How long have you gone without checking your phone in the past week? 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes while you’re awake? Our screens have commandeered our eyeballs and taken hold of our lives. Our phones buzz constantly with notifications, even when we intentionally move them off the dinner table, away from our bedsides, and out of sight.
Ten years ago, before smartphones had even become mainstream, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain felt like something was askew in her life—and believed that technology had something to do with it. So she and her family instituted a “Tech Shabbat,” one day a week where they refused to use any form of modern technology. It involved installing landlines, printing out maps, and actually looking one another in the eye during conversations, but a decade later Shlain has determined that the benefits of consciously disconnecting outweigh the short-term sense of accomplishment we get from being on our phones.
Shlain joins this week’s Gadget Lab podcast to talk about her evolving relationship with technology, and the process of stepping away from film to write a full-length book.
Show Notes: You can find out more about Tiffany Shlain’s book here. You can read Peter’s exclusive story about the PlayStation 5 console here. Lily Newman’s story about Twitter’s usage of your phone number for ad targeting is here. And for fun, you should read Boone Ashworth’s story about the big lure of tiny keyboards.
Recommendations: Peter recommends Marvel Puzzle Quest, a mobile game that’s also available on PCs. Arielle recommends Fleishman Is In Trouble, a novel by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Lauren recommends the Ask Molly newsletter, written by Heather Havrilesky, who is also the author of Ask Polly.
Lauren Goode can be found at @LaurenGoode. Tiffany Shlain is @tiffanyshlain. Arielle Pardes is @pardesoteric. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Boone Ashworth, who edited the show, can be found at @booneashworth. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.
Panos Panay Says Microsoft’s New Phone Isn’t a Phone
Microsoft surprised just about everyone this week by showing off a pair of new mobile devices with two screens apiece. The pocketable Surface Duo and the tablet-like Surface Neo won't actually go on sale for at least one year, but Microsoft trotted the devices out anyway to signal how it's positioning its future in the mobile landscape.
The company’s hardware chief, Panos Panay, joins us on the show this week to talk about the Duo and Neo, and what they say about productivity in the mobile age. Also, Panay urges us not to call the Android-powered Duo a phone … even though it makes phone calls.
Also, news from Facebook, a new app from Instagram, and some not-self-driving car news from Tesla.
Show Notes: Read Lauren Goode on the dual-screen Surface devices, and everything else new in the Surface lineup. Facebook’s leaked audio is here. Aarian Marshall tells us about Tesla’s Smart Summon. Arielle Pardes tells us about Instagram Threads.
Recommendations: Arielle recommends Stoic Week. Mike recommends the Open Ears Project. Lauren recommends catching up on HBO’s Succession, as well as this Outside podcast episode, titled “Getting Past Our Fear of Great White Sharks”.
Michael Calore is @snackfight. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Boone Ashworth, who helps produce the show, is @booneashworth. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.
Spot, the Robot Dog, Learns New Tricks
For 25 years, Boston Dynamics has been building robots and releasing videos of the terrifying things running around, opening doors, and fending off stick-wielding humans. The company’s most famous creation is a four-legged, canine-esque robot called Spot. Now, for the first time, the company is unleashing Spot out into the world. Aimed at workplaces like construction sites, select customers will be able to lease one of the signature robots and get it to do their bidding.
On this week’s episode of Gadget Lab, Mike and Arielle talk with WIRED science writer Matt Simon about his trip to Boston Dynamics, what it was like controlling Spot, and what robots like it mean for the future (and/or doom) of humanity.
Also in the news: Amazon announces Echo wearables, and the FDA officially says that e-cigarettes are not safe.
Read Matt Simon’s story about Spot the robot here. Read more about Amazon’s new Alexa glasses here and catch up on all of WIRED’s Amazon coverage here. Read more about the FDA’s stance on e-cigarettes here.
Matt recommends Townsends, an 18th century-themed cooking channel on YouTube. Mike recommends the show Undone on Amazon Prime Video. Arielle recommends YouTuber Big Marvel and his rubber chicken cover of Toto’s “Africa.” (Yes, really.)
Follow Matt Simon on Twitter @mrmattsimon. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.
Your DNA Belongs on the Blockchain
You may not realize it, but when you send a spit-filled tube off to a lab that’s going to analyze your DNA, you’re linking the most unique identifier possible (your gene sequence) to other sensitive personal information, like your name, home address, and credit card number. How can you know that the DNA lab will properly decouple your genetic data from your personal information? Well, you just have to trust them.
Obviously, that arrangement isn’t ideal, which is why a new startup called Nebula is using robust digital privacy protocols—encrypted email, VPNs, and blockchain technology—to guard its customers’ information. WIRED reporter Megan Molteni joins us this week to talk about genetic sequencing, how personal data is handled, and what this startup is doing to change the best practices within the industry.
Also, there’s a new Facebook Portal in the world, Amazon is cracking down on shady shopping apps, and we’ll tell you why you should wait to upgrade to iOS 13.
Show Notes: Read Megan’s story about Nebula’s use of blockchain technology here. Tom Simonite tells us about the new Facebook Portal. Lauren Goode on iOS 13’s many bugs. Louise Matsakis on Amazon’s app crackdown.
Recommendations: Lauren recommends the new Netflix series Unbelievable. Megan recommends the true-crime podcast In the Dark. Mike recommends the meta-interview show Everything Is Alive. Arielle recommends the book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.
Follow Megan Molteni on Twitter @meganmolteni. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.
iPhones to the Max
New iPhones! A shinier Apple Watch! So many camera lenses! On this week’s episode of Gadget Lab, it’s Apple week yet again. Lauren, Mike, and Arielle discuss all the new devices and services that made a splash in Cupertino. Also, they delve into the state of Apple events as a whole, and whether all the onstage excitement is a little removed from what’s happening in the rest of the world.
In other news, California prepares to pass a law that would force ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as employees (and offer them a minimum wage, health benefits, and other worker protections). Also, social media companies experiment with removing the “likes” feature from their platforms, and nearly 300 email scammers are arrested in the biggest takedown of digital criminals ever.
Show NotesRead about the new iPhones, Apple Watch, or follow all of WIRED’s Apple coverage here. Read Aarian Marshall’s story about Uber’s battle over its drivers here. Read Paris Martineau’s story about social media demetrication here. Read Lily Hay Newman’s story about email scammers here.
Recommendations Arielle recommends the book Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Lauren recommends that if you're in San Francisco, go see the art exhibit Pearl Jam: Live in Two Dimensions at the Haight Street Art Center. Michael recommends the podcast Lost Notes.
Follow Michael Calore on Twitter at @snackfight. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.