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Grateful Dead podcast hosts Krebs Center Executive Director as guest curator

podcast cover with bloodshot eyes
May 14, 2024
Lake Forest College

Guess the Year, a popular podcast that challenges guests to identify the year a particular Grateful Dead show was performed based on audio clips and context clues, turned to Professor of English Davis Schneiderman as the guest curator of selections for its season finale.

The Guess the Year episode, aired on May 13, 2024, featured Schneiderman curating the setlist. Instead of choosing selections based solely on musical moments, Schneiderman’s picks dovetail with important connections to political or cultural history, including a paper he and Associate Professor of Theater Richard Pettengill are completing about the Grateful Dead’s 1969 appearance on the TV program Playboy After Dark.

At the 14’11” mark, for instance, the show plays an excerpt from the song “Black Peter,” which Schneiderman links to a moment in Cold War history before discussing how the music of the Grateful Dead connects to the Las Vegas Sphere and artificial intelligence: “We can’t leave it just to coders or big tech firms to tell us how this is going to influence our lives. The only way we can understand it is if we think about the history: How did we get here? It’s the ideas of the Humanist Renaissance…that lead us to make something like ChatGPT.”

Schneiderman’s current research focuses on the Dead & Company’s upcoming residency at the Las Vegas Sphere and the venue’s massive LED screens that create an immersive display covering the interior surface. This fusion of live music and technology raises fascinating questions about the nature of artistic expression and the role of technology in shaping audience experiences, particularly for a band like the Grateful Dead, which is known for its improvisational style and spontaneous musicianship.

Schneiderman added, “We made this technology based upon our values, so when the technology gets better and better…is it going to need humans in the same way? Are we going to value the same things that we value?”

Schneiderman serves as Executive Director of the Krebs Center for the Humanities and Principal Investigator of HUMAN, Lake Forest College’s $1.2 million Mellon Foundation grant. This multi-year initiative at Lake Forest College explores artificial intelligence from a humanities perspective, equipping students with the skills to ethically integrate AI into their professional lives while emphasizing questions of justice and equity.

Schneiderman, who co-teaches a course with Associate Professor of Theater Richard Pettengill on The Grateful Dead and American Culture (next offered during Spring 2025), explored many of the interconnections between music and history in this engaging episode.

“It was an honor to join excellent Guess the Year host Mike McClure and the guests to connect my passion for the Grateful Dead with my work on AI and the humanities,” Schneiderman said. “The intersection of music, culture, and emerging technologies is a fascinating area of study, and I’m excited to continue exploring these topics through initiatives like HUMAN at Lake Forest College.”