Marketplace Tech with Molly Wood

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Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood helps listeners understand the business behind the technology that's rewiring our lives. From how tech is changing the nature of work to the unknowns of venture capital to the economics of outer space, this weekday show breaks ideas, telling the stories of modern life through our digital economy. Marketplace Tech is part of the Marketplace portfolio of public radio programs broadcasting nationwide, which additionally includes Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report and Marketplace Weekend. Listen every weekday on-air or online anytime at From American Public Media. Twitter: @MarketplaceTech

Episode Date
Researchers say wireless companies are slowing down video streams
It's been almost six months since the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality rules. Today is the deadline for the House of Representatives to overturn that decision, although no one expects that to happen. But what has the repeal meant for ordinary people? Well, according to new research, it's meant wireless carriers potentially slowing down your video streams. Molly Wood talks with David Choffnes, one of the researchers. He's assistant professor of computer and information science at Northeastern University. Today's show is sponsored by Mozilla  and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Dec 10, 2018
Self-driving cars are racing self-driving regulations to the streets
Earlier this week, Google's self-driving car spinoff, Waymo, launched a commercial self-driving taxi service in the Phoenix area. It's limited, but it's technically a public launch, not just testing. And this is a case where the tech moved faster than the laws. Proposed federal rules for regulating self-driving cars called the AV START Act have been stuck in neutral for about a year. But this week senators updated the language in the bill. They're even considering attaching it to the must-pass budget legislation that Congress will decide on before the end of the year. Molly Wood talks about it with Aarian Marshall, who covers autonomous vehicles for Wired magazine. Today's show is sponsored by Colgate University.
Dec 07, 2018
How rural America is turning into a digital desert
For a time it seemed like tech might free us from the bonds of geography. In theory, fast internet meant new economic opportunity in any city. And telecommuting and video conferencing meant we could work from anywhere. But in reality, the geographic digital divide is as wide, and in fact even wider than it ever was. Recently Amazon decided its new headquarters could only go in big cities with a big tech workforce. That just solidified the fact that technology and the digital economy are less evenly distributed than ever. Molly Wood talks with Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and lead author of the 2017 report "Digitalization and the American Workforce." Today's show is sponsored by Colgate University.  
Dec 06, 2018
Your landline might not be there for you when the power goes out
More than 40 percent of Americans still have a landline, at least according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People keep them for convenience, reliability and emergencies so they can still make calls if the power goes out due to an earthquake, fire or other disaster. But only about 20 percent of households have good old copper phone lines, according to the trade group USTelecom. The rest are digital connections or voice over internet protocol. AT&T has been pushing for almost a decade to drop analog landline service and move to an all-digital network for landlines. Telecom companies say it's a lot cheaper to operate just one network. But are IP phone lines as reliable as the old tech? Molly Wood talks with Joan Engebretson, executive editor at Telecompetitor, an industry publication focused on broadband and telecom.
Dec 05, 2018
The creator economy is turning to the sharing economy for camera gear
At the heart of the creator economy is video, whether it's YouTube videos in a home studio or online documentaries or social videos. And, at some point, everybody realizes you can only do so much on a phone. But high-end digital cameras and proper audio gear are expensive and in the past were made more for moviemaking than for creating short, shareable web videos. Enter Kristina Budelis, co-founder and president of KitSplit, a startup that got $2 million in funding earlier this year. It lets creators and businesses who own camera and audio gear rent it out to others. Molly Wood talks with Budelis about how the creator economy is even changing how manufacturers make their stuff. Today's show is sponsored by the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Dec 04, 2018
To live in space, we have to build things in space
We all had a party on Twitter last week when NASA landed a new probe on Mars. But for people to land or live on Mars, they'll have to survive in a hostile environment where you can't just run to the hardware store for new tools ... or a new satellite or new habitat. So some companies are trying to move manufacturing to space. NASA contracted with one company, Made in Space, to use a 3D printer to make tools on the International Space Station. One day it may be able to "print" satellites in space. Molly Wood talks with Andrew Rush, president and CEO of Made in Space.
Dec 03, 2018
The U.S. government doesn't want 5G tech that’s made in China
Everybody wants 5G, the superfast next-generation wireless technology. And Huawei, the giant Chinese electronics maker, is the world's largest supplier of 5G networking equipment. But the U.S. government banned Huawei and Chinese company ZTE from its telecom infrastructure back in 2012 because of concerns that the Chinese government could use the equipment to spy on companies and government agencies. This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States has been trying to convince foreign allies to also dump Huawei. The warnings about Huawei's equipment might be working. On Wednesday, New Zealand banned the company from its telecom infrastructure. Australia did the same back in August, and the United Kingdom yesterday warned Huawei to tighten up its security overall. Stu Woo, one of the reporters who wrote the story in the Journal, tells Molly Wood that the thing that makes 5G so useful is also the thing that makes it so insecure. Today's show is sponsored by Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage.
Nov 30, 2018
Can science fiction help us grapple with gene editing?
News broke this week about a Chinese scientist who says he edited the genes of twin girls while they were in the womb. The goal was to make the girls immune to HIV, but editing human genes at that level is ethically controversial and illegal in many countries. It raises many questions about creating genetic traits that can be passed on and about a future where people choose the genetic traits in their children. Not surprisingly, it's a topic well covered in science fiction. The 1997 movie "Gattaca" is about a future where your genes determine whether you'll succeed in life or be considered an "invalid." Molly Wood talks about it with Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute. Webb says there are plenty of benefits to gene editing technology, but that "Gattaca's" social commentary was all too prescient.
Nov 29, 2018
Some of YouTube's biggest stars say their work is hurting their health
If you are a creator on YouTube, you live and die by the algorithm. It's the invisible technology that recommends videos on the trending page or in search results or suggestions all across the platform. No one but YouTube knows exactly how the algorithm decides what to promote and what not to promote. The controversial process has at times promoted fake news and sensational or harmful content. And creators say it's burning them out. Katherine Lo, a visiting researcher in informatics at the University of California, Irvine, studies harassment and mental health in online communities. Molly Wood talks with her about how the YouTube algorithm affects business for creators.
Nov 28, 2018
How much would it cost to create a military Space Force?
President Trump has said repeatedly that he wants a Space Force. Congress denied the request for a new branch of the military in the latest funding bill, but some have started pricing it out, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Todd Harrison is director of the Aerospace Security Project there. He broke it down into three models: a Space Corps within the Air Force, Space Force Lite, and Space Force Heavy. All would mostly use existing military resources but require an additional $1.5 to $2.7 billion over five years. Harrison talks about his cost estimates with Marketplace Tech guest host Kimberly Adams. Today's show is sponsored by Mozilla.
Nov 27, 2018
A big auction is the latest in America’s race to 5G
If you're shopping for holiday tech, you'll probably see a bunch of devices being marketed as 5G ready. 5G is the next generation of super fast internet, but it needs infrastructure. More bandwidth for streaming videos, games, and connecting the ever-growing Internet of Things. The Federal Communications Commission is trying to open up that bandwidth by auctioning off little-used parts of publicly owned airwaves — portions that may not have been useful for 3G or 4G, but are now in high demand. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel explains why.
Nov 26, 2018
Will the "techlash" mean people actually buy less tech?
This week, we've partnered with CNET to talk about big trends in consumer technology. To hear Twitter users and the press tell it, the biggest trend in tech is everyone being mad at tech. So we wondered if that might show up in the holiday shopping season. Are people worried about tech being bad for their mental health or their privacy? Will the “techlash” seriously affect spending on consumer technology? Molly talks about it with Lindsey Turrentine, editor-in-chief of "CNET Reviews."
Nov 23, 2018
Thanks to "Fortnite" and esports, computers are almost cool again
All this week on Marketplace Tech we're partnering with CNET to talk about big trends in consumer technology. Once upon a time, laptops and desktop computers were cool and not just the thing you used for work. Then phones and tablets came along, gaming consoles got more popular and computers did not make the holiday shopping list. But that might be changing. CNET's holiday shopping survey finds that young people are lot more interested in computer hardware this year, mostly to play video games. Between "Fortnite" and esports streaming, kids want more powerful systems than an Xbox or a PS4. Molly Wood talks with Dan Ackerman at CNET Reviews, where he focuses on PCs and laptops. He said there is a minor resurgence in the PC market. (11/22/18)
Nov 22, 2018
Your next TV will very likely be internet-ready
All this week we're partnering with CNET Reviews to talk about the big trends in consumer technology. TVs, which used to be in the pipe dream category of holiday gift ideas, are now more in the stocking stuffer price range. Television prices have been in free-fall for over a decade, and manufacturers tried to keep people buying with gimmicks like 3D and ultra high-resolution 4K, except there still aren't many shows being broadcast in 4K. As a result, TV prices just keep getting lower, and the only thing that is getting people to buy them is streaming. For more, Molly Wood spoke with David Katzmaier, an editor at CNET who covers TVs and home theater.
Nov 21, 2018
A smart home for the holidays?
All this week we're partnering with CNET Reviews, talking about the big trends in consumer technology as we head into the holiday shopping season. And it appears that the smart home is finally coming home to a lot more people. In 2017, almost 25 million smart speakers were sold, according to the Consumer Technology Association. So far this year, 19 million smart speakers have shipped, and holiday shopping has just begun. And once they're in a house, they can act like a gateway drug. People buy more connected devices so they can have Alexa or Google control everything in the house. Molly Wood talks with Rich Brown, an executive editor at CNET Reviews covering appliances and smart homes.
Nov 20, 2018
The consumer electronics industry is ready for the most shopping-ful time of the year
It is Thanksgiving week and the official start of the 2018 holiday shopping season. All this week we're partnering with the online tech reviews and news site CNET to talk about the big trends in consumer technology. This year CNET did a holiday survey asking its users what they're thinking about when it comes to tech. And this year the research bears out what the retail industry has already been saying: It's going to be a big year for shopping, especially in tech. Molly Wood talks with Lindsey Turrentine, editor-in-chief of CNET Reviews. 
Nov 19, 2018
Palantir may go public, but can it turn a profit?
The data analytics company Palantir is reportedly considering going public. Palantir is the company co-founded by controversial Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, formerly of PayPal. It's named after an all-seeing artifact in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The company promises police departments, governments, even the IRS, that it can take in huge amounts of data and make artificial intelligence-informed guesses to help track down criminals and cheats, among other things. In a secret pilot program in New Orleans, Palantir tech even tried to predict when crime would happen or who might be a victim. But lately its huge $20 billion valuation is in doubt and privacy activists are concerned about its tactics. Molly Wood talks about it with Mark Harris, a reporter who's covered Palantir for Wired magazine. Today's show is sponsored by Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  
Nov 16, 2018
Meet the company training up more diverse startup founders
Only about 1 percent of venture capital-backed startup founders are black, according to CB Insights data. Even fewer are black women or Latino. There's not a lot of age diversity and geographic diversity, and underrepresented founders don't always have access to the networks or training programs that can help them get startup funding. Mandela Dixon is a former public school teacher and startup founder, and she was a mentor for entrepreneurs at the VC firm Kapor Capital. About a year ago, she created Founder Gym, which is an online-only training program for underrepresented, would-be startup founders. Host Molly Wood talked with her at the AfroTech conference last week in San Francisco.
Nov 15, 2018
A young digital media company sees an opportunity in black millennials
Black millennials are tech savvy, influential and spending about a $162 billion a year, according to a 2016 Nielsen study. And yet, black people are incredibly underrepresented in tech and media. Enter Blavity, a digital lifestyle brand for millennials of color. It started in 2014 and raised $6.5 million in venture funding earlier this year. Blavity's founders say its advantage is its community members. They'll pay to come to events, and companies will pay to interact with them. Jeff Nelson is a co-founder and chief technical officer at Blavity. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood met him last week at one of those events, the AfroTech conference in San Francisco, which was born out of Blavity's tech news site. (11/14/18)
Nov 14, 2018
An argument against Big Tech being so big
Part of the reason there's a backlash against Big Tech these days is because some of these companies are so big. They're big in terms of users (see: Facebook's 2 billion plus), big in valuation (Amazon and Apple have both topped a trillion dollars) and big in market share (more than 90 percent of all web searches happen on Google). The United States is taking baby steps toward possible regulation. Europe is taking more like Paul Bunyan-sized steps. But critics like Tim Wu argue these companies should have been slowed down long ago. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talks with Wu, author of the new book, "The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age." (11/13/18)
Nov 13, 2018
Can apps help veterans suffering from PTSD?
Justin Miller served for 11 years in the U.S. Army and deployed twice to Iraq. After being medically retired, he suffered from severe PTSD. He almost became one of the 20 military veterans and active service members who die by suicide every day. But he was saved, in part, by a serendipitous phone call from his friend Chris Mercado, a fellow vet, who helped talk him back. Now Miller and Mercado have collaborated with a team to build the app, Objective Zero, using social networking technology to make those kinds of vital connections between veterans immediate and easily accessible. We talk about it with Miller. And we hear from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Jason Owen about how the agency is developing its own apps to help veterans with their mental health. (11/09/18)
Nov 12, 2018
How the midterm elections could shape tech policy
The midterm elections could have a big impact on the tech industry. That’s because the backlash against Big Tech is one of the only issues out there that is pretty bipartisan. And on top of that, a couple of newly elected legislators have specifically made tech part of their agenda, be it net neutrality, privacy regulations, or even whether platforms are suppressing political voices. We dig into this in Quality Assurance, the segment where we take a deeper look at a big tech story. Issie Lapowsky, a senior writer for Wired covering politics and national affairs, tells Marketplace Tech's Molly Wood that both sides of the aisle have been considering ways to regulate Big Tech in recent years. (11/09/18)
Nov 09, 2018
A 20-year-old digital copyright law is still being fought about (and copied) today
Think of a music video you love to watch over and over on YouTube, or the hilarious meme you shared last. Proposed digital copyright laws in Europe and other countries kind of want to make those a little less common, and they have their roots in a 20-year-old American copyright law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Cory Doctorow is a writer and activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He and the EFF have been talking about and litigating over the unintended consequences of the DMCA for almost 20 years now. We explore what some of those unintended consequences are.
Nov 08, 2018
Google offers more secure email for journalists, politicians, activists ... and you?
Email can be a vulnerable way to communicate, especially if you're sending around valuable information because you're a politician or a journalist or an activist. High-profile email users are targets for hackers, trying to get them to click the wrong link and give up their passwords. Google offers a version of Gmail with extra security — you need a physical USB key to log in. Anyone can use it, but Google markets it to high-profile users. Mark Risher, head of Google's Account Security team and a creator of its Advanced Protection Program, talked to Molly Wood about it. 
Nov 07, 2018
That time it was illegal to fix your own electronics for almost 20 years

Once upon a time, when something you owned broke, you fixed it. We never even considered whether we were allowed to fix our products until the year 2000, when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act went into effect, making it illegal to circumvent any tech that locked up devices without authorization. So John Deere started telling farmers it was a copyright violation to fix their tractors. And Apple said it was a copyright violation to fix our iPhones or even open a repair shop. Just last month, the U.S. copyright office finally decided that you do have the right to fix your smartphone and lots of other electronics. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that creates repair guides for electronics and sells tools and replacement parts, told Molly Wood we may have the right to repair, but repairing things isn't as easy as it used to be. (11/06/18)

Nov 06, 2018
Why it's so hard to stop all those spam calls
The Federal Communications Commission estimates that Americans get 4 billion unwanted automated calls every month. And they work. We get scammed out of $9.5 billion every year. But if we can filter out most of the spam in our email, why haven't we solved robocalling? Because it’s a deceptively complicated problem to solve. (11/05/18)
Nov 05, 2018
Britain to major tech companies: You do business here, you pay taxes here
Europe and the United Kingdom have been coming hard at the tech industry lately: tough privacy laws, fines for anti-competitive behavior, new types of copyright laws, and earlier this week, something called a "digital services" tax from the United Kingdom. Starting in 2020, the U.K. will take 2 percent of online revenue from tech companies, specifically Facebook, Amazon and Google, that make over $600 million a year. The rest of Europe is planning a similar tax, and the idea has even spread to South Korea, India, Mexico, Chile and other countries. Let's dig into this digital tax idea in Quality Assurance, the Friday segment where we take a deeper look at a big tech story. Molly Wood talks with Mark Scott, chief technology correspondent at Politico. (11/02/18)
Nov 02, 2018
Should Big Tech pay more to help the homeless in San Francisco?
In San Francisco next week, voters will decide whether the city's largest companies, most of them tech, should pay a tax that will raise money to help homeless families. Other cities have tried similar efforts. Voters in Seattle recently overturned a tax on large employers that would have funded affordable housing efforts, and the city's biggest tech employer, Amazon, strongly objected. But in San Francisco, the city's biggest tech employer is for the measure. Marc Benioff is the co-CEO of Salesforce, and yes, the guy who just bought Time Magazine. He's stumping for the ballot measure, called Proposition C. (11/01/18)
Nov 01, 2018
An argument for algorithms that reflect our highest ideals
Earlier this week, Google announced $25 million in grants for organizations working on “artificial intelligence for social good." The included things like wildlife conservation, stopping sex trafficking and eliminating biases in algorithms that perpetuate racism and gender discrimination. It's an admission that algorithms and AI are not neutral, and more care must be taken with their design. Molly Wood talks with Jamie Susskind, author of the new book “Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech.” He argues that we can design algorithms that reflect our highest ideals. (10/31/18)
Oct 31, 2018
"The Facebook Dilemma" documentary explores the company's global impact
Yesterday on the show, we talked with the fact-checkers trying to clean up Facebook. Today we're looking at how misinformation on Facebook affects democracy here in America and the social fabric of many other countries, from India to the Philippines to Myanmar. That's the topic of a two-part Frontline documentary called "The Facebook Dilemma," airing this week on PBS stations and online. It explores Facebook's growth and how it has responded to warnings that it can be used for propaganda, violence and to prop up authoritarian regimes. Molly Wood talks with James Jacoby, a producer of the documentary. (10/30/18)
Oct 30, 2018