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
09/22/2017: Explaining the risky and unregulated world of initial coin offerings
There are whole new systems of money being traded in the digital world. Companies can create their own cryptocurrency and sell it to the public in an initial coin offering. But these offerings are unregulated and risky. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks to Kevin Werbach from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School about how initial coin offerings work. (09/22/2017)

09/21/17: After the cart is full: What it's like to work in e-retail
As the demand for online retail grows, so do warehouse and fulfillment centers. But most of us who order stuff online don’t actually know what goes into getting a product off a shelf, into a box and to our door. On today’s episode of Marketplace Tech, we follow Veronica Mena, a warehouse supervisor for the online store Boxed to see what goes into packing your shipments of bulk toilet paper and how automation is changing the industry. (09/21/2017)

09/20/2017: Is it too late for data regulation?
Some 143 million people had their personal information stolen in the Equifax data breach. And that has a lot of us asking: How did we get here? Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks to Nancy Kim, who teaches internet studies at California Western School of Law, about why regulating data collection is so hard. And we hear from a few New Yorkers about their data security worries — or lack of them. (09/20/2017)

09/19/2017: How getting paid in stock may have changed the housing market
When a city becomes a tech hub, it usually also becomes a bubble: a housing bubble, a pay bubble and an industry bubble, to name a few. The tech world talks about these bubbles like they’re inevitable. But what if they aren't? Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks to Seattle-based Glenn Kelman, who is the CEO of the real estate site Redfin, about tech employees’ stock payouts and how reporting them properly could distribute wealth more evenly throughout the country. (09/19/2017)

09/18/2017: Asteroid mining and the economics of outer space
When we think space, we often think about observation — watching the skies and figuring out what’s out there. But some people are already thinking about how to put the assets up in space to good use. One way to do that? Asteroid mining. It may sound like science fiction, but established companies such as Caterpillar and startups such as Planetary Resources are putting real money into it. Our two resident space nerds, Molly Wood and Kimberly Adams, talk about this to kick off our series looking at the economics of outer space. (09/18/2017)

09/15/2017: AI could make full-time work a thing of the past
As machine learning becomes more prevalent, the conversation about robots taking our jobs gets more intense. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks to Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, which has been studying technology’s effect on the future of work. He said, robots or not, jobs are changing, and we should shift company culture and benefits along with them. (09/15/2017)

09/14/2017: Bringing food stamps into the digital age
The federal government provides SNAP benefits, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, to those that need financial help to buy groceries. It’s a program that’s has not traditionally been on the cutting edge of tech. In fact, eight states won't even let you apply for benefits online and only a few have apps that let you check your balance. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Jimmy Chen, CEO of Propel, which created the Fresh EBT app. It allows people to check their Electronic Benefits Transfer balance on their phone or computer. Plus, we go shopping with a SNAP benefit recipient and community activist in the South Bronx in New York City. (09/14/2017)

09/13/2017: How has the iPhone changed the way we do business?
The iPhone debuted in 2007, and this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced three new ones: iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X. Smartphones have changed how we watch TV, bank and communicate. Almost every industry has been impacted by this technology. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood looks at the companies that won and lost the mobile revolution. (09/13/2017)

09/12/2017: FCC's Ajit Pai on broadband for all
Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai has made it a priority to increase the availability of broadband internet access across America. The way to do it? Cutting regulations and increasing competition, according to him. He joins us from Washington, D.C. to explain why he thinks a free market will close the digital divide.  (09/12/2017)

09/11/2017: The key to sight for self-driving cars
Hundreds of companies are racing to build self-driving cars, and one piece of technology is essential to all of their efforts. It's called LiDAR, an acronym that stands for light detection and ranging. It uses lasers to sense distances to an object and turn those distances into a 3-D representation of the environment. So it's how a self-driving car sees the world around it. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood visits Silicon Valley startup Luminar and its founder and CEO, 22-year-old Austin Russell. The company hopes to become the parts provider for automakers for LiDAR self-driving technology. (09/11/2017)

09/08/2017: What budget cuts would mean for predicting severe weather
Hurricane Irma is a Category 5 storm that made landfall in the Caribbean this week and may hit Florida this weekend. The National Weather Service uses National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images to get a sense of how strong the storm is and where it’s going. However, the Trump administration is proposing budget cuts to those agencies. We discuss the critical images NOAA is capturing and what would happen if meteorologists received degraded satellite imagery. (09/08/2017)

09/07/2017: The mechanics of venture capital
Venture capital touches all of us in some way, from our retirement portfolios to inventions we use. Yet many of us don't really know how venture capital works. So on Marketplace Tech, we're going to look into that, starting at Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California. It's a quiet little office park where hundreds of millions of dollars change hands each year. Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson has an office there. He has been working in the industry for more than 20 years and is one of the founding partners of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. We talk with him about the ins and outs of Silicon Valley investing.  (09/07/2017)

09/06/2017: William Gibson on the collision of tech, money and access
One topic we're going to be examining on this show is who has access to life-changing technology — and who doesn't. We're calling this series “Evenly Distributed.” That's from a quote by the legendary science fiction writer William Gibson, the author of books including "Neuromancer" and "The Peripheral."  The quote is: “The future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed.” To kick off the series, we talk with William Gibson about the intersection of tech, money and access.  (09/06/2017)

09/05/2017: Ajit Pai on Congress's role in the net neutrality debate
The central question of the net neutrality debate: how much regulation should there be over how providers of internet service deliver the stuff we consume online? And what rules should there be to make sure they don't  slow down or charge more to deliver that stuff?  The man at the center of the free internet controversy is Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. On today's show, new Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood asks Chairman Pai about whether it's time for  Congress to come up with a solution.  (09/05/2017)

09/04/2017: A look back at Marketplace Tech's coverage
It's the last day Ben Johnson will be hosting Marketplace Tech, and to celebrate his time on the show, we're going to look back at some key moments. From conversations with Neil deGrasse Tyson about alien life to reporting about the visibility of minorities in the tech industry, take a listen to what we've tackled over the past few years. Plus: Starting tomorrow, Molly Wood will take over as the new voice of Marketplace Tech. Check back here for the latest episodes.  (09/04/2017)

09/01/2017: When your smart speaker misinterprets something
Sometimes your smart speaker might mishear your command and offer up something decidedly...inappropriate. Which is why Amazon is introducing a layer of parental control on its Echo. On today's show, we'll talk with Oren Jacob, the CEO of the computer conversation startup PullString, about what this announcement means for companies like his. Afterwards, host Ben Johnson plays his final Silicon Tally — the game where we try to stump each other with numbers from the week's news — with Tobin Low, a former Marketplacer and the co-host of the LGBTQ podcast Nancy. (09/01/2017)

08/31/2017: Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana are on speaking terms
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly approached Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about a partnership between their two voice assistants. This could be great for consumers, but what's in it for the two tech giants? James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester James, explains how each has what the other wants. Afterwards, we'll discuss the app Zello — a social radio app that's being used in evacuation efforts — with CEO Bill Moore. (08/31/2017)

08/30/2017: Texting 911 for help
In the event of a natural disaster, sometimes a text can be one of the best ways to reach out for help. On today's show, we'll chat with Trey Forgety from the National Emergency Number Association about the future of emergency dispatch technology. Afterwards, The Verge's Adi Robertson joins us to discuss Google's new ARCore platform, which will allow you to build augmented reality apps and experiences into smartphones without the need to use extra hardware.  (08/30/2017)

08/29/2017: From DVD sleeves to millions of subscribers
It's Netflix's 20th birthday today. With about 100 million subscribers around the world, the streaming giant has come a long way from the days of mailing DVDs to customers. Gina Keating, author of "Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America's Eyeballs," joined us to talk about the company's original business model and whether it'll be able to compete with Disney's new streaming service. Afterwards, we'll talk with Greta Byrum — director of the Resilient Communities program at New America — about what happens to our communications networks during natural disasters.     (08/29/2017)

08/28/2017: Why one internet service provider is not a fan of net neutrality
This Wednesday marks the end of a public comment period that allows people to tell the Federal Communications Commissions exactly how they feel about net neutrality. On today's show, we'll revisit our conversation with former FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler about the current commissioner, Ajit Pai. (Hint: The relationship was dicey.) Then we'll chat with Brett Glass, founder of the world's first wireless internet provider, about how net neutrality could affect his business.  (08/28/2017)

08/25/2017: Going to the movies just got cheaper
The app MoviePass allows subscribers to see an unlimited number of films in local theaters for just $10. But is it too good to be true? We'll take a look at whether a business model like this is actually sustainable. Afterwards, we'll play this week's Silicon Tally with Leslie Miley, a tech engineering leader formerly of Slack, Twitter, Apple and Google.  (08/25/2017)

08/24/2017: Befriending the person who hacked your Instagram
Female tech employees have been speaking out about sexual harassment, which has led to public apologies and pledges to fix things. And now, there's actually a piece of legislation that could make a difference. California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has introduced a bill to tighten up the rules around sexual harassment between investors and the entrepreneurs they fund. Axios' chief tech correspondent, Ina Fried, stopped by to explain what the measure entails. Afterwards, we'll talk to writer Negar Mottahedeh about the connection she was able to forge with someone who hacked her Instagram. (08/24/2017)

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. (08/23/2017)

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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