This Week in Tech 633 Transcript
Becky Worley: I'm Becky Worley and I'm sitting in for Leo Laporte on This Week in Tech, and we have a phenomenal panel. It's an all Robert panel. We have Rob Reid, the science fiction writer, we have Robert Scoble, who needs no introduction, and we have Bob Sullivan, who is a security writer and journalist par excellence. We are going to talk about Apple's new gear, we're going to talk about Google. Why did they buy HTC? It's like the double rainbow. What does it mean? And then the Equafax hack. What's new, and what you should do. That's all coming up on This Week in Tech.
NETCASTS YOU LOVE FROM PEOPLE YOU TRUST, THIS IS TWIT!
Bandwidth for This Week in Tech is provided by Cachefly at cachefly.com.
Becky: This is TWiT, episode 633, recorded September 24, 2017.
Future Proof This Kid
Leo Laporte: This Week in Tech is brought to you by Betterment. The largest independent financial advisor. For one low transparent fee, Betterment gives you personalized advice, and invests your money. For a limited time, you can get up to one year managed free. Learn more at Betterment.com/twit. And by Rocket Mortgage from Quicken Loans. Home plays a big role in your life. That's why Quicken Loans created Rocket Mortgage. It lets you apply simply and understand the entire mortgage process fully so you can be confident you're getting the right mortgage for you. Get started at Rocketmortgage.com/twit2. And by BlueApron, the number one fresh ingredient and recipe delivery service in the country. Check out this week's menu and get three meals free with your first purchase and get free shipping by going to Blueapron.com/twit. And by Capterra. Find Software solutions for your business needs. Capterra is a free website with over 400 categories of business software and thousands of ratings and reviews from software users just like you. Capterra.com/twit.
Becky: Welcome, to this Week in Tech! I am Becky Worley, consumer and technology correspondent for ABC News Good Morning America. Also, an FOL, a friend of Leo. Leo is on vacation this week, but we have an epic panel for you today. Amazing week of tech news to unpack, so I want to get right to it. Robert Scoble, you are here with us, in studio. Thank you so much. I'm just going to highlight a few of the things you have done recently. Scobleizer.com, you were recently in Singapore.
Robert Scoble: Last three weeks I've been in Russia, Canada and Singapore.
Becky: Woah. And is that in promotion of the book? It's the Fourth Transformation, how augmented reality and artificial intelligence will change everything? Is that what you were doing?
Robert: Partly. Augmented reality is hot this year. Facebook and Google announced major strategies on AR.
Becky: Awesome. We are stoked to have you here. Also in studio, Rob Reid. You are founder of listen.com, author of After On. I want to read this. Described as a tale of a diabolical social network with the means and perhaps the inclination to take full control of human society.
Rob Reid: Based on a true story.
Becky: Did I say it with enough gravitas?
Rob: That was Jupiter Grade gravitas. I usually get lunar grade gravitas.
Becky: I'm honored. I'm professionally quirky, so to have any gravitas... I have been listening to the AFter On podcast which you do with Tom Merritt. It is gripping. I am loving it right now. I'm listening to the episode with James Barrett. The dangers of super intelligence right now.
Rob: They are very real.
Becky: From a part of the country where Fall is falling, Bob Sullivan. So glad to have you. He is a syndicated columnist, security journalist. I have been a huge fan for years. I don't want to date you or me, but you have been a contributor for CNBC and MSNBC a bunch of consumer advocacy books. Most recent one is getting unstuck. Is that the most recent one?
Bob Sullivan: Yes. It's the Plateau Effect: Getting Unstuck. How corporations, people, and musicians all follow this pattern of beginner's luck followed by sophomore slump. We're seeing that in computer security right now and a lot of places.
Becky: I specifically requested that you come in this week. I found your take on the Equifax hack as some of the most level headed and slow to wait and let it play out because it's such a mess that actually acting too quickly could be more of a disaster than it already is. So we're going to get into that as we move through the show. Also, Bob Sullivan, you can find all his stuff at Bob sullivan.net, I want to make sure we get out there. He is @redtapecron on Twitter. I want to start today with what is in my mind the freshest story of the week, that happened at the end of the week. Uber losing its license in London. London's transport regulator issued a statement saying Uber will not be issued with a private hire operator license after the expirey of its current license on 30 September. Basically what they've cited, is the transport for London, that's the transportation authority, they cite Uber's approach for reporting serious crime offenses, how medical certificates are obtained, how background checks are done, and what may be the most interesting aspect that they call out is Uber's software program to obscure reported issues. It's called Greyball. The TFL says it can be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from figuring out what's going on on Uber. Do you guys think that this has a ripple effect that's going to play out in other Uber environments? Is this London just trying to get them to do what the black cabs have to do?
Rob: I think London is trying to get itself in the paper. Uber has obviously been banned from other places and other circumstances and both Uber and Lyft basically exiled themselves from Austin, but there's something about the stature and size of London and also the suddenness of this. It seems to come out of nowhere. They're talking about 30 September.
Becky: They can appeal it...
Rob: They said they will. They said they're vigorously going to appeal it.
Becky: It's not going away, but it would change things considerably. I'm really curious if this is a monetary play. If this is a real safety issue, or if this is the issue of them obscuring their information.
Robert: The other side is that the regular taxi cabs have a security problem as well, and they under report some of the offenses there. They weren't properly judged here against Uber. Uber, I've used it all over the world from Russia to Singapore to China, and it worked great. Consumers love it. I love it. I'm bothered that I have to go back to using taxis in London. They're more expensive than Uber and it's harder to get one. It's great when you arrive at the airport, but if you're in a weird alley somewhere because you're at a friend's house, it's so nice to be able to pull out the Uber app and know where that taxi is and that it's on the way. It's harder to get other taxis to come visit you. I don't know the phone numbers to call to get a taxi to come and pick me up. So now I have to ask. It's a pain in the ass.
Becky: It seems like this is a real political question as well. Who is lobbying the transportation authority in London? What is their incentive?
Robert: In London they do have amazing taxis. Everybody is very educated, they know the city very well, they're polite, and the taxis are consistent and clean. That's not true in other cities.
Rob: It's a well-regarded profession there. There's a test that the cab drivers have to take called the knowledger. It's about navigating from point to point, of which there are thousands in London. One of my favorite things about this, they've put London cabbies in FMRIs, and they have found the part of the brain that does this thing, it's probably part of the hippocampus, is literally larger and has greater blood flow than on a mere mortal. All of that is amazing, but it's a powerful lobby because it's an ancient profession and a well-established profession. Cabs are so expensive! The price differential is appreciable between Uber X and a taxi. In London, it's...
Becky: It's at least 2X what an Uber is. I think this comes down to financial incentives in a lot of ways. I looked it up, listen to this. These are the application fees that a black cab operator would have to pay. I agree with you completely. PHD level taxi driving. They are top shelf professionals. 80 pounds for the application, 60 pounds for the online application, then you have to go see your doctor and get a full medical, you have to take the knowledge, that's 200 pounds, you have to appear and defend your knowledge, that's 400 pounds, and then you get a license fee that's 192 pounds. So we're talking about almost 800 pounds of city licensing fees that are lost for every Uber driver who replaces a black cab driver.
Robert: And the black cab drivers can make that up on a single ride from Heathrow to Notting Hill.
Rob: By the way, sitting for the knowledge, maybe three. The other thing about the knowledge, many people have to sit for it multiple times. It's not shameful to fail, because it's almost unheard of to pass it on the first time through.
Becky: That's the biggest one.
Rob: If Uber drivers are displacing those people, I think the black cabs are pretty robust, I don't think they've been driven from the roads yet, certainly if they were replacing them, that would be quite a bit of lost revenue.
Becky: They're so symbolic in London. During the Olympics, you remember they brought the spice girls in, and they were each in a black cab as they went around the arena. You realize, this is a place where it's not just financial incentives. It's also cultural. What do you guys think about the software they're using? It's called Greyball. It's been brought up in the news before. Obviously because it profiles users in most cases. This is where they're saying you cannot use this to obscure problems.
Bob: I think they were using it to avoid picking up regulators. My recollection of its use in the US, and I believe that Uber has copped to it, I'm pretty sure in certain cities where they felt they were being particularly targeted by regulators and the purpose of it was to refrain from picking up people from the local Government who might be trying to monitor them. It wasn't as nefarious as it might sound on the surface, but it was all about evading the law, so it certainly doesn't look good, I don't know if it was alleged that they were using it in London, but I think they were citing that as this is a company that doesn't play by the rules.
Robert: The new CEO just said yesterday to his employees that this is what happens when you get a bad reputation.
Becky: The pylon effect. That's what I wonder where if this will be the start of a snowball where other cities feel like this is their chance to get their hooks into Uber and have more legislative and incentive hooks that they can call from.
Robert: I think London is a unique situation because of its strength of its educated taxi force. That isn't true in a lot of places in the world. In a lot of other places in the world, Uber has become so important that it's really hard to kick them out now.
Rob: It'll be interesting to see what Lyft does.
Robert: Lyft is not international. That's one reason I keep using Uber is I fly international quite a bit. Lyft is great here in San Francisco, but it's not that great if you travel overseas.
Bob: I have some strong feelings about Uber. I think it's a big deal because of this. Uber has been able to bully its way around the world, around local regulators, largely because consumers do find it incredibly useful, so when a city mayor steps up and says we're going to regulate Uber and there's all of this outcry. If it doesn't work now in London, this will be the first public loss that Uber has. I think it will put the company on its haunches, obviously it already is. I think we could see real substantial change. I have a story I've read and rewritten on my site several times called the six reasons that Uber is now terrible for transportation and Uber itself. There's a lot of reasons why consumers love Uber today, but I think it's unsustainable because it's cheating the system, and there's a Ponzy scheme element to it. I think we could see something happen if Uber can't get past this issue without a major change. Of course, other cities, other Governments are going to try to do the same thing and before they had to back down. If London wins, they won't back down as much.
Becky: Some of the folks in the chatroom are agreeing. A user says, "Let the market decide. If the advantages are there for the black cabs, they'll make a living. A monopoly isn't required." This is definitely a financial story, as they go through this and try to figure out where the benefits are. 40,000 drivers in the city right now.
Rob: And 3 million customers. One article I saw said 3 million people have taken at least once in the last three months. If there is a price differential of 2X, it kind of says poorer folks don't get to have driving on demand anymore and wealthier folks can have their black cabs, but if you're below a certain income, that's a bummer. If you're one of these 40,000 drivers, that's too bad for you. That said, when Uber and Lyft exiled themselves from Austin, it was remarkable how fast local companies were up and running and providing similar services.
Becky: Were those pre-existing taxi companies?
Rob: They were new companies that got up and running.
Robert: I used them at South by Southwest, and they were all right.
Rob: Better than nothing.
Robert: They were the same as Uber, and they had a similar app. The problem is they only worked in one city, so as soon as you left... now Uber and Lyft are back.
Bob: Uber is half the price almost everywhere. In New York City, Ube ris an amazing deal. Uber isn't creating 50% efficiency in its real cost, so something else is making Uber rides so cheap, and that is why people use Uber because of the price advantage. My big concern with Uber is they can't continue to charge 50% less than everybody else.
Rob: It does have some efficiency.
Bob: Cars are dispatched where you are when you are. That's a very marginal gain compared to the main cost of moving people around which is gas and...
Robert: It can be a very significant gain because I talk to a lot of drivers and everybody is working for both Uber and Lyft in San Francisco. They said that Uber keeps them busier per hour and Lyft takes them further away to pick up a ride. That further away could be ten minutes each way. That's significant. There's a network effect. A lot of times, Uber doesn't let them go back to Lyft because they keep them so busy. In Singapore, my rides were always saying your driver is dropping somebody off, and I would see him come into the hotel, drop somebody off, and off we would go. They didn't even have time to quit the app and try something else.
Rob: One of the sources at the discount is talking about how Uber is burning billions of dollars per year. To a certain extent wealthy VCs are funding your ride. That's not permanently sustainable, but I appreciate their generosity.
Bob: You would call that product dumping. It's antitrust behavior. Here's the worst outcome. By the way, I use Uber, the technology is great. What I'm worried about is Uber will burn through that money and it will crash and burn. In the meantime... what's happening with New York City taxis right now? It's crazy. You just listed the fees for London drivers, it used to cost a million dollars to become a taxi driver in NYC. People would get mortgages to get medallions. The value of medallions is cut down to about 300,000 dollars now, and people are declaring bankruptcy because they can't afford them. Auctions for medallions are going unsold, but what I'm saying is that yellow cabs in New York are in danger and Uber could bring down itself and other forms of transportation if we don't regulate this properly.
Rob: Wasn't there a gentleman in New York who owned hundreds of medallions and was demanding a Government bailout because he was a millionaire, and it wasn't fair for a millionaire... I would say having talked to hundreds of cabbies over the year in San Francisco, the situation was almost feudal. A high percentage of the drivers were working for somebody who decades before owned dozens, before the rules changed. That driver would have to be paying an obscene rent to rent the medallion. Where did the efficiency come from? You don't have this feudal system. The serf doesn't have to pay the lord who owns hundreds of medallions, in the case of our centi-millionaire who is howling about how unfair it is that the price is going down or the more one off situations in San Francisco where folks were paying close to a hundred bucks a shift to the medallion holder, that's where the pricing is going to somebody who has dozens or hundreds of medallions. In San Francisco, they constricted the price of medallions in order to keep the medallions high. That did not benefit the drivers, it punished the people in the city of San Francisco who found themselves unable to get a ride late at night. People are doing stupid things like driving drunk or refraining from going out and patronizing the bars in the city because the medallion holders had this power that allowed them to constrain the supply. I don't think those guys deserve a free ride any more.
Bob: If any Industry was right for disruption, it was taxis. This is a good thing. But we have to be careful. We don't have to burn the whole system down.
Becky: That coexisting and figuring out how they find the medium of those two worlds existing is going to be a test case.
Robert: We haven't started talking about what happens when self-driving cars come on. I think that's going to tear apart Uber.
Rob: That, or they'll be the biggest supply of demand.
Robert: I don't know if they have the talent anymore because of their PR problems to build the latest self-driving cars, and I don't know that they're going to get the distribution of cars with sensors. I think that there's one guy who could tear apart Uber and it's Elon Musk. Tesla's new model 3. That's going to put 400,000 cars with sensors out on the road, and that's going to be what enables Elon to get self-driving before anybody else.
Becky: You're going to choose who you ride with based on whose AI is the best.
Robert: Elon is more aggressive on self-driving technology than anybody else.
Rob: The idea is that if you're a Tesla owner, you'll be able to let your car roll out and go to work for you all day. Then you get income from your car while you're at home.
Robert: It's clear that he was aiming at Toyota. He doesn't care about Uber, I don't think, I think he's going to try with the solar panel, the battery in your garage, and the car that has no oil. He's going to try to reduce the cost per mile of transportation over Uber and Toyota. That's going to be what really changes this whole model. I'm sorry people who work for Uber or taxis, in seven years you don't have a job, and we should be accurate about that.
Becky: we have at least 30 more days of Ubers in London though. I think they have 20 some days to talk it out.
Rob: It could be a negotiating tactic on the city Government's part.
Becky: I don't put that past city con in London. While Uber is negotiating and working out in London, the iPhone 8 reviews and the tear downs are out, as is the phone. I just want to go through a couple things that have come out over the last week as the phones come out and the news is... Mac Rumors lists in order of notable differences between the iPhone 8. The glass back, wireless charging, new colors, better speakers, I'm not super impressed yet. The a11 bionic chip, six core processor, they say nothing noticeable on every day processors, but it may impact augmented reality. I'm glad we have Robert Scoble to talk about that. What has gotten praise is the camera. Some say it's the best in any smartphone ever. 12 mega pixels, flashes quad LED, much better for night shots. I liked what Justin Robert Young says. You look less like a crazed raccoon against a pitch dark background. Prices for the 8, 699 for the 64 gigabit. Not a lot of lines or frenzy around the purchase...
Robert: There was a little line around Hillsdale. I went to Hillsdale Friday night and there was about 40 people in line. So there was a little line. But most of the stores didn't have the mega line that we've seen in past iPhone...
Becky: Let's start, Robert, with what you thought was going to come, what came out, and what your reaction is.
Robert: I thought Apple was going to be more aggressive with AR and sensors. In the X, which hasn't shipped yet, there's a 3d sensor that sees your face and unlocks when you look at the phone, I thought they would be more aggressive with that sensor and explain it to developers better, but it seems like they've kept it to themselves. The demos on the first day were lackluster. Didn't show off the technology in any nice way. They didn't show the new OLED screen off against the iPhone, because there's quite a bit of difference. That's why a lot of my friends and I are waiting for the X.
Becky: Have you seen them side by side in person?
Robert: I've seen OLED on this screen, and the screen is very similar to.. yeah. It's quite a bit different. It's noticeable. Right? They didn't show that off. Phil Schiller had a list of things that it did better, but he didn't say look at this screen versus last year's screen, right? That's an example of how conservative Apple is on selling things now. They know that the consumer who cares is going to figure it out, and everybody else doesn't.
Becky: You wanted a transparent phone, and you got a meh.
Robert: My sources were telling me there was a bunch of stuff coming that was on the most aggressive side. What actually shipped was on the most conservative side of all the predictions.
Becky: Why would they do that?
Robert: I'm hearing there's a lot of fighting inside Apple at the executive level, they just don't need to. They're the most profitable company right now, and tif they do a good job of selling it, they're not going to sell a lot more. If they don't do a good job, they're going to sell less. Most of us have to update our phones every three years and they know that.
Becky: Let's go back to talking about the augmented reality. What excites you?
Robert: The problem is I know too much. I have a Microsoft Hololens, and that kind of augmented reality is mind blowing. When you're wearing glasses or heads up displays like that, you can see aliens coming through your walls and it's mind blowing. The kind of augmented reality we're getting on our iPhones and our iPads is fun, but we haven't yet seen it used for anything really crazy that wasn't out before. Somebody in the chat room was asking about the Ikief. It's great, but I saw that on Google Tango a few years ago. Most of the app was built for Google tango. It's not something that's completely mind blowing and out of the box.
Becky: As a consumer reporter for a mainstream television network, I'm constantly fascinated by what my producers think is zeitgeist. This is what is happening now. They're good at it, and they were desperate to make AR wow, this is cool. And the only thing they could come up with that they wanted to check out was the IKEA app.
Rob: These same people who were all about second life for five years.
Robert: I'm showing you a dragging app, which is the problem.
Becky: Robert has two folders on his phone, the keep and the dump.
Robert: It's fun, you can see a dragon or play some darts. It senses tables really well and it keeps the thing locked on the table really well even though you shake it around. By the way, Apple bought a company called Mataio out of Germany and this was Natayo's stuff. Apple's AR platform, and he wants to be fed. So we got to feed him some donuts here. Fun stuff like that. The kind of thing that maybe a 13 year old plays, but I don't see utility in there. There is some apps that you can look at one app with a human heart and you can walk around the heart and learn all about it. That gives you a sense of where the value is. Education is huge. Yeah, games are fun, but the kinds of games we're seeing are pedantic fun games for tables, we haven't yet seen the full blown aliens coming through the walls game.
Becky: It feels like this is a bet of goggles versus tablets or phones. The best use case I've seen for this, I went to a trade show about ten years ago where it was only for law enforcement and military. They had this huge circular screen that you stepped inside of, and you were given a gun that was tethered and had a laser, and doors would open all around, and you'd have to figure out who was the bad guy, and who was the lady holding the baby. It was getting progressively harder, and it was heart stopping stuff. It was the most extreme experience I have ever had, and that was a million dollar installation made for the Government, maybe the state of California might have one of those. Now you can do that in a pair of goggles.
Robert: $3,000 for a Hololens. Right?
Rob: Have you tried the Meta two yet?
Robert: I have. In fact, I was just in Singapore. They were fundraising in Singapore, and we talked about how the market is shaping up. Meta is doing well with architects and car designers because it's tethered to the PC>
Rob: It's also got a wider angle of view, right?
Robert: It's 90 degree. Hololens is about 20 per eye...
Rob: Hololens is like having an HD TV in front of you, and I find Meta to be more enveloping. I did my first podcast a few weeks ago with Merone. Which do you like better? Having tried both?
Robert: I bias my life towards consumers, and consumers need to walk into a shopping mall. We haven't yet seen a product that does that well, because the glasses are too big and too ugly and too expensive. They started coming out of the R and D labs, they're coming in 3, 4, 5 ounces. Meta is optimized for somebody who is going to sit at a desk and need to see their work in 3D. Like a sky scraper or a car or something like that. Because it's tethered to a big PC, they get half a million polygons per second, so they get a lot more detail than what we're getting on our iPhones.
Becky: Detail, this field of view, you've likened this in the pre show to when you take AR on a phone or a tablet, it's not like having that movie screen in front of you, it's like shining a flashlight.
Rob: I feel like in a sense I'm in a pitch dark room and I've got a flashlight with an incredibly narrow beam that can illuminate this layer of reality which is the AR layer, but because it's this tiny thing in my hand, i feel like it's a demo from the near future. I'm with Robert. I don't find it, I thought Pokémon go was a cool proof of concept.
Robert: I know there are some new games coming. The problem is Apple didn't give developers enough time to do serious stuff. That's why you're seeing most of the apps are measuring tape apps, which are OK. Or the furniture apps so you can aim it in your new living room and see what your couch might look like. Car finder, overstock lets you see products in 3D.
Rob: But so much more compelling when you have the headset on and your enveloped with it. That to me was, Merone makes a lot of interesting tradeoffs with Meta. He made a very bold decision to say OK. It's going to be a tethered experience, because he does believe that AR's first apps are going to be about productivity and business apps. He's not as concerned about the tether thing which would be a non-starter for a consumer. Being tethered allows that headset, it gives it a lot of horsepower.
Robert: The reason he was raising funding in China and Singapore last week is he's working towards a pair of glasses that will be consumer grade. He's competing with Magic Leap which got 1.4 billions of dollars. Microsoft has spent billions of dollars and is about to announce a new Hololens strategy on October 3. Google invested in Magic Leap and they have their own internal teams and they're working on a pair of glasses.
Becky: Bob Sullivan, you and I are the consumer reporters here. Do you think shopping will be the tipping point for AR in the consumer?
Bob: It all depends on how reasonably inexpensive the process is, right? There's forever the holy grail has been can I try stuff on and get a feeling for it. That's going to be a killer app. But it has to feel really good, and at the moment, so many of these experiments fail miserably when they touch reality because it's too much friction for the consumer to make work.
Becky: Maybe because I'm a TV producer at heart, when I try AR apps, I ultimately don't trust them because I don't trust the color temperature in the cameras, and therefore I feel like in examples, I've done stories on the makeup apps. Loreal has a good makeup app to try lipstick on, but I don't trust the shade. Why would I trust the shade if my skin doesn't look like the right tone?
Robert: Sephora spent a lot of time making sure their lipstick color in augmented reality matches the physical product when you buy it. There is a way to do it right, but you're right. Because of how augmented reality works, it either has a point cloud and it converts that to polygons and it overlays video on those polygons. So think about if I want to take you and put you into augmented reality, I have to cut you into little triangles and that makes things look weird and it often doesn't have the right color.
Becky: Give us your big pronouncement on how this product launch, the role of AR in OS 11 is going to be seen when we look back in history? Is it a tipping point, a small marker along the way?
Robert: It's a stepping stone. We know in three years we're going to see a lot of glasses get unlocked because we're spending billions of dollars each, Apple, Facebook, Google all have billion dollar efforts underway on the glasses. We can see that they're coming. They're coming sometime in the next five years, and Magic Leap was rumored to be coming in December for $2000 with a developer previous, so that's a hint. The magic leap is still tethered to a box that you have in your pocket. So it's still a little dorky. We haven't yet escaped the dorky factor, and until we do, that's going to keep it out of mass market.
Becky: says the man who wore Google glass in the shower.
Robert: I wore it for a year. I don't mind looking like a dork because I am a dork. I'm not offended by that. A lot of people are. But I didn't wear my Hololens today. It's too heavy to wear for more than a half hour.
Becky: I want to finish up with Apple releases this week by talking about the Apple watch 3. The embargos... You have one on.
Robert: I have the old original.
Becky: You're probably better off because the reviews have not been kind to the Apple Watch 3 because it's supposed to have its own cellular connection, but...
Robert: If you're going running, you don't want to carry your phone with you, you're wearing your watch, then you can still pick up calls.
Becky: I remember reading something, and this goes back to... women who are joggers today, 90% will not run without their phone as a safety issue. I thought this is actually the killer app for runners. The news is basically we'll start with the Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern, she says it wasn't her,. it was also Jeffrey Fowler who experienced cellular connectivity issues on three separate pre-production models in two different states on two different LGE carriers. On the AT&T connected models, it dropped calls and were choppy, Siri often failed to connect. The one on T Mobile, dropped connections, they asked Apple about the issues, and they said they hadn't seen any of this in their testing. Then Lauren Good at the Verge had issues. She tried to call people while surfing and couldn't.
Rob: If you can't call people from you watch while surfing, what is this country coming to?
Becky: The Dick Tracy promise has fallen.
Rob: The Donner party had it easier.
Becky: Apple did issue a statement on this. They said they discovered when it tries to join unauthenticated Wi-fi networks it prevents the watch from using cellular connections. I'm not sure why it was trying to do that while Lauren Good was surfing, but they said they're investigating a fix. Does this, what's been thrown out there is this is the least fully cooked release Apple has ever made. Is that too strong?
Robert: I'm seeing bugs on IOS 11. Sometimes my phone doesn't even light up for a couple minutes. I'm seeing a lot of complaints on Facebook for various problems, and the watch shows that they're having some problems testing things and getting them done properly. I assume they get fixed, we've been through this with Apple before. The first version of IOS always has bugs.
Becky: Is this watch/Wi-fi/cellular gate?
Robert: I don't know how many people are going to buy the watch and want to use it this way. It's a problem, and they'll fix it.
Becky: I want to run. I want to go phone free. We don't have pockets, we ladies. I put one in my jog bra, and then I'm worried it's going to get water. It's some problems.
Robert: We have a user in the chatroom who says lT on a watch is fantastic. Some people are having a good time with it. That's always true when you hit bugs. I worked at Microsoft, and we knew all of our software had bugs. But when you have an obscure bug, it might hit a few dozen people. Those people will be noisy on Facebook. I'm having a bug on IOS 11 on my phone right now. Not everybody is because it hasn't come up as an issue.
Becky: Bob Sullivan, does this feel like a half-baked consumer product?
Bob: When you combine this with the lack of lines at Apple stores, you get the sense this isn't Apple's greatest day, but this issue of handing off between wifi networks and cell networks, I've never had a phone that didn't have that problem. I don't understand why it's such a big problem to solve. Lots of people are trying to navigate a cell connection, especially right now when people are trying desperately to not use up data so they're trying to hop on Wifi as fast as they can. It connects to a hot spot and disconnects, so I think this is a typical problem.
Becky: All right. We are going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to figure out why Google bought HTC or part of HTC. Did they acquire some of HTC? What does it mean? First, here' s Leo with information on one of our sponsors.
Leo: Hey! Becky, so nice to see you. Let me interrupt just briefly, let me get back to TWiT in a second. Our show to you today brought to you by our sponsor Betterment. I'm really interested in this. Unfortunately I can't use it, but I tell everybody including family members to use it. One of my family members just starting out in life, she had all of her money in a CD. Every three months it would roll over, she said Dad, help me invest in it. The reason is, these days you got to have long term savings. I'm proud of her at the age of 25 that she has savings. Really important. You're saving for retirement. AT her age she's probably saving for kids going to college, maybe a house. Rainy day fund? You gotta save. But you can't just put it in a mattress, you've got to invest. It's a challenge. If you don't have the time to do the research and even if you do, it's hard to compete with the people who do this for a living. That's why I recommend Betterment to everybody. It's the largest independent online financial advisor. Betterment is designed to help you improve your long-term and lower taxes for retirement planning, for all your financial goals. 270,000 customers today. Many of them I have sent. Betterment will ask you a few questions and tailor made recommendations including how many risks. She's young so she can take on more risks. It balances based on what you want. Features like Betterment. Socially responsible investing portfolio, helps you not invest in companies that don't meet your social and environmental and governmental benchmarks. You can feel good about your investments. Betterment gives you a clear view of your investments. But best of all, their fees are transparent and low. I'm not sure which one Abby will choose. For .25% a year, you can get unlimited messaging access to their team of licensed financial experts. By the way, these are fiduciaries. They are not paid or on commission. They're paid by you, by their fees, and they work on your behalf alone. I had to explain to Abby what fiduciary means and why this is important. Some financial advisors are not acting on your behalf, but they are at Betterment. If you want, I think this may be something down the road, you can upgrade to .4% for unlimited phone access to their team of certified financial planners. She doesn't want to listen to me. Betterment is a fiduciary, so that means they don't get commissions for recommending funds, they don't have funds of their own, and they do what's right for you. Betterment cares about keeping your money and data secure, they do it all right. I checked it out. Absolutely, full data encryption, two factor authentication. Very important. Your stuff is secure and private at Betterment. AS I told Abby, investing involves risk, but with the right advice, doing it smart, if you start young, by the time you're my age you'll have something to live on. I didn't start so young. I wish I had. Unfortunately due to SEC regulations because I do the ads for Betterment, I can't use them. It kills me, but if I could, I would. Certainly members of my family do, betterment.com/twit. You can get up to one year managed free. Visit betterment.com/twit. Don't put this off. Now is the time to start planning for your future. Now, back to Worley. Hello Worley!
Becky: Uh oh. Leo is doing his Russian accent. We're in trouble. I'm Becky Worley, joined by Rob Reid, Robert Scoble, and Bob Sullivan. You may have noticed that this is the all Robert show. You must be called Robert. To really be progressive in how we book this show, next week it's going to be the all Richard show, we're going to have a Richard, a Rich, and a Dick. That's next week's show. We've got to figure out who those people are. I want to get us back into the swing of things by talking about Google. They announced this week that they're acquiring a big portion of Taiwan hardware maker HTC. Google pays 1.1 billion dollars, gets, 2,000 new employees, HTC keeps about 2,000 employees. Gets a ton of cash, which they need desperately. And this is the investing part, HTC is going to continue making its own HTC devices. Simultaneously, we know Google will announce the Pixel 2 on October 4, so I promise this will be the double rainbow explanation. What does it mean?
Robert: HTC has some more money to invest in its VR headset which didn't go to Google. HTC made the first Pixel last year, and those people are going to Google. This gives the other HTC the money to keep investing in VR until VR is catching with consumers, which it has not.
Becky: That's the good side for HTC. Let's look at it from the Google side. HTC's stock price is down 96% from what it was at its all-time high way way back. It's bleeding cash, struggling. Do you think because their hardware manufacturer is struggling, do they have to do this?
Robert: I think Google is gearing up for a new age in Consumer electronics of glasses and they need more people who know how to build things. Google knows it's going to be in a war with Microsoft and Amazon and is gearing up for that war. I think it's a smart purchase. I don't think Google cares about the business interest of HTC and whether it survives or not. Google has many great partners with Samsung. LG is making the new Pixel 2 phone, and WAWE... I'm going to the launch coming up in a couple weeks. Google has plenty of Android partners who are doing real well, that's why HTC has been in trouble by the way. Samsung and Wawe have been taking it apart in the worldwide market.
Becky: So Google wants to be in the hardware business, or they have to be in order to be competitive. They can't just be a services...
Robert: You're seeing all sorts of new products coming out. Amazon has the new Echo, Google has Google home and a bunch of other products. So there's plenty of places to use engineers who know how to get things built.
Becky: So maybe they thought this was a fire sale.
Rob: $550,000 per employee. I did the math on my calculator. They are obviously coming in in integrated teams that know how to do stuff. Do any of the three of you think Google regrets getting rid of Motorola?
Robert: That was the first comment when we started talking about HTC's rumor... didn't they screw up Motorola before? That's what big companies do. They buy small companies and screw it up. But you can tell Google is in a different space. They have quite a few hardware products and are entering a new era of competition among these big players, so staffing up at this point makes sense to me.
Becky: Let's hit some of those products just so we go through them. The Pixel 2XL. We saw leaks in black and white. Pixel 2, three colors, kind of blue is one of the colors. The Pixel Book. Expensive. It's a $1200 Chromebook. People are excited about it. So all of this... Google announces all of this October 4 in San Francisco. They obviously are in the hardware business. I'm going to move on to business stories to get us through. T Mobile and Sprint, noises are reporting that the two companies are close to reaching tentative terms. A deal to be coming down the pike by the end of October, so sprint and T Mobile are the number 3 and number 4 wireless carriers. If they combined into one, it would be a hundred 30 million subscribers. T Mobile CEO John Laggere would remain the CEO of the new company. They've had big regulatory issues all along, but you've got to remember that Sprint's major stockholder is Softbank. Their owner met with President Trump at the end of last year and announced at the beginning of this year that this is going to be great, we're going to benefit from deregulation... Sprint joining with T Mobile, Bob Sullivan, is this good for us?
Bob: Anybody who likes their brand new all you can eat cell phone plan is going to hate this. The best thing that happens is the last time a big cell phone company merger was blocked. What we saw out of that was these incredibly aggressive pricing moves by T Mobile that led the Industry down into a situation where we lost unlimited data plans, now we have them back. We have anti-trust lawyers in Washington DC to thank for that. To stay competitive you probably figured these two were going to match up, but any time a quadopoly goes to a triopoly, it's bad for consumers, and ultimately we're going to get less choice and higher prices as a result.
Becky: Is this going to go through do you think?
Robert: Over my pay grade.
Rob: I think it's more likely to go through on a Republican administration which tends to be easier on antitrust. That decision will be made at the DOJ. It would be less likely to go through under Obama.
Bob: This is going to be another golden age of mergers and acquisitions like this because of the new environment in DC. I don't think they'll have any trouble getting approval for this.
Rob: Who becomes the new AT&T? They're surely going to be number 2 with 130 million subs, because... does this make them number one? Probably makes them number one.
Becky: This is where the Google is fascinating. Verizon... as of March 2017. 146 million. AT&T is 134...
Rob: They'll basically tie for two.
Robert: But do they count the watch sub and the phone sub?
Becky: Do you pay extra for the watch? Piece of my running, piece of mind for ten bucks a month for peace of mind? I'm going to pay that.
Robert: You can't watch very many videos on your watch (laughing).
Rob: If you're running, you can't.
Becky: Battery issues sounded equally challenging. Now, as you guys may remember, I was Leo's TV producer when we first started at Tech TV and my job was to time the show and make sure we started on time and we ended on time. And I have been derelict in my duty today, filling in for him, because I let our first segment go 44 minutes before we took an ad. So, I am going to take a breath, let Leo talk about one of our sponsors and then we are going to come back. And we—I'm so thrilled to have Bob Sullivan here because he's the king of all things Equifax and if you wondered what is the current state of this bleep show, he's going to fill us in and tell us what we should be doing. So, Leo, take it away.
Leo: We'll have more of This Week in Tech in a moment. I'm sorry I'm not here. I wish I were. You guys are having way too much fun. I will be back next week. Thank you, Becky, for holding down the fort. Out show today brought to you by Rocket Mortgage. You've heard me talk about them before. Rocket Mortgage comes from Quicken Loans, the best home loan company in America. I can say that without fear of contradiction. All you have to do is look at J.D. Power's Customer Satisfaction awards. They're number one year after year for both Mortgage Servicing and Mortgage Approval. And now they've taken it a step farther. I think this is a great company, Quicken Loans, making a product for you. You, the geek. Us, in other words. So, if you're looking to get a home loan, unfortunately, I have to say, and I've bought 4 houses in my life. Last time was about four years ago. Lisa and I bought our current house. And I didn't really—I went to the guy the realtor told us to go to, frankly. And it was that big bank, you know the one with the stagecoach and the horses. And what a mistake. I was like we were prisoners. They don't trust you. It took more than a month. They asked for more and more information to the point where we were going on vacation and they still wanted information. We're sending, faxing information in from the boat on our cruise. This was four years ago. We almost lost the house. I am not kidding. It took us more than a month to get a home loan. Next time, Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage. Rocket's aptly named because it's fast. And it lifts the burden of getting a home loan because you don't have to go to the bank. You don't have to go to Quicken Loans even. You just go online to RocketMortgage.com/TWiT2. That's RocketMortgage.com/TWiT and the number 2 and you can do it all online. And it's easy and it's fast. You don't have to go through boxes to find your check statement or your paystubs or anything like that because they have of course financial partners throughout the industry. They can get everything they need with your permission. All you have to do is give them permission. They will crunch the numbers and then tell you based on your income, assets, and credits, what loans you qualify for. And this happens not in months or weeks or days but in minutes. Literally, minutes. It's completely transparent. You know exactly what's happening. You can understand the process fully. You get to choose the loan you want with absolute confidence because it's from Quicken Loans, the best lender in the country. I love this. It's so fast you can do it at an open house and have your loan before you left. Say, "Look, we're approved." Rocket Mortgage from Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently at RocketMortgage.com/TWiT2. You're probably not buying a house this moment. Maybe you are. If you're not, bookmark RocketMortgage.com/TWiT 2 and use it when you do. You'll be glad you did. Thank me later. Equal Housing Lender, licensed in all 50 states. NMLSConsumerAccess.org number 3030. Rocket Mortgage from Quicken Loans. We thank them for their support. You can bet next time we buy or refi, we'll be going to Rocket Mortgage. Now, back to Becky Worley and TWiT.
Becky: Thank you, Leo. This Week in Tech continues. I am Becky Worley as Leo just mentioned. I want to focus this block on security. It seems like it's been a huge week. We're going to talk about the SEC EDGAR breach. We're going to talk about the CCleaner breach and some interesting developments about who that was really targeting. But I want to start off with the Equifax breach. It's like a cascade of developments that just keeps getting worse. So, Bob Sullivan, you posted, you have been continually posting and covering this story and you sounded like a total voice of reason as the advice was flying willy nilly. So, can you just give us a timeline of what we know now, what happened, when it happened or why is it that—you know, what's the state of the state with Equifax right now?
Bob: Sure. Well, just to bring everybody up to speed, I think everybody knows that 143-million customers, consumers, not customers, consumers, had their information exposed in this hack and that's probably about three-quarters of Americans who have a credit report. So, we might as well just say everybody. And we learned about this two weeks ago. Over the past few weeks, little pieces of what has actually happened has dribbled out. So, we still don't know a lot of important things. The most important question of all for me is who did this and why. And Equifax has been strikingly silent on that issue. It's really important because I think the steps that people take to protect themselves vary a lot based on who at least we suspect was responsible for this and what their intention with the data was. It could be anything from just a drive-by hack. We now know the way that they broke into was not complicated. It was, at that point, a fairly well-known actively exploited attack.
Becky: Which is horrific to think that, that it was an easy hack with this much sensitive data. That is just horrifying.
Bob: Well, I mean I think it's unsuitable. We've seen all the steps that have happened and the way that they've handled this that it's just clear that Equifax did not take any of this seriously, including the announcement itself. They came out with a website that was badly constructed. The latest news just this week, folks that went to that website and entered their information to see if they were exposed by the hack and were told, "Come back and we'll contact you about your free offer of a product," they're just now getting the first set of emails. And those emails are coming from a brand-new domain that was just registered a couple of weeks ago. So, a lot of web browsers are flagging them as phishing emails. Of course, they will. And it looked fake. And there has been one incident after another since the attack.
Becky: I was completely flummoxed by this because I went to go look at what URL they were directing people to. So, Equifax said, created this correct URL EquifaxSecurity2017.com. And my first thought was, "Why would you not have Equifax.com/Security2017 or something that I could verify was the Equifax domain." I mean—and then, someone registered an inversion of that URL, the opposite. Instead of Equifax Security blah, blah, blah, they registered SecurityEquifax2017 and whoops. Equifax's own Twitter account was directing people to the wrong URL. Even they confused themselves. If it weren't so—if the stakes weren't so high, it would be comical.
Rob: Yea, again, it's a signal of a company that—this would be the equivalent of cars rolling off of an assembly line and before major incidents occur, windows falling out and tires falling off. It's just obvious they weren't taking this seriously. They didn't train their employees well enough. People were calling. Apparently, the only people in the world that didn't know about this leak were Equifax Customer Service Representatives. People were calling and getting the verbal equivalent of blank stares when they called. But this is the most important point to me because of course, what's happened since is an absolute flurry of man house of activity. LifeLock set it at 100,000 new signups within a couple of days. All sorts of people flooding the security freeze websites of the three credit bureaus. And security freezes are great but my recommendation has been to just wait for a minute because we know the data was stolen several months ago, so, there's no urgency to do this yesterday, today, or tomorrow. We can wait until we find out more about what's happened. And, again, whether it was a prank, whether it was a nation state, whether it was a professional set of identity thieves, the truth behind that will affect the sensible choices that you make. But I want people to really think about this. We already know last year was—there were more identity theft victims than ever. And people are kind of bored of this story because it's been going on for so long. But something like 15-million Americans had their identity stolen last year. Why that matters is, how much has a typical consumer's odds gone up for the likelihood of being a victim because of this Equifax incident. And I would argue one or two percent maybe. So, in reality, the world is not a lot more dangerous today than it was two weeks before we knew about this incident. So, I don't want people to overreact to it. I certainly don't want them paying for products that they don't need. I do believe that the end result of all of this has already been a couple of bills in Congress, urging this, albeit all these companies have to allow us to freeze our credit reports for free and I think they'll also be forced to have a simple procedure for doing that and a simple procedure for thawing our credit reports. And so, you can afford to wait a little bit and see how that shakes out before you overreact.
Becky: That seems so smart to me when I heard you say just take a minute. Consumer Reports came out with their advice this week. And they took a while to come out with some concrete advice and they kind of did the, "You can do a freeze if you want but you—" they didn't advise doing it. They really just said you can if you want. I have a very practical question for you though, Bob. My son is here. Finn, come here. He's nine and I haven't told you this because it's kind of complicated but I went to this site and I put in—Finn has a sister who is his twin. They have sequential social security numbers.
Robert: Oh, gosh.
Becky: I put them both in and one has apparently been compromised and the other one hasn't. And it just makes no sense to me that they would have sequential social security numbers and one would potentially be hacked and one wouldn't. How much can we trust the Equifax site that says—did you know that?
Finn Worley: No.
Becky: (Laughing). Don't worry. I check your credit all the time. I've been doing that since you were like 6-months old. So, don't worry. I've got you covered, buddy, ok?
Becky: You haven't taken out—you haven't opened any credit cards, have you?
Becky: Ok, good. All right. Well, I'm just saying I want to make sure you know that you haven't because if a credit card was opened in your name in the next year, I would know, uh-oh, maybe it was from the Equifax hack. So, I don't know. So, Bob, should one of my children be worried? What is going on with their site that supposedly says some are compromised and some aren't?
Bob: So, I haven't gotten an answer and myself and a bunch of other journalists have been asking this question since the very beginning. So, I can only presume by readying tea leaves from the outside, but I've heard so many stories just like the one you just shared that tell me there was no live data behind that website that Equifax is sending people to. I don't know that. This is my speculation because so many people either got a vague answer or got—you know, I've heard people get, who received different answers on different dates. I think that might have been essentially busy work that they gave people so that they could give them something to do to reassure them and get them to—and in the process of signing up for this product they want people to have that's going to be their free gift. But I am just convinced that they didn't necessarily have real data behind that so I would not believe what they told you. And if somebody went to that site was told, "Your data was not impacted," I wouldn't believe it.
Becky: So, now one of the big developments this week is that the stock sales by the corporate officers are being valuated because apparently based on some of the data that we're seeing now, many of them sold stock before the hack was revealed and the DOJ is now said to be engaging in a criminal probe that was insider trading or a violation of the SEC rules. I also read somewhere that the Head of Security for Equifax made $2.3-million dollars a year which is again, horrifying. That word keeps popping up. And their Chief Information Officer and their Head of Security are "retiring." So, this story just keeps rolling along. I think it's going to be made into some sort of a business school case of how not to handle a situation. It just—it just keeps going sideways.
Bob: I mean, I'll tell you that I've been covering the credit bureaus for a long time and I'm sure you know this as well. They're generally unpopular and—
Becky: (Laughing) Well, we didn't choose to participate. This is not something that you opt in to.
Bob: Yea, and they have this history, I mean it just goes down the rap sheet for all of the bureaus at the Federal Trade Commission, you know, consent to order after consent to order for decades. So, that's in the DNA of these companies is how do we sort of walk along the edge of the law. Once in a while we walk along the wrong side of it. But I do think that the most important thing about this hack is what you just said. I'm old enough that I wrote about the very first ChoicePoint hack, the first time Americans discovered that there were even companies like ChoicePoint that had data backgrounds on you. That story was on the front page of every newspaper in the country for a week just like this one. But the real story was who is ChoicePoint? Why do they have data about me? I never heard of them but yet they know what block I live in, what kind of food I eat. And that's really what this is about. I mean people have heard of Equifax before but in the end, everyone is stopping and saying, "I never asked for this. How could you put me at such great risk when I have no business relationship with you whatsoever?" I mean lots of people like me were running around correcting others on the first day that this happened when people were saying 143-million customers were exposed by this attack. And that's not true. Equifax only has a few customers, banks and lenders. We're not they're customers. We're their product. And we didn't ask for this and now they put us at risk and that's really where all the anger comes from.
Becky: The chatroom makes such a great point that John Oliver needs to cover this. This is a perfect target for his diatribes. I want to move on in security and talk about CCleaner for Windows. You've heard of it. It's a popular security app. It's supposed to clean temporary internet files, getting rid of malicious programs. Now, Avast which is a big, well-known security company, hosts, distributes the software. But this year, this week it was found to be tainted through a backdoor. And it seems like they've served it to millions of its users. And this was all between August 15th and September 12th. Cisco Talos researchers found the activity. And what's really come to light at the end of this week is that even though there were 700,000 some infected PCs, 20 of them belonged to really connected companies that seem to be the target here or at least a phishing expedition. We're talking about Cisco, Microsoft, Gmail, VMWare, Sony, Samsung. And I think it leads to that underlying issue when we're talking about these big tech companies, when we're talking about security. Who can you trust? This is not like a random download from some Joe's Download site. These are from the companies themselves with embedded malware in it. Does that shake you a little bit, Robert?
Robert: Yea. The truth is none of us, or very few of us are very good at security. I was at a VC dinner the other night and talking about this and I was like, "Come on. Be honest. How many of you use two-factor authentication on your iPhone?" And one out of four was using it. And these are people who are rich, have something to protect.
Robert: Who are in the tech industry, should know better but don't practice the best security on their person. And that's how these things get in, right? Somebody clicks on an email out of company and all of a sudden, it's spreading throughout the network because somebody didn't follow protocol and probably doesn't even know the proper protocol to be honest about it. When I worked at Rackspace, we saw this all the time and we had to go through and change lots of servers and do lots of things because somebody would get in through an employee clicking on a link and all of a sudden, there's bad stuff going around, right.
Becky: Security is hard because people are undisciplined. Organizations aren't incentivized by security and therefore it's the wetware that's the problem.
Robert: Yea. It's hard. It's a pain in the butt doing two-factor authentication. I'm setting up a new iPad. It's a pain. I know it's a pain. But that's the table stakes now. If you don't protect your stuff, you're going to be the guy or the girl who clicks on something and gets it access to your corporate network.
Becky: Ok, so market forces. You are incentivized to practice good security because it would be disastrous for your brand if you lost access to your security?
Robert: Yea, but does the person at Equifax who used admin and admin as a password, is that person really going to pay anything to the damage that he or she has caused? No.
Bob: And you know, market forces didn't get a seatbelt either. So, it has to be more than that. I mean we keep making products that are too easy for people to break and human nature is what it is, so that's a known quantity. I saw somebody in the chatroom say just a moment ago, and I agree. I wish I picked up on the nick, but part of the problem here is that cleaning your registry is hard, and Microsoft invented registries. Microsoft could do a better job of making them clean themselves. And a product like CCleaner could have been coming from Redmond and we theoretically wouldn't have had this problem. We've seen that cycle open again.
Robert: Microsoft has delivered software with viruses in it, too, so—
Robert: Even—I worked at Microsoft so, they had to spend many hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading their employees and their systems to be more secure and get rid of the virus problems that were going around in the 90s. I'm not saying to blame it on an inefficient employee. The chatroom's arguing with me. I'm saying it's a deep problem that all of us are at blame for and very few of us practice good security practices. How many of you go to Google and search on how to make a good password? How many of us use two-factor authentication? How many of us use a separate password for each service we're registering on? Right? How many of us really think about security? I can tell you. Very few of us do. I do because I live in fear of my life being hacked, right? But very few people do and that's in the tech industry amongst people who should know better.
Rob: I've got a question of personal relevance for Bob but I think it's going to interest a lot of viewers as well. So, Bob, you had suggested not to get carried away and freeze our—it's called freezing our credit, right?
Bob: That's the main option that people are suggesting, yea.
Rob: Well, I'm one of those who did get carried away and froze my credit two nights ago and was actually a lost straw thing because I probably had four or five periods in the last ten or fifteen years where somebody has given me one free year of Experian or Equifax—we gave away your social security number, so for twelve months we're going to give you this product that when the twelve months are over, is going to start costing you $15.99 if you're not really careful. And you know, after having all these free years that have rolled into this expense, the very idea of Equifax giving me a "free" product that I would then get addicted to and have to pay whatever for, for the rest of my life, because they gave somebody my social security number, was a little bit too much. So, I went through—so, I decided to freeze my credit. My wife and I, we both have plenty of credit cards. We're not anticipating taking out any loans, so my first question to you is, why not do that if one, not everybody's in that situation. And we were doing it with some dread because we're like, "Oh, my God, unfreezing it is probably—we're going to get punished by Equifax because they'll make our lives a living hell when we actually need to unfreeze it." Why are you suggesting that people keep their credit unfrozen? Because it seems that if it is frozen, and please tell me if this is false security, it becomes almost impossible. I mean someone could steal your identity, but they can't do anything with it because they can't take out any credit, or is that false security?
Bob: No, you're right and by the way, I'm in favor of security freezes. I've spent the last several years telling people that they're a good idea, especially someone who's in your spot. But as somebody who sometimes have to give advice to millions of panicked people, my first piece of advice at this moment was don't do anything because you might do the wrong thing. The best example of that, I did a story about this, for several days last week when you searched TransUnion's website for a security freeze, what you got was one page saying their security freeze website was broken and then a redirect to their identity theft product, which was—
Becky: Didn't you get something like that?
Rob: Yea. But I want to hear what Bob—actually I can show you something of great, fabulous timing. I think it might be available, the screen shot. Ok, so, this is what happened when I was trying to do my credit freeze on Equifax. I went through the whole process and I got this error message. It's a screen shot from my Mac. It said, "Sorry we can't process your online request. To assist us in processing your request, please submit in writing the following things." And they list, in writing, I'm supposed to mail to them a bunch of stuff including my social security number on a piece of paper that I mail to them. And this is—I was so staggered by the audacity of this incompetence. That they say you've got to mail us something. Here's our address. And scribble your social security number. So, I called them. It was a few minutes before 1:00 AM when their customer service line shut down, so I called them. Now, to their credit I got through to customer service very quickly and I explained what happened, and the woman I talked to said, "Oh, yea. There's a problem with the site. Go to this other site." And she gives me a URL and it's basically a FTC site that has articles about identity theft. She said, "You can do it from that site. Go to this FTC site and you can do it there or mail this stuff in." Now, thank God, the next day I was like, "Ok. Now the kid gloves are coming off." And actually, after a couple of more attempts I was able to finally get it done online. But the fact that I get this thing, mail us your social security number. Oh, my God. And TransUnion was broken that night as well. But I got through to them the following day, too. But Experian, boom. Three minutes, I was frozen.
Becky: Bob, this is the kind of consumer horror that creates an outcry for different policies. I mean, Aspire in the chatroom is saying, "Why isn't there a policy that these companies have security audits?" Do you think that's where this is going? What is the outcome of this kind of a massive screw up?
Robert: And I'll jump in here. The Fortune 100 have security systems that let them walk around their network and see anomalies in deep detail. And there is security software from Israel and other places to help secure these kinds of things. But it costs a lot of money and it needs to be used. And it needs to be used by somebody who really know what they're doing, not a music history major.
Becky: Right, and also, you're not going to figure out a phishing risk with a PEN test, you know? And so, that's where this gets so messy and ugly. But, what do you think the outcome is, Bob?
Robert: Sorry about that.
Bob: That's fine. That's a really great point. But once again, we have to remember that the victims here are not consumers of the company. So, the incentive that these bureaus have to take care of our data is—you know, on the list of priorities for the meeting quarterly estimates, this is going to be number 99 of 100. And that's why we need rules. But, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and all of its subsequent additions like the FACT` Act in 2003, there are hundreds of pages of regulations where—I mean it's incredibly specific. I went back and found the first credit freeze law which was passed by the state of California in 2002, just as a plug for state legislators. We wouldn't have security freezes if it weren't for state legislatures that passed individual state laws. So, that's why in every single state of the Union, there are slightly different rules for how we get a security freeze. But it even specifies how they have to do it. There has to be a ten-digit PIN involved. Incredibly specific. And it's the only way that you can get these companies to do thing, is to be that specific. It is very hard for Washington D.C. or any state house to pass legislation that's going to be specific about security at a company like Equifax, to be specific about saying you have to use say a content inspection tool which would have caught 143-million social security numbers flying by. Like basic off the shelf software should have caught that. But, they didn't use it and they wouldn't invest in it because it's just a cost center to them. So, we need rules but it's very, very hard to pass legislation that's effective that way.
Rob: So, Bob, when I can't take it anymore and I just have to get another frequent flyer credit card, what hoops am I going to have to—having frozen my credit now, what hoops am I going to have to jump through to unfreeze it? I did save the ten-digit PINs. I have them all very carefully squared away. I won't say where. But I got all the PINs. How hard is it to unfreeze? And I'm sure a lot of viewers are going to be interested in this as well because it's a consequence of freezing.
Bob: Yea, I mean there's a simple 5-step process. When you have all those things in place, it will be fine. You'll be able to do it quickly. However, there are so many variables that can go wrong. And I know what you just told me, you put that 10-digit PIN in a careful place. However, four years might go by and you'll have completely forgotten where that is. It's very, very hard to—I hear from consumers all the time who can't find that PIN and then the good news is, it's then difficult to get into your account and we want that, right? But Brian Krebbs, the great security writer, he published a story just a couple of days ago concerned that some of the credit bureaus actually issuing people these PINs without asking difficult questions. So, and this is going to be the next step in the cat and mouse game that we see. For the most part, everything I know about security freezes are they work. I do not know of a single person who has complained to me that I had a security freeze on my report and my identity was stolen anyway. So, they work. However, very few people have used them and now that a lot of people are standing up for them. PIN hacking is going to become a thing. Of course, it is. So, it will just be another step identity thieves have to go through to commit crime and now you're part of this larger more homogeneous group and this is the process. So, people need to watch out for that.
Becky: Lest we think that these problems only happen to consumers, to large corporations, oh, no, the United States Government also has a horrendous breach this week. It was disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database was hacked. This is where you'll find publicly accessible documents that tell you about the filings of any large, publicly traded company. But it's also where companies do a couple of things that create knowledge that would be beneficial to someone who knew it before it was public. So, there's a private part of the EDGAR database where companies file information that's required by the SEC but is not required to be public and it's where companies post dummy filings. And often they will create the draft of the filing and post it there to make sure that it formats correctly and looks right and then they'll go live with it at the appropriate time. Well, when the database was hacked, a lot of that information was made available to traders and it's been disclosed that there have been some trades made that benefitted those hackers. And you know, I've been covering security since the Tech TV days and I used to think in a lot of ways as early and nascent, viruses, hacks, it was graffiti. But that it was going to get serious when it got financial. And then when ransomware hit I thought, "This is it." And now we're seeing way beyond that and not only does this incentivize other hackers to go after big, big whale targets but it also undermines our faith in the systems that we depend on for our democracy. And this goes to fake news. This goes to when the markets are shaken. I'm surprised that there wasn't a jitter set because it feels like this market is ready for some jitters anyway, so, I'm surprised that this didn't trigger anything. But do you think this is one more step in that erosion of faith?
Rob: I think the personal step that I took was basically stepping out of the credit system because you know, that to me was pretty big. And it would have been an unimaginable step for me to have taken ten or fifteen years ago, but I really felt like on a certain level I was succeeding from a certain part of the economy because I had absolutely no faith left in people whose job it was to secure us. And, In fact, quite the opposite, coming back to a lot of things that Bob was talking about, I'm the product not the customer. And they're defense is completely not a priority and yea, that personal succession from something just knowing I can't get the Jet Blue Visa card, which I really don't want.
Robert: Or buy a house.
Rob: But taking that step of sort of quasi-sequestering myself and it didn't have it's—and thank you, Bob. You put my mind at ease that when it comes time to thaw, I'll be able to do it. But I did it without any notion that it was going to be easy to thaw this thing. Because, yea, it's a last straw kind of thing. I'm sure every one of these things, it's like a drum beat. When Anthem got hacked, in some ways that's even more intimate because that's your insurer. They've got your medical information. You're trusting them with your life. They handed out tens of millions of social security numbers. So, yea, I think it does. It has an eroding effect for sure.
Becky: Robert, does it shake you at all? I mean you're such an enthusiast of so many things, but when you see the downside of tech, what's your thinking?
Robert: I live in fear of having my life ripped apart by an identity thief or somebody hacking into my system because that's how I make my money, right? I'm on Facebook and Google and Twitter. And if they got in like they did with the Wired reporter and tore my life apart, it would be really difficult to recover from that.
Becky: Bob, the holy grail for me is, if LastPass gets hacked. And where's your thinking on what the best practices are for us as consumers?
Bob: I mean I hate to be dark about it, but this is what I think. You just have to assume it's going to happen to you. And plan your recovery now which conceptually kind of falls into the category of backups. So, there are lots of ways that a hacker can ruin your life and it doesn't mean drain your bank account. It could be—imagine what someone could do if they took over your social media accounts or a few hours when you weren't paying attention and said some of the wrong things.
Becky: My entire soccer team would show up at the wrong field. I would be drawn and quartered, I'm telling you. If they got my teams Snap password, it would be all over.
Bob: That is terrible. But with some more imagination, some more terrible things could also happen. And there's lots of ways that this can go. But one of the most horrible things that could happen to someone is a ransomware attack or just some kind of file deletion of all your family photos. And I always bring this example up because it's so personal. Many, many people don't have a single photo of their baby that's not digital somewhere. And while we all say this, they don't have backups. And so, having a backup for your most precious files is really the way to plan for this. So, it's not about prevention, it's about recovery. And so, use the picture metaphor and then think about your money, think about all the other parts of your life. Think like a hacker is what I usually say. If someone was to really mess with your life, what would they do and how could you plan for that encounter and then recover from there?
Robert: By the way, if you use Google Assistant and you use Google Photos, watch this. Show me all my photos of my children. And Google will pull up my photos of my children. There we go.
Becky: Oh, you've got a backup. Is that all cloud?
Robert: I uploaded to Facebook, Google and Flickr. So, I have three—and Apple. That's four. So, my photos are in four places. It will take work to take down my family (laughing).
Becky: You'll pry those photos from my dead hands. We are going to take a break and come back and talk about Facebook really algorithmically generated ads that can target people based on incredibly negative stereotypes and how Facebook and Google are handling this. And is this the beginning of the algorithms taking over? Rob Reid's going to have to talk me off the ledge here, so, we'll take a break and be right back.
Leo: Hey, we'll have more with Becky and the gang in just a bit but I wanted to stop by and tell you about something we've been using at the house that we love and we've been telling people about. In fact, many of the TWiT team now uses Blue Apron. You know about Blue Apron, right? Oh, love this. Blue Apron is the number one fresh ingredient recipe delivery service in the country. Every week—by the way, it's not a subscription. So, for instance, we're out of town, so we're not—you know, we don't get it this week or the next week. You choose the day you get it. You choose the menu. They deliver you a box with up to three different meals for two or for a family of four. You choose. All the ingredients you need. Fresh, delicious ingredients. Never frozen, not even the meat or the fish. It's all fresh and refrigerated box. Precisely the right amount, too. So, if you need one celery rib, you get it. You don't get a whole stalk that you have to waste later or put in the fridge. You know, everything you need. If you need two teaspoons of soy sauce it comes in a little, cute little jar, a little bottle. You don't have any extra. But that's good for a couple of reasons. First of all, it makes the recipe easy. If you didn't use it all, you didn't do it right. I know I have to use this because it's sitting here. Plus, there's no leftovers, no waste. And I have to say, the food is so good, you probably won't have any leftovers of that either. It is amazing. But good portions. $10-dollars per person or less. There are seasonal recipes from 150 local farms and fisheries and ranchers, all sustainable. The kind of food you would buy at—by the way, every time I get a Blue Apron box, I marvel at how perfect the produce and the fish and the meat are. It's perfect. It's like—well, I guess it is, handpicked. If I went to the store, it wouldn't be as good. They do a better job than me. Go to BlueApron.com/TWiT. Look at the menu, see what's on the menu. Stuff like Summer Vegetables and Egg Paninis with Calabrian Chiles, Mayonnaise and Caprese Salad. Oh, I hate these ads. They make me so hungry. I'm sorry. Soy Glazed Pork and Rice Cakes with Bok Choy and Marinated Green Beans. These are skills, too, by the way. These are things that you will now know how to do and I can't tell you, every time we do Blue Apron there's one or two things we go, "Oh, we're making this again." But now you know how. You've done it. Skillet Vegetable Chile. By the way, this is a vegetarian meal. They have meals for all your dietary needs. Skillet Vegetable Chile with Cornmeal and Cheddar Drop Biscuits. No. That's mean. Garlic Butter Shrimp and Corn with Green Bean Salad and Roasted Purple Potatoes. Look, now is the time. Be sure to check out while you're there. Be sure to check out while you're there, the Blue Apron Market on the website. They've got all sorts of pantry items. We've been buying all sorts of things, tools and kitchen appliances and things from them. They even have a wine selection which is fantastic. BlueApron.com/TWiT. Every meal has a wine pairing they recommend, so you know if you—I know Becky likes a little wine now and then. You know exactly what wine pairs with it. It's wonderful. BlueApron.com/TWiT. Get 3 meals free. Yes, 3 meals free with your first purchase and free shipping. You'll love how good it feels and tastes to create incredible home cooked meals with Blue Apron. And if you have kids, get the family plan and get the kids to cook it with you. Trust me on this. They love it. You love it. The house smells incredible. And you're giving them a great skill. And what a great family experience. You'll look back on it and think, "Oh, those were the days." Blue Apron. Wish I could do it now. BlueApron.com/TWiT. Blue Apron is a better way to cook. And we thank them for their support of This Week in Tech. Back to Becky and the gang.
Becky: I love how he cracks himself up when he's reading the ads. Like, he's read quite a few ads in his days here at TWiT, but he's just—he has his own humor. I love Leo. He is seriously one of my oldest friends, so it's awesome to come to do this show but I miss him when I'm here and it makes me think of him a lot. The next story is complicated and Facebook. They're clarifying their advertising policy after last week it was discovered by ProPublica that advertisers were able to target users based on anti-Semitic terms like Jew Haters. ProPublica did the research and it's caused a ton of furor in how ads are targeted. CTO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg wrote that they're tightening their enforcement processes. They're making sure that ad targeting terms don't violate Facebook's community standards. And that includes targeting anyone based on negative opinions, based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, disability, diseases and this is where I think the key is. They also promised to add more human review to the automated processes and they're creating a program to encourage people to report abuses. Alex Kantrowitz at BuzzFeed tried the same thing at Google and basically it allowed the same, same type of racist phrases. He chose black people ruin everything is one of the terms that he targeted. So, he tried to do this not only with anti-Semitic terms but also with racist phrases. And I guess I would ask, Rob Reid, is this the first or one of many steps along the path of algorithms dividing us as people?
Rob: Well, you know, first of all going to the issues, I don't know that the fact that it was possible for people to target ads to this, I haven't seen any suggestion that either of these companies was doing a ramp in business in these actual keywords. And I also, I kind of got the feeling that these were just kind of like open fields where one can type in any random string of letters and numbers if they wanted to, or any four English words strung together. So, you know, I'm glad that the company's reacted with horror.
Becky: There was some auto-complete that was available that makes me nervous.
Rob: That's right, there was. The auto-complete was kind of horrifying because that means people type those things in the past and the algorithm is recognizing it. So, I mean I think the companies have appropriately reacted with horror. I don't know if we can necessarily, you know, be furious with them for not having anticipated every plausible offense of four-word combinations like black people ruin anything, it would so never enter my mind to say those four words. I mean, in most minds it wouldn't enter their minds so it's not surprising that Google didn't deliberately say, "Oh, somebody might say this. Let's block it." Nonetheless, the auto-complete was kind of chilling because I think that's an algorithmically generated thing that needs lots of people to happen to type in that thing, which is why everything always auto-completes net worth. How weird is that, right? You type in anybody's name and it immediately it's like George Washington net worth. What does that mean? He's been dead for 200 years.
Becky: (Laughing) Oh, I get husband.
Robert: What is Rob Reid's net worth?
Rob: There we go. And Equifax will tell you for free.
Becky: I can't remember who said it, but the overall arching concept was that if you write algorithms, and you're responsible for them, it is your duty to think about the worst possible thing it could do.
Robert: Good luck with that.
Becky: And so, you're point that I would never think that. I mean it is an infinite set of possibilities, and therefore it's a programming challenge, but the bigger issue in my mind is this is a profit margin question which is the reason why these companies are such profit monsters is because they have so little human oversight. And they have a responsibility. And to these company's credit, specifically Google, I think—well, I'll get to Twitter later, but you know, Mark Zuckerberg also said this week that Facebook is going to stop allowing untraceable political ads. I come from a TV world. I've been in the TV business since 1993 and we had a duty because the FTC mandates that we have a lot of oversight on what ads we take, where they air, and what standards they meet. And that is the beauty of the internet and we're really seeing the dark side.
Rob: I think that—well, that's partly a relic I believe that TV stations were using the public resource and bandwidths, and it was a finite resource and because you were taking a public good, you fell under a certain level of licensing and restriction that the internet didn't fall under. So, I think that might have been more a—
Robert: TV stations granted a monopoly basically.
Rob: Yea. Precisely. More that than necessarily speech regulation.
Robert: It was back in the day.
Rob: It was back in the day. Like, when was the last time anybody listened to anything on terrestrial broadcast, although I will say—
Becky: Oh, Bob and I are like this. Oh, our paychecks. No, no.
Rob: When I go home, my wife and I are going to sit down and watch the Oakland Raiders on our HDTV receiver because we're cable cutters.
Robert: This is how I get the ABC news. I say, "Play ABC news."
Rob: But you're not going to get the Raiders game.
Becky: Well, you could watch football on—wasn't it on NFL network?
Rob: No, we're cord cutters.
Becky: Wow, that's fast.
Robert: Yea. Google Assistant is the app of the year I think.
Robert: That's cool.
Becky: You could get some football online this week. It was one of the first times I really noticed it was. I can't remember if it was Facebook.
Rob: Didn't they do Thursday football on Twitter last year? Local TV is a whole weird thing.
Becky: Oh, yea, the blackouts.
Rob: But the thing with being able to know everything an algorithm can do is very, very problematic because particularly with a lot of the neural network programming that's going on, when you take training set in a really sophisticated machine learning system and sic it on that, it starts making connections and it starts processing things. The programmers quite literally can't tell you exactly how it's working. They don't understand because it's gone through back propagation and then also in some places they might do genetic coding where the code is evolving itself, and the output could be something that's radically efficient but is quite literally unknowable to the engineer who set that process in motion as to how and why it works, almost by definition.
Becky: Are you saying that's because it's learning or you're saying that's because the data sets are so infinite that it's hard to test every scenario?
Rob: It's because in going through the data and finding this leads to inaccurate outcome and that leads to an inaccurate outcome, it's shaping the pathways within itself in a semi-automated manner that gradually approaches more and more and more correctness. This is how image recognition has suddenly worked after not working for decades and decades. And in a very different branch which is genetic programming, somebody might, will basically tell software to evolve itself and maybe it's trying to target a positive return in high velocity training in the market. And it knows how score is kept. Score is kept, if you make money you win, and if you lose money, you lose. And programs could start evolving at a very, very rapid way where thousands or even more attempts at kind of coming up with an algorithm that works are mutated and evolved and rejected on a way that's quite literally Darwinian. And again, you might end up with an output that you really don't understand. Now, arguably, there's a guy named Nicholas Bostrom who is the leading theorist in super intelligence and super AI research and he's quite concerned about something that's become quite widespread which he refers to as neuromorphic programming and a better term might be neuromatic which is basically where researchers, particularly AI researchers are replicating the way the human brain does things. Because if we know it works here and we can replicate it imperfection in silicon but the problem is you end up creating something you really, truly don't understand. It's like this is how it works in nature and we can replicate it and we can speed it up by a million X.
Robert: Let's make it simpler. The CEO of Turi which Apple bought, gave a talk last year at the Data Science Conference. And he said, "We train AI on huskies and wolves. And it kept throwing an error once in a while." And they looked into how the algorithm learned about those two things and it learned on the snow in the picture. It learned on the wrong thing. And when you took the snow out of the picture, because wolves are usually on grass and huskies are usually on snow. But once in a while it would be incorrect. You take the snow out of the picture and it learned on the face of the dog or the wolf and it got correct. And that's just a very simple way to demonstrate where we're going. Google Assistant is learning from our behavior, right? It switches words on me once in a while because it's trying to fit me into a search that already was done, right? And we're going to get some complex systems. It's going to be very hard for anyone to look at and figure out where it went wrong.
Rob: Now, I have to say, as a science fiction writer, I think this is awesome because there's all kinds of crazy stories that we can get to tell around this stuff. But there is a genuine danger where we are definitely well past the point where all code is understood by its titular creator. We passed that many, many years ago.
Becky: Finn, come here for a second. So, my son's nine and you have studied artificial intelligence and you know so much more than I ever would. Tell him what he needs to know.
Rob: What he needs to know. I actually studied Arabic in college. I could teach him how to say all kinds of great phrases in Arabic.
Becky: Future-proof this kid for the AI future that's coming.
Rob: You know, I think that actually—
Robert: Translate where is the bathroom to Arabic. Right? And it gives you the translation.
Rob: So, Arabic translation is definitely not the place to go. I actually, by sheer happenstance, I was in a group of people having breakfast in New York a couple of days ago and Andrew MacAfee from MIT was there who has written, co-authored one of, or two of the leading books, raising the alarm of structural unemployment for many, many people because of automation. And I asked him that very question. I didn't actually cite Finn because we had not yet met at that point. But he said that the advice he gives to his own kids is really pushing into realms where it's an intensely human interaction. So, it's going to be a long time before we want computers as therapists or masseuses. There are also things that are really kind of very, very high-end creativity and so he reassured me, he said, "As a guy who write 575-page long science fiction novels, you'll be one of the last to go." And that had a chilling ring to it. But that was better than first to go, you know? So, what I'm saying, Finn, is write some science fiction, young man.
Becky: The creative arts.
Rob: The creative arts, yea.
Robert: Google knows all facts, right? Why is the sky blue? It would give this as an answer.
Becky: What does it say?
Google Assistant: A clear, cloudless daytime sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light form the sun more than they scatter red light.
Robert: Right? So, learning things by—enough Google. Never knows when to shut up. Google knows most facts. WE have lots of interesting arguments at our house about which facts are incorrect, right? Who was the first James Bond?
Google Assistant: Here is information from Wikipedia.
Robert: Oh, that's different. It used to say Sean Connery which is not correct.
Becky: Oh, maybe it learned.
Robert: It's not correct because James Bond, there was a James Bond before the movie James Bond.
Rob: You mean the literary character?
Robert: There was a stage play then and I forget the guy's name. Brandon Wertz shows me inaccuracies in Google.
Becky: So, there's another clue. Anything that mandates subjectivity. So, that's a very nuanced thing, so, ok.
Robert: Where I would be as a kid is learn a framework of how to ask these systems questions. Because you know, knowing how things work makes your life more enjoyable but you have to have the curiosity of being able to ask it for help and knowing when it's not giving you the right help (laughing). Like when is the map taking you somewhere incorrect, right? And we all are figuring that out.
Becky: So, it's kind of the King Solomon rules. Do you think that AI will take over the role of lawyers and judges?
Rob: Lawyers before judges. I don't know if we're going to trust it on the judge front because you know, in early attempts that have been made with like parole boards and so forth, people have detected things that look like racial bias coming out of the AI. And I think that however explicable that might be when you try to crawl through the code that you don't really understand to figure out what was going on there, humans will be highly uncomfortable with that kind of thing and will prefer to leave that role to humans. However, Dan Ariely who has done amazing work in behavioral psychology wrote a book called Predictably Irrational and did a bunch of other great work, has shown that human judges, their decisions and parole boards and so-forth are heavily, heavily influenced by how many hours it's been since they've eaten. Taken an enormous amount of data, proximity to lunch leads to a great deal of leniency. Way statistically significant—
Becky: After lunch, not before lunch. I remember this. It was the first thing in the morning and after lunch were your best chances for leniency.
Rob: I forget exactly what it was—yea. There were times you sure didn't want to come up. And that's chilling. I mean imagine that's how justice gets meted out and so—but I think societally—
Robert: We know that justice is not justice for a lot of people.
Rob: Yes, yes. Society will probably be more comfortable with robotic lawyers than judges.
Becky: So, creativity, some judgement oriented things. Where else do you think that the human interaction will prevail?
Rob: I think that being super enabled by computers. So, I'm going to pitch. Tim O'Reilly's got an amazing book coming out on October 10th and I've been lucky enough to read it. And it's called WTF: Where's the Future? What's the Future? Something like that. We also know it stands for something else. But he made this really cool point. He calls them augmented workers which are people who have been super-empowered by their pairing with technology. And he makes the point that Amazon, since they brought in their famous Kiva robots, have been on a hiring—and these are the robots that automate Amazon's warehouses to a degree that a lot of folks find frightening. They have been on a hiring tear that unlike without precedent in the history of warehouse management in this country, since they brought in the Kiva robots because the workers who are in there are now managing fleets of robots and every worker is wildly productive. And there is the famous statistic that's been attested to in multiple sources that after the rise of automatic teller machines in the early 80s, the number of people employed as tellers in the country has gone up and up and up because again, they're now able to do higher and higher level things. And so, I think if you put yourself in a role where you are in a sense the computer's manager, you're letting it do the things that falls within its super power, but you're doing those judgement things that fall outside of it. I mean Garry Kasparov is very big into this. He calls, he and others call the phenomena the Centaur which is sort of a human and AI team. You can pair a fairly mediocre chess player with some pretty lousy software, chess playing software, and those two things together can slaughter the best software in the world which is now 20-years more evolved than the software that beat Garry Kasparov twenty years ago in 1997.
Robert: The guy who runs Big Blue at IBM says, "Yes, Big Blue beats a human at Jeopardy but we didn't tell you was Big Blue and a human beats Big Blue every time."
Rob: Because you go back and look at that Ken Jennings statement, everything that Big Blue or Watson got wrong were these thigh slappers that's really like, "Oh, my God, how did it come up with—it's so smart." But then it got—yea, if Ken Jennings was teamed up with Watson, they'd be unstoppable. And so I think that centaur-like pairing of machine wisdom with human wisdom will get us through at least the next few years until computers are better than absolutely everything.
Becky: So, just as mixed reality is superseding a straight virtual reality in how we perceive things now, mixed AI might be a future that makes sense, at least in the near term.
Rob: Yea. A lot of smart people think so, Garry Kasparov being one of them.
Robert: So, I'm learning Google Assistant, yea.
Bob: Can I jump in here, Becky?
Bob: I have something important to say to your kid. So, I did a story about six months ago that I entitled A Billion Useless People about this because that's the stark reality that—this is why people don't invite me to cocktail parties.
Becky: (Laughing) You're so much fun, Bob.
Robert: You're all laid off in ten years.
Bob: Well, this is the stark—you wonder what are these people going to do. It was really based on this amazing study by these Oxford researchers. They ranked 700 professions and they're likely to be automatable in the near future. Tellers are at the top. Call service representatives are at the top, the jobs that you would expect. The bottom of that list, the least likely automatable jobs, here's the story, is very, very useful if you're a young person right now, is populated by surprising things. You guys have already said the creative class stuff and working with machines, but empathy is another thing. Computers are not going to be good at empathy. So, healthcare workers in general, we're going to need them, particularly geriatric health care. But one job you'll find on that list that's really promising are physical therapists, physical recovery therapists, both for athletes and for people who have other disabilities. So, but the key component for all of those things is the ability to empathize with other humans and so, whatever you can do to develop your empathy is going to increase your job prospects.
Robert: Watch VR. VR. Stanford University was about to report on a study they did with people who are viewing homeless encampments on either a screen or in VR and VR is way better at triggering your empathy. Yep.
Becky: Well, this has given me some great advice. So, here's what we're going to do. When you go home, I want you to fire up the Roomba and I want you to simultaneously get the vacuum cleaner out and I want you to both vacuum—
Rob: As a team.
Becky: Yea, I want you to work with it. Can we do that?
Rob: That was a ploy. That was a ploy.
Robert: Because the Roomba doesn't get into corners.
Finn: What if I turn the Roomba over and then vacuum around it?
Becky: Yea, see? You could do that. And Robert just made a good observation. The Roomba is really bad underneath the table where you drop all the Cheerios. So, yea.
Robert: Yea, in the corner it pushes them all into the corner so you've got to find them. Yea.
Becky: It does. See, AI with humans. See, I'm always looking for the upside. I think that's what happens, too, when you have kids. You're like, "I've got to figure out the upside of this." It really forces you to do that. But, we're going to take a quick look at what has been happening, is going to happen on the TWiT network, so, take a look at all the amazing things that are happening here at TWiT.tv.
Narrator: Previously, on TWiT.
Rich DeMuro: I don't think I've ever looked like that in my life, but that's me on the KTLA website.
Jason Howell: Can't you take that exact picture with the iPhone 8?
Rich: Like, oh my gosh. This is going to be your next.
Jason: That's pretty good, but how does it make me handsome?
Narrator: Know How.
Megan Morrone: I'm going to talk first about my very favorite feature and that's do not disturb while driving.
Father Robert Ballecer: Ok, yes.
Megan: So, you have to say, "I'm not driving," or close. And you don't want to lie to your iPhone, so, if you get a text message, you can auto-reply. So, I changed this a little bit. "I love you too much to answer this text."
Fr. Robert: Now it's not just an auto-reply, it's also a moral judgement.
Narrator: Windows Weekly.
Fr. Robert: Well, Mary Jo, I know you're not into it. However, the next time you come to the Brick House, we will have multiple machines here, all with Cuphead. Will you be willing to go a couple of rounds of co-op with me?
Mary Jo Foley: Sure. You'll have to show me how to play. I would try it.
Paul Thurrott: I think the problem is people who don't play a lot of games pick this thing up and they're like, "Oh, this is kind of hard." Yea, you've been using a fidget spinner for the past six months. Maybe you should do something slightly more complicated.
Narrator: TWiT. Leo says hi.
Paul: Listen, she's gone. Let's talk about her. Go ahead.
Fr. Robert: Ok, first of all, I don't think she'll ever be able to play Cuphead, so it's going to be hilarious when—
Paul: Actually, it's incredibly difficult to play. I kind of downplay that because I didn't want her to be freaked out.
Fr. Robert: Editor, we're going to have to cut this part out of the episode.
Paul: Yes, this never happened.
Fr. Robert: This never happened.
Finn: I would evolve into different robots.
Becky: What do you think, bud? Do you think artificial intelligence is good?
Becky: (Laughing) No?
Becky: How come?
Finn: People would lose a ton of—there would be way less jobs and—
Robert: There's going to be way more jobs because of it, because of what he said in the Amazon factory. Just because you don't, you have an assistant that's driving your car, you're going to have a lot of new kinds of jobs coming. But it's hard to explain that to people who haven't seen mixed reality glasses. Because mixed reality glasses can teach you any job in real time on top of the job. They use them at Caterpillar to teach how to fix a million-dollar tractor because it shows you on top of the tractor how to do it. And that's going to unlock a whole raft of new jobs that look sort of like TV jobs or Hollywood jobs.
Becky: More fun jobs maybe.
Becky: Does that sound good?
Finn: Yea. Better.
Becky: Ok, good. I'm glad we figured this out. We're going to take a quick break and then we're going to come back with a consumer story that makes me sad, especially as an athlete. And it's a story that I promoted and, Bob, I bet you did too, so, we'll be right back.
Leo: All right, one more word from our sponsor then back to the final section of the show. Thank you, Becky Worley and company for filling in for me while I'm gone. I'll be back next week. I'm sure I'm missing you guys terribly. Well, maybe not. Anyway, I hope you're having fun. I hope you will take a look at our sponsor today, Capterra. Capterra is a great idea. This is free. There's no cost, no obligation, no salesman will call. What it is, is a business software directory. So, if you're one of those people that gets tasked by the boss with coming up with, oh, you know, the boss says, "Oh, Smithers, find that software to manage the business," whether it's auto repair or dentistry or a yoga studio. They have yoga studio. It wouldn't be Smithers. It would be Shockey. "Shockey, we need software to manage the yoga studio." Well, Shockey, don't Google it. Don't Google it because you're going to get random results. Go to Capterra. Whether you're a startup looking to keep better track of customers, a non-profit opening up a record fund-raising year, or a business that simply needs better payroll software, you can find the software you need at Capterra. Capterra's got you covered. Capterra.com is the best, easy to use software comparison site. Hundreds of categories, thousands of programs, hundreds of thousands of reviews by users like you, Shockey. People who've used that software and know the pros and the cons, the good and the bad and it's all there. All your homework is being done for you. And this is free. There's no obligation. There's no registration even. You're not going to get emails or phone calls or anything. You go there, pick the category you're looking for. Let's do yoga studios. And then you'll see—oh, this is amazing. Like a hundred different programs. So, you want to narrow it down? Say, "Well, I want to see 4-star reviewed. I want stuff that runs on the web and can manage clients, classes and staff of ten," or whatever. Narrow it down. It will find all the software that fits your criteria. Then you look at it and the capsule reviews and the stars, and you check the ones you want to know more about and you'll make a comparison chart for you. Then you can see exactly what all the feature are. Where it installs, how it installs, everything you need to know and then read the reviews, vetted reviews from real people. I think this is all you need to do. This is the research that your boss wants you to do. Or, if you're the boss, that you want yourself to do before you try a program. It's awesome. Capterra. It's like a secret weapon for people who need to find business software. C-A-P—but don't keep it a secret. Tell everybody. Capterra. C-A-P-T-E-R-R-A.com. Go to Capterra.com/TWiT and join the millions of people who use it every month to find the software that will save your business every day. Capterra.com/TWiT. We thank them so much for making This Week in Tech possible. Now, back to Becky. Thank you for filling in for me, Becky. We'll see you soon.
Becky: It is my pleasure, Leo. And thank you guys for talking to my kid. That was actually—I really benefitted from that and in the chatroom, RevDanLP says, "Robert's explanation of saving us from the robot overlords is like a warm blanket of logic." (Laughing) A warm blanket of logic. Oh, I feel all warmed up. What makes me not feel warm is that as a consumer reporter, I recommend things to people. We've all, most of us, either to our friends or publicly we recommend apps to people. And I am an athlete and I've been so positive about getting people to be healthy and fit and working out, and I loved an app called Pact or Our Pact or Gym Pact. These are all names that have been associated with it and the premise of it was that you pledged that you will do something every day. You'll either walk 10,000 steps by 4:00. You will check in at a gym that you designated. They evolve the app so that you promise certain eating habits. You could tie it in with your Fitbit or any of your trackers. And in your pledge, you said, "I will give $10-dollars." I think $5-dollars was the minimum per week, but up to $50 or $100-dollars, if I don't do it, I lose that money. So, you gave it your credit card and it was going to take the money if you didn't do it. And then, if you did do it, you got a piece of the pie of all that money that people lost because they didn't keep their pact.
Rob: They kept the vig, right?
Becky: You wonder what the stake was. That perhaps was my error in not knowing exactly—
Rob: What the rate was, yea.
Becky: Turns out, the Pact app owes nearly a million dollars to people. So, wisely says on Gizmodo, owes nearly one million dollars for not paying users to exercise. Bob, I mean just as a consumer reporter, I'm horrified. Can you absolve me? Can you tell me that this—or are you going to tell me that I should have known this was always going to come and I should not recommend it to our viewers?
Bob: I mean I think the saving grace here is the amount they owe people, we're talking generally in the $25, $50, $75-dollar range, which is much cheaper than a personal trainer. So, perhaps it was actually a plus for them in the end.
Becky: Ok, ok. I'm going to take that as partial absolution. But I am feeling guilty. On the other hand, I have tried but not recommended the watch that zaps you with 220-volts of electricity when you don't—
Becky: Pavlov. Pavlov. You're right.
Rob: Wait, when does it zap you exactly?
Becky: So, you can tell it, "I need to do 10,000 steps by 4:00 PM."
Robert: It's Pavlok.
Becky: And if it doesn't come, if you don't do it by 4:00 PM it will zap you.
Rob: Let you have it.
Robert: Pavlok Watch.
Becky: And it hurts like, oh my, God. I had such an interesting experience wearing it because it was like as the day wore on and I knew I wasn't accomplishing the goal that I had promised it to do, that I could feel the watch heavier and heavier on my arm.
Rob: Wow. It manipulates gravity. That is a sophisticated watch.
Becky: It was a psychological gravity.
Rob: I'm going to go with—
Robert: Aversion therapy they call it.
Becky: The guy who invented it.
Robert: Pavlok is the name.
Becky: Pavlok. That's right. The guy who invented it told me that he created it because he was procrastinating so badly, that he posted on Facebook that if he did not finish his paper, that he needed someone to come to his house and slap him. And then he said it really motivated him.
Rob: There's like a line of people at his door.
Becky: (Laughing) He paid them, so. I had such a great, enjoyable time talking with all you three Roberts today. Thank you for your time. Let me just go through and ask you guys to tell people—
Robert: We've got to start a union (laughing).
Rob: We should. I've always wanted to go on strike (laughing).
Becky: A Rob union. But you know, I bet those Richard scabs will come in here and they will take over.
Robert: We're better than Richards. We can take on Richards.
Becky: You're no dicks.
Rob: That will be like the NFL scab. Nobody's going to watch it like when the strike players came in.
Becky: Let's start with our first Robert, Bob Sullivan. Tell people where they can find you and what you're doing and what you're going to be doing.
Bob: Sure, well, I work for myself now, it's bobsullivan.net. I'm still a correspondent for CNBC and a contributor to The Today Show occasionally. But the main thing if people want to fine me, they can go to bobsullivan.net and sign up for my newsletter. That's the safest way to make sure that you don't miss any of my stories.
Becky: I really appreciate all your wisdom and practical advice about the Equifax hack this week, Bob, so, thank you so very, very much. Rob Reid.
Rob: Yes. I am a tech entrepreneur turned science fiction author, so, I'd like everybody to use Rhapsody although they've renamed it Napster. That was a music service I started.
Becky: So, it became Listen then Rhapsody.
Rob: Well, it was listen.com was the name of the company I started. Rhapsody was our product. Then we sold it to Real Networks who sold half of it to MTV and at some point, somebody bought the Napster brand out of whatever purgatory it had gone into and they glued it on top of Rhapsody about a year ago. But it's still Rhapsody to me. But I'm a Spotify user now, I'll admit. But, these days I write science fiction for Random House and I have a new novel that came out a month ago called After On. It's about a diabolical social media company set in present day San Francisco which it will sound like a spoiler but you really see it coming from the very beginning, attains consciousness. And rather than going all Terminator and trying to kill us all, it becomes something much more terrifying which is a hyper-intelligent, super-empowered 14-year-old mean girl.
Becky: (Laughing) That terrifies me.
Rob: And it's terrifying. And there's a certain amount of playfulness in the book but it's a very serious rumination on artificial super intelligence risk and synthetic biology promise and peril, nihilistic terrorism and a bunch of other things and as you know, I started a podcast in connection with the book.
Becky: So good.
Rob: Thank you. Thank you. What my original plan was, was to do 8 episodes and we go deep into the science and tech connected to the book because you could only go so deep in the novel without hijacking your story. And you know, there's an episode on quantum computing with a venture capitalist, Steve Jurvetson, long interview. I talked to Meron Gribetz who we talked about who runs META about augmented reality which is a major thing in the book. I had a two-hour interview with Sam Harris who's very outspoken about terrorism. Terrorism is a major subject. And I just decided actually a few days ago, that episode 8 goes up on Tuesday. I've been having so much fun, I'm going to keep it going indefinitely. And so, it's going to graduate from its loose affiliation with the book. It's called The After-On Podcast. It's going to graduate in a week from its loose affiliation with the book and the theme is going to be unheard conversations with thinkers and founders and scientists. Or maybe founders and thinkers. I haven't figured out the sequence yet, but—
Becky: That's good news.
Rob: They're long interviews.
Becky: That's really good stuff. I get—you know, I am a person who is an intuitor and so I intuit after I listen to a tech podcast, I get a feeling like, oh, I'm so glad that I did that because I learned more and I feel knowledgeable and that was productive and blah, blah, blah. But I get a different feel when I listen to the After-On podcast which is the way I feel after a sort of Kerry Gross interview with an entertainer. It's more like, wow that was an amazing journey that I just went on. And it's just a very different take on the genre of tech podcasting. And it's not really tech podcasting, it's intelligence podcasting. And I just am really enjoying it.
Rob: Thank you. I'm delighted to hear that from someone who's been in product as long as you.
Becky: So great to grip onto your experience and get that on my playlist, so thank you so much.
Rob: Thank you.
Becky: Robert Scoble, you are always doing so many things.
Becky: What do you want to talk about that you want people to know is on your radar and they need to pay attention to?
Robert: Augmented reality is totally on my radar right now because Apple just shipped it last week. And Google is coming with ARCore and a whole bunch of stuff is coming over the next 3-4 years. I write mostly on Facebook. I wrote a book called The Forth Transformation about this stuff and we're doing corporate training coming up soon. And I'm going around the world and doing a lot of speeches and other kinds of work.
Becky: What is corporate training for AR look like?
Robert: Well, we're teaching business users, business decision makers what is coming and how to get ready for it. So, this is going to affect every brand, right? You're going to eventually look at an iPhone and a menu's going to pop up. I saw that already at Ifluenz which Google bought. Google's working on that. And I bet that's sort of what Amazon's thinking about too because they want you to walk into a store and start looking at things and they'll let you buy things right by looking at them.
Becky: You're such a taste maker in the industry and there's a subliminal thread through the show which is Google Assistant. And I'm going to go take your advice and I'm going to go try it out.
Robert: Keep in mind it's three feet away from my mouth and it understands me even in noisy situations which is just amazing. And when I worked at Microsoft a decade ago, we saw natural language processing and it was 70% accurate. And today its fairly accurate now.
Rob: How long have you been majoring in it? You said kind of playfully—
Robert: It came out a couple months ago on iPhone. It came out on Pixel last year. But ever since it came out I've been forcing myself to use it, so I use it for thousands of questions.
Rob: And do you feel super empowered by it? Do you feel like an augmented person?
Robert: Yea. Because you can ask it all sorts of things really quickly like what's the weather?
Google Assistant: Right now.
Robert: Movies. And it will just keep going. You can ask it all sorts of things. What did Apple do in the stock market? And you can see it's accurate at seeing my voice, hearing my voice and It's accurate at giving you an answer.
Becky: This is so comforting because I've said for years that IO is the revolution and it's not just the artificial intelligence there, but what you're saying is it's the method of interaction because that was seconds and totally seamless. So, that is neat.
Robert: Yea, it's pretty impressive as long as you have a connection. If you're in the middle of Canada like I was—
Becky: No Bueno. Don't be trying that at the Calgary Stampede, folks. All right. Thank you, Roberts! Another TWiT is in the can.