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
08/23/2017: The threat of killer robots
Elon Musk and a hundred others wrote a letter to the UN stating that it would be a colossal mistake if unregulated artificial intelligence were allowed to take the life of a human. We looked at the threats A.I. could pose to humanity on our Codebreaker podcast with Oxford professor Nick Bostrom —a conversation that we'll revisit on today's show. Afterwards, we'll chat with Jalak Jobanputra, founder of Future Perfect Ventures, about the future of bitcoin and blockchain. (08/22/2017)

08/22/2017: The voice of Mario looks back on his audition
Samsung is scheduled to announce a new phone this week, which is expected to have wireless charging. The process known as inductive charging isn't new though — it's been around for years. So, um, why isn't everywhere? Rahul Mangharam, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, explains why smartphone charging is in its awkward teen phase, and why we can expect a break out soon. Afterwards, on the heels of Mario Kart's 25th anniversary, we'll chat with the voice of Mario: Charles Martinet. He joined us to talk about the phrases he used to get the job and whether he actually plays Mario Kart.  (08/22/2017)

08/21/2017: Checking out the eclipse on your Twitter feed
As you might have heard, there's a solar eclipse happening today. But even if you're not in the so-called path of "totality," you can stream it on Twitter thanks to its partnership with the Weather Channel. Neil Katz, editor in chief of The Weather Company, joined us to talk about how it's going to film the eclipse and how the company thinks about programming in the digital age. Afterwards, we'll dive into issues with data privacy agreements.  (08/20/2017)

08/18/2017: Where do white supremacist groups go from here?
A wave of tech companies have condemned white supremacist organizations and websites, like the Daily Stormer. But will their online presence eventually fade away, or just find another outlet? It turns out that the Daily Stormer has moved its operations to what's called the Dark Web. Nicolas Christin, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University, joined us to discuss whether sites like these will be able to thrive on the Dark Web. Plus: We play this week's Silicon Tally with Doree Shafrir, a senior tech writer at Buzzfeed and author of the book "Startup: A Novel."  (08/18/2017)

08/17/2017: What tech companies should do about white supremacist groups
Two of the world's biggest tech companies, Alibaba and Tencent, are from China. With both having either recently released their quarterly earnings or preparing to, we'll take a look at how they're trying to expand their growth. Afterwards, we'll chat with Rashad Robinson, executive director at Color of Change, about the action that tech groups should take when their users include white supremacist groups. (08/17/2017)

08/16/2017: The Justice Department and a web hosting company battle over user data
The Department of Justice has asked DreamHost for 1.3 million IP addresses connected to a site that organized protests around President Trump's inauguration. On today's show, we'll look at whether there's a historical precedent for such a request, and what this would mean for hosting companies if DreamHost were to give up this information. Afterwards, we'll chat with Alex Klein, CEO of the startup Kano, about the importance of coding. (08/16/2017)

08/15/2017: GoDaddy cuts ties with neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer
Daily Stormer, which describes itself as "The World's Most Genocidal Republican Website," has been let go from the domain GoDaddy after posting personal attacks about Heather Heyer, one of the Charlottesville victims. On today's show, we'll look at the role that services like GoDaddy play in controlling internet content. Afterwards, we'll look at a growing debate over the manufacturing standards for environmentally friendly electronics. Manufacturers seem to be getting better marks for  these products, but some in the gadget repair community say the lenses for judging those manufacturers are getting a little rose-tinted.  (08/15/2017)

08/14/2017: Weaponized audio technology
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has developed a Spaceborne computer that'll be tested at the International Space Station to see if it can withstand trips to Mars. Mark Fernandez, lead developer for the NASA project, joined us to talk about the technology and why a private company like HP is getting involved. Afterwards, we'll look at news that State Department workers in Cuba may have suffered from an "acoustic attack."  (08/14/2017)

08/11/2017: Is taking a moral stand good for business?
Tech companies have had to grapple with some big moral issues as of late. Recently, Airbnb reportedly deactivated the accounts of users planning to attend a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Virginia. On today's show, we'll chat with University of Maryland professor Dana Fisher about whether the company is allowed to do something like this, and whether it's good for a business' bottom line to make a big political stand. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Saron Yitbarek, founder of the Code Newbie podcast. (08/11/2017)

08/10/2017: Hacking the Air Force when you're still in high school
Facebook and Instagram have replicated many of Snap's features, from face filters to disappearing messages, and that hasn't been great for business on Snap's end. Does it still have some creative power going for it right now? Business Insider senior reporter Alex Heath takes a look at the company's future with us. Afterwards, we'll talk to 17-year-old Jack Cable about that time he hacked the Air Force. (08/10/2017)

08/09/2017: Navigating Google's diversity challenges
A Google engineer named James Damore recently penned a memo blaming tech's gender gap on biological differences between men and women, which then led to his firing. Nicole Sanchez, CEO and founder of Vaya Consulting, joined us to talk about what Google needs to do to address its diversity issues and how female staffers are feeling about the company. Plus: A look at secretive Amazon brands. (08/09/2017)

08/08/2017: A new generation of phones
With Samsung and Apple getting ready to launch new phones, we'll take a look at what we can expect from these new devices. Afterwards, we'll discuss Netflix's decision to buy Millarworld, the publishing company of comic book writer Mark Millar.     (08/08/2017)

08/07/2017: Drones may join Trump's personal security team
President Trump is scheduled to spend 17 days of working vacation at Trump National Golf Club this month. And near the fairway, the Secret Service will be testing one or more drones. Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, joined us to chat about how these drones will likely be utilized. Afterwards, we'll look at the video game phenomenon "Overwatch." (08/07/2017)

08/04/2017: Man who stopped one malware may have created other malware
U.K.-based hacker Marcus Hutchins has been hailed in the hacking community for inadvertently undermining the massive Wannacry malware. But on his way out of Nevada where two hacker gatherings were taking place, he was arrested for allegedly creating a banking malware called Kronos. Motherboard journalist Joseph Cox joined us to explain the details of the arrest and what the malware actually did. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Lauren Goode, co-host of the podcast Too Embarrassed to Ask and a senior editor at The Verge. (08/04/2017)

08/03/2017: A faster way of shopping
Facebook may be trying to get into the hardware game (again). Unconfirmed reports say the social media giant is preparing to launch a smart speaker like Amazon Echo and a video chat device. Business Insider reporter Alex Heath joined us to explain why Facebook is pursuing these two products and whether the company can succeed. Afterwards, we'll discuss the potential of using Radio Frequency Identification in retail, which could mean things like getting to walk out of the store without actually having to check out your items. (08/03/2017)

08/02/2017: Bitcoin spawns a new currency
Congress has wanted company executives to testify about net neutrality, but but they're just not that interested. What's going on? Recode senior editor Tony Romm stopped by to chat wit us about the fear companies on both sides of the issue have. Afterwards, we'll look at the increasingly long transaction times for Bitcoin transfers — an issue that a group of techies tried to solve yesterday by splitting the currency in half. The New York Times' Nathaniel Popper explains what this means for companies that use the currency.   (08/02/2017)

08/01/2017: Apple plays along with China's Great Firewall
As part of China's tightened restrictions on internet access, Apple is pulling out a bunch of its virtual private network (VPN) services from its App Store in China, and one of those includes VypyrVPN. The president of the VPN's maker, Golden Frog, joined us to talk about Apple's decision, which he says suggests they value "profits over human rights." Afterwards, we'll discuss two Facebook bots that developed their own method of communication — one that even their own builders didn't understand.  (07/31/2017)

07/31/2017: Facebook as a tool for spy agencies
The U.S. presidential election wasn't the only race that may have faced Russian interference. Reports say that Russia may have also attempted to sway the recent French presidential election toward far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen. We'll chat with Joseph Menn, an investigative reporter with Reuters, about Facebook's role in all of this, and what these recent events say about Russia's political operations. Afterwards, we'll look at the business model behind the launch of CBS' new Star Trek series, "Discovery."    (07/31/2017)

07/28/2017: Competition for Uber just got stiffer
We're capping off today's show by playing Silicon Tally, the game where we try to stump each other with numbers from the week's news. Rose Eveleth, the producer for ESPN's 30 for 30 podcasts, faces off against host Ben Johnson. Afterwards, we'll discuss Softbank and Didi Chuxing's $2 billion investment in Grab, Uber's biggest rival in Asia. (07/28/2017)

07/27/2017: Farewell, Flash
The practice of getting a virus onto someone's machine or network, locking up the data, and demanding a payment for the key has become popular and lucrative in a short period of time. The result: $25 million in paid ransom over two years. On today's show, we'll look at the "business model" behind this form of malicious hacking. Afterwards, we say our parting words to Adobe Flash amid news that the company is going to stop producing new versions.  (07/27/2017)

07/26/2017: The company that's planning to implant chips in its employees
The company Three Square Market provides software that runs vending machines, self-checkout kiosks and, soon, microchips that can be implanted into its employees' hands. Vice President of International Development, Tony Danna, joins us to share what exactly these chips are capable of. Afterwards, we'll chat with Anatrope founder Tiffany Rad about two of the biggest hacking gatherings in the U.S. (07/26/2017)

07/25/2017: RIP, Microsoft Paint (1985-2017)
With many cities trying to become the next Silicon Valley or tech hubs in their own right, the job site Indeed decided to take a look at where job growth is actually happening. Turns out the same places (think San Francisco) still have a money monopoly on the market. But there are some promising areas. Indeed's chief economist Jed Kolko stops by to break down the site's findings with us. Next, we'll look at Windows' decision to phase out its Paint program, which will be replaced by a 3-D version. The BBC's Zoe Kleinman explains its appeal, and how even professional artists sometimes use it to create illustrations. (07/25/2017)

07/24/2017: Like LinkedIn, but for musicians
Advanced artificial intelligence requires small, yet very important components: chips. Google happens to be one of the latest tech companies that's starting to get into the AI chip game. And on today's show, we'll chat with Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical structure at Google, about why the tech giant is starting to invest in this area. Afterwards, we'll look at a new social media service for musicians that may help create the next Sonny and Cher.  (07/24/2017)

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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