Episodes

  • Our new hyperconnected lifestyles have revealed weaknesses in the technology we use every day. But new problems lead to new solutions. That’s where innovation comes from. Phil Libin is probably best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Evernote. These days he heads up a company called All Turtles, whose latest project mmhmm wants to save us all from the Zoom-apocalypse and revolutionize how we will work in the future. Phil sets a high ethical bar for the creators of new technology, including himself: It’s their responsibility to think about the intentional and unintentional impact of their products, he says. Not just the impact on the technology’s users, but also on people who don’t use it at all…

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    Show Notes

    *All Turtles

    *mmhmm

    *The Gray Area Newsletter #1, featuring Phil Libin

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  • Facebook has ambitious plans for virtual reality. And Andrew “Boz” Bosworth is in charge of it all. He says we’ve only scratched the surface of how VR and AR technology will transform society. So what does that future look like? How do you make virtual interaction feel as natural as in-person interaction? How do you prevent harassment, without prohibiting intimacy? How will virtual spaces change the way we work? The way we learn? The way we play? And when it comes to your virtual self - who owns your identity? As Facebook dives head first into the next technological frontier, will they manage to avoid the mistakes of their past?




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    Douglas
    Engelbart
    Facebook
    Horizon
    Facebook
    Project Aria
    Codec Avatar

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  • What happens to our civil liberties when an algorithm is used by law enforcement to make an arrest? Even more concerning, what happens when that facial recognitiontechnology is racially biased? As we enter an age of ubiquitous surveillance, it’s minorities - especially people of color - who are disproportionately affected. The ACLU has recently filed a complaint on behalf of a Black man who was wrongfully arrested dueto faulty police facial recognition tech. It’s the first case in the US, but it’s unlikely to be the last because, according to the ACLU - the tech often can’t tell Black people apart. The organization that has been fighting for civil rights protections forover 100 years, is now calling on lawmakers nationwide to stop law enforcement use of facial recognition technology. For Susan Herman, it’s an extraordinary time to be president of the ACLU. Over the years, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought forfree speech, reproductive rights, and privacy. But as technology continues to muddy the waters, the tradeoffs become more complicated. Where do we draw the line between security and privacy? Herman says we must act now.————————————Show Notes
    ACLU
    People Power
    Robert Williams’ Op-ed in The Washington Post



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  • We’re bringing you three interviews from the first at-home edition of the Collision tech conference. Laurie chats with Headspace Co-founder and CEO Rich Pierson about the importance of mindfulness and how to live in the present amidst global uncertainty. Match.com CEO Hesam Hosseini and Plenty of Fish CEO Malgosia Green discuss how COVID-19 has transformed the world of dating. And lastly, entrepreneur and author Molly Bloom shares her incredible life story — one that you may be familiar with from the 2017 film Molly’s Game. She gives Laurie a peak behind the curtain of running one of the highest-stakes illegal poker games in history.




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    Show Notes



    Collision
    Headspace
    Match
    Plenty Of Fish
    Molly’s Game

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  • It's no secret to anyone: Tech has a major diversity problem. And it's not getting better. How do we finally start making the necessary changes to fix the glaring inequity in Silicon Valley? How do we change the makeup of board members, make companies more diverse, and start putting our money where our mouth is? Venture Capitalist Sarah Kunst is someone who’s not afraid to speak out. She’s been leading a discussion on minorities in tech for a long time. She's made it her life’s work to change things for the better. These are times of listening and learning. We all have to do a better job of informing ourselves, listening to others, and changing our behavior. So let’s listen to Sarah Kunst.




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    Show Notes
    The Bail Project
    Code2040
    Black Girls Code
    Black Women Talk Tech
    BLCK VC

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  • We are living through pretty surreal times... Most of the country is still shut down due to COVID-19. Over the last few days we’ve seen protests and riots across the country following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. All while Facebook faces a crisis of its own: internal and external revolt in response to the company’s inaction towards President Trump’s inflammatory posts.

    Barry Schnitt was Facebook’s Director of Communications for four years and his recent blog post criticizing the company’s stance on free speech has gotten a lot of attention — especially since Facebook employees, even former ones, are normally so tight-lipped. He talks to Laurie about why both current and former employees are speaking out.

    —————————————Show Notes
    Early Facebook employees’ open letter
    Barry’s blog post
    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

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  • You probably know Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor from films like Looper, Snowden, and 500 Days of Summer. But he’s also an entrepreneur. In 2005, Joe and his brother started HitRECORD -- it was a simple website where he could post things he was making. In 2010 he opened it up. He and his friend Jared Geller turned HitRecord into an online platform where people from all over the world could come together to collaborate. Since then, they’ve pivoted from a production company to a tech company, with a vision to help us move away from aimlessly scrolling, towards creating together.




    We’re in a moment filled with anxiety and fear. It’s hard to find any kind of silver lining. But if we had to, it might be this: moments of pain and uncertainty have historically led to incredible art and creativity. So what will be the legacy of the technology built in this age? In this episode of First Contact, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and co-founder Jared Geller talk to Laurie about finding creativity in difficult times.




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    Show Notes
    Laurie’s interview with Joe at Web Summit 2016
    HITRECORD
    Jaron Lanier (author)
    Tristan Harris

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  • The 2008 recession was a devastating time for many Americans. But amidst the chaos, it was also the breeding ground for a new creative class: Developers who coded their visions into reality. Uber and Lyft redefined transportation, Airbnb shook up the travel industry, and TaskRabbit helped pave the way for the gig economy. In many ways, the uncertainty we face today mirrors that crisis. TaskRabbit’s founder Leah Solivan joins the show to explain why she believes founding her company in harsh conditions was key to her success, and why the pandemic provides a similar opportunity for innovation.




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    Show Notes
    Codecademy Pro Scholarships
    Frontline Foods
    COVID Coach
    Sign up for the Dot Dot Dot newsletter

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  • For a long time, we tried to limit our screen time. But now we’ve gone all in. We’re living in isolation, more reliant than ever on technology for human connection. So let’s look at technology through a more philosophical lens: Are we now slaves to our devices? Could tech companies use the same persuasion tactics they use to get us to click... to help save lives? How will we balance protection and privacy?




    Aza Raskin is the co-founder of The Center for Humane Technology. There’s no one better to talk about the intersection of philosophy and technology. Aza returns to the show to chat with Laurie about the long-term ramifications of our newfound digital lives.




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    Show Notes



    Reboot
    Facebook voter study
    GeoCities
    Doughnut Theory of Economics
    Figma
    Style Transfer: Photo, Text
    Xiaoice
    Replika
    Earth Species Project
    Songs of the Humpback Whale
    Invisibilia: Two Heartbeats A Minute
    First Contact: The Weaponization of Loneliness

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  • All around the world, people are now living in isolation. Many of us are confronting this experience alone. Physical interaction is now a liability. What does this mean for one of humanity’s most important forms of connection — sex? And how can we continue to meet our fundamental need for intimacy during these times? Laurie looks at what all this on-screen interaction will mean for the future of sex. Could tech eventually replace human touch? Will people develop relationships with machines? From teledildonics to virtual girlfriends, sextech expert Bryony Cole talks sex in isolation and the future of love.




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    Show Notes




    O.School

    End of Life Care Machine

    Wheel Of Foreplay

    Sex Hacker Kenneth Play

    Esther Perel

    OMGyes

    Mend (chatbot)

    Replika

    Roman (chatbot)

    Slutbot

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  • Jerry Colonna is fondly known as the CEO whisperer. He coaches some of the world's biggest entrepreneurs - like the former CEO of Etsy and the folks who started Gimlet Media. He helps business leaders navigate uncertainty and chaos. At a time when the coronavirus crisis is devastating the economy and millions of people's lives have been changed forever, the future is nothing but uncertain. Jerry's whole ethos is centered around the concept: better humans make better leaders. And there's never been a more critical time for humanity or leadership. Jerry is the expert. His message is simple: Show up.










    Show Notes
    Mostly Human: Silicon Valley’s Secret
    Comfortable With Uncertainty - a book by Pema Chödrön
    Old Maps No Longer Work - a poem by Joyce Rupp 
    Reboot Peer Circles: Tips for Launching Your Own Support Group
    Polyvagal Theory
    Bodhisattva

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  • While we all stay inside, each one of us is living our own story. Many of us are coping with the painful realities of a society in isolation. Jobs lost. Weddings canceled. Loved ones sick, or worse. We are confronting a new reality, and an uncertain future. First Contact host Laurie Segall has been in quarantine for weeks, and she’s been thinking a lot about community. Human connection. And then she had an idea: What if we cold-called strangers in quarantine, and just listened to what they had to say? About life, isolation, their hopes, and fears? Here’s what happened...

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  • Workouts between calls. Meditation apps. A desk candle to boost productivity. Work-from-home hacks for all of us, as we self-isolate and practice social distancing to slow the spread of Coronavirus.




    Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress and Automattic, was an early evangelist of remote work. Back in the early 2000s, many of his first hires at Wordpress were people he had never met in person. Today, Automattic has nearly 1,200 employees spread across 75 countries around the globe.




    With the pandemic now forcing many companies to unexpectedly adopt similar policies, Matt gives Laurie advice on transitioning to this new lifestyle and answers listener questions on the best ways for employees and employers to stay productive.




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    Show Notes



    Dance Fitness with Jessica
    Fitbod (fitness app)
    Waking Up with Sam Harris (meditation app)
    Calm (meditation app)
    Sennheiser headset
    Krisp.ai
    Zoom videoconferencing
    Days Without You (Crussen Remix) by Satori
    Dancing by Kiley Minogue
    Qbserve (time-tracking app)
    Momentum (Chrome extension)
    Tomato One (timer app)

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  • Ev Williams is the entrepreneur behind Twitter, Blogger, and publishing platform Medium -- three companies that helped shape the modern Internet. As we grapple with the impact of Coronavirus, these digital platforms are playing an even larger role in our ability to connect with one another. Ev weighs in on how all our lives could change in the short term and what the longer term future may hold for technology and media…

    Will Augmented Reality project images onto our eyeballs? Will Silicon Valley ever move beyond the attention span economy? Will our lives start to resemble more of a video game than real-life? There's a lot to explore. And no one better than Ev Williams to help make sense of it all.

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    Show Notes

    Laurie and Ev’s first contact

    Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a book from Ev’s childhood

    Full Episode Transcript

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  • The rise of “cloud clubbing” from your living room, as people are ordered to stay inside. Digital raves. Virtual connection as a means to deal with an isolation bubble.




    As people in China grapple with an uneasy reality, isolation, and the uncertainty around the Coronavirus, a new trend is emerging: the rise of Isolation Tech. Concerts are canceled. People are rethinking physical interaction. Nightclubs are shut down. So millions are meeting in digital clubs in the cloud where they can watch live DJ sets on Chinese apps. Welcome to The Matrix.




    Instead of finding ways to depart from their devices, people have gone all in, living life in a digital bubble. Entrepreneur Zander Shapiro, who has lived in Beijing for nine years, describes his new reality in "the bubble" -- days beginning with virtual work outs, afternoons filled with remote meetings, and evenings where he joins a virtual concert, meeting other avatars for connection. He calls this moment an excellent "experiment" of what's to come in tech. Expect more extremism, less humanity, and money pouring into the business of virtual connection.

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  • Who are the people who spread online disinformation? The so-called trolls you hear about in the news whose jobs are to distort facts and create chaos? Camille Francois knows them well. She’s the chief innovation officer at Graphika - a social media analytics firm hired by major companies to identify and fight online disinformation. Her team was a big part of uncovering the extent of Russian influence during the 2016 election. She spends her time in the darkest corners of the Internet taking on one of the most extraordinary digital threats of our time… But it might just be her humanity that gives her an edge.

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  • Should Artificial Intelligence be able to make the decision to take a human life? And if it does, who will be liable if — or when — it goes wrong? When it comes to the future of war and technology, the ethics are murky.




    Tech is creating a new arms race. Will the U.S. be able to keep up with the likes of China and Russia? And what ethical lines will we draw, or cross, to maintain our national defenses?




    Let’s rewind to Orange County circa 2017: A handful of entrepreneurs — eating Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell — sat around a table exploring the idea that what the United States needs is a real-life version of Stark Industries. Yes... from Iron Man. That brainstorming session led to Anduril — a defense technology firm that’s since become a billion dollar company at the center of the debate around the future of war.




    Laurie Segall sat down with Anduril’s co-founder, Trae Stephens, who spends a lot of time thinking about the philosophy of war and how technology is transforming it. In this episode of First Contact, we explore a framework for redefining war — where the front lines of futuristic battlefields are blurred, and technology is leading the charge. Expect rigorous debate. Unpopular viewpoints. And uncomfortable scenarios.

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  • When the lights went out in his home, and his children asked if it was “Russia,” Facebook's former chief security officer Alex Stamos knew he was bringing his work home. In a candid interview, Stamos opens up about what it was like when his team discovered Facebook had been compromised by Russia, and the personal implications of being at the center of one of the most significant attacks on technology... and democracy. Plus, hear what Alex had to say when asked whether he uncovered spies within Facebook during his time there and why he worries foreign spies have infiltrated every major US tech company.

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  • Yael Eisenstat is trained to analyze an argument from all sides. During her career at the CIA and State Department, she had tea with suspected extremists and sat at tables with people who were programmed to hate her. But the biggest challenge of her career didn’t come from a covert operation… it came when she stepped into Facebook Headquarters to head up their election integrity efforts. This is her story.

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  • According to investor and entrepreneur Sam Altman, the last decade of tech was the warm up... and Silicon Valley didn’t exactly get it right. The main event is even more pressing. Now the stakes are higher.




    First Contact’s Laurie Segall met Sam ten years ago. Back then, he had a startup called Loopt. It was a location-based social networking app for your phone. Since then, Sam became a fixture in the tech world. Loopt didn’t take off, but he went on to run Y Combinator — one of the most valuable incubators in Silicon Valley. And his next act is OpenAI — an initiative he started with Elon Musk.




    Sam is someone who’s driven by an inability to stay in the lines. He isn’t afraid to stand up and say things that might get him into trouble and has a history of taking a stand under bright lights and a podium.




    In this episode of First Contact, Sam opens up about what is was like to come out as gay in a St. Louis high school in the early 2000s, the possibility of human/AI hybrids, and why the next ten years in tech will be more disruptive than the last.

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