This Week in Tech 613
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in tech. A great show for you! Brianna Wu joins Nick Bilton and Amy Webb. Three of the smartest people I know to talk about Mark Zuckerberg's ambitions for the Presidency. Is he really a robot? What Apple should do with its 250 billion dollars in cash, and a great plan to save Twitter. I never thought of it. It's all coming up next, on TWiT.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 613, recorded Sunday, May 7, 2017.
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the latest tech news. This panel is so prestigious, so esteemed, so wonderful, I am just a bump on a log. First of all, they're all authors. One is running for Congress. This is amazing. Let's start on my left, your right. Amy Webb. I met Amy because she wrote a new bopok called "The Signals are Talking: How to be a Futurist." Which is crazy, because that's her job. She's the CEO and founder of Future Today institute. she's giving away her skills, her secrets. Much like Steve Bannon, she's posing in front of her white board. Did you see that picture?
Amy Webb: Yeah.
Leo: Its changed. We know it's not fake. It was different when I interviewed you. Nice to have you. First time on this show. Not his first time. He's been on this show many times, but I haven't seen him in a while. Nick Bilton is here. He's also got a brand new book called "American Kingpin: the Story of the Silk Road. Nick, great to see you.
Nick Bilton: Thanks for having me. It's exciting to be back.
Leo: You seem so excited. Since we saw you last, we're now writing for Vanity Fair, a special correspondent. You've been doing great work there. Columnist for the Times for many years. The last book was hatching Twitter, which did really well. Great to have you back. Now you have two children. How is it being a papa?
Nick: Exhausting, but amazing. I don't think I'm going to sleep another two years, but it's amazing.
Leo: Congratulations. Also returning, SpacekatGal, Brianna Wu is here. Wooo. Running for Congress! I don't know if we have to do an equal-time stuff, but if we do, screw it.
Brianna Wu: I will keep it all non-partisan today. We are just talking about tech, which is not a partisan issue.
Leo: Yeah right. I don't know what party you're on, but getting more tech in politics lately. Brianna is running for Congress. Briannawu2018.com. In the eighth district of Massachusetts.
Brianna: My district needs help in the tech Industry out there. WE don't have WiFi. It's been badly neglected from the tech point of view, so I'm running to change all of that.
Leo: Last time you were on, you impressed people because I think everybody who watches this show understands the need for Congress to understand technology a little bit better.
Brianna: Yeah. I was talking on Twitter this weekend, I would like to open up a grant program, similar to what we do with health research. Opening it up for information security as well. Let people apply for information security grants, and I think it's a badly needed program.
Leo: Come 2018, you may not be the only technologist in Washington, DC. Imagine yourself, a small town, Newton Falls Ohio. Nothing happens exciting; you get a phone call from a company saying a billionaire philanthropist wants to have dinner with you next week. I can't tell you his name, in fact, I won't tell you his name until 15 minutes before he arrives, would you be willing to? This family said yes. Here's the picture of Mark Zuckerberg meeting real people. Anytime you see this picture, you assume the Grandma is looking at a Smartphone, but there aren't any Smartphones in evidence. They're eating on plastic plates, because Mark won't eat real people's food, so they had it catered.
Brianna: Did they really have it catered? Oh my gosh!
Leo: Mark's people were tapping away at their laptops in the other room.
Nick: Here's the thing. I want to ask the panel here. I wrote a piece a few months ago saying it looks like Mark Zuckerberg is running for President. And all these photos... what is going on? Don't tell me he's just going around the country meeting people. Because if he is doing that, why is he...?
Leo: He said to this family, "when the press calls you, and they will, please tell them I'm not running for President."
Amy: I don't think he's old enough to run for President, is he?
Leo: He turns 35 one month before the filing deadline for 2020.
Amy: I think it's possible. I think it's improbable. I think maybe eventually he's doing that. They've got a massive press problem on their hands right now with Fake news.
Leo: Does this make people feel better about fake news to see Mark sitting at this table? I mean, really. I think you're right, Amy. He's not running in 20/20. There he is riding a tractor.
Brianna: I think I have a special view on this. I'm out there in Massachusetts, I'm doing this. The thought of inviting myself over to someone's house is so deeply uncomfortable, and if you want to meet people, this is the wrong, weird way to go about it. I have people who write me every week, and I go do you want to have coffee? And sitting down in private, making it this weird media thing...
Leo: It's clear he brings photographers. Lights! Look at this picture of him talking to a fire department. This looks so canned and staged, it looks like he's been green screened into this.
Amy: Brianna, you're asking people if they want to have coffee with you. Wouldn't Zuck just tell us we're going to have coffee with him in AI? Why bother going out to the real world when you have everybody's data at your fingertips?
Leo: I think you're both right.
Nick: Can we look at the other evidence here leading to a political campaign? They updated their S1 filing with the SCC to note that if Mark Zuckerberg decides to run for office he can still remain CEO. Why would you put that in there if that didn't mean anything? They've been hiring people from the Obama campaign, on the foundation. There's all these things that he's been doing. These photos-- it doesn't add up. There have been people telling me it's just a PR push. It's giving them more negative PR around this President thing if the goal is...
Amy: What the hell does he want to be President for though?
Nick: I have a theory. I think it's too small a job for him.
Leo: He wants to be emperor of the world? What's bigger than President of the US?
Nick: Maybe he'll try for governor or mayor as a testing ground. There's something going on.
Leo: There's clearly something going on. Many of our panelists have said this in the past, he's a King maker. He doesn't need to be the king. Better to be the King maker. Then you have more power, frankly. However... I don't think he's running in 20/20. He's playing the long game. Look at this. You don't feed a cow because of fake news.
Amy: I don't know. I got to say. We advise many news organizations. Not this administration, but the previous administration, and he's got a massive problem on his hands. If every news organization in the country decided to cut off the tap, that would be a tremendous problem.
Leo: They're doing it. Instant articles has lost the New York Times, they've lost the Washington Post.
Amy: Part of this may be politics, but there's a piece of this that is a PR mistake.
Leo: Amy, how does this help fake news or instant articles?
Amy: Do you want me to connect the dots? Here's the thing. My hunch here is that we're easily distracted, no matter how smart we are. My first career was as a journalist. This is not about me disliking journalists. I just think we get distracted and that campaign, whether it was for politics or straight up gratiating Zuck and Facebook back into everybody's good graces, was a lot about likability. I think that has a reverberating effect. I do.
Brianna: He recently gave away a huge portion of his wealth for philanthropy worldwide.
Leo: Well... sort of gave it away.
Brianna: My point is he's trying to raise an international presence. When he has a positive view by the mass public, it enables him to do a lot of things. If Facebook is trying to work with local governments, it's part of what they end up doing. I see this as a political move meant to open doors for him. Maybe he runs for President, maybe he doesn't, but it makes a lot of the things Facebook wants to do easier.
Leo: I would mention to Mark's team, just remember, Mike Dukakis and the Tank with the helmet, that picture with basketball players does not raise Zuck's stature. That is probably the one you want to throw out.
Nick: Here's the thing. Let's pretend that the four of us run Mark's public relations team. Can you imagine... there's been this huge problem with fake news, what do we do? And somebody says, I know! Let's take a picture of Mark feeding a cow!
Leo: Remember that...
Amy: Wait Nick. How many places did we see that photo?
Leo: It worked, in that respect. Mark does these things. He was only going to eat meat he killed. He was going to learn Chinese and did. Which is impressive. Not easy. So one of his goals for this year was to go to all 50 states and talk to people in all 50 states. You could just say on the surface he's doing his weird I'm a billionaire I can do what I want. Instead of building a rocket ship, I'm going to meet everybody.
Amy: I didn't see photos of him conjugating verbs.
Nick: Did you see photos of him killing his animals? No.
Leo: So we all agree it's PR. Meeting generals! That's important. Is that an American general? I've never seen that hat before.
Nick: I do want to say one other thing. When I had written that Vanity Fair piece, Buzzfeed went along to Zuck and asked him if he was running for President, and he said no. It was this big story, Zuck says he's not running for President. Of course he's not going to say it. Facebook's stock would drop 20% in five seconds. I think that there... we should not take it at Face value when he says no. Don't tell people I'm running for President. There is something going on, and we should be questioning it.
Leo: that was a Mar pat uniform from the US army. Our chatroom knows everything. It's clearly PR. It's clearly designed to cultivate a certain image. Do you think he's hiring people... political operatives. I think this is going to be the most carefully orchestrated campaign we've ever seen. Closer to 20/20 there will be a draft Zuckerberg move. I don't think he's ever going to announce. I think what he will do is arrange it so that the drum beat... he eventually says I don't want to do this, I'm happy running Facebook, but I can see America needs me.
Nick: Then he's going to say I need this group of people to be my campaign managers.
Amy: Then I'm going to call my judge and ask him to do a new series.
Leo: I have to say you can blame this on the last election. When people like Zuckerberg and Jason Calacanis saw that somebody who has only business experience and no political experience or service of any kind can be elected President, I can see in their heart of hearts, they might have said why not me?
Amy: That's certainly why I'm running, Leo. It's less of that. I think that there's so many people across this country that never imagine themselves as politicians, and see that they don't have a choice other than to engage the political system, because the status quo is so terrifying. I think that is why you're seeing an avalanche of women running.
Leo: The thing that scares me the most is that you're going to get turned off to politics. That's why I'm glad to see you running. The biggest fear I've had at this point is all the cynics who have run all along are just getting confirmation. They look at the Democrats and the Republicans and they throw up their hands and say screw it.
Amy: I think some of what we're seeing with Mark is a reaction to the two party system that has gone off the rails in the US. Everything is polarized. Tech has become polarized and politicized. Health. All of these facts of our everyday lives are subject to morning talk shows. Political wrangling. I think that has stoked this great frustration that I certainly feel and a whole bunch of people feel. That has brought some people to think I'm outside the system, I guess I'll have to pick a side in order to run, or maybe Mark is starting a whole third party. That's plausible.
Leo: The technocrat party? Would you want to be in that, Brianna?
Brianna: I think we need technologists running. I really do. I think the, it's becoming dated to think of it as Democrat versus Republican. What I hear when I'm out there every single week is unmitigated fury at the system. It doesn't matter if the person is right or left. They're angry at the broken status quo. I'm looking to find the parts I agree with. I don't ask them what party they belong to. I think it's about a system that's not working for any of us.
Amy: Here's the problem. The system doesn't work without those two parties for a whole bunch of reasons. The machine is set up that way. It would be difficult to introduce a third party at all. That being said, Triple AS and Rush Holt who was a former representative and is now the CEO of Triple AS, he's trying to encourage a whole bunch of people in the science and tech sector to run.
Leo: I have to say I worry when I hear people say we need more technologists in Government. I don't know if that's really the right answer. We need more smart people in Government, I'll grant you that.
Nick: Here's the problem. We are entering an era where in X number of years, whether it's two years or five years or ten years or twenty, we're going to have driver less cars who are going to be taking millions of jobs and Artificial intelligence and all these things are going to happen, and do you think Donald Trump is equipped to deal with that? Do you think Hillary Clinton is?
Leo: You don't want a Steve Minuchien, our Secretary of Treasury, who says automation is not even on our radar, because nobody is going to lose their job for decades to automation.
Amy: Here's the thing. I wrote an op-ed in the LA Times pretty recently about that statement. I am concerned because there are so many jobs in state that haven't been filled this far into the cycle. But what I would say, within the state department, there was a mass exodus, but there are lots of people there with PHDs who put thought and rational thought before politics. In two weeks, I'm going to be at the National Academies with some heads of automation and car company people and Government people. Hashing out the details of the future of self-driving cars and regulation. Quite frankly, that work is going to continue whether or not Trump is in office. I think that he is significantly outside his depth. We are, the future comes whether or not we want it to. So there are meetings happening behind closed doors that don't get publicized because they can't get publicized. Where people are talking about this and policy is getting made, and there are stumbling blocks and problems along the way. Angie Patel who is the head of the FCC is making questionable decisions that trickle down, but ultimately, we have to soldier on.
Leo: If you're curious, I know I am, what Mark Zuckerberg does first thing in the morning, we brought in comedian Jerry Seinfeld to ask him.
Jerry Seinfeld: I want to know the first thing you do. You get out of bed. You go to the bathroom.
Mark Zuckerberg: The first thing I do is look at my phone.
Leo: Before he goes to the bathroom, ladies and gentlemen.
Mark: I look at Facebook.
Leo: Thank you very much. We're going to take a break and come back in just a second.
Nick: What if the guy in the photos is actually an AI robot?
Leo: He has the complexion of data. I am the President now. He does not look human. I just want to point that out. I can speak Chinese and control my home. I am going to milk this cow now. There he's smiling. It's the first one where it looks like he's having fun. But that's because he's having fried chicken and waffles.
Brianna: I'm never going to look at a picture of Mark and not think of that again.
Leo: Cybernetic organism, created to mimic human thought. I'm talking to firemen.
Amy: What was he talking to them about? That's what I want to know.
Nick: So you guys actually drive in a truck with wheels?
Leo: This is just... What is he saying right now? Love potion Number nine?
Amy: Do you guys know how long between the call coming and...
Leo: Fifteen... they knew it was a billionaire philanthropist from Silicon valley. They knew 90% of the people in the US use his product. I'm sure they could figure out who it was.
Nick: I remember years ago when I was at the Times, I got a tip and did a story on... there was a woman I knew who lived in San Francisco and lived in a beautiful house. She got a knock on the door from a lawyer who said I represent a wealthy client who wants your house. The house was worth 2.5 million, they offered 5 million in cash, and she had 24 hours to decide, and it turned out it was Zuck. He bought the neighborhood around him. He's got his way of saying....
Brianna: That's so creepy.
Leo: Resistance is futile. This is the thing to remember.
Brianna: If I ever do anything like that, somebody come to my house and slap me.
Leo: F Scott Fitzgerald said the rich are not like you and me. Fitzgerald was not talking about people as rich as this. No one has ever seen people this rich. These people... People like Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, these are masters of the Universe, which begs the question, Amy. Why would you want to be President? Even Trump is realizing being President is no bed of roses. I got to sleep in this musty old bedroom?
Amy: I cannot imagine any smart person would be watching the circus in DC and think A, I could do better, and B, it sounds like something fun I would want to do. I don't see it.
Leo: Don't you think Zuckerberg thinks of himself as an altruist? He's trying to connect people, he thinks the world will be a better place if we're all connected... He really thinks... maybe it's true. He is not in it for the money or power, he's an altruist. What more altruistic thing to do than to step off your magic throne into a house in DC that was built my slaves 200 years ago.
Amy: Getting wealthy and having all this... I think it warps you. Grand plans coming out of the valley. Most of them aren't practical.
Nick: Maybe he's just going to knock on the White House door, have someone show up... say Hey Donald Trump. I got 24 hours.
Leo: I think there's a Russian oligarch who already did that. Let's take a break, on that note and return with something else not political. We weren't going to get political, were we? We got a great panel though. How could you not? With Nick Bilton from Vanity Fair. His new book: American Kingpin: the Story of the Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind of the Silk Road. That is a story and a half!
Nick: It is the craziest story I've ever worked on in my fifteen years as a journalist.
Leo: Chapter 39 Kidney for Sale. Also with us, Amy Webb. She's the author of a brand new book called The Signals Are Talking, How to become a Futurist if you know where to look, the Future can be yours. It's a fascinating book that reveals her secrets. And the wonderful Brianna Wu: game developer and candidate for Congress in the Massachusetts 8th. Briannawu2018.com. Our show to you today brought to you by my mattress. Let's bring this down to earth. One of the keys to good health is a good night's sleep. This is not a truism. This is actually true. Your Mom told you this, but it's true. One of the things that makes a good night's sleep is sleeping cool, sleeping comfortable, sleeping on a bed that doesn't bug you but supports your better sleep. That's Casper. Casper is an obsessively engineered mattress. Supportive memory foams that does what you want with a mattress. It sinks where your pointy bits go. You lie on it on your side, your hip is comfortably supported, but under that is a firm support. So your back feels great in the morning. It's hard to describe, you've got to try it. It's breathable. It stays cool. Your temperature is regulated through the night. They did many prototypes. They worked hard to make the best mattress possible. they make it in the US and they sell it to you direct, which means it's very affordable because there's no middle man, there's no Department store. There's nothing in the way, except there's that one little problem. You don't get to try it before you buy it. I understand that's a problem, and Casper knows it too. That's why they've solved it. instead of lying on a Mattress in a show room while the salesperson gives you the stink eye, you get to try this mattress in your home for a hundred nights. And if at any time in one hundred nights you say it's not right for me, they come and get it and refund every penny. They literally come and take it away. It comes in a great box. It's easy to open, smells great right out of the box. They have just figured it out. Free shipping and returns in the USA and Canada, and you're going to save a lot. Go to casper.com/twit, and check it out. We'll give you an additional $50 off your mattress purchase if you use the offer code TWiT. Twin, queen, King, California King. Mattresses available now for a better night's sleep. At casper.com/twit. Don't forget the promo code TWiT for $50 off your first purchase.
Brianna: I always thought they got the idea from that from watching Mission Impossible where the guy from Lost throws the mattress off the roof and leaps off the roof and falls into it. I think the guy who founded Casper said that's it.
Leo: I have to stand corrected. I thought these oligarchs from the 21st century were magically richer than everybody else. But Cobra in our chatroom says adjusted for inflation, Rockefeller's dollars today would be 340 billion dollars.
Nick: The difference is the top six richest people in the world today have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion. There's a difference when you look at the relationships and the ratios of who is wealthy and who is not. In Rockefeller's time there was a thing called the Middle class, that we no longer have.
Leo: You know who else is rich? Apple's rich. 250 billion dollars in the bank! Let's put that in perspective. According to the Wall Street Journal. This is cash just sitting around in the cushions of the sofas. That's greater than the value of Walmart, or Proctor and Gamble. It exceeds the reserves of the UK and Canada combined. They can't do anything with it, because most of it is stashed in Ireland. They can't repatriate it yet. The question is why haven't they spent more of that money?
Nick: You know how much a charger costs? It's more than the mortgage of my house. Why not say, you've all been great customers. You own 74 iPads and 12 phones and everything in your home as an Apple on it, take a free charger on us.
Brianna: I wonder if their period of going bankrupt in the 90's made them a little worried about lean times.
Leo: It's like Grandma and the Depression.
Brianna: Look at the Nintendo Wii, after the bottom fell out of the Wii sales, and the Wii U failed to catch on, Nintendo was in the red for six years straight. It was a long time. You can look at the amount of cash Apple has in the bank and it's enough to cover their annual expenses for a little over seven years. They've got some cushion there. I always think that near death experience has them a little bit worried. I also have to say if you look at the way, financially money moves from country to country with these systems we put in place after WWII, that led to globalization. It is an interesting problem. How do you bring that money back to America? Do you just leave it in different countries? It is a complex problem to solve.
Leo: I did not realize this. I read an article saying Bush had done a repatriation, or a tax holiday in 2004. It didn't make a very big difference. Mostly what companies did when they got their money back is buy back stock. The fifteen companies that repatriated the most after the 2004 Tax break cut a net 20,000 jobs, decreased the pace of their spending in R and D. It did not do anything that one would hope repatriation would do. Just a little history lesson, not that anybody pays attention to history. I had forgotten that this has been done.
Amy: What happens, all these cash reserves and so little innovation in R and D... it makes you wonder what is really going on over there.
Leo: I think Brianna is right. It's a little pathological. We were broke so we're going to horde it. They're hoarders!
Brianna: What is Apple going to do? Go into markets, that doesn't make much sense? Look at their automatic driver-less car system, of which they had a picture of it this week. I realize it's just a proto type, but it's utterly terrible. I think it would be much worse for Apple if they started going into different markets that didn't make any sense to their consumer base, you know? So I almost like them playing more conservatively here. It's always interesting to me, the difference in Amazon stock price, where the margins are razor thin, and then the evaluation of Apple's stock, where they have these giant cash reserves. I would like to see them looking at, do they give stock dividends so it qualifies under different rules for people that buy long-term? Do they give cash back?
Leo: Carl would love dividends and buy backs. I don't know if that's the best thing for Apple. Why don't you just cut the... their margins are... this last quarter was something like 38% margins. Their margins are very good. They could take a little less off the top. On the other hand, if you're Tim Cook, you've got to always... only the paranoid in Silicon Valley survive. You've got to be looking over your shoulder at all times. Let's mention what Microsoft did this week. They had their EDU event in New York City, announced a new surface laptop, Windows 10s, aimed at schools. They talked about a lot of the new features, including administrative software, in tune for education. Their slack competitor, Microsoft teams, there will be teams for education. I think that's smart. I'm sure kids would prefer to be talking to other kids over something like Slack than whatever it is they use in schools today.
Amy: I have a six year old... her school is a STEM school. All the kids have to have iOS.
Leo: That's the problem.
Amy: Here's the real problem. Chat software... So the real problem is iChat. The kids are distracted, they can't get them off of iChat. Any kind of chat software is a problem. When I was in school we hand wrote notes. That was a problem. The real issue here is that when a six year old, the way they see the world and the exposure and experience they have to technology is fundamentally different from the 30 and 40 and 50 year olds who were creating the new systems who have this top down approach for what will work best for the kids, and they don't think through the future implications of what they're building. You wind up with problems down the road where we have constant kids who can't pay attention and they're constantly chatting with each other. Nobody in the classroom wants Slack or a Slack competitor.
Leo: I agree. Six year olds are too young. On the other hand, don't you have to go to high schoolers? They're coming in. They just spent the whole evening playing Minecraft or World of Warcraft overwatch with each other while on Skype and now they come into the classroom, it's like they're going back to the nineteenth century? Don't you have to reach out to them a little bit?
Amy: I have a radically different viewpoint on kids and technology. Even with the school my kid goes to, I think the best possible preparation for the future is a super hard core, rigorous liberal arts education, because the kids are going to pick up... if they want to be an engineer, a lot of the critical reasoning skills are being pushed out of the equation.
Nick: Are you saying they shouldn't do technology, or they should?
Amy: I'm saying for some reason I can't wrap my head around, it's all or nothing. A lot of the STEM programs are very intensive when it comes to technology and basic engineering stuff and math stuff, but there's no connection back to philosophy or humanities. It's very intensive in one direction.
Leo: You're starting to sound like Bill Bennett. Do you want the Western cannon to be taught?
Amy: It's not the kids. It's the adults. The Adults feel so left behind themselves that they're enforcing this... my job is to look ahead. The real concern is 30 years in the future when my kid, her age group is running the country, they will have missed out on things like comparative lit.
Leo: But they'll know how to use Twitter like nobody's business.
Brianna: I feel like my background has the opposite of this use case. I grew up in Mississippi and went to high school that was criminally underfunded in the 90's. I work in technology today. The only reason I'm able to work in this field is privilege. Parents who bought me computers that were 3, 4000 dollars back then. I can very clearly see from some of the play testing my studio has done about how technology is destroying kids' ability to focus. We absolutely see that. At the same time, it's so unrealistic to have kids out there in the real world engaging in systems that meet your needs and thoughts every few seconds and then expecting them to go into a classroom where it's chalk and staring into books and taking notes. The human mind doesn't work that way. Because our public schools are so criminally underfunded... I think there has to be a better middle ground here.
Nick: Apple could give it's $250 million and a free charger to every kid in this country.
Leo: Apple is getting lapped now. They were getting lapped by Microsoft, Windows, Apple put Apple 2s in every classroom in the country 20 years ago. They're being lapped by Windows and now by Chromebooks. Apple at this point has abandoned the education market. What do you think, Brianna, of this Minecraft education edition?
Brianna: I love it. Something I think about a lot when we talk about Minecraft, Super mario brothers is something we talk about like a classic of a classic. An exponential number of children play and interact with Minecraft today. It has wonderful educational benefits for children with autism, because they can interact with people socially and not look them face to face. It lets them develop social skills. I think this is wonderful. I'm happy to see it.
Leo: Amy, when you see this... this is aimed at fifth grade through ninth grade. Do you think this is an appropriate use of tech?
Amy: It's a private school our daughter goes to, and we chose it. My concern is this global... everybody is throwing money at Maker's spaces, which is fine. All of these skills are fine. Teach every child to code. The challenge is somebody needs to bridge that to other critical thinking areas. Things like culture and gender, and stuff that is not being addressed. Minecraft is fine. My concern is as I model this out, three decades into the future, we have a workforce full of people who have good ability to think in a linear structural way, and whose tech skills will have compounded over a certain period of time. But are they creative thinkers? How do they relate to their fellow humans?
Leo: This ties back to the conversation about Mark Zuckerberg. I do think that much in the same way that in the first part of the 20th century Hollywood culturally influenced the world. It had a huge cultural impact on people's expectations, their understanding of how life was, that Silicon Valley is doing the same in the 21st century. I think there's reason to examine, be concerned about the values that Silicon Valley unconsciously is spreading throughout the world.
Nick: It's not unconscious. The values that Silicon Valley is spreading around the world are the same values of Wall Street. It's just this complete nonsensical guide of trying to make the world a better place. This is the thing I have despised about Silicon Valley for decades. Every single thing they do, and everything they build has an impact. They've failed to look at the negatives. Then you have CEOs like Uber that do these incredibly unethical things. There's this complete nonsensical PR push.
Amy: I think it's partially that, but my concern is take AI and Voice. The training core that is being used by every AI developer for voice recognition comes from Philadelphia. It was a series of 250 phone conversations that were recorded in the mid 1990's. That's the base for every single... forget the fact if you have an accent. Nobody has thought through the implications of this. The challenge is that technology compounds. We have the obvious problems like CEO of Uber doing and saying ridiculous things, but we have all of these fissures and areas of bias being woven into so many different facets of technology that we won't even start to realize until several years into the future, but the people who are working on them have either been told that there are problems in the foundation and they're ignoring it or they chose not to look.
Nick: I think there's a pattern. I remember when they were building 3D printers. I remember saying to them ten years ago, "What are you going to do with these?" And they said we're going to build hooks and iPhone cases. What's the first thing? They built 3D plastic printed guns. When you look at the news feed. People are going to use it to share pictures of the sunset. The first thing people do is Russia takes advantage of it to spread fake news. Twitter was designed so you could tell your friends you were at a club and to meet you there. What do we have? The biggest center for trolls...
Amy: But that was totally avoidable.
Leo: I want to know this. What could Twitter have done differently?
Brianna: Look at Instagram. They designed it from the ground up, there were a lot of women on the engineering team, so when they came out with their user paradigms, it makes technology fundamentally different. Technology mirrors issues in the real world. Nick, I agree with you. There's a miopic haze over a lot of people in Silicon Valley, but certain personality types are attracted to certain professions. I know a lot of jaded, cynical people who love tearing things apart in journalism. That's fine. It makes them good journalists. I don't think you would be a good technologist if you didn't see the future and want to see the best in it.
Amy: I feel you. But you are totally wrong. Before I say what I'm about to say, let me give you a cute cat video verbally. Technologists don't see the future. If technologists did see the future... it's one of two scenarios. Either they do see the future and they are willfully putting money and personal fame in front of the practical realities of humanity. Doing bad stuff with their tech, or they're not planning for it. There is no other way around it. Twitter dealt with the troll problem before it began, but in order to do that, they would have had to adopt measures that would have been counter to the network being big and productive as it is.
Nick: Look at yesterday, what happened with Mccans in France. As my former colleague tweeted, the 5% of fake accounts on Twitter were sharing 80% of the content around it. Any algorithm that could exist on any platform would shut that down in five seconds. Twitter didn't do that, because it's antithetical to... they want to show engagement and that they're growing. These are very simple solutions even after the fact, and a lot of the time, we don't see them.
Leo: Nick wrote the book Hatching Twitter, who is probably the foremost expert on how Twitter got started. But I wonder if Twitter hadn't been the free speech wing of the free speech party if they would have succeeded in the way they succeeded today?
Nick: There were things they could have done along the way that would have solved problems. If you look at Facebook. They made a decision early on. There was a huge fight inside Facebook, many years ago, there was a group of engineers that said we should be more like Twitter. People should be anonymous, so you don't know, people can say what they want. Zuckerberg was the one who said no. We have to know you're a real person. We have to have guidelines and there's a set of guidelines on Facebook's trust and safety board. Twitter decided not to implement these things. The only thing you can't do is post someone's name and address. But they could have built the system in a way that would have reduced the number of trolls, reduced the way people attack people en masse. All these things they could have done, all it would have done is made less people use the service, and make the company less money. That's another analogy to being just like Wall Street.
Amy: My point of yours, Brianna, that I was refuting has to do with the fact that...
Leo: Let me get the cat video. Hold one.
Amy: I think people outside the valley think of people like Mark Zuckerberg and Ed Williams as Futurists. These are people who I would say are not thinking about the future. The reason I wrote Signals was for that group of people, because I would love for all of the technologists who are building things that impact the future to start thinking like a futurist. What we would do is start modeling out different scenarios in advance to try and anticipate the various realities of this tech entering these facets of human life, and reverse engineer back to the present day what we should be thinking and doing about it. To me, that's a huge concern. I know you have to work on the product and ship a product. I get that. But these people may be building the future, but these are not futurists. These are not people who are thinking about the future.
Leo: Why should they be futurists? They're business people.
Amy: I'm a business person! I'm a capitalist!
Leo: Capitalism is optimized for one thing and one thing only. It's not worrying about the ultimate consequence, it's to optimize for profit. What I think has happened with Silicon Valley is the technology, the tools that they have to optimize for profit have been weaponized. We have nothing different from Henry Ford or John D Rockefeller. It's a predatory system, but we have tools that are so much more effective. Anyway, we're going to take a break, because it's time for some cute kittens. That's a hedgehog and that's a kitten. You won't believe what happens next, but you're not going to see it, because I'm going to do an ad for stamps.com and then we'll continue. What a great... we have the greatest panel ever! Super smart. I'm thrilled to have you all. Brianna Wu is Spacekatgal on Twitter. She's a game developer, very well known as an outspoken feminist and a candidate for Massachusetts in the 8th district. You should vote for her.
Nick: We should all move to Massachusetts to vote for her.
Leo: That's Nick Bilton. He writes now for Vanity Fair. You know what Massachusetts does have? Single payer health.
Brianna: We do. We're one of the states that will be least affected if the Republican healthcare bill goes through.
Leo: Thanks to Mitt Romney, of all people.
Brianna: He was not that bad a Governor.
Leo: He's looking good right now. Anyway. We're thrilled to get you on. Great to have you as always. We'll have you back many times. Until you become a member of Congress, then I'm going to put you on the spot. Nick's new book is American Kingpin, the Epic Hunt for the Mastermind behind the Silk Road. I will be getting Nick back in a couple weeks to join us on Triangulation where we'll talk about it in greater detail. Amy Webb is a veteran of Triangulation, her book The Signals are talking tells you how you can be a futurist. That's what she does for a living. It's great to have you and somebody with more than an opinion, but an opinion backed by data. That's unusual. Mostly we just make stuff up. Very pleased to have all three of you. And you at home, I'm glad you're here, and I bet you're glad you're here too. Our show to you today brought to you by stamps.com. If you are in a business that involves the postal service, you mail bills, brochures, you sell on Etsy or Ebay or Amazon, you got to know about stamps.com. I hope you know about stamps.com. It's going to turn your fulfillment process into a professional well-oiled machine. The best part is you don't spend any time at the post office. Anything you can do at the post office you do right from your desk with stamps.com. You can buy and print real US postage from your computer and printer. This is not a postage meter. You do not need one of those things. Talk about nineteenth century technology. You can also avoid mailing stuff. The mail carrier comes to you. There' seven a button that says I need a pickup. You can create your stamps account in minutes, you don't have to lease equipment. They will send you a digital scale that calculates the exact postage. Stamps.com will save you money by proposing different kinds of mail. This could be media mail. They will print out the forms for you. If you have an envelope, they will print out the recipients address on your address book. But if you're mailing internationally it will print out the customs forms and fill in the information right from the website. It will automatically send out emails to your recipient letting them know the mail is on the way. I've got a great deal, special offer that includes a four week trial, plus fifty five dollars. Here's the deal, click that microphone in the upper right hand corner, look at that! $55 in free postage. That's nice. You also get a digital scale. There's no long term commitment. You pay the shipping and handling. It's about five bucks, they make it up with a five dollar kit of activities. Things you'll need. Supplies. I love stamps.com. We use it here in the office. We've been using it for years. If you're doing mailing, make your mailing look as professional as you are. Stamps.com, go there click the Microphone in the upper right hand corner, use the offer code TWiT for $110 bonus offer from stamps.com. Who is buzzing? Somebody is buzzing? We need somebody to replug their headset. Did you figure that out, Carston?
Nick: Is it me?
Leo: No. Nick is the first person ever to use air pods.
Nick: Brought to you by dental floss.
Leo: Brought to you by—and did Apple give you a $50-dollar discount (laughing)? Dental floss. Did you see this actually, Ben Bajarin did a customer satisfaction survey of I think 952 AirPod users. 98% customer satisfaction.
Amy: None of them have curly hair. That's my—I'm telling you.
Leo: Does your hair catch your AirPods?
Amy: Does mine?
Amy: Nobody designs like head mounted displays, head related technology product for glasses or—and I'm married to somebody who was one of the first people, he's an eye doctor, he was one of the first doctors in the country to write for Google Glass. He had a special thing. In like two years he had zero people come in wanting a subscription.
Nick: It's so funny. When you said, you were talking about Apple and you said he's an eye doctor, I imagined, my brain literally was like iDoctor. And I was like, what is that guy do?
Leo: (Laughing) There's where you put your quarter of a trillion dollars. Let's get iDoctors.
Amy: You don't even need a new plug. Apple's clearly got something jacked right into you.
Brianna: You would think that like 2% of people have the ears that they fall out of. You know, Apple headphones absolutely fall out.
Leo: I love the AirPods. They fit my ears. But they have one size. One size fits all and it doesn't. My wife can't use them. Her ears are too small and—
Nick: What happens? They don't fit in or?
Leo: They're uncomfortable and they fall out.
Brianna: Yea, yea, like if you're out for a run, they just pop out of your ears. Like I don't know what's up.
Amy: I think sample size matters.
Leo: It does matter for people like me and Nick with perfectly sized ear canals and no hair to get in the way, they work great.
Amy: Beautiful short hair.
Leo: Beautiful short hair.
Nick: I have a serious question. I can't tell if I look awesome or stupid with these things sticking down.
Amy: Right, you're the glass hole of—
Leo: It's not as bad as a glass hole, though. Let's—
Nick: But it's like an eyehole thing, right here. Be honest.
Brianna: No, you look fine. You look great.
Leo: You look like your ear is smoking a meerschaum pipe. That's what you look like.
Amy: I've always thought it looked like somebody just came by with a pair of scissors and snipped off the cord. To me, that's what they've always—
Leo: Which many people have wanted to do.
Nick: And I was too lazy to take them out. Oh, gosh.
Leo: Who was it that does that? Is that Richard Branson who cuts people's ties when he sees them?
Leo: I always thought that was kind of hostile. What if it was a very expensive silk tie? And what are you going to do? Ha, ha, Richard, ha, ha. You're so funny.
Brianna: I do have to blast his methodology a little bit because I've been very curious to get these. But every single time I go to the Apple Store or I look at the Apple app to try to get some, they're always backordered for 6 months. So, I think it's worth saying that if that number is 98%, these are very hardcore Apple customers and people that are so psyched up about this product that they're willing to wait that long for them.
Nick: That's a really good point.
Brianna: Either that or just stalk an Apple Store until they get it.
Leo: It's somebody who wanted it so badly, they did that. They went back again and again and again and again.
Nick: But I will say, I didn't want them. Somebody gave them to me and I really actually love them. I mean they are, they've got this little charger inside. Can you see the little light that comes on? I mean they're really, they're pretty impressive. I've got to say.
Leo: It's the best product Apple's done in years, frankly. And this is from a company that has fumbled the MacBook Air, the new MacBook Pros are terrible. The Touch Bar's a joke.
Amy: Why don't you like the Touch Bar?
Leo: It doesn't do anything useful and you keep hitting it by accident. So, every time I hit the backspace key, Siri goes, "Yea? What? Huh?" That's not useful. So, you can move Siri and eventually you just end up disabling the Touch Bar because even when applications use it, you're not looking down to see what the application control is. You're looking at the screen like any normal typist. So, it's just not—it's a bad idea. On the other hand, you'll notice I'm using—and by the way, I'm a Mac guy. I got a Mac the first 100 days. I love Apple. I have all—I've bought every Mac ever. I've got every—but, what am I using? A Surface Studio. This thing is perfect. Do you see what it's doing here?
Brianna: It's gorgeous.
Leo: And it's touch. And I can make things big. And I can, if I want to annotate I've got a telestrator.
Nick: How much did that cost you?
Leo: Oh, don't ask (laughing). If you have to ask—it starts at $3,000-dollars. It's not a practical product. But none of Microsoft's newest products are. They're aspirational products. Like look at this new, we started talking about it, Surface laptop with a fabric. But it's got fabric on the keyboard. Alcantara. It's got an Alcantara keyboard.
Nick: I thought that was a—it looks awfully like an Apple webpage there.
Leo: That's what's kind of ironic is that Microsoft lately has been stealing Apple's design label, right?
Nick: I mean literally looks like that someone just stole the CSS from apple.com and—
Leo: I know. Even their ads. Have you seen the ad? This is the ad for the Surface Laptop, their new laptop. If I can find it, I'll play it for you.
Nick: Has it got Jony Ive?
Leo: It might as well have a white room with Sir Jony in it. It's—but you know, it's working. It's kind of like Apple's left this vacuum so Microsoft says, "What the heck?" Incidentally, there's been some, for you Microsoft fans, all 5 of you—no, look what I'm using. $3,000-dollars.
Brianna: I love that. Leo, that is such a steal for $3,000-dollars. If you look at a Wacom Cintiq, those are still $1,700-dollars. It's like they through in a computer for free.
Leo: Right. And that's about as good of a computer as you're getting. It's not the greatest. No, Microsoft has announced that they're going to do a hardware event in Shanghai in a couple of weeks and there will be new, we think there will be new Surface Pros, maybe a new Surface Book and some people are still holding out hope for a Surface Phone.
Amy: I think we're just in bit of a holding period. You know, we're about to crossover into the next wave of significantly transformative technology which is always driven. So, I think that for the next couple of years, we're not going to see a ton of innovation in terms of just the form factor and the machines. But you know, all of our modeling, within the next 5 years, 50% of your interaction with a machine is going to be with your voice and then that will start to compound very, very quickly. So, and all the patents we've seen for—you know, I'm an old Apple user, so my irritation with them has to do with a lack of innovation in what's coming next.
Nick: Speaking of audio, I have a question. I'd like to poll the panel here. Who has an Echo and uses it.
Brianna: I don't have one because I've seen the, frankly the lack of security that is in house in the APIs around it and I just don't feel safe having one in my house.
Leo: Yea, but what can it do? Swear at me? I mean, what's it—
Nick: No, it can listen to what you're saying.
Leo: Who cares?
Nick: Yea, but imagine you're sitting there, you know, you tell a bad joke or you say something about your best friend or something and someone watches the show one day and decides they don't like something you said and they DOX your Echo. I don't have mine plugged in because of that reason.
Leo: I have an Echo, I have an Echo or a Dot in every single room of my house. And I am on the waiting list to get the Look, the new one that takes—forget listening, it's going to see me. It's got a camera on it with a flash.
Amy: You got it for fashion advice, right? That's why?
Leo: Yea, because I need—well, look at me. You guys are all wearing black. I actually believe in color. No, I'm just kidding. No, I'm all in on this because I agree with you, Amy Webb, that this is—voice is the interface of the future. Look at this. Evan Bass, @evleaks on Twitter has leaked images. This is from Amazon servers, of the next Echo. Seems to be—going to come out in the next few weeks. This has a big screen on it. In fact somebody said forget—this is the next business phone. Forget your entire business phone. Throw it out the window. Now, tell me about this security with the API thing, Nick, because is it really that bad?
Nick: Look, I think it's a little—I mean we trust these technologies a little too much. I mean it's like you're putting a thing in your home where you have private conversations that is constantly recording and sharing it out over the internet. It's like there's no—I don't know. That gives me a little pause. Maybe I've been doing this so long and seen some of the terrors of hackers and things like that. There's no two-factor authentication on it or you know, its—
Leo: It's ok, Lexi. He's not talking about you.
Brianna: I will have to say this. I was at an event with students the other day where we were playing with Amazon's frameworks for this. And what—it's not that the technology is bad, because I agree 100% with Amy. It's going to be the future and I love this stuff. But speaking very generally, it kind of has the same problem that Google has that anyone can come into it and build with these APIs. We can't really trust the software that they're selling alongside it.
Leo: We actually saw a good example of that, the Google Doc email hack which was using Google's app engine and Google's APIs. But, go ahead. Finish your thought and then I'll bring that up.
Brianna: Oh. I was just going to say I think that it's obviously a great technology. I just want to see the security aspect of it.
Leo: So, are you all worried that, I don't know, that the microphone's going to be turned on and Amazon's going to be listening to you? Are you worried that a 3rd party?
Nick: Who knows?
Leo: That the NSA? But you—do you not carry in your pocket a device that's always connected to the internet with a microphone, a camera and a GPS?
Nick: Yes, but I keep a piece of tape over and you know, I turn it off at night.
Leo: Wait a minute. On your smartphone you have a tape on your camera?
Amy: I bought this thing. Let me show you.
Nick: I do too.
Leo: You guys are so paranoid.
Amy: I've got a little McThing on top of mine.
Nick: Hold on. I'm going to show you what I have.
Amy: Here's what I will say because I—we had an early, early—my lab is full of stuff so we're, you know, I've got an Echo in the lab and we're constantly testing different tools and things. You know, the reality is that literally every aspect of your life is hackable. Everything.
Amy: You could be—any part of your daily life is subject to—
Leo: Yes. And ninjas could jump you as you walk down the street and murder you. The chances are that ninjas are after you and one hopes that hackers, with the exception of Brianna Wu, that the hackers aren't after you.
Amy: That's true. But there's a deeper analogy here. I have a black belt. I do. So, if ninjas did jump me on the street, I have enough ability probably to fend them off at least enough so I could run away.
Leo: But you would grant that the investment in the black belt was significant enough that not everybody who walks down the street should have one.
Brianna: Oh, yea.
Amy: But here's my point. I do think that everybody should have some sort of a digital black belt and street smarts and the challenge here is, you know, it's the year 2017. The very fact that people opened up that Google attachment should tell us something, right? So, to me the big story wasn't that Google had this breach. To me the big story was, it's the year 2017 and the vast majority of people using technology still don't have a sophisticated enough understanding of how they should be using that technology, right? So, you know, everything is hackable and everything can listen in. And yea, I've got tape or whatever for all my cameras, but yea.
Nick: But are you saying, is your point that everything is hackable and so and so, no big deal? Or are you saying that you should be—
Leo: I just think it's a weird form of narcissism that you all have things over your cameras like somebody's dying to look at you.
Amy: Well, then that's my point. My feeling is, everything is hackable and most of us aren't doing interesting enough stuff to warrant somebody looking for our specific—but.
Nick: I have a story for you. Here's why I have a piece of tape over my—this is a pencil by the way. I found it. I don't know where it came from. Someone left it in my office. Anyway.
Leo: (Laughing) So, that's not your smartphone. That's just a pencil.
Nick: That's my iPencil.
Leo: Ah, ok.
Nick: Kevin Roose, works at Fusion.
Leo: Oh, that is such a story. Yes.
Nick: And he, for the listeners out there that don't know the story, he did a show, Profusion on hackers. And he went in New York and he said to this guy who was a professional security expert, "I want you to hack me. I want you to get everything you can from me." And he left. Didn't think anything of it and didn't think they had succeeded and he ended up in Vegas two days later and they with cameras on in the room, and he says, "So, what'd you get?" And they pulled everything up.
Nick: They got his—he walked out of the room. They figured out that he had like a Photo Bucket account from like just doing a Google search. They sent him a fake Photo Bucket thing to like login to check something or whatever. He clicked it. This is a guy who is a reporter who's been covering this stuff. He clicked it not thinking anything of it, as you wouldn't, you know. And next thing you know, they installed a piece of software on his computer that was capturing a screenshot of his screen every two seconds and taking a picture of him every 2 seconds from his camera without the light going on. And the look on his face was terrifying.
Leo: Yea, but he did something no one should do which is, I dared two expert hackers to destroy my life. I mean—
Nick: But the point of it was that that's the future, right? That's can happen to anyone.
Leo: It could happen to you right now. The future? It's right now. This happened right now. And the techniques that they used are social engineering. This woman pretended to be his wife and played baby sounds from YouTube to the customer service representative at the phone company to get access to his cell phone account. She said, "My husband just left town and I've got it and the baby's crying and I've got to get him his phone." But that's social engineering. This has been going on. So, I don't understand what you guys are saying because I don't think putting a piece of tape over your camera is doing anything but making you feel better.
Nick: Ok, so driving in a car with a safety belt, that doesn't mean you're automatically going to live if someone blindsides you or something like that or if you—but it's a precaution.
Amy: It's a probability play. I have a theory on where I think we're headed with all this. So, I used to live in Japan. And in Japanese there is no word for privacy. They had to borrow it from English and the word is Puraibashī. And the reason for that has to do with the internet, so, and it has to do with people making payments over the internet and this was like a novel—even though Japan is very, very tech forward, this piece of it was really strange. And it's interesting to me how quickly everybody's feelings about their privacy eroded because of the sheer convenience of technology. And so, my feeling is at some point, it's so difficult for everybody to have this massive, coordinated effort to stay 2 steps ahead of hackers, that at some point we all just say, "You know what? The only way for me not to be compromised is to have zero privacy whatsoever." And I wonder if at some point that's the direction that we start to head in.
Nick: I don't think so.
Brianna: No, no, no. I have to say. I mean, during Gamer Gate, I was hyper targeted. Like my company's financials were targeted. I was DOXed in extreme ways that continues to this day. Leo, this is an utterly rational fear. John Podesta is reasonably bright man. He was tricked by a phishing scam. If you've read Shattered, it's an excellent book on that. We saw the same thing. It appears to have happened in the French election. So, for me, it's not paranoia to worry about security. It is reality like borne out by the press. For me, I believe there's got to be a legislative component to solve this because the truth is, if you asked your audience and asked them how many were engineers. And they were asked to compile or save tons of information about people, to then go sell it later, they would all have horror stories to tell you. And I believe that we've got to say ok, you know what? If company A wants to collate all this data, fine. If you get permission then you know, you have permission from the user to do that. But if you don't keep it safe, if you don't hire InfoSec people to salt and hash it, to keep it in a secure way, if you're not doing due diligence to keep it safe, I do think we should pass laws that make you civilly liable. I also believe that we've got to pass on omnibus privacy bill because we can't compete with the corporate interests in selling our privacy out. So, I really believe that if we work with Congress, I think that Congress can really put a legislative solution forward because the market's not going to solve it.
Leo: You're being hacked right now, Brianna. You're memory card's full. Look at that.
Brianna: I know I am. Yes, I am.
Leo: (Laughing) So, no, that's a really good point. There are no penalties for a company like Target for instance that gets—oops, we lost Brianna. I'll wait until she gets back.
Amy: It's kind of an interesting concept, though. There are seatbelt laws right? There are certain corporate laws and a lot of having to do with our safety. I think the biggest problem with something like that, we no longer have an Office of Technology Assessment which would have been the, part of the government charged with thinking this through and—but it's interesting.
Leo: Well, maybe if Brianna gets elected we have some hope that there will be some members of Congress—
Nick: The other thing is, I think—you know, I'm a reporter and I've written some stories that some people didn't like. I've had threats and God knows what else. And, especially when I was at the New York Times. And I, one of the things that I think is, what I've learned covering all of these stories too, is that people with a lot of money and people that are very famous, they hire these groups, these security firms to come out and they make sure they have two-factor authentication turned on, all their passwords are hashed and they look at their—they do all these things for them. They monitor their dark web to make sure they're social security numbers aren't being sold. Most of the time they are, believe it or not. That their addresses aren't online and things like that. So, they do all these things. They monitor social media and so on. And I think that, you know, one of the things I do believe will happen is that will become something we pay for. If everyone does it the price will come down eventually. In the same way I hire a locksmith to install a lock on my front door, we will do that with our technologies and devices. I don't believe that most people are just going to throw their hands up in the air and be like, "Eh. I hope nothing happens. But if it does, no big deal."
Amy: I wasn't saying that. I was saying it more as sort of a collected defensive measure.
Nick: No, Leo was.
Leo: No, I was.
Amy: But Nick, what you just said sort of creates a new kind of digital divide, doesn't it? Right?
Leo: Yea, between those that can afford privacy and those who can't.
Amy: Well, not just afford but understand the implications of that and then have the ability to do something about it, you know?
Leo: And to be frank—we've got Brianna back so I can say this now, but I don't have a whole lot of confidence that even laws will do much to change this. I mean people who are doing this already are violating laws. I agree that companies that allow our databases to be leaked should be held responsible. In some cases they have been and I think Visa actually took Target to the woodshed. So, sometimes the punishment comes from sources non-governmental.
Amy: But if you stop and think about it for a moment, you know, Sony's been hacked how many times over the past 15 years, right? Over and over and over.
Leo: Yea, but Sony paid the price for it. They didn't care.
Amy: But they've done this over and over again. Go ahead.
Nick: Yahoo. For example, they kept it secret. Is Marissa Mayer speaking in front of Congress and being asked what happens with people's personal information?
Leo: Well, look at the complicity between Travis Kalanick and Uber and Apple. When Apple found out that Uber was violating, severely violating its rules and the privacy of iPhone users, Apple said, "Knock it off." They didn't say, "Oh, and you better tell everybody what you did." So, there's complicity all around on this.
Nick: There are no repercussions because of the repercussions, it would cost money.
Leo: Everybody's vulnerable. And that was an example. With the Sony hack, Amy, was Sony knew that they were vulnerable and made a financial calculation that they'd rather be vulnerable then pay to protect themselves.
Amy: But the thing that's fascinating to me about it is that they did that over and over and over again.
Amy: And people who were in charge saw each one of those incidences as a novel one-off, right?
Leo: Ha, ha.
Nick: And you know, the other thing is, I remember on the AT&T hacks, sorry, Amy. I remember with the AT&T—remember when there was the AT&T hack by, I forget the guy's name, Weev in New Jersey.
Leo: Oh, yea, Weev. Yea.
Nick: Yea. So, when that happened, it really wasn't even a hack. It was they figured out—I guess it was a hack. They figured out how to get people's email addresses and passcodes from hitting the AT&T server with the new iPad software or whatever. So, they ended up—at first the news broke and it made a big splash in the tech industry. When it turned out that there were people who worked for the White House or for the Department of Justice and things like that, or governors or senators whose email addresses became public, the DOJ came after it like a house on fire. And they ended up arresting people and putting them in jail and so on and so forth. And so, I'm sure that the Sony hack didn't necessarily effect anyone that could have actually done something about it because if it had of, then there would have been repercussions. But because it's just everyday people, they don't care.
Leo: Well, Sony paid the price, not an insignificant price I might add. Let's take a little break and we will get back to the conversation with one of the best panels we've had in a long time. And we've had some really good panels of late. Nick Bilton is here, Vanity Fair, author of a brand new book called American Kingpin. I'm just guessing, soon to be a major motion picture, yea? You've got to have optioned this.
Nick: We've optioned it to Fox and the Cohen brothers are working on it.
Leo: Oh, my God.
Nick: On a screenplay and can we do a giveaway? Can we give some away to some of the people on the chat?
Leo: Sure. Sure.
Nick: How do we do that? Do they like tweet at me? Like the first—
Leo: Don't open that door (laughing).
Nick: I don't know. What do they do? Think of something and let me know.
Leo: You know what? Next time you come on and maybe do this when you're on Triangulation, just talk to your publisher about getting a discount code. You're the author. You're the author. Maybe get a discount code. Who's going to play Ross Ulbricht in the movie?
Nick: You know who is interested believe it or not? Jared Leto.
Nick: It looks exactly like him.
Leo: That's good casting. Yea.
Amy: He looks like a skinny version of him, right?
Leo: Well, he could—you know Jared could get any weight you want.
Amy: Yea, yea.
Nick: Oh, yea.
Leo: What weight do you need? Anything you want.
Nick: No, it's essentially a real life Breaking Bad story.
Leo: It's an amazing story. Yea.
Nick: There's cops that turn bad and start fake killing people and it's just insane. It's a really, really fascinating tale.
Leo: Soon to be a major motion picture. Nick will be on Triangulation—
Nick: Starring Leo Laporte.
Leo: Starring Jared Leto. When will Nick be on? Next week? The week after? Two weeks from Monday. Something like that.
Nick: Something like that.
Leo: Danial Suarez is actually going to join us on Monday for Triangulation.
Nick: We'll do a book giveaway then.
Leo: We'll figure it out. You and your publisher get together, talk about it.
Leo: Talk amongst yourselves. Sometimes people do offer codes. Also available on Audible which is nice. There's an audiobook version.
Nick: It's an amazing—it really takes the lead, the Audible guys.
Leo: Did they do a good job?
Nick: They're all fantastic. I love Audible audiobooks. They're so great.
Leo: I know. Before the show we were saying that's the way to get through these is get the audiobook and you can listen in your sleep or whenever you're not, you know, working.
Amy: That would be the greatest thing ever if I could wire it in while I'm sleeping.
Leo: Can you invent that, Amy? Come on.
Amy: That would be amazing.
Leo: Sleep learning. Every science fiction book has it. Why haven't we invented it yet? Amy's the author of The Signals are Talking: Why Today's Fringe is Tomorrow's Mainstream. Become a futurist. She's got everything you need to know right in here from Public Affairs Books. This is great. We had a great Triangulation which you can back and watch.
Amy: I could do this with my book. If you bought a copy of the book, if you have it or if you have it on Kindle, if you tweet me a photo of it, I'll send you a—I can send you a signed bookplate.
Leo: Oh, nice. Nick?
Amy: So, tweet at me with a photo.
Leo: You have to have today's newspaper, your head and the book like that.
Nick: I'm going to one up that. If you bought a copy of my book and send me a picture of yourself naked with the book—
Leo: No, Nick, no.
Nick: I will send you a picture of Leo naked with the book.
Leo: Ok, those are widely available. No big deal.
Amy: Ok, they are both hilarious, but I was actually trying to be nice, so if anybody actually wants my handwriting for whatever reason.
Leo: Thank you. Thank you, Amy. That's truly nice. I'm going to do that.
Amy: And then I guess you can hack me with my—
Leo: Amy, see?
Nick: Amy, I just bought your book actually while we were on the show.
Leo: I highly recommend it.
Amy: Well, I'm not sending you a signed anything until I see a photo or it didn't happen.
Leo: (Laughing) Can I cover my privates with the book? Would that work for you?
Nick: As long as you're wearing that orange sweater.
Leo: It's not quite big enough. All right. We're going to take a break. I'm sorry, Brianna Wu is just saying, "I wish I weren't here. And my camera's not working." She's also here. We love Brianna. Brianna Wu, Space Kat Gal. And we will have more in a moment.
Leo: Our show today brought to you by FreshBooks. If you're in business for yourself—I know you're doing good because you have something you love to do, a product that you want to make, a service you want to offer. The last thing you want to do is be a bookkeeper, unless that's your business. In that case, this ad's not for you. But if you were a normal person and you don't want to do books, you've got to know about FreshBooks. FreshBooks—for me, FreshBooks was an eye opener. 10 years ago when I—I used to have to send invoices, right, with expenses and time. And I would put it off and I wouldn't get paid. What a- I learned something that day. You don't send an invoice, they don't pay you. In fact, I was complaining about it and Amber MacArthur who was my co-host up in Canada said, "Leo, there's a new company that just started up in Toronto called FreshBooks." I'll tell you how long ago this was. It was a Web 2.0 company. And you should use it. You can make your invoices easily. I did. It turned my life around. And since then, FreshBooks has grown and grown. Now 10 million small business owners use FreshBooks, not just for invoicing, but to keep track of profit, loss, expenses. You now know and I think this is pretty true, most small business owners, if you said, "Are you making a profit this year? Did you make?" They don't know until tax time if they made money. FreshBooks, the dashboard will tell you at any given moment. How much money are you making? Who owes you money? Who do you need to invoice? What invoices are unpaid? What are your expenses looking like? You can manage team timesheets. In fact, you can do all your hour tracking in the FreshBooks app on your phone or at the FreshBooks site. You can make your invoices look sweet, brand them, send recurring invoices, auto-payment reminders, automatic late fees. You can even make it so your client pays you automatically. If your client wants to do that, that takes the burden of paperwork of both of your shoulders and that's awesome. In fact, FreshBooks customers get paid on average 11 days faster. That is amazing. You've got to try it. Free, 30 days. FreshBooks.com/twit. If you write This Week in Tech when they ask you how'd you hear about us that would be a very nice thing for me. FreshBooks integrates with many of the apps you use already like Stripe and Shopify and Gusto, Acuity Scheduling so you can get those payments integrated in without any typing. I mean, this is really the easiest way to keep your books. FreshBooks.com/twit for 30-days free. It's a live saving service for free-lancers and small businesses. It sure saved my behind.
Leo: We are talking about the world of tech with three of the most interesting people I know. Brianna Wu, running for Congress in Massachusetts 8th District. You got your camera fixed?
Brianna: I did. I did.
Leo: Good. You weren't being hacked, were you?
Brianna: No, no, no. We're all safe at the Wu family headquarters (laughing).
Leo: The ultimate irony. You know, it's actually—was it you Amy, or was it Nick that said this is an example of the have—it was you Amy, the have and have nots. There is, there will be people who have the tech savvy to protect themselves and then the people who don't, who is, by the way, 90%. But 90% of people don't even know there's an issue.
Amy: Yea, we haven't even talked about things like VR and AR and the people who can afford the cloaking so that your faces can't be recognized and your eyes can't be seen and it's a whole other couple of years down the road.
Nick: And the lack of understanding. One of the most Googled thing on Google is Google. I mean, that's—how are these people going to understand that?
Leo: I remember going to Google some years ago and they used to have in the lobby, current real-time searches, remember? And the number one search was Yahoo. It's because people in the Google thing type Yahoo to get to Yahoo. That's how people are. And yet, it was many of us smarter than the average bear-types, a lot of journalists who got bit by this Google Doc email that spread like wildfire. When was this? Was it Tuesday or Wednesday of this week?
Amy: It was a couple days ago.
Leo: Yea. You'd get an email from someone you knew—this is why. And journalists in particular were vulnerable because journalists get a lot of shared documents, right? You get an email from somebody you knew that said this person has invited you to view the following document. You've got a button you use to open Docs and of course when it did that, it would launch Google's official login including incidentally, it would—two-factor would, you know. It all worked right because it wasn't illegal. It was the Google app. But if you paid attention there were a couple—and I think most people aren't looking for this. A couple of things. First of all, this hhhhh that it was shared with in addition to the person you know. But then there was even more important which I don't know if I have here, which is you would receive a permissions request and in the permissions request it would say, "Google Docs wants permission to open, read, send your email at Gmail and to look at all your contacts." And if you thought about it, you might not have clicked the allow button at that point because exactly what happened is then the app got your contact list and emailed the same email to everybody you know, embarrassing you.
Amy: But that's the rub, right? If you had stopped and thought about it. And you know, this is what I keep coming back to. You know, I think that we humans feel very much in control of the machines in our lives and we're not. The machines are very much dictating our everyday actions. This is why, by the way, the United problem happened on the United Airlines flight because at every point along the way, an algorithm was making a decision and people were reading what was on their screen, staff, just following directions.
Leo: That's called a fiasco. That always happens. Every horrible thing that happens is a cascade of avoidable small actions that add up to disaster.
Amy: I agree with you. In this case, you know, what I'm seeing more and more of is that sort of lack of—we're just doing what the machines are telling us to do. So, the email said to click and it never, you know—the first thing I thought of was actually, because I got one, was "this person wouldn't know how to send me a Google anything if his life depended on it." So, what the hell?
Leo: You are lucky that you got it from that person.
Brianna: I respect where you're coming from, but I think that if you have ever sat in on a user testing session, I think good technologists, I think we, I think we really put the user first. And I think all kinds of bad decisions get made in technology when we start blaming the user. And I think that yea, for the hyper educated about these issues, I think it's really easy for us to lack empathy towards what normal users are feeling. And I think we've got to put them in the forefront here. So, to me, I look at this issue and this was spread by email. I think it's almost time for us to update our email standards and if like Microsoft is sending me an email, I'm sorry, a program update, you know, there are certificates inside of it to make sure that I'm running code from the right person. I almost want something to be built into these systems that can verify that these requests are coming from the real people behind it. Because, it's just true. We can blame users or call them dumb or belittle them but like Facebook's Chief Security Officer, he wrote a wonderful blog post a few months ago looking at how InfoSec people will look at edge cases. And we like to talk about zero day exploits. The truth is, the main thing that happens is that people get phished and that's just a fact. That is most of these kind of hacking vulnerabilities.
Amy: I totally agree with you.
Brianna: So, rather than blaming people, I think we've got to have compassion for them and figure out how to give them better indication of what they're being given.
Amy: I completely agree with you and I'm certainly not calling anybody stupid or anything at all like that. My point is, my concern is that, and we all do this, right? In the desire that we have for automation, to do more without directly, you know, while directly doing less, as we outsource more and more of our daily tasks, what we have started to do is to—a lot of that automation happens without a direct connection, and we're not thinking about it. And so, what I want people to do is to insert themselves back into the process a little bit more and to just you know.
Leo: Well, here's—by the way, thanks to our editor—go ahead, Nick.
Nick: I just want to say one thing. Hold on. Leo. So, one of my biggest frustrations is people that are like "Damn you, auto-correct." Auto-correct, if you pause before you hit send, you would see that it wrote the thing incorrectly. We're in such a rush all the time these days because of technology that even when we screw up which is us screwing up because we haven't stopped to read it until after we sent it, we tend to blame the technology. And I think it's, you know, it's a perfect example of the fact that everything is everyone else's fault except for us humans. Really, at the end of the day, it's almost always us humans' fault. If we stop and pause and like you said, Amy, and thought well that person wouldn't send me this.
Amy: That's right. That's exactly right.
Leo: This is the—so, this is from the editor that first exposed this. This is the permissions. And by the way, all of this is legitimate Google, you know the authentication was real. It was OLAF 2. The second factor if you had it was real. This was the popup that Google gives you. Google Docs would like—and the only, by the way, the only spurious thing in all of this is that Google Docs isn't an application, really. It doesn't need permission. It's, you know, Google Docs. But if you saw Google Docs would like to read, send, delete and manage your email and manage your contents, that, I mean, if you're sophisticated you might of looked at that and said, "What?" But, it's Google. Why wouldn't I give that? So, you hit the allow button and that, by the way, you're done at that point. This is when ti bugs you.
Amy: Well, I would also say to Brianna's point which was a good one, you know, a lot of times when you're linking, when you're using Facebook's auth to login to something, you're also being asked to give away the farm, right? You're sort of asking to click through to everything. And the more that—so, again, it's become automatic. So, we're not—nobody reads the TOS, right? Nobody—like, none of us are doing any of that.
Leo: And we now know from Unroll.Me nobody was paying attention. Yea. But, so—
Amy: I have a question for Brianna. Can I ask?
Brianna: So, how would you—is there a—how would you solve this, right? So, how do you solve a problem where people are increasingly used to and want automation. You can't—I don't think you can solve this with a really great UX, right, or UI. So, what do you do? What do you think?
Brianna: Well, I think we should look at email standards. I really do. I had a really long discussion with people in my Twitter feed this week about SMTP servers. You know, you can theoretically get two-factor authentication through TLS and other technologies, but most organizations are not going to pay for that and it ends up being like single password. I would like us to look very critically at email and see if there's some way we can bake encryption into email, you know, like end-to-end user encryption. Because typically it's server side encrypted but it's not encrypted on like your hard drive. I think looking at encryption would with email. I think looking at ways to identify who email is coming from. I think Google has a lot of responsibility here. Like, somebody found out a way to cheat that and make it sound like, you know, Google Docs right there. Like, that should be impossible if they're using Google's OLAF system. So, I think that we have a term in engineering, multi-factoral, there are multi-factoral solutions here. But clearly, it's not working as is.
Leo: It is a challenge because you don't want to blame users. They're not stupid. But at the same time, everything's designed.
Amy: I don't know. I feel like again, if you're going to insert yourself and start—you don't need to know exactly how server side authentication works but I think that we are setting ourselves up several years from now for serious problems if we don't—
Nick: You're right. You don't have to know how—
Amy: If you don't have digital street smarts.
Nick: Yea, exactly. I think that, ok, what's a good analogy? A toilet, right? I don't know what happens, how the sewage system works and what happens to the things that go down there, but I know not to put a brick down the toilet and try to flush it.
Leo: If you did it would be your problem, your fault.
Amy: There's a better analogy. Right, so Nick, or whomever, the panel, you don't understand exactly how your—maybe you do—your car works, like the inside pieces of your car. But you know that you're going to get in a car and put a seatbelt on, right?
Amy: That's what I'm talking about.
Leo: What if though, what if the real flaw here is that you're driving the car in the first place? What if the very thing that Google Docs does is inherently highly risky? And really, there's no UI that would solve this problem because you are, what you're doing is inherently dangerous. Your documents are out there. You're giving permission. You know, Cory Doctorow was on Monday on Triangulation. He says, "I don't store my email in the cloud. I use POP Mail and download it because I don't want—but all my mail is on Gmail, 11 years-worth of email and if Unroll.Me or Slice or the NSA want to know everything about me, it would all be there. It's not encrypted. It's available." And so, what if the very things we're doing are the danger and there's no way to design yourself out of that. You are driving a car that has no body that you know, put on a seatbelt, fine. It's dangerous inherently. Isn't that the case?
Brianna: Yep, it definitely is.
Leo: We're worried, we're putting tape over a camera. But you're carrying a microphone, a camera, a GPS that's always on the internet in our pockets and we're worried about the Amazon Echo. We are actively participating, right now, in many, many technologies that are eminently hackable and very dangerous and it's silly for us to day, "Well, I'm not going to use an Amazon Echo because that's an attack factor," when there's 3,000 other attack factors. It's just the nature of modern technology. I'll tell you why we do it. I'll tell you why we do it. Because of the convenience and the value that we get out of it and whether knowingly or not, and I would say mostly knowingly, believe it or not. You talk to teenagers, they kind of know what's going on. We are willing to give up this privacy. We are willing to expose ourselves because of the value. For the same reason that people live in cities which are inherently more dangerous than the country, because of the value of living in the city.
Amy: That's right. And so if you spin this out, the earlier point that I was making about sort of—I mean it sounds like a fatalistic scenario but if you spin this out far enough, you know, do we no longer care? Is the way that we deal with our privacy is to completely give up our privacy? It sounds like a Black Mirror episode but if you model this out and forces continue the way that they're going, is that the ultimate scenario? I don't—it's plausible.
Nick: Leo, everyone, guests, esteemed colleagues.
Leo: Don't say you've got to leave now.
Nick: I have to leave in 5 minutes.
Leo: I know. I'm watching the clock. Sorry, we've got one more thing. I want to ask—
Nick: President Zuckerberg. Sorry.
Leo: We're going to do one more ad and then we'll let you go. Don't leave yet. Don't leave yet. Why are you going to the Guardians of the Galaxy? What, you've got D-box seats at 5:00?
Nick: No, I'm going honestly to my niece's birthday party. She's 10.
Leo: Aw, you're a good uncle.
Nick: So, I have too-
Leo: No, I don't want to disappoint your niece.
Nick: Can I give a shout-out to the book website before I say goodbye?
Leo: Well, that was hard.
Nick: There you go. There's links to the Audible, the Amazon, the iBooks, the you name it. And there's pictures of the drug deals and the murders and you know.
Leo: Steven Levy writes, "In American Kingpin, Nick Bilton again proves why he's one of technologies best storytellers with a stunningly researched and very scary portrait of the creator of a marketplace gone mad, and the oddly uncoordinated officers who took him down."
Nick: It's true. It tells the bad side from the good side and the good side from the bad side.
Leo: This is the one where they arrest him at the San Francisco Public Library.
Nick: Oh, my God, Leo. You just gave away the ending.
Leo: Oh, crap (laughing).
Nick: That's not the ending. It's a crazy, yea.
Leo: That's just the beginning. In a world where anything's available online, one man decided the Silk Road led to heaven. American Kingpin, in stores now. How about that, Nick Bilton? There's people who will pay money for that.
Nick: Press 4, Leo, 4.
Leo: (Laughing) Movie Phone.
Nick: Press 2 for Amy Webb.
Leo: Amy Webb, The Signals are Talking. That's Brianna Wu. She's running for Congress. All right, we're going to take a break and one more article. If you want to go, Nick, just take on off but I'm going to read the article Don't Let Facebook Make You Miserable. So, we want to end on an up note. This is in The New York Times today.
Leo: But at first, a word from Hover.com. If you've got a domain name, this is the funniest thing. Everybody I know does this. You're at a party, you're at dinner and somebody says, "Fancypants.com." And you get an idea, right? Register the domain. You've got to lock it in. Hey, are you pregnant? Are you having a baby? What's the first thing you do before you decide on the name of the baby? Nowadays you've got to Google that name. You've got to check and you get the domain name. I own Fancypants, don't get it. It's mine, buddy boy. I have it. I also have my kid's names, Abby Laporte and Henry Laporte registered at Hover.com. In fact, I registered for 20 years because I figured if they don't want it by the time they're 20, screw them. This is important. Domain name registration. And there's one place to go. Don't even think about going to any other place, Hover.com. They have 400 domain name extensions including .pizza, .ninja, .horse. This is the best place to go to register your domain names. Of course, .com and .net and even kind of fun stuff like .tech. Brianna, you could get .democrat. I could get—
Brianna: I could get .club. They've got .church. They've got everything.
Leo: I think Briannawu.democrat. Leolaporte.republican. It'd be great. It'd be awesome.
Brianna: Love it.
Brianna: Let's make it happen.
Leo: Let's make it happen. You can at Hover.com. By the way, they know you want domain privacy. That's built in. This is not one of those places where you buy the domain name and then they go, oh, 50 pages of would you like this? Would you like to buy that? Do you want to buy this? It's simple. They're Canadian. It's nice. Best customer support in the business. Their support team will help you. In fact, I moved all my domains because I was on every other—I had every other domain. 5 or 6 different places. I got them all moved. Their concierge service just moved them all to Hover. It's easy to manage. Their DNS management is so simple. They also, if you're on Google + or Tumblr or WordPress or LinkedIn, they have a very easy to move, you know, to put that domain name on your service. I just registered Leo.social for my microblog and it was very easy. WordPress, leolaporte.blog, I set it up very easily. Hover.com/twit and by the way, buy all the domain names because you'll get 10% off your first purchase. Hover.com/twit. I have hundreds, no it just says 59. That seems like hundreds. There's tunictime.com. If anyone wants to sell tunics, I've got the name for you. TWiT.expert, TWiT.watch, TWiT.com.
Leo: So, this was a good article I thought and we can wrap up with this. I know everybody wants to go to dinner. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is an economist but he I think catalyzed something that's been in my head. Don't Let Facebook Make You Miserable. Scholars have analyzed the data and confirmed what we knew already, that social media is making us miserable because everybody puts their best stuff on social media. For instance, he says as an example, "Americans spend about six times as much of their time cleaning dishes as they do golfing. But there are twice as many tweets reporting golfing than there are dish doing. The Las Vegas budget hotel Circus-Circus and Bellagio, same number of people checked in. But the Bellagio gets about three times as many check-ins on Facebook because nobody wants to admit they're staying at Circus-Circus. Owners of luxury cars like BMWs and Mercedes are about two and a half times as likely to like their car company Facebook as Honda owners." And on and on and on. He quotes a good old saying from AA, "Don't compare your insides to other people's outsides." And he points out that one of the problems with social media is always putting their best foot forward. Everybody else's life looks great. Your life feels terrible. So, what's his fix? He says, "Use Google auto-complete." Anytime you feel bad, just type in "I always f" and then you'll see the auto-complete, have to pee, feel tired. Just type in I always feel, tired, bloated, hungry, sick. This is what really is going on in the world because Google auto-complete is based on Google searches people are preforming. So, there (laughing).
Brianna: You know, we looked at this a while back in my game studio because we were asking, we wanted to know what makes Twitter so wildly addictive. And we started looking into the neuroscience behind it.
Brianna: And you get into this feedback loop where every time, like if I tweet something and I start getting like likes or retweets, it's a dopamine hit. You see the exact same reward treadmill, like in a game like Destiny where you might get more and more powerful weapons so you keep being compelled to keep playing. So, you get that next upgrade. But the inverse of this is also true. And I think that anyone who's a public figure that has said something and had it go a little out of control on Twitter can like attest to this. Where when you get that negative feedback, it has the exact opposite like emotion on you. Yea, I was at a campaign event this weekend. You know, I'm on the beach, I'm with my husband and it's gorgeous outside. And, I'm getting a bunch of static on Twitter. And it's really hard to not let that affect your mood. And the only solution I have for that is just step away. Just step away. You can't win sometimes and just you know, your life is with your spouse or with your children or your friends. And you know, it's ultimately not real. And I think like we've got to all get better about putting those brakes in place.
Amy: I think the thing to bear in mind is that in the digital realm, we are far more, we present a far more aspirational version of ourselves than we are in the real world. And we're far willing to be more vitriolic and horrible. And so, the digital realm is like this area of outliers, right, personality outliers and behavioral outliers. I think we forget about a lot of this and yea. I mean the easiest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do and that's unplug, right?
Leo: And this was kind of what I was referring to earlier when I said that Silicon Valley has weaponized capitalism. That they are no more rapacious or greedy than capitalists in years gone by, but you look at, well World of Warcraft's a really good example. And I'm sure—I would actually really love to know what you think about this, Brianna, and I'm sure you know this. But, they're getting feedback all the time, what keeps people playing longer and this data is so valuable because they can essentially design a more and more addictive game and then consistently get these signals. And every iPad game nowadays, these games where you buy donuts or coins or gems, they are as every bit as addictive as the worst thing Vegas ever thought of, probably 10 times worse.
Brianna: Well, of course it is. Because they've got that much more data on you. You know, I have a friend of mine who works for a mobile game company. I'm not going to say which one but I was down at their studio and he started opening up all the information that they have about certain people. And they have lists of users and what the probability is and they will tweak variables to get them to use that next cash purchase. So, it's like a Vegas statistician, it's like a dream. Design something that keeps you going back. I do have to say that knowledge can be used for good. We've seen this with Dota and one of the really interesting things, Dota is a genre called—it's basically a teen—
Leo: It's a MOBA.
Brianna: Yea, it's a MOBA. It's a bunch of people fighting together. And what I love about this is they figured out if there's harassment on their platform, it drives players away which is bad for their bottom line. So, they use that data to figure out what are the consequences we can introduce into the equation to make people think about their actions a little bit more? So, it could be used for good and evil I think.
Leo: Somebody's saying though that Dota is a troll fest (laughing).
Brianna: Yea, well.
Leo: So, maybe they're not doing as well as they—it's easy enough to think about. It's hard to make it work. I mean why hasn't Twitter solved this? Everybody understands the problem.
Amy: Because their disincentived. There's a financial disincentive to solve the problem. We, too, could solve that problem as users by like not using it, right? You think if you sort of categorize all the digital things in your life that you rely on and you had to sort of get rid of one by one in a priority order. I use Facebook. Would I not be able to run my business without Facebook? Would I not be able to feed my family without Facebook? You know, I could get rid of Facebook like that and have no problem. And I could do the same thing with Twitter. And I was one of the original set of users of Twitter and I've enjoyed the service. I enjoyed the service more at the beginning than I do now. I could get rid of both of those easily without even blinking.
Leo: Well, early on the reward cycle was getting followers. I remember when Kevin Rose and I were in a battle to get, to be number one on Twitter with 5,000 followers. And those days are long gone (laughing).
Amy: Yea. And I remember having, because I was at one of the schools that was part of the original Facebook cohort.
Leo: Oh, really?
Amy: Yea, anyways I went to Columbia, so I just remember at some point using it and not really caring about it but then seeing a whole bunch of people who were decades older than me getting onto the platform and using. It was just like you know, so whatever. Platforms they grow, they launch, they grow, the change and ultimately we wind up at this point every time. We wind up at a point where people are, yea.
Leo: I do feel that people aren't any worse than they have ever been. They have always the same. I mean, people are people. But what happened is that technology has a very strange way, provided this megaphone, this amplifier. The tools, the big data tools, the analytics that we have now have given people literally, well not literally. Well, yea, I could say literally weaponized people's worst impulses.
Amy: I would say that we—so, I cannot tell you what we did but we advised folks in the government. We have been advising for several years. Yea, I would, I think that a lot of people would categorize them as weapons. Yea, absolutely.
Brianna: Yea, absolutely.
Leo: And guess what? Facebook's next target? TV. They have plans to push 2 dozen shows. They've greenlit multiple shows for production. They aim to premier this mid-June, next month. Facebook TV and if I were the networks, I'd be a little bit worried.
Amy: I'd be concerned.
Leo: Yep. VR dating. Now, we've seen YouTube try this and fail. So, it's always—and Facebook's failed with a great many things but it's always possible and I tell you, Facebook might fail 9 times out of 10, but all it takes is one out of the 10 with 2 billion users to become dominant.
Brianna: Leo, I'd be very interested to ask you because you're the journalist here. It seems to me a lot of my friends that are journalists, you know, Fox or Outlet, they do find Facebook Live to be worth their time. So, I mean do you feel confident about this? Because I can see them expanding, I can see like TWiT being a good fit for this.
Leo: You know, we've never tried to capitalize on it. Because I think the content is short form for the most part. Nobody wants to watch a 2-hour show, for the same reason—Twitter, by the way, is also launching a channel that will include stuff from Fox and Eli Patel's going to do a gadget show. That concerns me a little bit more only because TWiT and Twitter sound a lot alike. We predate Twitter but as Ed Williams once told me, he said, "Well, I knew about TWiT but I didn't think either of us were going anywhere so it was ok to use the name."
Brianna: I don't know. You know, Nike did this Breaking2 Event this weekend and I love to run. So, I was watching it and I kept myself up until 2:00 AM watching this live video on Twitter about these people trying to break a 2-hour marathon. They failed by 24 seconds.
Brianna: It was amazing. But it was really addictive. So, I can see this being worthwhile for Facebook but I also think that every single publisher has looked at the outcome for working with Facebook as a publisher with like Instant Articles. And the money just isn't there. So, I would be very worried about getting into bed with Facebook for this.
Leo: We've gone full circle. Weren't you talking about that at the beginning of the show, Amy Webb? That these publishers are pulling back now because they're not—Facebook's monetizing Instant Articles great, but none of that money's trickling down to the—
Amy: Well, it was sort of a—and I can't like sit still for very long so I had to stand up. But—
Leo: We're almost done.
Amy: No, again I was thinking to the future of news and money and Facebook and so I was modeling out these different scenarios given the data that I got. And I occurred to me, what if every publisher, and this would only work if everybody did it, but what if everybody yanked their content off of Facebook. If you look at the UI and the content that moves through it, a lot of that UI is dedicated to news stories and a lot of the content is news stories. And I think that the only thing that would be left would be the obviously fake news stories. And at that point, you know, without those other sources, if you just had cat photos and aspirational photos that you're posting to make other people jealous and fake news, how interesting and compelling is the platform? And I think the answer is not super compelling.
Leo: But wait. There's two ways thing appear, that news appears on Facebook. One is of course the publications themselves putting instant articles there. The other is us sharing links to stories and that doesn't matter. The New York Times can't stop that. And if they did, they'll do it at their peril. Look at what Financial Times and other paywalls have done to those journals.
Amy: No, no, no. I actually thought that through. I think that there is a way to—anyway, I thought through and I was talking to a few friends who are developers. I think there's a way to append the URL to prevent it from being shared, which is not—
Leo: You'd be crazy to do that.
Amy: Would you?
Leo: Facebook drives a huge amount of traffic to these publications.
Amy: Facebook is driving traffic but Facebook is also cannibalizing the revenues of a lot—and to be fair, this is a whole other show, but these organizations didn't this through in advance, right?
Leo: They didn't have a lot of choice, either.
Amy: Well, I think that there would be a scenario where—
Leo: They could have, you mean that at the beginning they said, "No you can't share our stuff."
Amy: Right. So, this is my point. My point is that the year 2017 is very similar to the year, or is very similar to 1987. 1987 was that part of the bridge where the academic internet became the commercial internet. And news organizations at that point, that's when I—you know, I was a journalist in the very, very early days of this. And most of the news organizations were either ignoring it or they were demoting people over to the website. Nobody was taking it seriously. Certainly, nobody had though through business models or business plans or anything else like that, or modeling out what this might look like. And so, we wind up where we are today where you know, visual media, social media all have completely eroded the wallet share or the mine share of traditional media sources and they never changed their model. Their 2017 is the beginning of the next bride. And that next bridge is from us typing on machines to us talking to machines and voice is the thing that will reshape the information landscape going forward. And once again, none of them are at the table. So, if the big seven AI companies that are working in an arms race for AI, you know, journalists aren't there. Sure, there's all kinds of news organizations on Echo but they haven't thought through, they've sort of put their stuff there because they feel like they need to put their stuff there. And not a single publisher or television broadcaster or radio broadcaster has developed a model for the future. They're just giving away their content. And so, we're going to wind up in an even worst situation years from now than we are right now because nobody—history is repeating itself.
Brianna: I just, I don't see how you put the genie back in the bottle. For me, I pay for The New York Times. I pay for The Washington Post. I pay for the Boston Globe because those are three papers that are really relevant to what I do. But I don't go to—I sometimes go to The New York Times, but generally speaking, I look at articles that people share. And I think that's just the formula nowadays for how—
Amy: It doesn't have to be. You can turn off that tab. I've spent modeling these.
Leo: Is there a counter example in Europe where the European publishers hated Google putting snippets of their content on Google Search, so they said stop. And they immediately regretted it because they weren't getting, they lost a huge amount of traffic by turning off Google.
Amy: They didn't wait long enough. So, here's the thing. This has to be a transition. So, no, of course you're going to see an initial drop. And that has to be explained to advertisers. That has to be explained to everybody else in the organization that's thinking through. So, of course there's a temporary drop. But, again, if everybody yanks their—you know, if all the news organizations yank their content off of Facebook, right, and if the place that you have to get your news is on the website. And let's go one more. Let's say that news organizations band together and buy Twitter, right? Twitter, who's share price is going nowhere but you know, right? So, let's say that they band together and they buy Twitter and they turn Twitter into a 21st century wire service. And we all still use Twitter but Twitter is a much better experience because there is better, you know—because they're dealing with trolls and we're using it as a discovery tool, you know?
Leo: I like it. I like it.
Amy: And it's not meant to turn a profit. It's not meant to turn a profit. It's similar to the AP or the original intent of the AP. It's meant as a distribution arm. Then all of a sudden, because new organizations don't have to—
Leo: Then you don't need Facebook.
Amy: That's right.
Brianna: I don't think that—
Amy: There are solutions. There are solutions. This is my whole point. My point is that not enough people—that's right. And not enough people are thinking through far enough and they're not modeling this out far enough. They're so consumed with right now. And to be fair, everybody needs to be consumed with right now because there are serious financial concerns. But tomorrow is far worse than today. Tomorrow is far worse than today.
Leo: You know what protected us is I just had an aversion to living on somebody else's platform. I looked at what Zinga and companies that created Facebook Games suffered when Facebook pulled the plug on them and it was very clear that if you live on somebody else's platform, you die on somebody else's platform. The control your destiny. And I was just never willing to do that. That's why we're not big on YouTube either.
Amy: That's right. And you have a brilliant—I mean you are brilliant. And you have launched what I consider to be the only modern, well, the only really sort of modern media company. VOX has a tech stack and a media stack that's very interesting, you know, but if I think about true success, like you're it, right? But it required you going off platform. And I think you had enough sense to do that and it was a wise choice. But nobody else is thinking that way.
Leo: It wasn't conscience. It was completely a gut, and coming from mostly the experience of working for the man. I just didn't want to work for the man.
Brianna: I think—I definitely see what you're saying, Leo, about Zinga and those game companies dying. That happened here in Boston. We saw that happen repeatedly and Facebook wouldn't give them support and they just died. And these were people who put a lot of time into games. I think though, I don't think this is a distribution problem as much as I think it's a human nature problem. Because I definitely think you've got the problem of authors getting paid for their content and journalistic organizations getting paid for their content. But, I think the current problem's really human nature problem. Articles that I have to kind of, you know, even me, force myself to read like a long Wall Street Journal piece on double default swaps and securitization and different financial products, that's stuff I need to know. And it's boring. It's kind of terrible to go through. You know, it's much more fun and easy for me to click on a story about Guardians of the Galaxy, which anyone can write. So, I think the human nature problem is, I think that people are going to click on things they already agree with. I think that's always going to be cheaper and easier to manufacture. That's why you've seen these fake news organizations just explode.
Amy: So, one of the most popular stories to date on The Washington Post is still Nine Things You Need to Know About Siri But Were Too Afraid to Ask. So, and that was a—it's actually not. It was by Max Fisher. It was a listicle and it's what started all the journalism making fun of listicles but I will tell you, it was incredibly well done. It was incredibly informative. And it you know—
Leo: But you would agree, it didn't succeed because it was well done and informative. It succeeded because of the headline.
Amy: Well, I think it initially did but again, you know, listen. I used to write for the Wall Street Journal. I used to be on staff at the Journal and at Newsweek. So, I'm intimately familiar and aware of the power of great journalism and a good headline and all the rest. But the challenge that we're facing is that people have limited attention and news organizations aren't competing against other news organizations. They are competing against anything now that sucks away attention. So, that could be a game. That could be my Fitbit. It could be any number of things. And so, this isn't a question of—this is a question of being smarter, and again, mapping out the future. So, and if something isn't done we're going to be in a far worse place a decade from now than we are today. And if you think we have a fake news problem today, you know, a decade from now we're going to be even worse off because we're going to have fewer news organizations and not more of them. And it has a lot to do with this burgeoning AI ecosystem that everybody's ignoring.
Leo: That's a great point. I'd love to see them buy Twitter. I think that's a—you've come with the first reasonable plan for Twitter's future that I've ever heard.
Amy: The whole thing is laid out both in Mother Jones and in there's a publication put out by Harvard called the Harvard Nieman Report. They're both there.
Leo: Yea, Nieman report is great. Thank you. I think we can wrap on this. We've gone a long time and I hate to because it's such a good conversation. You guys are great. We will do this again soon I hope. Thank you so much, Brianna Wu for joining us. Brianna Wu for Congress. I'm voting for her and I don't even live in Massachusetts.
Brianna: Don't do that, Leo. Please don't do that. Please don't do that.
Leo: I wouldn't do it.
Amy: When are the primaries there?
Brianna: Next year. So, I've got a little bit more than a year to get my name out there. And it is, you know, it's hard work. You're going out there. You're meeting people. It's a real challenge for somebody who's more of a national figure to translate it to a smaller, local scale.
Leo: Retail politics, yea.
Brianna: It is. And like a lot of engineers, I am most comfortable behind a computer screen. I love spending afternoons coding. And this is something that's definitely using a different part of my brain but I think we've got to have a better quality of people serving their country.
Leo: Well, I'm glad you haven't given up on the voters. I feel like I have but I'm going to take my inspiration from you, Brianna Wu. I mean, you win, then I will say, "Wow. The voters are smart." BriannaWu2018.com.
Brianna: Call me up if there's some policy things you want to talk about.
Leo: I will. I will have a voice in Congress (laughing).
Brianna: You will.
Leo: Amy Webb, somebody in the chatroom just said, "Why did it take TWiT so long to get Amy on?" Because I'm slow. Amy Webb is the author of The Signals are Talking. We only met recently and—
Amy: Well, you only met me recently but I have been a very, very longtime fangirl and listener and viewer, so.
Leo: You'll be back. Both of you. Two of our newer panelists and two of our best, so I'm really glad to have you both on. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. A reminder, we're going to be at Maker Faire on May—what year is this? 19th. May 19th, Friday with Father Robert Ballecer and many of the TWiT crew from 1 -5 PM. They promised us a table or somewhere we could sit down. I would love to see you. And if you have a project you've been working on or making, and you could bring it by, that would be great. We're going to bring cameras as well and feature some of you on The New Screen Savers. Makerfaire.com with an E at the end. The Bay Area Maker Faire, the original, is May 19th through the 21st and we'll be there on day one. And I hope you will come by and say hi. We do this show every Sunday, 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern, 2200 UTC. Tune in and watch live. If you are watching live, I invite you to join us in the chatroom, too, irc.twit.tv. You can be part of the conversation. It's always great to have the active an engaged chat here. They're very, very helpful to the show. But if you can't be here live, of course, the real reason we're here is to make these shows available on demand. They used to be called podcasts. Remember those? If you go to TWiT.tv you'll find all of our shows, all of our episodes. You can subscribe. Get them automatically delivered to your phone every week. That's the best way of course to consume our content. There's also TWiT apps on every platform. You can use those as well or your favorite pod catcher. But don't miss an episode because the conversation's always very interesting on TWiT. Thanks for being here and we'll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye. Great show.