audio stories. A few times a story would get stuck buffering when I was out of service range. You can download stories if you’d like in advance if you have the forethought to do so. When you’re in a city the audio streaming is no problem, but when you’re in the middle of the New Mexico desert it can sometimes be challenging with the app.

Even if you’re not out on the open road, the Autio app can be fun to click around on. Go through the United States map and find places you’ve been or learn some new things about places you’ve never been. It’s a fun app that I’m glad I downloaded for road trips. When I wasn’t listening to audio books or podcasts or music, I’d switch over to the Autio app for a while to learn about my surroundings. I do hope the Autio app succeeds. 15 years ago I wrote a blog post called Guide to Audio Tours which covered dozens of walking tours, driving tours, museum tours, and more. But most of the resources and websites I linked to have disappeared. Hopefully, Autio will continue to be alive for years to come!

January 4, 2023

4 Talks by Historian Yuval Noah Harari Featuring His Big Ideas

Historian Yuval Noah Harari exploded onto the intellectual scene with his bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and followed that book up with two more bestsellers Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. In these four talks he has given over recent years he touches on many of the ideas featured in those books.

Yuval Noah Harari on Sapiens and the Myths We Need to Survive – In this talk from 2015, Professor Yuval Noah Harari addresses many of the ideas in his first bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He is interviewed at Intelligence Squared U.K.. Harari explains many of the “myths” that humanity has utilized throughout its history from religion and political ideologies to money and capitalism. He argues that it is the historian’s purpose to attempt to liberate people from the stories of the past in order for humanity to survive and reduce suffering in the future. In the second half of the talk Harari answers many questions from the audience on topics such as patriarchy, love, and the future. It’s an excellent discussion put on by Intelligence Squared.

Yuval Harari on New Religions of the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari gave this lucid and dense talk at Google back in 2015. He begins the talk with the idea that the world’s main religion currently is liberalism and points out areas where the ideology of individual freedom is dominant such as in politics, economics, and art. As liberalism has spread, he argues that traditional religion has played more of a reactive role in a world where ancient texts don’t always address contemporary issues. Harari goes on to argue that liberalism in the future will be replaced by technological data science and algorithms and points to some of the ways that this is already happening. At the end of the talk he answers questions from Google employees who challenge him on many points. Whether you mostly agree with him or not, it cannot be denied that Yuval Noah Harari is full of ideas that will get you thinking!

Yuval Harari on Homo Deus – In this talk from The 92nd Street Y, historian Yuval Noah Harari talks about the future of humanity which he covers in his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. He is interviewed by author and professor Dan Ariely, who wrote bestselling books like Predictably Irrational. They touch on many topics in this talk including Harari’s worries regarding the future of climate change and artificial intelligence. Ariely provides some humor to the talk as he inquires why Harari doesn’t find this big view of history and the future depressing. It’s an interesting one hour talk that doesn’t go into depth on any specific topic, but brings up a lot of ideas on many topics from these two unique thinkers.

Yuval Noah Harari on 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari returns to Google to discuss some of the ideas in his 2018 book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. In this interview, Harari addresses some of his top concerns for the 21st century including issues around artificial intelligence, biotechnology, climate change, and nuclear weapons. Harari separates out his ideas of God and religion and tries to clarify some of the confusion that often arises when touching on these topics. He points out that certain philosophical dilemmas are going to need to be addressed by developers, such as the ethical choices made by self-driving cars. Answering Google employees questions, Harari divulges his own reading and meditation habits. He also tries to point Google employees to the good technology can do, and he gives advice for us all on how we can better survive in the 21st century.

Stretch your mind with these great talks given by bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari!