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:
In Silicon Valley, the tiny town of East Palo Alto has not shared in the wealth of the tech boom. It’s sandwiched between Palo Alto, home of Stanford University, and Menlo Park, home of Sand Hill Road and venture capital millions. But it doesn’t really benefit from its wealthy neighbors, and that means the community needs to get more self-sufficient and resilient as it faces growing effects of climate change.
To find out what the tech industry is doing to develop solutions to climate change, Molly Wood asked: Is it fair to expect private companies to make adapting to climate change part of their jobs?
Host Molly Wood speaks with Astro Teller, who leads X and whose official title is captain of moonshots. Formerly Google X, it’s the division of Alphabet devoted to moonshots — big, crazy technology bets that hopefully turn into companies. 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. Teller talks about the areas of X’s work focused on climate.
We’re in the heart of the tech industry this week, the Silicon Valley, which is also the home of the huge venture capital funds that back a lot of the innovation here. And those are concentrated in a quiet office park on one little street called Sand Hill Road. So what are they doing to invest in climate tech?
We’re taking our climate tech series, “How We Survive,” to the epicenter of technology: Silicon Valley. It’s not just a metaphor for the tech industry, it’s a real place. Cities, businesses and people are surrounded by a rising sea and are at risk from increasingly extreme weather. This all comes to a head on Stevens Creek Trail, a popular commuter route for tech workers that’s also seeing climate change impacts. It’s a great setting to kick off an exploration of what Big Tech is doing to adapt and maybe help the rest of us, too.
This week, attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico announced they’re joining forces to investigate whether Google has engaged in anti-competitive behavior. Some of those AGs are also part of another investigation into similar questions about Facebook.
The Frankfurt Motor Show opened this week in Germany, and automakers are showcasing their hot, new electric vehicles. As always, prices for many of the electric cars run well above the means of a humble public radio employee. You’ve got your Porsche, your Mercedes-Benz, your BMW. But in Europe, there are also a lot of other offerings with prices closer to the range of what the average consumer could buy.
What3words is a company that has divvied Earth into 57 trillion squares, each with its own unique string of three identifying words. Anyone with the company’s app or website can translate locations from those words.
For smaller cities outside of the epicenters of tech, developing as a hub is a long process with a lot of things that must go right. Jed Kim speaks with Jim Biggs, who worked in Silicon Valley for years before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he’s an executive director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, a business accelerator. He laid out the hurdles his city and others face.
Marketplace’s Jed Kim spoke with Daniel Willingham, who’s a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and researches how we learn. He said balancing tech’s promises and its realities has been a learning experience of its own. (9/9/2019)
The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Phillipine container ship in June 2017, killing seven sailors. Then, just two months later, the USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian merchant vessel, killing 10 sailors. Megan Eckstein, deputy editor for USNI News, part of the U.S. Naval Institute, told me the National Transportation Safety Board found the USS McCain collision was caused by a helmsman who was confused by his touch-screen displays. The Navy has taken note, and, Eckstein says, is making changes. (09/06/19)
The 2013 Spike Jonze film “Her” imagined a not-too-distant future where digital voice assistants become super lifelike. And then it becomes a love story between a man and a machine, which seemed crazy, maybe a little gross. Since then, we’ve seen Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant evolve and spread to more devices. (9/5/2019)
Detroit is one of the least-connected big American cities. According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, less than half of homes there have broadband internet. That means hundreds of thousands of Detroiters stand on the losing side of a growing digital divide. Jed Kim talks to Joshua Edmonds, the city’s first director of digital inclusion. (9/4/2019)
This summer, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission delivered the results of a big investigation on the impacts of Big Tech — especially Google and Facebook. It looked at competition and privacy, and how social media has crippled local journalism, among other issues. The result? Twenty-three recommendations that the government can use to regulate — or not. (9/3/2019)
In the European Union, new models of electric vehicles must make some sort of noise to address some safety concerns. Some carmakers are already doing that, and they’re taking it as an opportunity to craft signature sounds. Marketplace’s Jed Kim spoke with BBC journalist Chris Vallance, who reported about some of the things designers need to think about when making new car sounds. This is a re-air episode, which originally was published on Jul. 15, 2019. (9/2/2019)
“Marketplace Tech’s” Jed Kim spoke with Nicole Nguyen, who is a technology reporter at BuzzFeed News. The “Amazon’s Choice” label helps boost items’ sales, which also helps Amazon, since it gets a cut. But Nguyen said there’s not much known about how the designation gets awarded. (8/30/2019)
“Marketplace Tech’s” Jed Kim spoke with Graham Warwick, executive editor of Aviation Week. They talked about the rapidly evolving electric plane sector and how electric flight could potentially reinvigorate regional air travel. (8/29/2019)
As a new term begins, a growing number of schools will be scouring students’ social media posts and emails for warning signs that they may pose a safety threat. (8/28/2019)
It feels like we’re constantly bombarded with news stories about how screens and technology are destroying our kids’ mental health. Turns out, though, when it comes to adolescents, those negative impacts of screen time may be overblown. (8/27/2019)
Marketplace’s Jed Kim spoke with Matthew Kahn, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, about the energy, technology and economics on display in “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.” He said that for him, the movie shows how free markets falter in a post-apocalyptic world. (8/26/2019)
For a while in 2018, it seemed like Apple was going to upend the health industry. The company announced an app that could monitor your heart rate and detect irregularities. It was bringing your medical records to your iPhone. It even launched its own health care clinics for employees and families, which people saw as a trial balloon for understanding the industry.
If you don’t like Facebook, you can just leave, but maybe you can leave — and build your own social network. One programmer wrote a guide on how to create your own DIY platform for that. Molly Wood talks to Darius Kazemi about the demand for such a service, and why he’s worked on it.
Increasingly, creators are turning to platforms with a membership model as a way to earn a living. Patreon is a website with such a model. It lets fans support projects of their choosing with recurring donations in exchange for everything from shoutouts to free stuff or exclusive content. Host Molly Wood speaks with Patreon co-founder and CEO Jack Conte, who says the platform works because it’s not about expanding at all costs.
There’s no one way forward for autonomous car technology. Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, is still testing fully autonomous cars as taxis in the Phoenix area. Tesla is putting semi-autonomous features into its own cars for consumers to buy. And some companies, like Boston-based Optimus Ride, are thinking the immediate future may be a little more contained.
It’s easy to create a fake account on social media. Facebook admitted that billions of accounts on its platforms could be fake. Last year alone, Twitter suspended more than 70 million bots and fake accounts, but they keep appearing. The more bots there are, the more they can manipulate the online conversation.
Google, as a company, has a long history of internal disagreement and activism. But in recent years that internal culture, where employees are encouraged to argue with executives, with each other and to protest decisions and policies they don’t like has become an external culture, too. Employees have visibly protested Google over politics, hiring, how the company deals with sexual harassment and business decisions; for example, whether the company should do business in China or make deals with the Pentagon.
As the effects of climate change grow, the market for technology to monitor and adapt to those impacts grows as well. In this installment of our series “How We Survive,” reporter Daniel Ackerman explores the use of robots in service of a problem that’s going to be more important as climate change increases drought and water scarcity. Pipes that carry drinking water in the United States are not doing so great. Many are over a century old, and on average, 1 in every 6 gallons of water leaks before it reaches anyone’s tap. A robotics startup has new technology for detecting leaks to help utilities fix them.
There’s been more attention lately on who’s part of the tech boom and who’s not. At Facebook, Google and Apple about three in four technical employees are men — the coders, engineers and developers. African Americans make up a tiny share of that workforce — just 1.5% at Facebook, 2.8% at Google and 6% at Apple, according to these companies.
We’re months away from the next CES, the huge tech trade show that draws almost 200,000 people to Las Vegas every January. In 2020, for the first time, sex tech startups will be officially included at the conference and booth babes will not.
A lot of science fiction shows present a darkly dystopian view of the future, where humans battle for limited resources and are starkly divided between the haves and have-nots. But some views of the future are far more utopian and techno optimistic. In “Star Trek,” members of the federation live in a post-money society: Everyone has the basics, nobody must work, and ordering what you need is as easy as telling a replicator “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”