Humans encounter non-human intelligences of various kinds and try to make sense of them.

  • Prologue: Ira has some thoughts about our country’s long history of alien invasion movies. (2 minutes)
  • Act One: In this past year we’ve witnessed a revolution in A.I. since the public rollout of ChatGPT.  Our Senior Editor David Kestenbaum thinks that even though there’s been a ton of coverage, there’s one thing people haven’t talked much about: have these machines gotten to the point that they’re starting to have something like human intelligence? Where they actually understand language and concepts, and can reason? He talks with scientists at Microsoft who’ve been trying to figure that out. (30 minutes)
  • Act Two: A short piece of fiction from the perspective of aliens who’ve been scouting Earth, from writer Terry Bisson. It’s called “They're Made Out of Meat.” It’s performed by actors Maeve Higgins and H Jon Benjamin. (5 minutes)
  • Act Three: A species of massive, mysterious, highly intelligent beings have recently been making contact with humanity. Or our boats, anyway. Many people seem convinced they are seeking revenge for past injustices. Producer Chris Benderev wondered if that was true. (7 minutes)
  • Act Four: Many of us, especially when we’re young, feel like we’re the alien, trying to understand and fit in with the humans on this planet. Producer Diane Wu spent some time recently with a teenage humanoid who feels that way. (15 minutes)

Transcripts are available at