Make Me Smart is a weekly conversation about the themes of today, centered around the economy, technology and culture. Hosts Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood use their expertise to connect the dots on topics they know best, and hear from other experts – CEOs, celebrities, authors, professors and listeners – about the ones they want to know better. As the world moves faster than ever, this podcast is where we unpack complex topics, together. Because none of us is as smart as all of us.
Between controversy over best picture nominees, changes to which awards are handed out during commercials and ever-plummeting ratings, this year's Academy Awards are a hostless mess. That's to say nothing of Hollywood's ongoing problems with representation and harassment. And what about the Grammys? New York Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris helps us sort through the awards noise and see if there are lessons to learn. Plus: It's our 100th episode! We have cake in the studio and surprise treat ...more
Folks, it's time to talk about memes. It's time to talk about the Dancing Baby and Bird Box Challenge and, yes, The Egg. If none of that makes sense to you, don't worry. We get you up to speed on memes before we ask the money question: Where is the profit when they go viral? And who owns memes, since they're often based on copyrighted material? Matt Schimkowitz sets us straight. He's senior editor at Know Your Meme, a site devoted to cataloging and canonizing all the weird, wonderful internet me...more
The federal government might be reopened, but many Americans are still reeling. And, of course, it could close again in a few weeks. At 35 days, this was the longest shutdown in history, and we're still learning how the effects will ripple across the economy, politics and society. We get smart about how the shutdown is affecting one college administrator and then zoom out to the big question: How did closing the government even become a thing you can do, much less a bargaining chip for Congress ...more
Picture this: After years of hard work, the world is your oyster. You're about to graduate with an advanced degree into a prestigious field. Then, you're out to lunch and you see a restaurant manager position that pays just as much as your hopeful starting salary, but without the student debt attached. One of our listeners was in that position recently. And he's not alone: Americans face $1.3+ trillion in student debt, and less assurance the job market's going to provide salaries to cover it. We...more
Something's been nagging at us all holiday break. With each fresh revelation about Facebook, new thoughts arise about whether or not to participate on the platform, and whether that really makes a difference or not. But quitting Instagram, which is, of course, owned by Facebook, feels quite a bit harder. We're attached! Our listeners tell us they've got the same cognitive dissonance going on. So we brought on Taylor Lorenz, who reports on social media for The Atlantic, to help us unpack it.This ...more
In this new year, maybe you've resolved to improve yourself, or you might return to projects and problems left hanging in 2018. One approach to try: design thinking. We talked with Sarah Stein Greenberg, who runs the design program at Stanford University, about the fundamentals, promises and limits of a design-centered approach to just about everything. Plus, a look into the process of object and interior designer Jonathan Adler. This interview originally aired July 10. New episodes return Jan. ...more
We spent a lot of 2018 talking about free speech online and what responsibility social media platforms bear for the information or ideas shared on them. We'll probably spend 2019 talking about it a lot, too. For now, let's think back to the summer, when conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars brand were getting booted off virtually every big social network and hosting service. We called up Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St. John’s School of Law, to make us smart on the issues in...more
This Christmas Eve, we're regifting one of our favorite interviews from the past year. Adam Conover's TruTV show, "Adam Ruins Everything," is back for a new season. His mission is kind of like ours: Challenging assumptions and questioning everything in a bid to make us all smarter. Doesn't that sound useful over the holidays?This interview originally aired April 17. New episodes return Jan. 15. And don't forget, there's still time to donate to our year-end pledge drive! This episode is sponsored...more
It's our last new episode of 2018, which means it's time to check in on the predictions we made this time last year. Were we right or wrong? And what's coming next? Some of our favorite guests are back to help out, like activist Ai-Jen Poo, comedian Adam Conover and librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. And, of course, we'll hear from you and what you're seeing in the mists for 2019.We'll be replaying some of our favorite interviews during a holiday break, back with new episodes Jan. 15. And don't...more
Longtime listeners will know Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood are limited to one newsy Fixation Fix a week by their band of strict podcast producers (hi). But this week, in the spirit of the season, we're giving them a chance to go wild. Open all the tabs you want, hosts! We'll make you a little smarter about corporate proxy warfare, the way you talk and how sex on the internet is over. And dear listeners, we'll get into some of your fixations, too.Links from this episode, in the order they appear: Th...more
Is capitalism working for enough people? We've been wrestling with that question since way back in episode two. Molly Wood and Kai Ryssdal have taken it to economists, business leaders and experts of all political stripes. Now, moral capitalism (or conscious ... sustainable ... whatever-you-like-to-call-it capitalism) is getting a ideological boost from Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts. A speech he gave on moral capitalism got way more attention than he expected, and he's urging Democrats p...more
Housing is the biggest driver of wealth and debt for most families in America. It's inextricably linked with the health of the economy, so as the market shows signs of cooling off, this week we're getting smart about it. We get a sort of "House Hunters" story from a listener who shows how her family is hitting stumbling blocks as they try to move. And how much is the economy linked to housing? Marketplace housing correspondent Amy Scott comes on to answer our questions and yours. Don't forget to...more
It's tough to admit you have a filter bubble, and even harder to break out of it. But we all live in one: Social networks are programmed to serve up content they think will appeal to you, and that can create a feedback loop that keeps diverse voices out of your media diet. So what can you do? We asked visual journalist Jon Keegan. He worked on the Wall Street Journal’s Red Feed, Blue Feed project, which shows you the very different realities partisans see when they open Facebook. We handed him a...more
On a day that saw Amazon seemingly flex on dozens of cities all around the country over some 50,000 jobs, you might find yourself wondering just how big a company can get. We've been wondering that ourselves, about all kinds of companies, so we called up Tim Wu. He's got a new book on the subject, called "The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age." He's warning of an "alien takeover" that comes when power becomes too concentrated, and the lines between corporation, government and cit...more
By the time this episode is out, midterm results will be rolling in. So let's take a pause before that wave hits to ask: How are you doing? We'll hear from some listeners about what they thought they knew and what's changed since last election. In that same spirit, we'll revisit our interview from Trump's first 100 days in office with author George Lakoff. He’s a professor emeritus at Berkeley, and he talked with us about about politics, linguistics, the way our brains are wired and how each of ...more
People love to hate on polls. Since the experts seemingly got the 2016 election so wrong (or did they?), pundits and politicos have been quick to trash polling. But it feels like we've been in a perpetual state of polling the last two years. We couldn't even resist putting one out before this show. We need someone to tell us what to believe, so we called Lynn Vavreck. She's a political science professor at UCLA, columnist at the New York Times and she just put out a book about the 2016 election....more
With "early decision" and "early action" deadlines looming for colleges across the United States, graduating high school seniors are stuck figuring what any given school will actually cost. They're pondering the mix of private loans, federal loans, scholarships and grants, and factoring in housing, books and fees before they sign on any dotted lines. Those in the know understand that the public sticker price for a college is often not the actual price a student will pay. But what, then, is the p...more
It's getting cheaper and easier to make your house smart. That's exciting for many people. And concerning, too. Listener Jordan Parry got in touch a while back as her landlord was getting ready to install connected thermostats, keyless locks, water sensors and more smart features in her building — and she wanted to know about her right to protect her data. Enter another Make Me Smart listener, David Wilts. He's a tech consultant who adds these features to buildings, including his own home in Chi...more
It's time for another Explainathon, the biannual tradition when we put Kai and Molly to the test: In 30 minutes, they'll try to answer as many of your questions as possible. It's going to be tough, because this might just be our widest-ranging 'thon yet: Gamers! Trade wars! Gas prices! Bots on the trading floor! Plus, Kai and Molly will try to stump each other.Thanks to everyone who joined us for last week's Reddit AMA! If you missed it, you can read the whole thing here. Don't forget join our F...more
Quick programming note right up top: Kai is out sick this week, so we've had to delay our biannual Explainathon until next week. But! Instead we're gonna talk about ... weed. Pot. CBD. THC. Marijuana. It's a big business that's poised to become much bigger: By 2022, legal revenue is expected to hit $23.4 billion in the United States, even as the drug remains illegal on the federal level. We'll talk with The Motley Fool contributor Keith Speights about the challenges facing pot companies and inve...more
This is a really special episode, folks. We're talking with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. She's the first woman and the first African-American to hold the job, presiding over some 167 million items in the Library. It may just be the least-partisan part of Congress, an invaluable public resource that endures in an age of polarization and misinformation. We'll talk with Hayden about some of the important, obscure and wild stuff held in that building, and online, and how she's working t...more
Decades after it was first introduced, virtual reality finally feels like it’s on the precipice of enormous potential. And it’s not all entertainment — VR could change the way we go to work, communicate with loved ones or train ourselves to deal with difficult situations. But that got one of our listeners wondering: Who’s thinking about the drawbacks? We put that to Jeremy Bailenson. He’s the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. He’s a big proponent of VR and...more
In the push for tax cuts last year, President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans said companies would use the money they saved to reinvest in workers, build new factories and help propel the economy to even faster growth. Nine months later, we've seen something very different. There's been a dramatic increase in stock buybacks, which is great for shareholders ... not so much for most Americans. The Roosevelt Institute's Lenore Palladino makes us smart about how buybacks work, and the dam...more
As top executives from Twitter and Facebook (and maybe Google?) get ready testify for Congress on fake account and election interference, tweets from President Trump have steered the conversation to questions of anti-conservative bias on these companies' platforms. One of the President's particular claims - that search results are skewed against right-wing content - doesn't pass muster, says mathematician Cathy O’Neil. But there is something to what he's saying, as Cathy tells Make Me Smart, and...more
We talk about wage stagnation around here a lot. If the labor market is tight, companies are raking in money with a bull market and tax breaks and the GDP is humming along, why aren't workers getting a raise? One possible explanation: Massive companies like Amazon are partially responsible, due to both reduced competition for workers and algorithmic pricing models that respond to economic forces more quickly. It's an idea that academics and policy wonks have been pursuing for years, and this wee...more
This week is a listener request episode. After our shows on design thinking and the blockchain, a lot of you asked about Civil. It's the journalism platform behind ventures like The Colorado Sun and the ZigZag Podcast, and it's powered by blockchain. We've got Civil COO Lillian Ruiz on the show today to tell us all about it, along with Colorado Sun CTO Eric Lubbers.
The dam finally burst last week as many of the internet's largest platforms, like Facebook, YouTube and Apple Podcasts, banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. His site, InfoWars, has gained legitimacy from President Donald Trump in recent years, even as it spews hate speech and tars Sandy Hook victims as government-employed "crisis actors." Notably, Twitter didn't join other Silicon Valley titans in banning Jones. We talked with St. John's University assistant law professor and Yale Law School f...more
Where were you in 1998? Kai Ryssdal was just starting his career in public radio. Slate staff writer Leon Neyfakh was in middle school, watching the Clinton impeachment play out on television with parents who were sympathetic to the president. Season two of Neyfakh's podcast "Slow Burn" tackles that scandal, challenging our thinking about Monica Lewinsky, Ken Starr and the rest, while examining the implications for today's political landscape. He'll talk with Kai about the first episode, which p...more
Journalists love to list the disparate items caught up in the trade war. Blue jeans! Cranberries! Bourbon! Ginseng! There's something giddy about the seeming randomness of it. But lists of tariffs are not random. They're made by actual people looking very carefully at products and politics across international borders. Former U.S. trade official Matt Gold used to help make those lists. He makes us smart on how governments in a trade war take a gimlet eye to literally every product that exists in...more
In some ways, Elon Musk is made for our times. He's a fiercely polarizing billionaire who's positioned himself as a singular visionary, capable of remaking the auto industry and revolutionizing space travel while building rescue submarines on the side. He knows his way around a Twitter fight, too. But why do the media, Tesla fans and Musk himself always cast him as the lead in an epic tale? Bloomberg Businessweek editor Max Chafkin will help us unpack the cult of personality that surrounds Musk....more
We've told you about other wild uses for blockchain technology besides bitcoin: mortgages, weddings and more. Now it's time to go down the cryptocurrency rabbit hole — or maybe the bitcoin mineshaft? Joon Ian Wong is managing director at cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk. He takes us back to his reporting for Quartz on a bitcoin mine in Inner Mongolia, which is both a very real place and yet very unlike other types of mines. Then, all of you tell us where you've seen bitcoin (and bitcoin scams?)...more
Make Me Smart loves the art of the zoom out. Wages aren't rising? Let's look at how capitalism is or isn't working for people. Big leak at Facebook? Let's talk about the ethics of running a huge tech company. And one way to approach big problems is to change your thinking about them in a big way. So could an issue with an economy or a corporation — at any scale — be seen as a design flaw? We talk this week with Sarah Stein Greenberg, who runs the design program at Stanford (the "d.school"). She ...more
This is what a trade war looks like. Trump has been standing his ground on tariffs (he's even had a law drafted called the FART Act — U.S. Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act). And now the retaliation is rolling out — from Canada, China and from the EU. Canada's tariffs took effect this week. China's retaliatory package of $34 billion in tariffs is set to start on Friday. Super smart Dartmouth economics professor Doug Irwin gives us some big picture history, theory and context. Like: if you're gonna ...more
If you work in an office, chances are you've sat through some pretty lame harassment training — videos, click-through programs and materials that might feel straight out of the '90s. For many of us, these trainings are something to squeeze in between real work and groan about at meetings. Not exactly a path to real change in the #MeToo era. Morgan Mercer is dedicated to the idea that effective training must build empathy. Her startup, Vantage Point, uses virtual reality to immerse people in icky...more
By now, you've probably seen them. Heart-wrenching images of parents and children separated and the southwest border, sent to jail or youth detention centers. The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" for illegal border crossings is just one of several seismic changes to immigration enforcement in recent weeks. Immigrants seeking asylum from gangs or domestic violence will no longer be admitted, reducing legal immigration as well. So how'd we get here? And what does Congress need to do to fix ...more
Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai was on something of a victory lap Monday when he talked with Kai on Marketplace about the repeal of net neutrality. The rule change became official this week. Molly has interviewed Pai two times during the long process of rolling back Obama-era regulations that made internet service providers treat all traffic the same. Molly and Kai dive into a few of Pai's talking points and his vision for America's future online. Plus, we hear your thoughts spu...more
Could you explain blockchain in a few sentences? After this episode, we hope you'll be able to get close. Pamela Morgan, an attorney and educator, breaks down blockchain for us with the metaphorical help of ... kitties, yarn and pina coladas. There are thousands of blockchains, and you can use the technology for much more than cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ethereum. (A blockchain mortgage, maybe?) We meet a couple who got married on blockchain. And we start with a "fix" about Apple's new soft...more
When we called up business ethicist Greg Fairchild from the University of Virginia this morning, we expected to have a wide-ranging conversation to get at Kai's question of a few weeks back: Are there market-based solutions to ensure better ethics? We didn't expect we'd have such a timely case study in Disney-owned ABC and "Roseanne." The network canceled its show hours after a racist tweet from star Roseanne Barr. We got the Darden School of Business professor's reaction as the news played out ...more
It started with an email about butter. We got it in our listener submission inbox, and it was mostly nonsense with a sketchy link. You probably get spammy emails like this every day. Do you ever wonder who sent them, or what they're trying to accomplish? Well, reader, we clicked the link. Then we called Jonathon Morgan, CEO of the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, to help us make sense of what we found. It gets weird, kind of scary and yes, buttery. Special thanks to listener Steffen Spear who s...more
What would a Hippocratic oath look like for the people we trust with our data? That's one of the questions NYU professor Laura Norén asks in her course "Ethics for Data Science." Consumers should be pushing for more empowered, informed consent, she says, because right now they have two choices: blindly agree to give up your data to [insert social media or digital platform here] or quit altogether. We'll start there, and somehow end up at trans-humanism — it's sci-fi stuff, but it's where the pri...more
Molly Wood dives even deeper into radical economics this week with Glen Weyl of Microsoft Research, who's also a visiting scholar at Yale and co-author of the new book "Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society." He says inequality is at the root of most problems facing our world, and those problems are worse because our "free" markets are not free enough. So-called "free market champions" used capitalism as a veil to further entrench privilege and power, Weyl says, ...more
Make Me Smart often asks if capitalism is working for enough people. But writer and capital-t Thinker Umair Haque is taking it a step further, asking if capitalism might be altogether obsolete. He notes it's ill equipped to address huge, pressing issues like climate change and financial inequality. And if the economy is technically growing — if we're wealthier on paper — but people's lives aren't actually better, then where are we? We'll go deep on this stuff with him. But first, some news we're...more
When Robin Steinberg and David Feige were public defenders in New York, they saw thousands of clients — often poor people of color — stuck in jail because they couldn't make bail for minor offenses. They started the Bronx Freedom Fund to pay that bail and help people stay in their jobs and with their families while awaiting their day in court. Now they're going national with The Bail Project. We talked with the husband-and-wife team about the economics of criminal justice reform. First though, t...more
What does the sketch comedy TV show "Adam Ruins Everything" have in common with our podcast? Well, we kinda share the same mission. In his TruTV show, live tours and podcast, comedian Adam Conover takes on topics we think we know about — like dieting, going green, taxes and, uh, circumcision — then punctures our assumptions with facts and comedy. We learn about his process, whether he actually changes minds and truth-squadding in the age of alternative facts. But first we chat about our own news...more
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's loooong testimony on Capitol Hill is over, and we have so many thoughts we added an episode to hash them out. So we're back, asking big questions: What problem do lawmakers think they need to solve? Is that even the most pressing problem? And do they know enough about Facebook to tell the difference? Plus, now that he's back in Menlo Park, does Zuckerberg get what a big deal this is? And should he have walked up to address lawmakers to "Enter Sandman" or "Here Come...more
As we taped this week's episode, Mark Zuckerberg was about to begin his testimony in front of Congress. Lawmakers are expecting an explanation for how Facebook's self-professed mission to "bring the world closer together" gave way to its current privacy fiasco. But is data collection and use always the bad guy? Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line, says no. Her nonprofit offers emergency, anonymous counseling to millions via text messaging. And now she's launching a for-profit arm c...more
Instead of making ourselves smart about news stories this week, we're taking a broader look at The News. It's truly not just navel gazing to say our highly polarized marketplace of ideas and current political strife may have something to do with the media we consume. We'll talk about the economics of reporting, online echo chambers and whether there's a model for news that brings us together rather than driving us further apart. Hear Molly's conversation with HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgr...more
Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to testify before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but does he get it? Like, really get it? And, crucially, do we? Harvard's Yochai Benkler is on the show today to make us smart about what the data economy hath wrought, and what it means for us as citizens. Plus, one of our listener-experts tells us how advertisers collect data from millions of Facebook users via quizzes — because he's helped them do it.
Kai and Molly are getting smart about last week's nationwide walkout organized by high school students pushing for stricter gun control. First Amendment expert and lawyer Ken White (also a Twitter personality) lays out the law and history of free speech in schools. We hear from high school students, look back at the landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines and examine how social media platforms have changed the equation. But first, we have to talk about that other social media story: Facebook user dat...more
Where were you when the economy collapsed? We're coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the fall of Bear Stearns, a time when Kai and Molly both happened to be hosting daily news shows. We'll take a listen back, and talk about what was or wasn't known at the time. Then we sit down with National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo. She came into the Hollywood spotlight when she walked the Golden Globes red carpet with Meryl Streep, but Poo has spent years representing the people who wo
We've missed you guys. You've sent us a lot of great insights over the break, and Kai and Molly return with all-new full episodes next week, wading back into the big topics we want to get smart about. Tell a friend to subscribe. We'll see you March 13.
Rahm Emanuel likes to talk. The two-term mayor of Chicago and former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama spoke with us at length about everything from populism to immigration. He told us that Chicago is a "welcoming" city, not a sanctuary city. He's got a special chair. And he's got some sharp words for "Mr. Moody's Doom and Gloom," otherwise known as Kai Ryssdal. Plus, Emanuel takes the longest pause ever to answer our Make Me Smart Question. On March 6th, we'll release our tea...more
The Columbia River Bar is one of the most dangerous places in the world for ships of all sizes. That's where the Columbia River Bar Pilots come in. These specially trained experts pilot cargo and passenger ships of all sizes across the bar into the river that separates Oregon from Washington. Capt. Deborah Dempsey was the first woman to become a pilot with the organization, and she tells us why tying your shoes can keep you from falling "in the drink," and what happened the one time she didn't.I...more
This week, we're looking back at our previous episodes that focused on the internet. First up, our conversation with Zeynep Tufekci, author of "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest," then we revisit our conversation with New York Magazine's Max Read about Facebook. Plus: We're reading your thoughts on what we should do in season 2, and Molly explains why she didn't go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year. Don't forget to vote for what we should ca...more
Could big data make elections more fair? One of our listeners is looking for answers about gerrymandering, and we got some help this week from Justin Levitt, professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He has something to say about elected officials listening to their constituents. Then, we're looking back at previous episodes of Make Me Smart that focused on why it's so hard for people to really listen to each other. We go all the way back to episode one, where we posed this question ...more
To kick off the new year, we're answering another bunch of questions from you, the listeners. Kai and Molly give their takes on what companies value most, where we're headed with bitcoin technology, and when we started being so scared of robots taking our jobs. We also had a question we couldn't answer, so we called up the Southern Poverty Law Center. To top it all off, we have an answer to the Make Me Smart question from one of you. This is the final episode of season one, but stay tuned for se...more
When OxyContin went to market in 1996, sales reps from Purdue Pharma hit one point particularly hard: Compared to other prescription opioids, this new painkiller was believed to be less likely to be addictive or abused.But recently unsealed documents in this investigative episode shed light on how the maker of OxyContin seems to have relied more on focus groups than on scientific studies to create an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that helped fuel the national opioid crisis.Welcome...more
It's the final Make Me Smart of 2017 and we got a few of our previous guests to give us predictions about what they think might happen in 2018.Who made predictions:Andy Weir, author of "The Martian" and "Artemis."Annabelle Gurwitch, actress and the author of "Wherever You Go, There They Are: Stories About My Family You Might Relate To." Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked ...more
In 2006, Microsoft founder Bill Gates told USA Today that "with great wealth comes great responsibility, a responsibility to give back to society and a responsibility to see that those resources are put to work in the best possible way to help those most in need."The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest privately owned foundation in the world, and CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann is charge of the $40 billion endowment. She says the foundation's job is to listen but also to innovate, especial...more
Madeleine L'Engle, the author of the classic novel "A Wrinkle in Time," believed "there comes a point where you can go as far as thinking will take you, and then you will move into the world that might become fantasy, which is that world beyond where your mind will take you, and then you stop, you stop short, and you listen."L'Engle, who wrote more than 60 books, would have turned 100 years old in 2018. For this month's book club episode, we had a delightful conversation with her granddaughter, ...more
Who are the "lost Einsteins?" That's the question Raj Chetty is trying to answer. He's a professor of economics who works on the Equality of Opportunity Project at Stanford University. The project uses big data sets, like anonymous tax and U.S. Patent records, to figure out who is and who is not innovating in the United States today. You can hear more of Kai's conversation with Raj Chetty on Marketplace.org.
Andy Weir really likes to do research. He's a software engineer who wrote "The Martian," which was adapted into a movie a couple years ago starring Matt Damon. Now he has a new book out, "Artemis," about a colony on the moon. We had him on to talk about the economics behind his fictional world and what it might have to do with moral capitalism.On Marketplace.org, you can find Molly's interview with Andy Weir on Marketplace Tech and you can read an excerpt from "Artemis" on our blog. Also on our ...more
Retired cognitive science and linguistics professor George Lakoff appeared in a previous episode, explaining how your brain reacts to political rhetoric. He's back this week with tips on how to break through to family members this holiday, even if you don't share the same worldview. Also, we talk a lot about avocado toast on this show. Like, a lot. So we wanted to know: What was the avocado toast — the trendy, divisive foodstuff — of the Victorian era? Culinary historian Heather Arndt Anderson s...more
As we continue to ask the question of whether free-market capitalism is working for enough people, we found ourselves with another question — what happens when it doesn't? Political and economic disruption follows. New leaders emerge. Movements emerge again, like populism. Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College, says, "populism arises at times when existing democratic institutions, governments, political parties, political elites, are seen as not responding to the cha...more
It's time for another Make Me Smart Explainathon, where we answer as many of your questions as we can about the things you want to know more about. We also have an answer to our Make Me Smart question from a listener, and we picked the final book for our 2017 Make Me Smart Book Club. It's "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle, which is being adapted for the big screen next year by Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay.
One way to improve capitalism? Focus on dignity. That's what Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, believes. He says that the only way to more economic growth is bringing a sense of dignity back to the political conversation, so that the 6.8 million people without jobs in this country, who he calls "distressed human assets," can be matched to the more than six million jobs openings.Also, we're talking about the things that frighten us in our first-ever "chicken-...more
Ethical capitalism. Moral capitalism. Enlightened capitalism. What are we talking about when we talk about how to change capitalism? Molly talked with Philip Kotler, the S.C. Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has written more than 50 books about marketing, as well as the book we mentioned on the show, "Confronting Capitalism." Speaking of books, you can vote for the book you want to read for our final Make M...more
No podcast today, but there will be one Wednesday. Until then, we've got a little preview of our continuing discussion of moral capitalism to whet your appetite ... or make you run for the hills. You decide. Talk with you soon.
Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, says financial markets are almost like rogue artificial intelligence, but it doesn't have to be that way. Then: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai finally says no, you actually can't take away a broadcast license (Mr. President). Finally, "The Lego Ninjago Movie" producer Daniel Lin answers our Make Me Smart question.
"Blade Runner." "Total Recall." "Minority Report." These are big-budget movies from big-name directors, but they all sprung from the mind of author Philip K. Dick. He also wrote "The Man in the High Castle," our second Make Me Smart book club selection. Author, journalist and podcaster Erik Davis is our guide on this mind-bending journey — along with all of you, of course. Plus, we get some insight into alternate realities and computer simulations from philosopher Nick Bostrom.You can read more ...more
Is Facebook too big for anyone to understand how big it really is? Even Mark Zuckerberg? New York Magazine senior editor Max Read is on the show today, explaining how Zuckerberg might have to be like Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (seriously). You can check out Read's story on Zuckerberg, Facebook and democracy here.Plus: Don't miss our blog about the sequester and Trump, and be sure to send us your thoughts on "The Man in the High Castle" for our upcoming book club episode.
There's no new Make Me Smart podcast today. But we did answer that one remaining question about the sequester, from last week's Explainathon. It's called "What You Need To Know About The Sequester And Trump" and it's right there on our site. You also still have time to send us your thoughts about our book club selection, "The Man In The High Castle" by Phillip K. Dick.
Why is voice recognition not out of this world? Why do companies whisper their earnings estimates? And should the government run the credit agencies? These are just a few of the things you asked us to explain in our first ever Explainathon. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and look for more answers on the blog later this week!
In the wake of the Equifax hack (and the one before that, and the one before that ... ), how should you think about credit, data security and online privacy? And what could the European Union teach American companies about protecting your data? Then: "Outlander" showrunner Ronald D. Moore answers our Make Me Smart question, and we answer some of your questions about #NoConfederate and our interview with April Reign. Mentioned on the show: If you want to learn more about the history of credit re...more
The power of social influence is the power to capture your attention. This week, we look at the role of an individual and an institution in shaping what you think you know and why it matters. Facebook wants you to pay attention to its ads, but what about the buyers of those ads and their influence? April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag wants you to know how to use influence to change a conversation. Case in point: #NoConfederate.
The Trump administration announced it's ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era rule protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation if they arrived as children. Now Congress has to decide whether to pass legislation to maintain the program. Businesses have lined up in favor of DACA, but the question is: What can companies do besides public statements and letters? We follow the corporate money. And Tim Leong tells us what it was like to create the infographic...more
Houston's natural topography combined with the infrastructure for six million people creates a flood risk, according to Sam Brody. He's a professor of Marine Sciences and Urban Planning at Texas A&M University at Galveston. And, he says, the city of Houston floods a lot. Brody and colleagues have spent years warning city officials about the damage brought on by too much pavement."We've come a long way," he says, "and a lot has been done, but I think it's time for a real shift in our thinki...more
President Trump announces a change to U.S. military policy in Afghanistan; Cloudflare's CEO Matthew Prince describes why we shouldn't let companies censor their users — right after he censored one of his users; and we take an audio tour of the solar eclipse. Molly Bloom, host of the podcast "Brains On!" answers our Make Me Smart question, and you STILL have questions about bitcoin!Make sure to start on "The Man in the High Castle" if you want to join our Make Me Smart book club discussion, and s...more
Globalization is in the headlines, but what does it mean for our economy? Marketplace's Scott Tong explains it to us. We answer your questions about globalism, nationalism and the companies that have to navigate between these rocky shoals. Plus, we picked our next Make Me Smart book! You've got about a month to read it. Finally, you have questions and answers about bitcoin and cryptocurrency.Watch: Scott Tong explains why globalization looks like an elephant. Really. Mentioned on the show: "The ...more
We won't have a Make Me Smart podcast in the feed today, but we will have one tomorrow. We'll be talking with Marketplace correspondent Scott Tong about globalization; we'll hear your thoughts about our bitcoin episode; and we're going to announce our next selection for the Make Me Smart book club. To pass the time, head over to our site. If you're new to the show, you can check out our back episodes. And we've got a post up right now explaining some more about bitcoins and where they came from....more
What do you need to know to understand the new language of money? Bitcoin? Blockchain? And Ethereum? Laura Shin, senior editor at Forbes magazine and host of the "Unchained" podcast, makes us smart about cryptocurrency and how it might transform your financial life. To learn even more, read Shin's cover story on Forbes about initial coin offerings — think Kickstarter crossed with digital currency.Also, we've got a two-part answer to the Make Me Smart question from Maureen Chiquet, former CEO of ...more
What do Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," a science fiction book about Mars and a ride share company have in common? Each one has something to say about the idea of endless economic growth. And so does Kenneth Rogoff, professor of public policy and economics at Harvard University. He makes us smart about the concept of endless economic growth. Whom does it help, whom does it harm? Plus we've got the nominations for the next Make Me Smart Book Club pick. So take a look at the choices and vote...more
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rolled back federal restrictions on civil-asset forfeiture. Local police and other enforcement agencies can take your property if they suspect that property has been involved in or purchased with profits from some illegal activity — even if you haven't been charged with a crime. Economist Jennifer Doleac talks with Kai and Molly about the policy.If you want to learn more about civil asset forfeiture, we recommend "Taken" in The New Yorker by Sarah Stillman...more
The Columbia River Bar is one of the most dangerous places in the world for ships of all sizes. That's where the Columbia River Bar Pilots come in. These specially trained experts pilot cargo and passenger ships of all sizes across the bar into the river that separates Oregon from Washington. Captain Deborah Dempsey was the first woman to become a pilot with the organization and she tells us why tying your shoes can keep you from falling "in the drink"— and what happened the one time she didn't....more
Ever wonder what makes up your moral compass? That's the premise behind the first selection of the Make Me Smart Book Club. We read "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt. Listeners share their thoughts on how the book reveals some timely and timeless questions about politics in the United States. Plus, Kai and Molly answer your question about what you need to read to think fairly and critically about the headlines.
Maybe you feel like a weirdo at work. You almost certainly work with at least one weirdo. This week, we're talking with Jennifer Romolini about her new book "Weird in a World That's Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures." Here's an excerpt, all about how to send a good email. Oh yeah, and Romolini tells us about that one time she got an email from Shonda Rhimes.Plus, in the News Fix: Ransomware cyberattacks hit more companies, the European Commission slaps Google with a big fine...more
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a series of big tax cuts back in 2012, pledging to put money back in the hands of individuals and grow the economy. It became known as an experiment in "trickle-down," or supply-side economics. So: What do we talk about when we talk about trickle-down? This week we're exploring what happened in Kansas and why with The Budget Guy Stan Collender, The Washington Post's Max Ehrenfreund, listener Mary Lynn Baker and others. Then, author T.R. Reid answers our Make Me ...more
Enforcers abound on this week's podcast. With help from Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Uber took on a series of recommendations to save itself from its own workplace culture, plus CEO Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence. But are there larger lessons for tech? Then we're talking with FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny about internet privacy and why she believes the open internet still needs a regulatory safe space. Plus, McSweeny answers our Make Me Smart question, and we have the r...more
We look at the events of the last two weeks through the lens of "normal" versus "not normal" and how to ask that question from a different perspective. Todd Lieberman, producer of the live-action film "Beauty and the Beast" answers our Make Me Smart question, "What's something you thought you knew that you later found out you were wrong about?" And we preview the Make Me Smart book club selection "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt.Plus, ...more
Make Me Smart is taking the week off, but don't worry, there's plenty to keep you busy ahead of next week's episode.You can join our weekly Make Me Smart editorial meetings at noon Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern. You can find us on either Kai Ryssdal's page or Molly Wood's. If you're not a fan of Facebook, we put them up on our site as well. If you can't join us live, that's OK, leave us a comment below the video or send us an email with your idea for a future show.You can join the company of Norman Lea...more
The Trump administration has released its proposed budget, and supply side economics is back on the menu. Plus, Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist recently wrote an article about why readers should be careful with anonymous sources, so we got her on the program to explain. USC journalism professor Vince Gonzales puts on his decoder ring and helps us understand what news organizations are actually saying about their sources.Best of all, you can finally get a Make Me Smart PopSocket!
What's the news that's getting buried by the news? A lot, actually. We're taking a look at one major story: media consolidation. This week, Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood chat with Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about how one media deal will transform how you consume media. Marketplace's Adriene Hill helps us get smarter about how the television industry keeps making money despite digital competition. Plus, Annabelle Gurwitch, an actor and wri...more
Rahm Emanuel likes to talk. The two-term mayor of Chicago and former White House chief of staff to President Obama spoke with us at length about everything from populism to immigration. He told us that Chicago is a "welcoming" city, not a sanctuary city. He's got a special chair and some sharp words for "Mr. Moody's Doom and Gloom," otherwise known as Kai Ryssdal. Plus, Emanuel takes the longest pause ever to answer our Make Me Smart Question. Join our book club and read our first official Mak...more
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is on the show this week, doing his first podcast interview with Molly. They discuss Microsoft's new education initiative, whether the company will make another phone, data privacy and science fiction. Then, Kai talks with "The Budget Guy" Stan Collender to answer your questions about the federal budget. Plus, you've got one more week to vote on the Make Me Smart book club's first selection!
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say Washington has forgotten them, according to the latest Marketplace-Edison Research poll. So what's behind that feeling? And what do you want from government? We'll talk about it.Plus: a closer look at what it means to "Buy American" and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing joins us to answer our Make Me Smart question. Finally: We're kick off our book club. If you want to help decide our first read, make sure you vote here. And before you get any...more
In a recent town hall with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a constituent was upset about the congressman's vote to repeal internet privacy laws. He replied, "Well, you know, nobody's got to use the internet."But online privacy scholar Joel Reidenberg tells us your privacy is still under threat even if you don't use sites like Facebook or Google."If you're not a gmail user but you receive email from a gmail user, than half of your conversation is data-mined by Google. All of this information...more
President Trump uses the language of a "strict father" to communicate. That's according to George Lakoff, a professor emeritus of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. It's a traditional conservative tactic that the president combines with his own "super salesman" language. For the past 40 years, Lakoff taught students how certain words activate parts of our unconscious world view and make it difficult for people to hear a new idea. We'll brief you about th...more
Six billion hours. That's how much time the IRS estimates U.S. taxpayers spend each year preparing and filing their taxes. And with tax reform on the agenda for Congress and the Trump administration, it's the perfect time to ask: Why are our taxes so complicated? Do they have to be this way? Kai and Molly asks T.R. Reid, the author of the new book "Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Fairer, Simpler, and More Efficient Tax Code." Let's just say the book has enough water cooler moments and stories t...more
Donald Trump campaigned on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement or pulling the United States out of the deal altogether. But what is NAFTA, exactly? The short answer: a trade agreement that has more to do with your everyday life than you might think. As Molly Wood searches for a slice of avocado toast, she finds out why NAFTA is the reason we have access the Persea americana fruit year round. Meanwhile, Kai Ryssdal tracks down one of the few denim manufacturers left in the Unite...more
The FBI director testified on Capitol Hill, confirmation hearings begin for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and more changes to the health care bill. And that was just Monday. We take a look at what happens when everything, or maybe nothing, is a crisis. Spoiler alert: It all depends on your point of view. Alyssa Mastromonaco talks to us about what it was like in the White House under President Barack Obama and her new book, "Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?" Also, she answers our Make Me Sm...more
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The debt limit, South by Southwest and other recurring disruptions on this week's Make Me Smart. Also singer-songwriter Marian Call debuts a snippet of a new song about our changing relationship to work. In August of last year, Call, who lives in Juneau, Alaska wanted to write about our changing relationship to work. Marian Call sent out a quick tweet to her followers, and then went to bed.When she woke up, her tweet had gone viral. Buzz Aldri...more
Lyft's co-founder and president, John Zimmer, won't mention his company's main competitor by name. Spoiler alert: It's Uber. But he is willing to say, "We've talked about being profitable next year, we feel very confident in that. We even think there's the likely scenario that we will be the first U.S. ride-share player to be profitable, and part of that is because of our focus on the United States." We've got much more with Zimmer, who along with CEO Logan Green runs the five-year-old ride-shar...more
President Donald Trump addressed Congress last night and we're back to look at what wasn't in the speech and how to read between the lines. Plus: founders remorse? CEO Travis Kalanick apologized to his drivers and employees, this time for losing his temper with a driver who challenged the ride-hailing company's business strategy. We'll talk about reputation, remorse and the ramifications for other companies. Subscribe to "Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly" on iTunes or your favorite podcast app...more
Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood interview Steve Huffman, the co-founder and CEO of Reddit, a social sharing platform where more than 200 million users share everything from wholesome memes to "ask me anything" sessions with newsmakers and celebrities to topics we couldn't possibly describe. Huffman also has the "most Reddit answer" to our Make Me Smart question, and we give you a way to think about the president's budget. Here's the letter Kai mentions up top, by the way.Subscribe to "Make Me Smart ...more
Reputation matters. Whether it's U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Iraq, or Vice President Mike Pence in Brussels, Belgium or Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. And that's just the stuff that happened this weekend!Sallie Krawcheck answers our Make Me Smart question. Krawcheck is the founder and CEO of Ellevest, an investment platform for women. Previously she was the chief financial officer and ran wealth management at Citigroup. Also, she ran Merrill Lynch after it was purchased by Bank of ...more
Time take a look at a big thing that's getting lost in the first four weeks of the Trump administration. Hint: It's the economy. David Frum, senior writer for The Atlantic, answers our Make Me Smart question: "What's something that you thought you once knew, but turns out you were wrong about?" We talk with Eric Bickel and Michael Weis of the Quantify Louisville blog. Eric and Michael take publicly available data from the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and look for stories hidden in the data. The...more
This week we're talking with Tim Wu, professor of law at Columbia University and author of the book "The Attention Merchants." Back in 2003, Wu coined the phrase "network neutrality," the principle that internet service providers should enable equal access to all content and applications, and not favor one source of content over another. Hint: This is about what you are currently streaming as you read this. Meanwhile, pay attention. All the makers of all that content are fighting for increasingl...more
No matter who you are, you've probably had a rough day at the office that changed your perspective, or maybe you made an impulse purchase you really, really wish you could take back. This week, Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood, the hosts of "Make Me Smart," took our money-inspired personality questionnaire.You can listen to "Make Me Smart" right here, or wherever you download your podcasts. Molly Wood: I think I know the answer to this, but in next to life or maybe later in this one, wha...more
On this mini episode, we wanted to follow up on a conversation in this week's show about the business community at large, and the tech industry in particular, acting as an unofficial part of the checks and balances in the U.S. government. We also heard from you about whether businesses like Starbucks should even attempt "moral capitalism." The coffee giant plans to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, and it's gotten some backlash for it.
Checks and balances: that's a phrase you usually hear when we talk about the branches of government. But on this week's "Make Me Smart," we discuss the possible changing role for corporations as they react to President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. Plus, the robots are taking over, right? We talk to Scott Phoenix, co-founder of Vicarious, a company that is trying to build a new kind of artificial intelligence. And Norman Lear, legendary television producer and writer, answers...more
On the first full episode of Make Me Smart, we explored how to tell the difference between party-line political changes and "non-standard" changes in the new Trump administration. We also answered your questions about whether government statistics are accurate, and heard from Autodesk CEO Carl Bass.Our first listener question this week came from Bob Price, who wanted to know whether it was possible for insiders to make a profit shorting stocks of the publicly traded companies the president menti...more
It's the last mini episode of Make Me Smart before the new year, and we're going to unlock the vault and share some moments from the never before heard Make Me Smart Pilot Sessions. We discuss whether government can be run as business, why Apple got a foothold in China but Uber didn't, Molly's plan for the zombie apocalypse, and of course, Twitter. So much Twitter.Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly launches January 23rd. Sign up for more information and let us know what you think. And make sure to...more
On the latest episode of Make Me Smart, the President-Elect meets with technology leaders from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and more. And, what's Kanye got to do with it? Plus, we answer a listener question about housing starts. Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly launches January 23rd. Sign up for more information and let us know what you think.
We discuss the unanswered questions and potential consequences of one well-meaning press release on a mini-episode of "Make Me Smart." Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube announced recently that they will team up to fight terrorist propaganda online. Read along with the joint press release as we work through what's left unsaid, and how it might impact you.Also a listener has a question on health savings accounts. Help us answer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.orgMake Me Smart with Kai ...more
"Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly" is a podcast about the economy, technology and culture. Hosts Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood will use their expertise to connect the dots on the topics they know best, and get help from listeners and experts about the ones they want to know better. Subscribe now — the conversation begins January 2017.