Is artificial intelligence going to murder you? (Portal)

Probably not. But they might steal your job. That’s what I’ve surmised after speaking with our guests for this episode. The game we’re talking about is classic first-person puzzler Portal, in which a crazed A.I called GLaDOS puts you through increasingly dangerous tests. To find out if the robo-apocalypse is even a remote possibility, I spoke to A.I. researcher and builder of artificial intelligences Michael Cook. His coded creatures are mostly harmless, unlike the A.I of popular media who always speak with a vaguely threatening air. But why do they talk like that? Enter stage left, special guest number two: it’s actor Sarah Elmaleh! Sarah has done the voice of a few A.I characters in games like Halo Infinite and Exapunks. She tells us exactly what it is that makes a voice sound authentically robotic. Because if bots can pretend to be people, why not the other way around?

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Would you quit the city to work on a farm? (Stardew Valley)

The printer is broken, your manager wants those reports by 5pm, and the guy in the cubicle next to you is humming Baby Shark again. It’s enough to make you want to walk out of this office, take a long bus ride out of the city, and go live on a farm. Well, damn, maybe you can. Stardew Valley is a farming simulator beloved by many precisely because it lets you live out this fantasy. But we know somebody who’s done it in real life. We brought farm worker and lapsed city boy Nader Kaddour on to Hey Lesson to ask: is farm work as calming and rejuvenating as it is in Pelican Town? The answer, as always, is not straightforward. Also joining us for this episode is writer Paul Dean, who has his own opinions about the residents of such a seemingly idyllic village.

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How do you survive in the arctic? (Subnautica: Below Zero)

Come in from the cold, make a cup of tea, and listen to a piping hot episode of Hey Lesson. This time, we’re exploring the icy world of survival game Subnautica: Below Zero. And we’re doing so with one of its developers! David Kalina is project lead on the game and has dropped in to chat about Subnautica’s alien planet and the process of designing its world. As if that’s not enough, we also talk to polar expedition leader and wildlife photographer Françoise Gervais, who tells us what it is really like to trudge through the snowy landscape of the frozen north (and south) in search of the perfect shot.

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Can you escape from Hades?

With guest co-host Chris Bratt!

Crawl out of that blood pool, you’re in Hades. Don’t worry, not real Hades, only the much-lauded action game interpretation of said underworld by Supergiant Games. It’s a roguelike full of notoriously beautiful Gods and super hot heroes. But were Greek deities really considered so sexy by the ancient Athenians? Who even was Zagreus, son of Hades and lead character of this game? And if we found ourselves trapped in this realm of ghosts, could we ever truly escape? We put all these questions (and more) to archeologist Gunnel Ekroth, a specialist in ancient Greek religious practices who has legitimately burned goat bones to better understand these distant people. That’s dedication.

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How does a language die? (Heaven’s Vault)

With guest co-host Pip Warr!

Hello, bonjour, hola, dia duit, eguerdi on… Language is important. You’re using it right now. In adventure game Heaven’s Vault you’re a cosmic archeologist trying to decipher the meaning of long-forgotten hieroglyphs scattered throughout a colourful nebula. But the languages of our own world are not immortal. We speak to linguist May Helena Plumb about one such family of endangered languages called Zapotec, spoken mostly in Oaxaca, Mexico. She tells us why it’s important to make sure these endangered tongues stay spoken, written, and respected.

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