Tech, Engineering, and Sci-Fi: A Conversation with Ben Coffin, Host of Source De[Code] Podcast

It has been said that "engineers are born, not made." This adage perfectly describes Source De[Code] host and 6G Solutions Marketing Manager Ben Coffin. Ben's interest in engineering began in early childhood and played a pivotal role in his career and the interests and hobbies he has pursued since.

Like all engineers, Ben is driven by curiosity and a desire to understand the mechanics that power every aspect of the world. This love of learning formed the seed that grew into Source De[Code]. The podcast allows Ben to apply his engineering experience, gift for storytelling, and natural curiosity to collaborate with podcast guests and explore how the bleeding edge finds root through research and collaboration between academia and industry.

Source De[Code] is a podcast that allows listeners to lean into their own sense of wonder and satisfy their curiosity around buzzworthy topics like artificial intelligence and digital twins. Ben's affable nature and desire to inspire a passion for technology in others shine through have resulted in a podcast that makes complex technology concepts approachable for tech enthusiasts of all experience and knowledge levels.

I spoke with Ben to learn more about his career and the influences that inspired the Source De[Code] podcast.

What was the 'aha' moment that started you down the path/influenced your journey to where you are right now?

My parents joke that I came out of the womb ready to be an engineer. There's actually a home video of me when I'm around five years old, and my folks ask me, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and I say, "a robotics engineer!" I think everything from Star Wars to BattleBots to Mythbusters put me on the path to electrical engineering. But that path was solidified when I was studying for an electromagnetics test in college, learning about electromagnetic fields, and realized how an electric guitar pickup worked. I originally got into engineering to build music gear, and the lightbulb just clicked at that moment!

What would you have pursued if you hadn't chosen your current profession? Why?

I think I would be running a recording studio and bartending part time. I've been playing music my whole life and love the gear behind the music. I like setting up systems, making cables, and figuring out how to optimize equipment; you have to do a ton of that in the recording studio. But I'd bartend part-time because I love mixing chemistry and art in mixology, making something interesting and unexpected, all while talking to someone about their day and providing some hospitality.

What technology from sci-fi would you love to see developed IRL? Why?

I mean, the answer has to be a replicator from Star Trek, right? That's like wishing for more wishes! But seriously, I would want the Transporter from Star Trek. I love to travel, and it'd be amazing to hop into a transporter and poof, now I'm in London or Tokyo!

What instance in your life do you wish you could have created a digital twin before embarking on a hobby?

The easiest example of what digital twins have been used for that I can think of is also the most common one - a circuit board! Despite being an engineer, I'm a bad analog designer/troubleshooter. I've tried building amps and guitar pedals and just gone straight from circuit drawing to PCB and never modeled anything in between. It'd be great to have a digital twin of every pedal so I could know what I did wrong in the assembly process.

Which superhero do you wish you could be? And how would you use those superpowers in your life and work?

I've always been a big Dr. Strange fan. I think magic is the ultimate cool ability, plus MCU Dr. Strange having the time stone would be incredibly cool. I'd probably end up using magic to help me do super mundane things like not overcook dinner. But opening up portals to travel around the world and fly around with a cloak of levitation would be pretty awesome.

What's the most exciting innovation you've seen lately outside your area of expertise?

This is adjacent to my area of expertise since we're seeing it happen in the wireless world too, but I think how Digital Signal Processing is becoming easier and easier to virtualize with how computer hardware is evolving and how powerful DSP software is getting is so amazing. One of my first guitar pedals was a DSP-based amp modeler, and it sounded TERRIBLE. But now I see what companies are coming out with, and the tools I use in my studio are so good and really at parity sound-wise with the real deal. It's unbelievable.

Listen to Source De[Code] Now

You can hear more from Ben and join him on his journey to deconstruct the jargon surrounding emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, digital twins, big data, and the metaverse by tuning into Source De[Code] on your favorite podcast player.

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