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Marketplace Tech

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Hosted by Molly Wood, “Marketplace Tech” demystifies the digital economy. The daily show uncovers how tech influences our lives in unexpected ways and provides context for listeners who care about the impact of tech, business and the digital world.
135 Episodes
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This week, world leaders are meeting at the United Nations climate summit in Madrid, talking about how to keep global warming in check. One thing that’s going to become increasingly valuable in the future is drinking water. Droughts, storms and sea level rise all affect the availability of potable water. India, in fact, is already running out. One startup is working on it with tech that collects water vapor from the air and stores it as clean water.
The 1982 science fiction classic “Blade Runner” was set in November 2019 in Los Angeles. But the LA envisioned by director Ridley Scott is very different from the LA you’d recognize today. For one thing, it’s raining all the time, and it’s a dystopian hellscape with flying cars, pervasive technology and artificial humans, or replicants, who are almost indistinguishable from real humans. Also, almost everyone smokes. Aside from the obvious, how far off is the movie from present-day 2019?
Amazon is by far the largest online retailer in the United States. Chances are you’ve clicked the buy button for holiday shopping or just some daily staples recently. Reporter Will Evans said he obtained records on injury rates from 23 Amazon fulfillment centers around the country and found the rate of serious injuries is more than double the average for the industry. At some warehouses, it’s as much as six times higher.
We’re revisiting some of our stories looking at how technology can help us adapt to climate change.  In this piece (which originally aired October 1), we look at the digital tools available to figure out a home’s flood risk.
This week, we’re revisiting pieces on how technology can help us adapt to climate change, from our series “How We Survive.”  This story (which originally aired August 5), looks at how technology can help us keep our indoor air clean when wildfires cause intense smoke outside.
This week, we’re revisiting several stories on how technology can help us adapt to climate change as part of our series “How We Survive.” This piece (which was originally published on July 18) looks at how a unique levee in the Bay Area utilizes nature to increase flood protection while restoring wetlands.
This week, we’re revisiting several stories on how technology can help us adapt to climate change. In this piece, which originally aired June 18, we look at how using Microsoft’s AI computing power can help the environmental nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy make better decisions about the watershed.
Using new data, a new report from the Brookings Institution estimates that the higher you’re paid, the more your job may be at risk from artificial intelligence. We talk with Mark Muro, co-author of the report.
Recently, regulators began investigating the new Apple Card and Apple’s partner Goldman Sachs after several users reported that in married households, men received higher credit limits than women — even if the women had higher credit scores. Safiya Noble, an associate professor at UCLA who wrote a book about biased algorithms, said data algorithms used to evaluate credit reflect a long history of women having little financial independence or freedom.
Doorbell security cameras are a hot item and hot topic when it comes to privacy and security. Amazon owns the Ring security camera company, and the company will give police camera footage with the customer’s permission. Andrew Ferguson, author of the book “The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement,” was asked how this is different from traditional security systems that involve police and other agencies.
Esther Duflo is one of this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in economics. She and her colleagues at MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab won for their unique approach to tackling poverty. They try to break up huge problems like immunization or educational opportunity into smaller problems. Their team comes up with questions about what might work and then uses randomized controlled trials that are traditionally used in medicine and hard sciences to compare the impact of specific ideas. She says the team also uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to deploy the findings of their research in the most efficient way possible.
Amazon bought a couple of health care startups that range from prescription drug distribution to telemedicine. It setup Haven, a consulting group that wants to bring down the cost of health care. Its Echo devices can sync with Fitbit for fitness and sleep data, and it’s filed for patents on tech that would let Alexa detect when you’re sick and recommend medicine. Do people want to give their medical data to Amazon? If so, is it worth it?
Gen Zers, the generation after millennials, are wearing looks from the ’90s. And they’re not finding them at their local thrift shops — they’re shopping at a digital marketplace that specializes in vintage wear, the Depop app. It’s kind of an Etsy-Instagram mashup. Buying and selling used clothes is a simple act, but it’s going to help us with our fast-fashion problem during this climate crisis.
Less than half of the population of Africa can rely on flicking on a switch for light, heat or cooking, and that also limits technological advances in banking, education and health care. A recent International Energy Agency report says microgrids powered by solar and wind energy have real potential for accelerating development, particularly in Central African countries. Michaël Aklin, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who researches energy policy, said that the renewable-first approach can work — with some caveats.
The world learned this week that Google is amassing health data from millions of Americans via a contract with the huge health care system Ascension. As trust in tech companies seems to continue ebbing, concerns about the “Project Nightingale” contract seem inevitable. But maybe this data gathering isn’t something we should feel too freaked out about. To find out, host Jack Stewart speaks with Deven McGraw, an attorney who was formerly a HIPAA enforcer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
There’s a lot of money being poured into the self-driving space right now. Building a robot driver capable of fully replacing a human on the wheel is a mission that has everything that Silicon Valley loves: a lot of tech and a huge potential prize. Tradition has it that you have to win the race to take any of the prize. But companies are increasingly realizing that they might not get there alone. To see what that means in practice, Marketplace’s Jack Stewart took a trip to Arizona, where several companies are taking advantage of the state’s welcoming regulatory attitude toward self-driving testing.
Today, it’s almost possible to leave your wallet at home and not pay using your phone. In the not-too distant future, stores could even use facial recognition, or fingerprint scanning, so you don’t even need a device — just grab your items, and walk out. Consumers seem to want this frictionless payment as much as retailers do, but why?
Some 94% of libraries offer e-books to borrowers, but now Macmillan, one of the five biggest book publishers in the United States, said it’s going to limit each library to just one copy for the first eight weeks after publication. So get ready for longer waits to borrow them. Jessamyn West, a librarian in Vermont, said it’s reflective of a lot of upheaval in the book world right now.
Some entrepreneurs think technology can help prevent gun violence. A handful of companies are creating artificial intelligence to identify active shooters. The problem is AI requires a lot of data to learn what is a weapon and what isn’t. One startup is creating its own data by holding film shoots.
PG&E has said it could take a decade to upgrade its infrastructure so it’s less likely to spark deadly fires. On Thursday, the utility reported a $1.6 billion loss in the third quarter related to fire charges. A group of California mayors think PG&E should be turned into a publicly owned cooperative utility. Is the answer here just to get off the grid or for utilities to split up into lots of smaller microgrids?
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