Hosted by Molly Wood, “Marketplace Tech” demystifies the digital economy. The daily show uncovers how tech influences our lives in unexpected ways and provides context for listeners who care about the impact of tech, business and the digital world.
Here's the Latest Episode from Marketplace Tech:
This week, Cruise, the self-driving car subsidiary of GM, introduced Origin, a fully autonomous vehicle that has no driving controls whatsoever. It’s meant to be a rolling pod that carries passengers on demand, almost like a small bus or train car. But are companies allowed to operate cars without steering wheels on public roads? Both Cruise and Waymo have pushed the federal government to lift requirements on equipment like pedals, steering wheels and mirrors, and they are allowed in certain conditions. States have their own rules. Although carmakers and safety advocates have been hoping for some clear guidance on what will and won’t be allowed nationwide, Jack Stewart, who covers transportation for Marketplace, says that’s not coming anytime soon.
Right now, registrations for websites that use dot-org — like Marketplace — are overseen by a nonprofit organization called the Internet Society. But in November, the Internet Society suddenly announced that it would sell control of those registrations to a one-year-old private equity firm called Ethos Capital for $1.1 billion. That made people worry about the future of nonprofits online due to possible interference with speech or even big price hikes. A group of internet pioneers proposed an all-new nonprofit group to run dot-org. Overseeing all of this is ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which can approve or reject the sale. Andrew McLaughlin, who helped found ICANN, talks to host Molly Wood about it.
This week, Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai argued that we need to regulate artificial intelligence and also suggested a temporary ban on facial recognition technology. Microsoft President Brad Smith, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, also said we need to create ethical guidelines and rules for how AI should be used. In a new novel out this week by legendary sci-fi author William Gibson, the tech is good enough to decide for itself. The book is called “Agency,” and it’s a sequel to Gibson’s 2014 novel “The Peripheral.” In that book, a super technologically advanced future society can create new alternate histories called stubs for fun or influence the timeline leading to their own present. Gibson talks about “Agency” and the upcoming TV series based on “The Peripheral” with host Molly Wood.
Google recently announced some big privacy changes for its internet browser Chrome. It’s planning to make obsolete what are known as third-party cookies. Cookies are the trackers that advertisers plant so when you shop for shoes one time, you’ll then see ads for them … forever. It’ll also put a limit on the amount of data websites can collect. Other browsers have already made moves to cut tracking and preserve privacy, but what Google does might be significant in that it may change the way the whole web works.
This year’s census is going digital — the first one in history to be available to complete online, instead of on paper. That’s fitting in a world that’s much more connected, compared to 10 years ago, but our online lives mean there’s some risks, too. Disinformation is a big one — mainly fake news designed to influence people’s thinking, which led to intense criticism of social media platforms after the 2016 elections. The Census Bureau is warning that false information could affect the number of people who take part in the upcoming Census.
A lot of tech companies have pledged that their operations are — or will — become carbon neutral. But this week, Microsoft announced plans to become carbon negative in the next 10 years. That means it will invest $1 billion in technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere in addition to using more renewable energy or offsetting the emissions it creates. In fact, Microsoft announced that by 2050, it wants to remove the equivalent of all the carbon that the company has ever emitted in its 44-years. Ikea is the only other major company that’s made a similar promise, which, let’s be honest, sounds expensive.
When it comes to rolling out 5G, there are a lot of moving parts. At the heart of the 5G story sits Qualcomm, the company that makes wireless chips for your phone and develops and licenses other technology in the wireless industry. Qualcomm has been pushing 5G hard, but there are aspects of the 5G rollout it can’t control. The company is also the subject of a Federal Trade Commission investigation over whether it abused its monopoly position in 4G technology. Host Molly Wood spoke with Cristiano Amon, the president of Qualcomm, about all this at CES in Las Vegas last week.
This year at CES, the big electronics and tech show in Las Vegas held every January, the kickoff keynote presentation for the first time was by an airline CEO, Delta Air Lines’ Ed Bastian. He talked about how tech should help take the stress out of flying and, of course, make you want to pay more to fly Delta. The airline announced a few new features, like updates to its app to include other parts of the trip, like ride-share and hotel. Also, artificial intelligence to improve scheduling, investment in updating airports, including something called “parallel reality” and high-tech displays in airports that can show personalized flight information to lots of different people at the same time.
These days, we’ve all got a Las Vegas buffet of subscription streaming services to pick from. One new one called Quibi — short for quick bites — will launch in April and is only for your phone. Quibi was founded by former Disney executive and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Meg Whitman is CEO. They gave a big presentation about the service last week at CES in Las Vegas. They’ve raised more than $1 billion and signed up a lot of big-name talent to create all new shows and movies. But no video will be longer than 10 minutes at a time.
California’s home solar mandate, which says that newly constructed homes must have panels on the roofs, is now in effect. In a state known for its sunshine, that seems like a sensible idea, but it’s been a contentious path putting this law into place. Builders say that at $8,000 to $10,000 per house, solar energy will drive up prices, potentially making the housing affordability crisis even worse. Advocates say the expense will be offset by lower bills, and then there are the environmental benefits. But some are already looking for loopholes, including an option in the law to build so-called community solar projects, piping in energy from remote solar installations.
Your regular host, Molly Wood, has been in Las Vegas this week — at CES, to be more precise. So we’re going to check in with her and her big takeaways from the show this year. She called into our Marketplace studios from the CES show floor between interviews and panels. First, we started by talking about the big theme this year, 5G — the super-fast mobile broadband tech that’s supposed to revolutionize our online lives — and why we still don’t have it. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
In the not-too-distant future, you could have your own Mystery Science Theater 3000-style experience — watch films with your friends and make all the sarcastic comments you want. But do it remotely. That’s the latest promise of virtual reality. Paramount Pictures recently signed a deal with Bigscreen to allow you to go to the movies with your friends — from home — just by slipping on your clunky goggles. Imagine geeking out over “Star Trek Beyond” with a fellow trekkie on the other side of the world.
Intelligence and security experts say there is a real risk of cyberattacks on American businesses as retaliation after a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It’s not exactly clear how this new front in warfare could play out. It could, however, be a big, bold attack on symbolic targets, like government websites or the power grid, which Iran openly claims responsibility for. The attacks could even be much more subtle, damaging but not immediately apparent.
This season’s online holiday sales were worth some $138 billion to e-retailers, and nearly a third of that stuff is expected to be returned, according to new research from CBRE, a real estate research group. That’s actually typical for 30% of online shopping to be returned, whereas 8% of other stuff bought in shops is returned. All of those returns come with a cost, even if they’re free to us, the shoppers. There’s the emissions from the trucks and planes, the waste from packaging and discarded products, the cost of finding space for it all, or even just chucking it out.
It is the start of a new year, and here in the land of tech and business, that means CES –– the massive consumer electronics show that dominates the tech industry for the week that it hits Las Vegas in early January each year. I’ll be there this week covering the event, and so will a lot of other tech journalists, including WIRED editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson. Historically, CES has been a fizzy and fun celebration of gadgets, TVs, drones and phones, but in the last couple of years, the sentiment toward tech has turned a bit. I asked Thompson whether a new focus on privacy and the “techlash” would be felt at the show this year.
This week, we’re talking with Marketplace reporters about what tech topics they’re watching on their beats as we look ahead to 2020. One issue we can expect to see in the news a lot is facial recognition. In 2019, San Francisco banned police and public agencies from using it over civil rights fears, but it’s become widespread in China, where it’s used for daily surveillance and to track and detain the minority Muslim population there, the Uighurs.
This week, we’ve been interviewing Marketplace reporters about what we should expect in tech in 2020. Today, we’re taking a look at one major event happening in 2020: the U.S. presidential election. It is no secret that there was a boom in social media misinformation campaigns during the 2016 election with the goal of influencing how we vote and who we vote for. Tech platforms are in the spotlight on the subject of digital political ads, targeted ads and the security of our election.
This week, we’re talking to Marketplace reporters about what to expect from tech in the year ahead. Regulation is a big part of that conversation, and today we’re going to chat about cryptocurrencies, specifically Libra, the digital payments system and cryptocurrency proposed by Facebook earlier this year. It seemed like it might be dead on arrival considering all the backlash, but lawmakers haven’t forgotten about it. There are a few bills being considered by Congress that could have an impact on Libra’s future, including who might regulate it.
It’s prediction season. This week we’re asking our Marketplace beat reporters what to expect in tech in 2020. Today, we’re talking labor in the tech industry, specifically about the trend of workers protesting their own companies. In 2019, employees from Amazon, Microsoft, Google and other tech giants walked out, signed petitions or went public with complaints about military contracts, tech for oil and gas companies and internal problems with culture and discrimination. Google employees even joined the United Steelworkers Union to formalize their organizing.
A new decade is almost upon us, which means this week we’re going to be talking about what to expect from the tech world in 2020. Today, let’s kick the tires — pun intended — on the transportation tech that seems prepared to go big in 2020, electric vehicles. This tech has been around for a while, but at least here in the U.S., the EV market hasn’t had its boom and there hasn’t been much mainstream competition to Tesla.
This holiday week, we’re taking a look back at some of our shows from 2019 that deal with topics we’ll be thinking about in the year ahead. That includes the way tech companies are valued and how it can affect all of us. Tech valuations were soaring, then in the fourth quarter of this year things got messy. Earlier this year, I asked Alex Wilhelm, editor in chief at Crunchbase News, why these private valuations have risen so high.
As we look ahead to 2020 and think about tackling giant problems, climate change is high on the list. So, we wanted to re-air an interview with the leader of a company that thrives on tackling giant problems. X, Formerly Google X, is the division of Alphabet devoted to moonshots. Its climate-related graduates include Dandelion, which harnesses heat from geothermal energy, and Malta, which uses salt to store excess energy produced from solar and wind farms.
This holiday week, we’re taking a look back at some of our shows from 2019 that touch on topics we’ll definitely be thinking about in the year ahead, and data is at the top of the list. When it comes to trading your data for free services are you getting a fair deal? Digi.me is an app that lets you connect all your various online accounts. It scoops all the data they have on you and puts it in one encrypted location that you can control. And then a new company called Universal Basic Data Income, can, with your permission, pay you to share some of that data with companies or researchers.
When we first aired this story earlier this year, I said to stop me if you’ve heard this before: 91% of venture capital investment goes to men, and almost 80% of those men are white. It’s probably because 90% of venture capitalists are men — mostly white. But new data shows that VCs are leaving a lot of money on the table by only investing in people who look like them. Morgan Stanley put out new information this past fall saying venture capital as an industry could be missing out on as much as $4 trillion in value by not investing in more diverse founders.
Of all the battles Facebook is fighting right now, it probably didn’t expect Annie McAdams of Houston, Texas. She’s a personal injury lawyer and is arguing on behalf of her clients that Facebook is legally liable for what it is not doing to protect minors from being sex trafficked on its sites. She’s intent on forcing a conversation, if not a ruling, on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the federal law that shields internet companies from liability for a lot of what happens on their platforms. McAdams filed three lawsuits in Texas and one in Tennessee. Facebook is asking that the cases not move forward, citing immunity under Section 230.
Earlier this week, six U.S. tech companies were named in a lawsuit that accuses them of endangering the lives of child laborers in the mining of cobalt for their products. Several children have been maimed or killed in pursuit of this rare element, most of which comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lawsuit, the first of its kind, names Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla. “This is the first time that tech companies have been on the hook for this,” Roger Cheng of CNET tells host Molly Wood.
The author of a new book wants us to think before we post about our kids. She says that between social media, tech in education and the vast system of government, advertising and digital data collection that we live with every day, our kids are getting an online history that they didn’t choose and can’t escape.
When it comes to design — whether it’s for apps, websites, phones, TVs or computers — we throw around the term “user friendly” a lot. User-friendly design makes using a product easy and painless, which means we don’t notice it, we just enjoy using it. Sometimes, when a design is really good and easy to use, we don’t notice that we’re kind of addicted to an app, game or phone — or that we’re becoming increasingly dependent on those things. Cliff Kuang, a longtime user-experience designer and journalist, explains how the best design comes from empathy.
California’s big consumer privacy law goes into effect on Jan. 1. It’s the first law in the U.S. that demands that companies give consumers more control over their information and more power over what they can do with that information once they have it. On the consumer side, you can now ask companies to show you everything they have on you for free up to twice a year. You can ask companies to delete the data, and the law requires companies to give you an easy way to opt out of having your personal information sold. Jessica Lee, a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb and co-chair of the privacy, security and data innovations practice there, helps us understand the new law.
NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory are launching flights to gather more data about the lingering pollutants from fires by flying straight into the smoke plumes. We can’t actually see these super tiny pollutants, but they’re big enough to affect our breathing, especially for those who have asthma. Both NASA and JPL are learning more from studying the plumes during a fire, as well as the air after a fire, to help understand how these pollutants will affect us long term.