Note to Self

Note to Self

United States

Host Manoush Zomorodi talks with everyone from big names techies to elementary school teachers about the effects of technology on our lives, in a quest for the smart choices that will help you think and live better.

Episodes

Privacy Paradox: Results Show  

This week, the results are in. Tens of thousands of people joined the Privacy Paradox challenge. And it changed you.

Before the project, we asked if you knew how to get more privacy into your life—43 percent said you did. After the project, that number went up to 80 percent. Almost 90 percent of you also said this project showed you privacy invasions you didn’t know existed.

When we asked you what this project made you want to do, only 7 percent of you said “give up.” Sorry guys! Don’t.

Fully 70 percent of you said you want to push for protection of our digital rights. We have ideas for that in our tip sheet. A third of you said you’ll delete a social media profile. Another third said this project made you want to meditate.

And just one more stat. We tallied your answers to our privacy personality quiz and gave you a personality profile. One-fifth of us were true believers in privacy before the project. Now half us are. Manoush says that includes her.

In this episode, we talk through the results, and look to the future of privacy. With Michal Kosinski, creator of Apply Magic Sauce, and Solon Barocas, who studies the ethics of machine learning at Microsoft Research. Plus, reports from our listeners on the good, the bad and the ugly of their digital data.

Day 5: Your Personal Terms of Service  

You've made it. It's final chapter of the 5-day Privacy Paradox challenges. We hear from the one and only Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. And we set some terms for ourselves about how we want to live online, and what we—all of us, together—can do to create the web we really want.

And while you're thinking about the future, take our Exit Strategy Quiz to find out how far you’ve come, and get a tip sheet with actions—big and small, individual and collective—to re-invent the internet to work for us. 

Sir Tim thinks we can do it. And hey, he already did it once, right?

And if you haven't already—sign up for the 5-day newsletter here to get details on each day's action step. Don't worry if you're signing up after February 10th, we'll get you the challenges on your schedule. The project lives on!

Day 4: Fifteen Minutes of Anonymity  

In this episode, we hear from Elan Gale, executive producer of the Bachelor. Yes, that Bachelor, THE reality show, with a single guy, in a mansion, surrounded by a bevy of young women trying to get him to pick her as “the one.” It sounds so weird when you spell out the premise like that. He has a few things to say about our performance culture and what it means for our privacy.

And we hear from Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a professor of Clinical Psychology at Stanford University, where he runs the OCD clinic. He’s the author of Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the e-Personality. And he’s worried that all our posting and sharing is making it hard for us to protect our true, inner self. Or even find it.

And it's not too late - you can sign up for the 5-day newsletter here to get details on each day's action step. 

Day 3: Something To Hide  

In this episode, we hear from Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford professor of philosophy and ethics of information. In 2014, he was appointed as Google’s in-house philosopher, advising the company on the right to be forgotten. Think you have nothing to hide? As Floridi says, a life without shadows is a flat life. 

And if you haven't already - sign up for the 5-day newsletter here to get details on each day's action step. 

Day 2: The Search For Your Identity  

In this episode, we hear from Joseph Turow, professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s studied the marketing and advertising industries for decades, and recently wrote a new book called The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power.

And we hear from our friend Julia Angwin at ProPublica, who’s been doing brilliant reporting on algorithms and how they’re being used online and off. Her series Breaking the Black Box lifted the lid on ad targeting at Facebook.

And if you haven't already - sign up for the 5-day newsletter here to get details on each day's action step. 

 

Coming Soon: What Your Phone Knows  

What does your phone know about you? And what can you do about it?

In this episode, coming out on Monday, February 6th, we’ll hear from renowned security technologist and cryptographer Bruce Schneier. He’ll take us on a guided tour of our phones and the metadata they’re sharing.

And to get details on the day's action step, sign up for the 5-day newsletter here.

Introducing: The Privacy Paradox  

We've heard so many stories from you, listeners. You love the convenience of living online. But you want more control over where your personal information goes and who can see it. Researchers call this the Privacy Paradox. 

Our 5-day plan, starting February 6th, is here to solve that digital dilemma.

This week, we're laying the groundwork. What it'll take to resolve the privacy paradox -- and how it starts with you. In this episode, we'll hear from behavioral economist Alessandro Acquisiti, retired Harvard professor Shoshanna Zuboff, who coined the term “Surveillance Capitalism," and -- of course -- more of you, dear listeners. Stories of ex-wives hacking social media accounts, stolen social security numbers, and (from a lot of you) that vague creeped out feeling. 

Then, after you listen, join us and start resolving your paradox. 

Sign up for the Privacy Paradox newsletter here.

From February 6th to 10th, we'll send you a daily newsletter, with an action step and a short podcast on the science, psychology, and technology behind that day’s challenge. You’ll learn where your digital information goes. You’ll weigh the tradeoffs you're making with each new app or service. And you’ll learn how to make digital choices that are in line with your values.

We can do this. We can do it together. And it starts today. 

Learn a little more about our upcoming challenges: day one, two, three, four, and five

 

PS - If you're already signed up for the Note to Self newsletter, (a) thank you and (b) you also need to sign up for the Privacy Paradox newsletter. They're separate. The Privacy Paradox newsletter is time-limited and just for these challenges. 

Saving Big Data From Itself  

In a room at The MIT Media Lab, you can find the dreamscape of small children everywhere. Giant cities, in perfect detail, constructed entirely from tiny white Lego.  

Sandy Pentland built them. These dioramas use all sorts of data, from foot traffic to investment dollars to tweets, so cities--and the people living in them--can be improved in ways they’ve never been before.

A few doors down is Rosalind Picard’s office. She met a young man who just could not tell if his boss was happy or furious. And it kept getting him fired. He was on his 20th job. So she built him a glasses-mounted camera that reads facial expressions, matching what it sees against a huge database of faces. Problem solved.

That’s the promise of big data. It can smooth social interactions. Solve sticky municipal problems. Cure cancer, slow climate change. But the data has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is us.

This week, as we get ready for our big project on privacy, Note to Self looks at the good that can come from all the data we share. IF people are good, and make good choices. Except we’re often not good. And we make bad choices. So, what then?

The Bookie, The Phone Booth, and The FBI  

This week, Note to Self gets in our time machine, back to the court cases that brought privacy from the founding fathers to Google Docs. Stories of bookies on the Sunset Strip, microphones taped to phone booths, and a 1975 Monte Carlo. And where the Fourth Amendment needs to go, now that we’re living in the future.

The amendment doesn’t mention privacy once. But those 54 little words, written more than 200 years ago, are a crucial battleground in today’s fight over our digital rights. That one sentence is why the government can’t listen to your phone calls without a warrant. And it’s why they don’t need one to find out who you’re calling.

But now, we share our deepest thoughts with Google, through what we search for and what we email. And we share our most intimate conversations with Alexa, when we talk in its vicinity. So how does the Fourth Amendment apply when we’re surrounded by technology the Founding Fathers could never dream of?

With Laura Donohue, director of Georgetown’s Center on Privacy and Technology. Supreme Court audio from the wonderful Oyez.org, under a Creative Commons license.

 

If you want to visit a phone booth, there are four left in New York City. They're all on West End Avenue, and there's even a kids book about them.

 

The Four Tendencies: How to Feed Good Habits  

See more friends. Take more walks. Read more books. Get more sleep. Why don’t those intentions stick? You want to change. But it doesn’t seem to take. Maybe you just haven’t identified what house you’re in.

Gretchen Rubin says the key to long-term habit change is understanding how we respond to expectations. She names four broad categories of responders: the Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Slytherin of habit-changing. Figuring out your cognitive house might be the key to changing your bad habits for good. Including one habit we hear about a lot: clinging to the phone right up until our eyes drop closed.

If you want to know which house you’re in, there’s a handy quiz. An online sorting hat, if you will. Manoush is a Questioner. Obviously.

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed

New Year. Same Old You.  

New year, new you. That’s the idea, right? And 2016 in particular left a lot of people extra-eager to start fresh.

One problem. Our fitbits and apps and tracking tools all collect data on us. The slate isn’t clean - it’s full of digital permanent marker.

In an ideal world, all that information helps us become better people. More fit, healthier, rested, hydrated. And for some people, those stats are the motivational key to a better life. But what happens when the data just sabotages you? For some of us, data just isn’t the magic bullet for optimizing our quantified selves.

So instead of resolving to track every calorie, minute slept, and stair climbed, how about this: be gentle with yourself. This repeat episode can help.

This episode originally aired in 2016. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed

Go Ahead. Miss Out.  

It's cold. Bed is so tempting. As is your sofa. But the siren song of your phone is calling you. According to Instagram and Facebook, every single person you know is looking gorgeous at the world's best party, eating photogenic snacks.

Fear Of Missing Out. It's so real. And social media amplifies it 1000x.

But maybe there's another path. Another acronym to embrace. The Joy Of Missing Out. JOMO.

Caterina Fake popularized the term FOMO, with a blog post waaaay back in 2011. And her friend Anil Dash coined the term JOMO (after missing a Prince concert to attend his child’s birth). On this week's (repeat) episode of Note to Self, the two talk about the role of acronyms, the importance of thoughtful software design, and the recent history of the Internet as we know it.

And if you want even more Anil Dash, he'll be talking to Manoush on January 31st at the Greene Space in New York City. We're teaming up with our friends at ProPublica for an event called Breaking the Black Box: How Algorithms Make Decisions About You. Anil, plus ProPublica’s Julia Angwin, and Microsoft Research's Solon Barocas. Come!

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed

Messages From the Beyond  

Ginger Johnson is battling cancer. She’s also preparing her digital legacy.

Ginger has three amazing children, and she wants to stay in their lives, even after she’s gone. That’s why she’s using a service that helps her make messages and then schedules them for delivery in the future. Videos, audio recordings, emails and photos, pegged to specific days and personal milestones.

Moran Zur created this service, Safe Beyond, after his own father died of cancer. He wanted to give people a chance to be remembered as they choose, not through Google search results or in a hospital bed. As vibrant people, full of wisdom. Full of, well, life.

Can Silicon Valley really help us cheat death? And what does it mean for the people we leave behind?

This isn't the first time we've talked about messages from the afterlife, actually. If for some reason you want even more of this, check out our episode on voicemail from 2015.

 

 

Meet the Textalyzer... and Our Next Big Project  

We've been measuring drunk driving for years. Since the Drunk-o-Meter was invented back in the '30s. But now, it's distracted driving that's killing people, and tracking that is just getting started. 

That's what Ben Lieberman learned, when his teenage son was killed in a crash. Lieberman checked the driver's phone records. And anyone who listened to Serial knows those are powerful documents. They can show what cell tower your phone was near, calls in and out. But what they can't track is swipes, taps and clicks. 

So Lieberman created the Textalyzer. Like the Breathalyzer, but for your phone. It can reveal every touch - just the action, not the content. And the company behind it might be familiar, if you followed the saga of the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.

 

SHARE YOUR PRIVATE THOUGHTS. WITH US, AT LEAST.  

If the idea of the Textalyzer sets off your privacy Spidey sense, we understand. We're all figuring out where to draw the line on data sharing, and how to balance privacy, safety, and our modern lives. It's something we're going to be thinking about a lot more in the new year, and we want your help. 

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT PRIVACY, ONLINE AND OFF

Every year, Note to Self teams up with our listeners to take on a project together. We've tackled information overload and boredom. Next, we're taking on privacy: the how, and the why. But we need to hear from you, about what matters and what you want to learn. 

Please take a few minutes to fill out our survey. The project won't be the same without you.

 

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed

 

 

 

Distracted Is the New Drunk  

When Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded in 1980, an estimated 25,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes each year in the U.S.

Then Frasier stepped in. 

We all know, now, that drinking and driving is a big no-no. But how do we all know that? In part, because shows like the Simpsons and Cheers dedicated plot lines to designated drivers. Growing Pains introduced a character (Matthew Perry!) just to kill him off in a collision.

TV producers didn't just come up with this on their own. They did it because a team at the Harvard School of Public Health made a case for the message. Now, that team is taking on distracted driving. And it's proving to be a much trickier problem. 

Tech Under Trump  

For Hillary Clinton, that private email server was an Achilles heel. For Donald Trump, late night tweet-storms and the echo chamber of the so-called alt-right were rocket fuel. For American voters, the power of technology was inescapable.

We've seen the good, bad and ugly of tech this election cycle. And we all have big feelings about it. So Manoush hosted a good old-fashioned call-in, for listeners to share their thoughts and fears about our digital lives under a Trump administration. 

Joining Manoush was Farhad Manjoo, New York Times technology columnist, and Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.  They looked back at how social media shaped the Presidential race, and forward at privacy in the Trump era. We wish we could tell you it's uplifting. But we don't like to lie. 

The call-in show was part of the United States of Anxiety, a series from WNYC Studios. If you're having big feelings about what the new administration means for the arts, women, the economy or just in general, they've got you covered. 

Shaking Up Your Echo Chamber. For Democracy.  

What does it really take to put more diversity - however you define it - into your news feeds?

We tend to click on things we agree with already. It makes us happy. And social media networks like it that way. Bumming out your customers is a bad business model. 

A while back, we got tips on escaping the echo chamber from Katie Notopoulos, co-host of BuzzFeed’s Internet Explorer podcast, and Tracy Clayton, co-host of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round. When we first talked, this felt like an important idea, a step towards an expanded mind. Now, post-election, it feels a lot less optional

Katie and Tracy joined Manoush to talk about how to get just the right amount uncomfortable online, and why the first step is to just try. 

 

Your Facebook Friend Said Something Racist: Thanksgiving Edition  

Thanksgiving is here. The holidays are right around the corner. And with politics on everyone’s minds, dinner table conversations can feel like a minefield.

We have you covered. We’re bringing back an episode from the archive, with strategies on how to be calm, collected – and constructive – when faced with racism online, or IRL.

And if you’re doing a little Internet detox, like we talked about last week, don’t worry. We made you some printer-friendly tools for navigating your Facebook feed – or maybe just the Thanksgiving table. Deep breaths.  

(Note to Self/Piktochart) LARA is a system promoted by the National Conference for Community Justice. (Note to Self)

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

Drop Your Phone, Make Your Bed, Says Gretchen Rubin  

It’s time to figure out how to be online in this post-election world. Note to Self listeners are wondering how we can stay well-informed without simultaneously bathing in a toxic stew. What do you do when going online makes you unhappy?

Here to help is Gretchen Rubin, author of mega-selling books that include "The Happiness Project" and "Better Than Before." She's a researcher, a journalist, and host of the podcast "Happier with Gretchen Rubin." 

Author, researcher, and journalist Gretchen Rubin. (Elena Seibert)

Didn't hear last week's special note from Manoush? Listen to it here.

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

A Post-Election Note to You  

We're all processing this election together. We want to create a nurturing, constructive space to do that. Please take a minute and listen to Manoush's short audio message to you, dear listener. We believe this is the beginning of a rigorous and critical conversation between us, you and your fellow listeners. 

So we move forward. And whoever you voted for, chances are you're still thinking about the surprise of the results.  

The fact that no one picks up their phone anymore meant pollsters were WAY off. The way we get our media and journalists do reporting contributed to one of the biggest political surprises in history.  

Donald Trump became our president. It would be weird to pretend things here in podcast land are just "business as usual."

Yes, we are grappling. Sure, we're asking ourselves: "What does this election mean for the country?" But we're also asking: "What does this election mean about me? About how I live my life? About how I connect to human beings and information?"

As a way to start processing all of this: we curated a list from the archive...

7 Episodes For Your Post-Election Reality

There is no right way to deal with the election aftermath.

It’s time for me to get out of my social media echo chamber.

We click on things we agree with already. Here are some concrete steps to get out of our comfort zone and expose ourselves to different people, opinions, and voices online. 

How can I deal with the hatred or racism in my social media feed?

There's a formula for a productive conversation about tough topics.

Please. Get me some Zen. Kindness would be nice too.

Chade-Meng Tan, Silicon Valley's mindfulness coach, is making meditation accessible and he's got tips to incorporate it into our everyday lives.

I need to rethink my information intake.

Information overload. Enough said.

How can I deal with the confusion I’m feeling without hiding beneath a large duvet?

In a time of racial tension, how do you manage the storm of news online when paying attention is painful? Two friends find their answers.

Should I have paid closer attention to the nuances of the election?

We dive deep into the modern media diet with theSkimm co-founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, and John Herrman, media reporter at the New York Times. 

I need to escape to a galaxy far far away.

Failed 2016 presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan (convincingly) explains why you might live forever and vote for him in 2040.

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