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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

American Public Media

Because none of us is as smart as all of us. 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. The conversation begins January 2017.

Because none of us is as smart as all of us. 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. The conversation begins January 2017.
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Because none of us is as smart as all of us. 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. The conversation begins January 2017.




86: What it's like to live in 2043

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...


85: Expl4inathon

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...


84: Potcast

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...


83: The Sanctuary of Smart

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...


82: This is your brain on VR

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...


81: If you didn't see this coming, you weren't paying attention

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...


80: Google is rigged, just not in the way Trump thinks

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...


79: The Amazon Effect

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...


78: Keepin' it Civil with blockchain

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.


77: Big Tech is a nation-state with a constitutional crisis

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...


76: The host of "Slow Burn" makes us smart about Clinton's impeachment

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,...


75: A little Wisconsin root in a big trade war

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...


74: What do we do about Elon Musk?

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...


73: Bitcoin IRL

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...


72: Are we an eponymous lifestyle brand yet?

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 "")....


71: Your front row seat to the trade war

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...


70: Can VR make us more empathetic?

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...


69: Why does "zero tolerance" look like this?

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...


68: Ajit Pai's internet is "free and open," but no longer neutral

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...


67: Blockchain all the things. Or don't.

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...