Marketplace Tech

By Marketplace

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 Aug 16, 2018

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 Jul 27, 2018


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.

Episode Date
Tesla’s new parked-car trick: Press a button on your phone, the car comes to you. Or close. Maybe.

Tesla’s latest over-the-air software update for its cars is perfect fodder for online viral videos. It added a feature the company calls “smart summon.” Owners use an app on their phone to summon their cars from about 200 feet away, and have it drive to them all by itself with nobody inside — just hold down a button. Ars Technica’s Timothy Lee, who watched 100 videos Tesla owners have uploaded using the smart summon feature, said the results seem to vary.

Oct 17, 2019
The U.S. is still exporting sensitive tech to China despite a White House clampdown

U.S. companies export tens of billions of dollars in sensitive technology every year — AI computer chips, drones or encryption software. They have to apply for licences to do it, and those approvals have dropped in recent years, while rejections have risen. Matt Drange, an investigative reporter at The Information, sifted through the data to see what it can tell us about tech trade.

Oct 16, 2019
Some ways to keep the power on in California’s fire season

PG&E cut power to more than 700,000 people and businesses last week in Northern California cities as a way to prevent fires from sparking in dry, windy weather. But is a chaotic blackout the best solution? Marketplace’s Ben Bradford tells host Amy Scott that there are alternatives that could prevent this kind of disruption in the future.

Oct 15, 2019
Can an app make the call on baseball umpires?

With the World Series just around the corner, we’re hearing a lot about players’ stats. But another issue is when an umpire gets a call wrong. Major League Baseball is trying to make those instances less frequent. Over the summer, robot umpires helped officiate a minor league game. The goal is not only to improve accuracy of the calls, but to speed up the game and get more butts in the seats. But Boston University finance professor Mark Williams thinks there’s a way to use an app to make human umpires better at their jobs before we turn the reins over to the bots. We talk with him about the idea behind it.

Oct 14, 2019
Do fake images need to look convincing to be convincing?

Christye Sisson, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, is working with the Department of Defense to help build a sophisticated tool that can identify fake images. She and her students act like the bad guys — doing painstaking work to develop the most convincing fake images they can. They’ve learned a lot about what it takes to fool people, including that maybe they don’t need to work so hard, at least on social media.

Oct 11, 2019
Amazon wants the public to know its warehouses are fun enough for the Girl Scouts

Amazon warehouses are key to the company’s operations. Items arrive, get sorted and are packaged and shipped off. But they don’t have a reputation for being great places to work. For example, last year, there were those reports about employees urinating in bottles at a U.K. warehouse to avoid taking bathroom breaks.  Now Amazon is offering more public tours of its warehouses. The company says it wants to be transparent about how it operates and to inspire kids. We tagged along with a bunch of Girl Scouts on a tour.

Oct 10, 2019
Does encryption help with privacy, or does it violate public safety?

Law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, including U.S. Attorney General William Barr, wrote an open letter to Facebook last week asking it to hold off on plans to expand end-to-end encryption in Facebook Messenger. That kicked off a heated debate about privacy and public safety.

Oct 09, 2019
The best way to counter hate speech online might be to have a bot call it out

Researchers at Intel and University of California, Santa Barbara, are proposing a new idea to use AI to identify hate speech and then create an automated response to those messages, like pointing out that the words used could be offensive or warning people that they are violating terms of service.

Oct 08, 2019
YouTube isn’t fun for parents trying to shield their kids from scary stuff

There is a lot of appropriate content on YouTube for kids, and there’s a whole lot that is not appropriate for anyone. But kids are wily, and they will find ways to watch. Jed Kim spoke with Common Sense Media Editor-in-Chief Jill Murphy, who says a whole lot of families are struggling with this.

Oct 07, 2019
When tech unicorns stumble, prices go up for everyone

This might be the week that the tech valuation bubble finally popped. WeWork, valued at $47 billion, pulled its IPO, partly over corporate governance concerns, but also because it just isn’t making money. So why did people think these venture-backed companies were worth so much? We dig into this with Alex Wilhelm, editor in chief at Crunchbase News. (10/4/2019)

Oct 04, 2019
Did Amazon just kick electric vehicle production into a higher gear?

Electric vehicle maker Rivian hasn’t produced a commercial vehicle yet. Now it’s tasked with making 100,000 delivery trucks for Amazon.  What could this mean for the electric vehicle market overall?

Oct 03, 2019
Gun owners want smart guns on the market but don’t want to buy them

For decades, gun manufacturers have tried to figure out how to create a smart gun — one that could only be fired by the gun’s owner and could be activated by a fingerprint or a radio signal sent from the weapon to a wristband. Why haven’t they been successful in selling one? Wood spoke with Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and asked her what the barriers are.

Oct 02, 2019
Buying property is emotional. Tech can help people understand their home’s climate risk.

Lots of homes are dealing with an increased risk of flooding due to climate change, and lots of homeowners are still relying on the federal government’s FEMA maps, which were intended to be used by the insurance industry, not consumers. But tech companies are working to collect and distribute climate data in an understandable way. Coastal Risk Consulting is a Florida-based startup that crunches global climate data down to the individual property level.

Oct 01, 2019
Building a better algorithm to predict flood risk in the age of climate change

Residents of Charleston, South Carolina, hunkered down earlier this month as Hurricane Dorian struck the East Coast. They came out largely unscathed. But it was just the latest flooding threat in this low-lying coastal city. It’s the kind of place that could benefit from better flood maps made possible by new tools to process climate change data.

Sep 30, 2019
The WeWork IPO really didn’t work. Yet. Who is that affecting?

For WeWork it’s been a couple of weeks for the co-working unicorn — its valuation has dropped by tens of billions of dollars. WeWork delayed its move to go public. Its public IPO filings made people’s hair curl with stories of its CEO self-dealing and sketchy corporate governance. Earlier this week, that CEO, Adam Neumann, resigned but still leads the board.

Sep 27, 2019
An app that pays you for your data? Yes, actually.
00:12:00 is an app that lets you connect all your various online accounts. It scoops all the data on you and puts it in one encrypted location that you can control. Then, with your permission, a new company called UBDI pays you to share some of that data with companies or researchers.

Sep 26, 2019
Twitter hires social scientists to help figure out our conversation problem

Twitter commissioned a two-year study to help it create metrics for what is a healthy conversation and what isn’t. Host Molly Wood spoke with Rebekah Tromble, who teaches media and politics at George Washington University and is one of the research leads on this project. The team is looking at four categories: mutual engagement, diversity of perspective, incivility and intolerance.

Sep 25, 2019
Some iPhones are now made with recycled rare earth minerals. Will that change the rest of the industry?

New smartphones come out like clockwork every year, and most people buy new phones every two years. But that upgrade cycle is terrible for Earth. Smartphones are energy intensive to manufacture and involve mining dozens of different rare earth minerals. Very few parts of the phone can be recycled because extracting those metals is also difficult and energy intensive. But last week, Apple announced it’s cracked part of that nut. It found a supplier of recycled rare earth materials, and now Apple is putting them in its newest iPhones. The company says this is a first in the industry.

Sep 24, 2019
Gov. Gavin Newsom on California climate change and tech’s role in fighting it

For our climate tech series “How We Survive,” host Molly Wood spoke with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. She asked him if he saw the tech industry as having a role in helping communities adapt and preventing more disasters.

Sep 23, 2019
East Palo Alto: Next door to Big Tech, vulnerable to climate change

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.

Sep 20, 2019
Where is Big Tech on solutions for climate change adaptation?

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?

Sep 19, 2019
A visit to X: The tech moonshot factory is working on climate change

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.

Sep 18, 2019
With all of Silicon Valley’s startup money, where’s the investment in climate tech?

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?

Sep 17, 2019
At the intersection of tech, climate and the land of Silicon Valley

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.

Sep 16, 2019
States take on Google with antitrust investigation. This won’t be quick.

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.

Sep 13, 2019
Drivers wanted: EVs are all over the Frankfurt Motor Show

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.

Sep 12, 2019
Pindrops work. But if you (or your drone) require location precision, there’s an app for that.

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.

Sep 11, 2019
It’s happening in Knoxville: Time, money and marketing make smaller cities viable tech hubs

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.

Sep 10, 2019
It’s not a given that tech in the classroom improves learning

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)

Sep 09, 2019
For U.S. Navy destroyers, old controls might be safer than new tech

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)

Sep 06, 2019