Marketplace Tech®

with Ben Johnson

About the Program

Hosted by Ben Johnson, this daily "journal of the Digital Age" airs during broadcasts of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Official program website

Latest Show
04/28/2017: You can now get a White House tour from Barack Obama (through virtual reality)
It's been a busy past few days in the tech world, so we're going to kick off the show by playing "Silicon Tally" — the game where were try to stump people with numbers from the week's tech news. Our guest this Friday: Melissa Kirsch, editor in chief of Lifehacker. Afterwards, we'll look at virtual reality's strong presence at the annual Tribeca Film Festival, and then chat with researcher Molly Sauter about the laws governing cyber crime. (04/28/2017)

04/27/2017: Stop judging my outfit, Alexa
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wants to put an end to net neutrality rules, a move that shouldn't be surprising given the position he took on the issue during the Obama era. But why? Recode's Tony Romm is here to explain why Pai is so against these regulations. Afterwards, we'll look at Amazon's new Echo Look, a device that can snap photos of you and provide some fashion advice. Zeynep Tufekci, an associate sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, argues this is the latest evidence that suggests "surveillance capitalism" may take over our lives. Plus: Ryan McKnight, an ex-Mormon, talks about his website MormonLeaks — a venue for members of the Mormon Church to post information anonymously.   (04/27/2017)

04/26/2017: Is hacktivism a force for good...or chaos?
Alphabet's self-driving car unit, Waymo, will now expand its operations in Phoenix, Arizona — a city where Uber has also tested its autonomous vehicles. Why Phoenix? Well, it's in a state that appears friendlier than others to self-driving technology, and there's a growing tech scene going on there. Brian Sherman, a senior vice president at Arizona Commerce, shares what exactly his organization is doing to support innovation in the region. Afterwards, we'll chat with Hector Monsegeur, co-founder of the hacking group LulzSec, about the value of hacktivism and whether he considers LulzSec to have been a hacktivist organization.  (04/26/2017)

04/25/2017: Should we be able to access academic articles without paywalls?
On the website Twitch, video game fans get to watch popular video game players stream footage of their game play. Now Twitch is going to allow users to make money from their own streaming. We'll dive into reasons for the company's move — which may include a fear of YouTube — and the pitfalls of this business model for gamers. Afterwards, as part of our "hacktivism" series, Science magazine's John Bohannon shares the story behind the site Sci-Hub, which was created by grad student Alexandra Elbakyan after she became frustrated with the paywalls placed in front of research papers. Plus: we ask futurist Garry Golden whether flying cars are in our future.  (04/25/2017)

04/24/2017: Our fascination with dystopian futures
Science fiction novels are getting the Hollywood treatment. Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" is coming to Netflix, while Dave Eggers' "The Circle" will hit the big screen later this week. Amy Webb, futurist and head of the Future Today Institute, explains why we seem to be so into dystopian fiction right now. Afterwards, we'll look at the meaning behind the word "hacktivism," and get a brief history of the term from Chester Wisniewski, a cybersecurity researcher for Sophos.  (04/24/2017)

04/21/2017: Can Samsung give us what we really want?
The Samsung Galaxy S8 hits stores today, with its makers hoping it'll make you forget about the iPhone and that other Samsung phone with exploding batteries. Geoffrey Fowler, personal tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, stopped by tell us all about the new device's features, and how it compares with Apple's products. Afterwards, we'll check out the rise of tech in Phoenix, Arizona, and then play this week's Silicon Tally with NASA's Daniel Lockney, whose job includes helping NASA technology find uses in places here on earth.  (04/21/2017)

04/20/2017: The evolution of the show 'Archer'
This week, we've been looking at communities all over the country that are trying to become the next big tech hub. What's one region waiting for talent to come to town? Philadelphia. Archna Sahay, the director of entrepreneurial investment for the city, joined us to talk about whether there's enough venture capital to go around. Afterwards, we'll look at how the animated FXX sitcom "Archer" came of age along with the internet. Amber Nash, the actress who voices Pam Poovey, and Brian Fordney, the show's technical director, stopped by talk about the show's evolution and a new "Archer" app viewers can use while watching the series. (04/20/2017)

04/19/2017: How the internet got ruined
The money-hungry creators of platforms like YouTube and Facebook completely destroyed the freedom that the internet once represented — according to Jonathan Taplin. Taplin, author of the new book "Move Fast and Break Things" joined us to talk about the "winners-take-all" mentality of early tech pioneers like Peter Thiel and Larry Page. Afterwards, as part of our new series on the rise of tech hubs across the U.S., we'll chat with entrepreneur Dug Nichols about the qualities that make Minneapolis a good place for a company. And finally, we'll look at the planned launched for a completely revamped Google Earth.  (04/19/2017)

04/18/2017: The third wave of tech
Facebook's developer conference, known as F8, kicks off in San Jose, California today. We'll hear from Wired's Cade Metz about what the social media giant is trying to get developers to do for them. Afterwards, we'll look at another tech conference that recently look place. Rise of the Rest, the brainchild of former AOL CEO Steve Case, champions entrepreneurs from all across the U.S. Case chatted with us about his effort to make sure venture capital gets evenly distributed across the country, and what he thinks the "third wave of tech" will consist of. Afterwards, we'll interview one Rise of the Rest attendee, entrepreneur Amy Johnson, about her Omaha-based company LifeLoop. The startup aims to keep those in retirement communities better connected with their families and staff.  (04/18/2017)

04/17/2017: Another fight over net neutrality is looming
Reports indicate that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to change Obama-era internet rules by having service providers regulate themselves. Michael Beckerman, CEO of the Internet Association, joins us to discuss why he thinks the existing rules are important for consumers. Afterwards, we'll look at the war for autonomous car talent, which has led to lawsuits, talent poaching and absurd salaries. (04/17/2017)

04/14/2017: How hackers are preying on taxpayers
It's tax season, which means someone might try to rip you off soon. Rick Holland, vice president of strategy at Digital Shadows, joins us to talk about how hackers are targeting people and how the IRS is doing with anti-fraud efforts. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with our very own David Brancaccio, who recently launched a new series called "Robot-Proof Jobs." (04/14/2017)

04/13/2017: The Uber exodus continues
Samsung's newest phone, the Galaxy S8, will arrive in U.S. stores next week. But something will be missing: its voice-activated personal assistant Bixby. Ambrish Srivastava, an analyst for BMO, joins us to discuss if Samsung has cause to worry. Afterwards, we'll hear from Sarah Kunst, the CEO of the fitness app and sports media site Proday, about the NBA's decision to start tracking players' stats. And finally, we'll look at yet another high-profile departure from Uber: the exit of Rachel Whestone, the company's head of communications.   (04/13/2017)

04/12/2017: The ban on airline phone calls continues
President Obama's FCC had introduced a proposal that would get rid of in-flight cellphone bans. Now the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is striking that plan down, stating that there are Americans who "value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet." The Washington Post's Brian Fung joins us to talk about the controversy and the niche business of in-flight Wi-Fi service. Afterwards, we'll look at Projekt Red's attempt to trademark the name of its video game Cyberpunk 2077 — a move that has angered gamers who don't like the idea of companies trademarking a subgenre of science fiction. We'll chat with Stanford law professor Mark Lemley about the meaning of cyberpunk and how trademark law works.  (04/12/2017)

04/11/2017: Capturing one of the world's most-wanted hackers
One of the world's most-wanted hackers, a Russian man named Pyotr Levashov, was arrested by authorities in Barcelona, Spain. He's now been implicated in Russia's interference with the U.S. presidential election. Dustin Voltz of Reuters joins us to give more background about Levashov and how he got brought in. Afterwards, we'll look at the social contracts that exist between consumers and big tech companies, and then look at Minecraft's decision to launch its own marketplace: a place where users can buy and sell in-game creations. (04/11/2017)

04/10/2017: An accent bias in voice assistants
Amid Silicon Valley's rising rent prices, a company called Zapier is offering residents a $10,000 incentive to get out. CEO Wade Foster joined us to talk about how effective Zapier's experiment has been in recruiting new hires. Afterwards, we'll explore the English-speaking bias of voice-controlled software, like Siri, with Backchannel's Sonia Paul.  (04/10/2017)

04/07/17: Forget the past, gamers
Why Microsoft is discouraging the use of emulators, which allow their video game consoles and computers to behave like older versions of themselves and in a sense, preserve video and computer game history. And, on Silicon Tally, Ben tries to stump Brian X. Chen, lead consumer technology writer for the New York Times. (04/07/2017)

04/06/17: Facebook takes on revenge porn
Facebook launched a new initiative to crack down on revenge porn with more manpower and new photo-matching technology. Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who represents revenge porn victims and serves on the board of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, stops by to discuss the implications of Facebook's new measures. Plus, a look at YouTube's new television venture and the hunt for Russia's most notorious hacker.  (04/06/2017)

04/05/17: The food delivery robots are here
State pension funds are struggling to deliver the goods right now, leading some pension fund managers to invest in startups. Venture Capitalist Paul Kedrosky stops by to discuss if the risk is worth it and whether the tech world will benefit. Next, we'll talk about Verizon's plans for its Yahoo-AOL merger, "Oath," and then look at a new robot food delivery program from Starship Technologies. (04/05/2017)

04/04/17: The $14 million plan to fight fake news
A diverse group of players, including Facebook and the Ford Foundation, are starting a $14 million fund to advance news literacy. Professor Jeff Jarvis of the City University of New York, the institution administering the fund, stopped by to discuss how this plan is different from other initiatives and what will happen if it affects these companies' bottom lines. Afterwards, we'll chat with wellness guru Dave Asprey about his unconventional dieting suggestions, which aim to help people increase their "brainpower."  (04/04/2017)

04/03/17: How virtual reality is changing the way we tell stories
With the rise of virtual reality, what will the movie-going experience be like in the future? Ted Schilowitz, a "futurist" for 20th Century Fox, stopped by to discuss how there will be an emphasis on the sensation of being physically transported and "choose your own adventure" stories. Afterwards, we'll look at how museums around the world are also experimenting with virtual reality. The New Museum in New York City is encouraging artists to use VR as a medium for their art.  (04/03/2017)

03/31/17: Are big tech firms contributing to the cycle of pay inequality?
"Firm inequality" describes the phenomenon where workers across firms earn vastly different amounts in earnings. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom joins us to discuss why he thinks tech companies epitomize the pay divide. Afterwards, we'll play this week's "Silicon Tally" with Daniela Galarza, a senior editor at Eater. (03/31/2017)

03/30/17: Teaching older generations about tech
Samsung has released its latest flagship devices, the Samsung S8 and S8 Plus, and unveiled its artificial intelligence assistant Bixby. Following Samsung's series of scandals in the past year, we'll look at what shape the company's in. Afterwards, we'll explore the AARP's use of seminars to educate older generations on how to use smartphones. (03/30/2017)

03/29/17: What Uber's first diversity report reveals
A new resolution plans to scale back a set of privacy rules put in place by the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama. We'll discuss how the measure could affect what you see online as a user, and how much data telecommunications companies already collect. Also on the topic of data transparency: Uber has released a diversity report about its workforce. We'll take a look at the report's statistics, which show that men hold 85 percent of the company's tech jobs. And finally, we'll talk about the roll out of Facebook Stories, a service that seems a lot like Snapchat.  (03/29/2017)

S02-7: Technology Crossing Borders
The gadget that saved a refugee in the middle of the Aegean Sea, how an agent uses technology to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico, and how a journalist in exile broadcasts the news with WhatsApp. Listen, decode, and decide: Can technology crossing borders save us? (12/27/2016)

S02-6: Encryption
How encryption hides all around us, how it was used in 18th century Paris to separate merchants from their money and the difference between your brain and your fingertip. Listen, decode, and decide: Can encryption save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/21/2016)

S02-5: World Building
A proposal to bioengineer shorter humans with cat eyes, a decades-old idea for a totally new kind of power, a battery made from trash and Bill Nye the Science Guy tries to get us in gear. Listen, decode, and decide: Can world-building save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/14/2016)

S02-4: Watching
A small city known for its Amish population and surveillance cameras, an old lady in Northern Ireland who watches video feeds in Brazil and getting footage from the fin of a shark. Listen, decode, and decide: Can watching save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/07/2016)

S02-3: The Augmented Self
The man who collected too much data, cyborgs who want to make their body-hardware mainstream, robots that rebuild your hairline and a conversation with Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge aka LeVar Burton. Listen, decode, and decide: Can the augmented self save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/30/2016)

S02-2: Alternate Reality
A therapist who creates virtual reality experiences for people with dangerous disorders, a grandmother who uses a headset to escape her surroundings and Ernest Cline on virtual reality in fact and fiction. Listen, decode, and decide: Can alternate realities save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/23/2016)

S02-1: Recognition
A toddler who saved her mother's life with Siri, a man whose mysterious ailment opened up a world of voice recognition technology and a dating service that wants to scan the faces of all your exes. Listen, decode, and decide: Can recognition software save us?Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/16/2016)

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