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
05/23/2017: Traffic lights for the office cubicle
Surveillance tools in the workplace — from chat tools to traffic-light signs that gauge your busyness — are increasingly taking over the workplace. Quartz's Lila MacLellan joins us to talk about technology at the office, and what that could do to some old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. Afterwards, we'll chat with SK Ventures' Paul Kedrosky about the factors that might slow down rising tech hubs across the country.  (05/23/2017)

05/22/2017: Phoenix, Arizona — the next big tech hub?
Over the past several weeks, we've been exploring aspiring tech hubs across the country. Cities — big and small — want to be the next Silicon Valley. Well, what about Phoenix, Arizona? It's becoming a hotbed of startup activity that has attracted the likes of Uber, Waymo and Intel. We'll take a look at the city's strengths, along with some of the challenges it faces on the way. (05/22/2017)

05/19/2017: Why all the focus on chip-making?
Google and Apple are making their own chips, a move that could have long-ranging effects on smaller chip-focused firms like Nvidia and Imagination Technologies. We'll take a look at why these two tech giants are dipping their toes in this area, and then play this week's Silicon Tally with the Financial Times' San Francisco correspondent Hannah Kuchler.  (05/19/2017)

05/18/2017: How to fight against your internet echo chamber
Word is that your phone may soon be able to identify items it's pointed at thanks to Google Lens. On today's show, we'll look at the latest updates coming out of Google's I/O developers conference with Farhad Manjoo, a tech columnist for the New York Times. Plus: 60dB co-founder Steve Henn talks about the ways we can combat "filter bubble" — the idea that the internet keeps you in the dark about opinions you disagree with. (05/18/2017)

05/17/2017: Chicago's growing reputation as a tech powerhouse
Google's developers conference I/O kicks off in San Francisco today, and while many of the announcements are geared toward, well, developers, they can provide hints about what consumers can expect down the line. Some stuff it looks like we'll be getting: a new Android operating system and hands-free mobile payments. Plus, we'll explore Chicago's growing prominence as a tech hub and one food startup that's found a home there: the meal-delivery service Tovala. (05/17/2017)

05/16/2017: How to prevent a ransomware attack on your computer
By now, you've likely heard about the malicious ransomware that spread like wildfire across computer networks using Microsoft's products. Matthew Green, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, joins us to talk about how users can keep safe and the primary motive behind the hacker(s) actions. Plus: Imraan Ismail, co-creator of the new virtual reality film "The Protectors," on why the medium hasn't become all that common yet.  (05/16/2017)

05/15/2017: Remember to update your software
GM is launching a new service called Maven, which will allow drivers to rent cars by the hour. We'll discuss how Maven is different from the competition and GM's future in the self-driving landscape. Afterwards, we'll look at President Trump's decision to sign an executive order asking government branches to report on their security challenges — a move that coincided with a global ransomware attack.  (05/15/2017)

05/12/2017: Uber could start becoming a whole lot more regulated in Europe
Europe's highest court will decide in a few months whether Uber is a software company or a transportation service. If it rules the latter, that could mean unionization among the company's workers and guaranteed benefits for them. But could the ride-sharing giant withstand the cost increases associated with this regulation? Plus: We'll end the week by playing Silicon Tally with Alex Davies, a transportation editor for Wired. (05/12/2017)

05/11/2017: How susceptible are Trump staffers to a phishing attack?
The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has hit a record high in value this week. What many, including the Fed, also see value in is Bitcoin's underlying technology, blockchain. We'll chat with Jim Cunha, a senior vice president for the Federal Reserve, about why the group has interest in this weird, esoteric technology. Next, we'll discuss the thousands of anti-net neutrality comments left on the FCC's site (all using similar language), and then hear from Gizmodo's Ashley Feinberg about the publication's experiment involving a fake email phishing hack and some pretty high-profile figures — including former FBI Director James Comey. (05/11/2017)

05/10/2017: Just what kind of company is Uber?
A legal adviser to the European Court of Justice (essentially the EU's version of the Supreme Court) will give his views on whether Uber is a transportation company or a digital service — which could mean much stricter rules for the ride-sharing giant. The New York Times' Mike Isaac is here to talk about how Uber has tried to define itself and its biggest blind spot. Afterwards, we'll look at the launch of another Amazon internet-connected device, The Echo Show, and then discuss Salt Lake City, Utah's promise as a growing tech hub. (05/10/2017)

05/09/2017: The ethics of the dark web
Comcast and Charter, companies with a combined 47 million customers, put out a vague press release this week stating they would explore opportunities for "operational cooperation." Roger Cheng, executive editor of news at CNET, explains why the two are coming together and what that could mean for consumers' internet options. Afterwards, we'll take a brief look at the story of Dread Pirate Roberts. No, not the character from "The Princess Bride," but the man who created the Silk Road website using that name as his online pseudonym: Ross Ulbricht. Nick Bilton, author of "American Kingpin," stopped by to talk about controversy over the creator's identity, legal pushback against the site, and ethical quandaries surrounding the dark web. (05/09/2017)

05/08/2017: We could soon have four-minute TV dramas
Snap has tons of daily active users, tons of daily active media brands, and soon, it could have television programming. Shalini Ramachandran from the Wall Street Journal shares the type of programming Snap is planning to roll out, and how the company will collaborate with old media like NBC. Afterwards, Jalek Jovanputra, a managing partner and founder of Future Perfect Ventures, explains how the underlying technology of bitcoin might be used in the physical world.  (05/08/2017)

05/05/2017: How to catch a liar
France is gearing up to choose its new president in just a couple of days. Among those that are watching: Facebook and Google, who hope that fake news will be less visible than it was in the run up to the U.S. presidential election last fall. Sarah Frier, a tech reporter for Bloomberg, details the different efforts both companies are making to combat the issue, which includes collaborations with fact-checking organizations and research investment. And finally, we'll cap off today's show by playing Silicon Tally with Quartz reporter Mike Murphy. (05/05/2017)

05/04/2017: The video game soundtrack for a video game that doesn't exist
Despite its popularity, the Netflix drama "13 Reasons Why" has received criticism for its very graphic depiction of suicide. Dan Romer, a research director at the University of Pennsylvania, joined us to discuss the effect of media depictions of the act on audience members. Next, we'll look at Facebook's decision to hire 3,000 people over the next year to help address violence on its site, and then check out the soundtrack "Bird World" from composer Leon Chang, which he created by imagining a video game that doesn't actually exist. (05/04/2017)

05/03/2017: English, math, social studies, and ... Minecraft
Some educational tools Microsoft is betting on: OneNote. Word. And, yes, Minecraft. The tech giant is releasing a suite of products for the classroom, which include "Minecraft: Education Edition," to get kids interested in the STEM fields. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined Marketplace's Molly Wood to chat about these offerings, the company's competition, and why ed tech can't be a substitute for everything. Afterwards, we'll look at New Orleans' burgeoning tech scene by hearing from the CEO of a market research startup called Lucid. (05/03/2017)

05/02/2017: Can we actually prevent piracy?
The new season of "Orange is the New Black" has been released a little earlier than expected this year. A hacker (or group of hackers) named thedarkoverlord leaked the episodes online, and has threatened to post shows from other networks. Michael Smith of Carnegie Mellon and the author of "Streaming, Sharing, Stealing" stopped by to explain the cost of piracy and whether anti-piracy legislation has an effect on consumer behavior. Afterwards, we'll discuss what the vast amount of venture capital money flowing in China right now could mean for its economy. (05/02/2017)

05/01/2017: Bitcoin technology may be getting more mainstream
A lot of people think bitcoin will play a part in the future of financial services, but what some have a bigger eye on is the currency's underlying technology: blockchain. That includes financial behemoths like JP Morgan Chase. We spoke with one of the company's directors, Amber Baldet, to find out what makes it so appealing. Afterwards, we'll chat with journalist Sarah Jeong about her experience getting hacked — on purpose.    (05/01/2017)

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)

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)

Program Schedule

MPR News
Radio

Listen Now

Other Radio Streams from MPR

Classical MPR
Radio Heartland

Services