Enchanting by Numbers (2015 version)

October 9, 2015

We take another look at algorithms. Tim Hwang explains how Uber’s algorithms generate phantom cars and marketplace mirages. And we revisit our conversation with Christian Sandvig who, last year asked Facebook users to explain how they imagine the Edgerank algorithm works (this is the algorithm that powers Facebook’s news feed). Sandvig discovered that most of his subjects had no idea there even was an algorithm at work. Plus James Essinger and Suw Charman-Anderson, tell us about Ada Lovelace, the woman who wrote the first computer program (or as James puts it – Algorithm)  in 1843.


September 7, 2015

Your host attempts to write a description for the Podcast. He seeks assistance from an old book, and the plot whisperer.


August 25, 2015

This week Christine tells us how a stuffed donut ruined a Tinder date, ToE’s Chris explains Adblock Jihad and your host gets beat up by two self driving cars.

Instaserfs (part three of three)

July 7, 2015

“This is part of the sharing economy, I am sharing myself”
Our instaserfs series comes to a crushing conclusion, Hear Instapoder Andrew attempt to manserve… Plus we meet two former Uber drivers! Special thanks to our new sponsor Zady.com

Instaserfs (part two of three)

June 24, 2015

Instaserfs II: “Chipolte Strikes back” or “Seriously, in the sharing economy no one can hear you work” Either tagline works for our second installment in our future of work series. Andrew (our ToE instapoder) continues with his task of working for as many San Francisco sharing economy companies as he can stand this month. Plus Susie Cagle (cartoonist, journalist, and freelancer) explains why the tech community prefers not to talk about the worker.

ALSO In two weeks, after part three of Instaserfs drops, we’re hosting an online discussion party for ToE fans. Sign up at spoken.am

Instaserfs (part one of three)

June 17, 2015

In the sharing economy no one can hear you work. This is because companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates and others only employ “partners” or independent contractors. So your host decided to partner with Andrew Callaway, a 25 year old San Francisco native, to find out what its like to work in the sharing economy. As the official ToE instapoder Andrew will drive, shop, clean, deliver, and serve for a whole month, and he’s going to record his entire experience. Plus in this episode technology journalist Sarah Lacey tells us the truth about Uber.
thanks to our new sponsor: Zady.com/theory

Art De Vivre (II of II)

June 2, 2015

Benjamen and Mathilde continue exploring the intersection between France and China over wine. In this installment they traverse China talking with winemakers, wine enthusiasts and drinkers to find out what the emerging middle class of China, one of the most powerful forces on Earth, wants from a bottle of wine. Plus Your host is forced to defend his working methods and his beliefs in the art of living well.
Thanks to our sponsors http://www.parachutehome.com/theory and http://www.squarespace.com offer code: theory

Art De Vivre (I of II)

May 26, 2015

The voice of the ToE episode announcer revealed! (her name is Mathilde) and she joins our host for this two part series about the intersection between France and China and wine. The story of the red obsession of Wealthy Chinese has been told many times, but what is going to happen when China’s elusive emerging middle class gets wine fever? Can wine transmit cultural values? Can it transcend consumerism? In this installment Benjamen and Mathilde traverse France to discover this vino nouvelle vague.

Thanks to our sponsors http://www.parachutehome.com/theory and https://casper.com/theory

The Dislike Club (finale/ABC version)

May 12, 2015

In this program (which originally aired on the ABC last December) your host makes his final attempt to build the ultimate anti-social-media-social-platform. Things continue to decline: the phone in the hand becomes the phone on a stick in the hand. And we meet a controversial blogger who overnight becomes one of the internet’s most disliked people. Plus, of course the real dislike club. Thanks to our sponsor http://www.parachutehome.com/theory

New York After Rent (part 3 of 3)

April 30, 2015

Our series concludes with an attempt to examine the suburbanized commodified inner cityscape of New York. Author and activist Sarah Schulman tells us about the Gentrified Mind, plus we hear from one of the first Airbnbers of New York. PLUS a sneak preview of a new rock musical everyone will soon be talking about.

New York After Rent (part 2 of 3)

April 22, 2015

From Avenue B to Bushwick: Kathy Kirkpatrick tells us about the final days of her Life Cafe in the East Village and essayist Tim Kreider tells us about his exile in Bushwick. Plus your host tries to make sense of the first time he got a glimpse of the new New York at a party in late September 2008.

New York After Rent (part 1 of 3)

April 8, 2015

The financial crisis of September 2008 overshadows one of the most important events in recent New York History: the arrival of Airbnb. And while your host wasn’t paying attention back then either, today he is fed up with the commodification of every square inch of the city. But what if the Airbnb economy is also changing the way New York City dreams and makes art? Can it be stopped? Housing Activist Murray Cox gives us a tour of his insideairbnb project, Sociologist Richard Ocejo takes us on a jaunt through Hell Square, and legendary performance artist Penny Arcade shows us around “the big cupcake”.

Dark Karma

March 17, 2015

“G.S.” was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Bozeman, Montana many years ago. The story he told me about how bad karma brought him from Devon, England to the C.U.T. bomb shelters in Gardiner, Montana still haunts me. A few years ago we reconnected and he recounted the whole story for me. Also Astronomer Chris Impey explains how Dark Energy will end it all.

Radio WIFM

March 2, 2015

Decades before the first shot was fired in the American revolution, a band of runaway slaves known as the Maroons, living in the mountains in Colonial Jamaica took on the British Empire and won. I’ve long been obsessed with the Maroons. So last summer I jumped at the opportunity to visit their compound in Charlestown for the annual celebration of their 1739 victory. I learned that the Maroons hope to play a leading role as Jamaica moves down the path of Marijuana decriminalization and legalization – but some of the folks I met claim the Maroons are still listening to Radio What’s Innit Fo Me?

An Illumination

January 26, 2015

Cédric Villani won the prestigious Fields Medal for his work in 2010. He wrote a book about his experience called Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure. It is a book about where ideas come from. There is something spider like about Villani, and I say that not just because of the pins he is famous for always wearing. He knows how to catch ideas, and he wants to teach us how as well. We also talk with Maria Popova about another great Science book: The art of Scientific Investigation. I found this book thanks to the idea catching web that Maria Popova built: brainpickings.org

Logical Fantasies (the dislike club V)

December 22, 2014

n the penultimate episode of our series, Kathy Sierra tells us how one tweak could fix everything and ToE’s Chris tells us the secret origin of Facebook. PLUS #marksbros (as in Zuckerberg) #marxhegel (as in Groucho)

***ALERT*** the DISLIKE CLUB Finale was commissioned by RADIOTONIC from the ABC’s Creative Audio Unit. Look for the Dec 21st episode called the Dislike Club – that is part VI (the finale). http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/radiotonic/the-dislike-club/5970842

Wishful Thinking (the dislike club part IV)

December 9, 2014

In 2007 writer, programmer, and horse trainer Kathy Sierra quit the internet because of misogynist hate trolling. She stayed off the social web for 7 years but last year she came back to see what Twitter was like. She tells us why she only lasted a few weeks and her theory about why so many women are targets online. Plus Danielle Keats Citron explains how we could use the law to drain the cesspool.

If you dislike like, then you will… (the dislike club part III)

December 3, 2014

Our mini-series about the internet continues. This week Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman tells us about the internet’s original Dislike Club. Anonymous. Biella has spent the last eight years hanging out with Anons both on the IRC and in IRL. Her new book “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: the many faces of Anonymous” is the definitive book on the topic, nothing else comes close. Biella also gets me to watch V for Vendetta, something I have refused to do out of my fanboy respect for writer Alan Moore (who refused to watch it or put his name on the movie). I wish I could un-see it already. Also: Commodify your dislike!

Paying For It (the dislike club part II)

November 25, 2014

Our mini-series about the internet continues. This week we take a close look at the fundamental business model of the web – advertising. In 1993 your host was a founding member of an international monkey wrench gang that fought billboards in outer space. He recently ran into one of his old comrades in Midtown-South (Manhattan’s tech district) and discovered that his side actually lost the war. Ethan Zuckerman, the man who invented the pop up ad, admits that we must rethink the fundamentals of the web, and activist, writer, and filmmaker Astra Taylor questions whether the internet actually benefits independent creators.

Backspace to the Future (the dislike club part I)

November 14, 2014

Paul Ford is a technologist and a writer, sometimes these two things blur. For example, he’s currently working on a book about webpages, but he’s also building a content management system for webpages – because you know it could help with the writing. (yeah his book is late) Its not like he’s trying to procrastinate, this is just what life is like when you are Paul Ford. A couple of Monday night’s ago he was sitting on his couch drinking some rye whisky and chatting with his friends on twitter and he accidentally a brand new webpage community. This is the true origin story of his tilde.club. Yours truly also started a new thing it is called dislike.club. We also check in with Librarian and community manager Jessamyn West for advice on how to start an online community that doesn’t suck.

The Dislike Club is a story-in-progress, it will play out on the podcast over the next few weeks and then culminate December 21 on Radiotonic, from ABC RN’s Creative Audio Unit.