Hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood, “Make Me Smart with Kai & Molly” is a weekly podcast about the economy, technology and culture. In a time when the world is moving faster than ever, this podcast is where we unpack complex topics, together. Because none of us is as smart as all of us.
Here's the Latest Episode from Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly:
Tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook are seemingly unafraid to take on huge challenges. So why are they relatively quiet about climate change? Molly has spent several weeks reporting around Silicon Valley about tech companies and VCs’ relationship to the climate. We’ll hear some of her interview with Danny Kennedy, runs a nonprofit startup incubator focused on clean energy. Plus: Your thoughts on our women at work episode and a bit about Marketplace’s fall fundraiser.
Between the ’70s and ’90s, women were entering the workforce in droves. Then female workforce participation peaked in 2000. What happened? And why are women’s wages still stagnant? We’re picking up our series on the economics of inequality, trying to figure that out with some help from Emily Bazelon, an author, lecturer at Yale Law School and a staffer for The New York Times Magazine. Plus: Back to the Dark Place on deepfakes, and departing producer Shara Morris answers the Make Me Smart question.
Deepfake videos can make for a lot of fun … someone’s face on someone else’s body saying something completely out of context — like Bill Hader doing an impression of Tom Cruise with Cruise’s face superimposed. But the implications of this technology are serious, from disinformation to political upheaval. Here to walk us through it is Berkeley School of Information professor Hany Farid. Plus, professional dogsledder Blair Braverman answers the Make Me Smart question.
Talk of a coming recession has only gotten more heated this week, following a meeting of central bankers at Jackson Hole and a bunch of trade back and forth at the G7. Markets rebounded Monday, but the yield curve remains inverted and the global economy is still slowing down. So what now? We called Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent at “The New York Times,” to help us figure out what we should be watching for, and what happens next
Used to be you signed up for cable and voila, you’re watching your favorite shows (as well as a bunch of stuff you don’t care about, for maybe too high a price). Then streaming came along. First Netflix. Then Amazon. Hulu. And now a whole new batch of subscription services are about to launch: Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV Plus. It’s getting more complicated and competitive, with content jumping off some platforms and clustering onto others. What services will survive this battle? And why is this happening now? CNBC media and tech reporter Alex Sherman helps us out. Plus, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman answers the Make Me Smart question.
Regulators, tech journalists and the most informed consumers have been wringing their hands about “privacy” online for years. But just as more users and regulators start taking notice, heavy hitters like Apple and Facebook are announcing their renewed commitment to “your privacy” … with very different definitions. It’s hard to take control of privacy when you’re not even sure what that means anymore. To help draw some distinctions we’re joined by Laura Moy, associate professor and executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology.
We know economic inequality in America is real and keeps growing. We know people of color, especially black people, are hit the hardest. That’s not news. What is new is the wave of politicians, primarily Democrats, who are speaking more candidly about race and inequality than ever before. There’s also new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland into the massive wealth gap between black and white Americans, which has barely changed since the 1960s, thanks, mostly, to unequal pay. Here to help us sort through the numbers is Valerie Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute.
Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” the meme turned song of the summer, has been the number-one song in country for a record-breaking 17 weeks. It originally took off on TikTok, a video-sharing app you should really be paying attention to. It’s been downloaded a billion times, and Facebook execs flagged it as competition during recent Congressional testimony. It’s also owned by a Chinese company, Bytedance, that was just hit by FTC fines for collecting children’s data. This week, The Wall Street Journal’s Georgia Wells catches us up on everything we need to know about the favorite app of every kid these days.
Kai and Molly are reunited at last, and they’re trying something new. We asked the staff here at Marketplace to send in their burning questions they want to get smart about, including the debt ceiling, that Equifax settlement and CBD. All that, plus your thoughts on our recent episode on ~*~*outer space.~*~*~
Fifty years ago today, the Saturn V rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the first men to walk on the moon. Today, we’ll mark that milestone by looking ahead to the exploration, colonization and militarization of space. By some estimates, the current space economy is worth $400 billion, and it could reach $1 trillion by 2040. Here to break it all down with Molly Wood is Marketplace’s de facto space reporter Kimberly Adams and Politico’s Jacqueline Feldscher, who co-writes their space newsletter. Plus, we’ll hear from a “space architect,” which is apparently A Thing.
President Donald Trump gave a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last week to mark the Fourth of July. Critics and Democrats went after Trump for politicizing the occasion, though many presidents of both parties have done the same in the past. Do such knee-jerk reactions mean we have lost understanding of the importance of history? It’s personal for Kai Ryssdal, an undergrad history major who often finds the past a useful way to make sense of today. Here to talk with us about what history is and what it’s good for (and what it isn’t) is Brian Rosenwald, editor of the Made by History blog from the Washington Post.
Reema Khrais, of the podcast “This Is Uncomfortable,” co-hosts this week, in for Molly Wood. Check out her show for stories about life and how money messes with it here.
Kai Ryssdal lived and worked in China during the ’90s, and has made several trips there over the past 20 years. But most of the time he keeps tabs on the world’s second-largest economy the way most of us do: through the news. There are the headlines about the trade war, concerns about government overreach, the candidates stumping about China as an economic enemy, this week’s protests in Hong Kong. That’s a lot of noise that often brings us no closer to understanding what life’s actually like in China. To help us with that is Marketplace China correspondent Jennifer Pak, who works out of Shanghai and has reported on the country since 2006.
We’re kicking off a new series focusing on a topic that comes up a lot around here: Is the economy working for everybody? Today we’re talking about CEO pay. Some chief executives make up to 1,000 times more than their average employees. It didn’t used to be this way. Here to talk with us about CEO and worker compensation is Heather Boushey, executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
Finally: Time is running out! Support “Make Me Smart” today and get exclusive Marketplace 30th anniversary merchandise.
Marketplace has a brand-new podcast: “This Is Uncomfortable.” Every Thursday, host Reema Khrais tells stories about life and how money messes with it. This week’s episode is all about the baggage that comes with crying at work, and it features a certain Marketplace host. Listen to that episode here, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
San Francisco banned government agencies from using facial recognition last month, citing civil liberty concerns. It’s a baby step in regulating technology that could make some aspects of life safer and more convenient, but comes with a host of unintended consequences for surveillance, profiling, discrimination and so on. But the recognition tech is already out there, in your face and accumulating data being used by the federal government and tech giants like Amazon. Today, BuzzFeed senior tech reporter Ryan Mac tells us what we should be keeping our eyes on. Plus, New York Times food writer Alison Roman shares a lesson learned about writing a cookbook.
Don’t forget to support “Make Me Smart” today and get our exclusive Marketplace swag at a discount this week only!
You might not know what Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act says, but it affects your life every day. This short passage of the law says online platforms are not legally liable for what people say or do in the spaces they run. Trillions of dollars in company valuation and the sharing of content as we know it rests on the rule. But in the era of deep fakes, election meddling and radicalization by algorithm, is it time to revisit Section 230? If you got rid of it, what kind of rules would replace it? And what platforms would even be left? We asked Jeff Kosseff, a professor of cybersecurity law at the U.S. Naval Academy and the author of “The 26 Words that Created the Internet.”
India is the largest democracy in the world, a major American ally and something of a counterpoint to a rising China. The country’s 900 million eligible voters just reelected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s facing an economic slowdown and the loss of special trade status with the United States. Anu Anand, host of the Marketplace Morning Report from the BBC World Service, is here to talk us through it. She’s spent years reporting in and out of India and just got back from covering the election. Plus: Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood learn all about thermoception.
Huawei hasn’t been a household name in the U.S. But that’s changing as the Trump administration proceeds with its ban on American companies doing business with the Chinese tech giant. Industry allegations of Huawei spying and theft date back more than a decade. If relations remain chilly, China could start making more of its own software and components, erecting an “iron curtain” in tech that could be a big part of a total rewiring of the global economy that harkens back to…the Cold War. Steven Overly covers tech policy for Politico, and joins us.
Remember when we had Tim Wu on the show to talk about Big Tech parallels to the monopoly-controlled Gilded Age, and what that future might bring? Well, six months later the future has arrived. Kind of. The Supreme Court ruled this month that a huge antitrust lawsuit against Apple and its app store could move forward, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote a massive New York Times op-ed calling for the company to be broken up. And the conversation among legal thinkers is changing. Here to guide us through it is Vanderbilt law professor Rebecca Haw Allensworth. Plus, get smart about the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio in different Reese’s products.
It’s time to shift our approach to climate change. The truth is, it may very well be too late to avoid the worst consequences of our warming planet — lost ecosystems, millions of plants and animals going extinct, scarce water and more extreme weather. It may be time to focus more on technology that will help us adapt. That’s the focus of “How We Survive,” the new series from Molly’s other show, “Marketplace Tech.” Here to talk with us about climate adaptation and how it’ll impact the economy and society is Solomon Hsiang, University of California, Berkeley, public policy professor and Stanford visiting scholar.
The Federal Reserve’s got quite the puzzle on its hands. We’re dealing with one of the longest job growth streaks in modern history. And yet, the economy isn’t working as expected. Interest rates and inflation are simply not behaving according to standard economic models. And it’s the Fed’s job to figure out what’s going on in the name of keeping things stable and growing. New York Times’ senior economics correspondent Neil Irwin returns to break things down for us. Plus, we hear from the ‘Iolani High School economics team (good luck at the finals!) on their favorite Fed chairs. And artist and author Jenny Odell answers the Make Me Smart question.
Some links from this week’s episode: Molly Wood’s news fix on UFOs, Kai Ryssdal’s latest on the trade war, how Crispr could help fight climate change and Molly’s secret weapon for today’s economics-focused episode.
You might remember the story from last fall: A scientist in China claimed to use the gene editing tool CRISPR to make twin babies resistant to HIV. That specific type of eye-popping genetic experimenting is illegal in the United States, but make no mistake, we are in the middle of a gene-editing gold rush. Big Pharma, agriculture and manufacturing are all clamoring to get in the game. Today we hear from a listener who’s already using the tool in his work, then turn to Wired staff writer Megan Molteni to give us the long view on how CRISPR could affect all of us. Plus, a little “Avengers” talk.
“Medicare for all” was a fringe idea just a couple years ago, but it’s moved front and center in the political conversation ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Democratic candidates are getting asked about Medicare for all or announcing plans to implement it, and health care stocks are sliding at the suggestion of it. Now, we’re still a long way off from this kind of seismic change to the way Americans get their health care, but in the meantime, Vox senior editor Sarah Kliff is here to talk us through what Medicare for all is, exactly, and how it might change the economy.
We’re headed for the biggest year of IPOs since the ’90s dot-com boom. Lyft just went public, valued at $26 billion, with Postmates and Uber set to follow. Vested employees will become overnight millionaires, but what about the millions of independent contractors who deliver the food and drive the passengers? Lyft relies on its 1.4 million freelance drivers who earn, on average, $17.50 per hour with no benefits or organizing power. What’s that mean for the U.S. workforce? We get smart on the gig economy with Kristin Sharp, executive director of the Shift Commission at New America, a nonpartisan think tank. She leads a project on the future of work.
Here’s a link to Molly Wood’s news fix on living with a foldable phone. By the way, our fundraising drive for Make Me Smart ends this Thursday! Because we’re all in this together, right now you can get a Make Me Smart sticker with a donation in any amount. Don’t wait, donate today!
It’s our the fifth Explainathon, the semi-biannual challenge when Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood try to answer as many of your questions as possible. This one has everything: Privacy regulation! Social Security! 5G! The college admissions scandal! The dark web! We tackle it all.
Plus, we have some very exciting news for fans of public media and merch: When you donate $5 a month or $60 to Marketplace, you can get an exclusive Make Me Smart notebook! Hurry, this offer’s only good until April 10.
Taxes are due in less than two weeks, and some of us have extra stress around that … because things are different this year. It’s the first time most people are feeling the 2017 tax overhaul, the biggest change in the tax code for three decades. It raised the standard deduction and gave most folks a small tax cut. Refunds are generally lower, which is technically good news, but might feel like bad news for people who rely on that spring windfall. Taxes are the beat for Marketplace reporter Marielle Segarra, and she gets us smart this week. (She still files her returns by snail mail!)
Opioid overdoses are killing about 50,000 Americans a year, more than car accidents and guns. Marketplace’s documentary podcast, The Uncertain Hour, is digging into drug epidemics in its latest season: why people buy and sell drugs, how law enforcement tries to stop them and how an epidemic eventually ends. Reporter and producer Caitlin Esch spoke with Kai and Molly about going back to Wise County, Virginia, a sort of ground zero of the current opioid epidemic, and about how the stories told by some of her sources speak to wider issues in the crisis. Just a note: there is one swear word in this episode, around 8 minutes in.
The United Kingdom voted for Brexit almost three years ago, but there’s still no deal in place to politically and economically untangle itself from Europe. The official deadline is next week. Maybe you’ve heard a bit about how messy this process has been, but you’d be forgiven for finding it hard to follow and harder to care. Brexit truly does have huge implications on both sides of the pond, so this week Ros Atkins, host of BBC’s “Outside Source,” is here to help us sort it all out.
Here’s a link to Molly’s “Marketplace Tech” podcast about online radicalization and Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter. Today’s show is sponsored by Panopto, Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage and “The Good Fight” on CBS All Access.
Do you use social media? Or does social media use you? That’s a question we all had to confront last year when it came out that Cambridge Analytica had harvested personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts, using the data to target political ads in the 2016 election. What’s changed a year after the biggest leak in Facebook’s history? Here to help us sort through the data mining we live with and what comes next is Shoshana Zuboff. She’s a professor emerita at Harvard Business School and the author of the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.”
We’re taking a break from politics and the culture wars to get into some weird science: quantum computing. It’s not super easy to explain, but going quantum allows computers to operate by a totally different set of rules that could change some major things, like national security and medical breakthroughs. President Donald Trump recently signed the National Quantum Initiative Act, calling for a $1.2 billion investment in quantum computing. What’s that mean for Big Tech, the economy or the regular consumer? UC Berkeley’s Steven Weber breaks it down.
Links from today’s show: Both studies about who’s really paying tariffs and The New York Times Magazine story about mondegreens.