Are you tired of the usual Black Friday listicles telling you which gifts to buy for your tech-obsessed friends and family? Do you suspect that the authors are really just recycling the same basic gadgets over and over again that seem like something out of an old Sharper Image catalogue?
Then we have the show for you! This week, the guys conduct a single-elimination competition for the Ultimate Techmas Gift Championship™ Extravaganza 2018®. It’s a showdown between fancy Fitbits, end-to-end encryption, a new internet, and smart diapers.
Alphabet’s Verily has a “smart diaper” design that distinguishes pee from poo, written by Beth Mole
Is Your Fitbit Data Safe?, written by James Swann
Encrypted Messaging isn’t Magic, written by Lily Hay Newman
I Don’t Think Internet Anonymity Means What You Think It Means, written by Annie Edmundson
Protecting Data Privacy Without Destroying the Internet, written by Roslyn Layton
Nothing Is Secure, Free Thoughts Podcast
00:00 Paul Matzko: Welcome back to Building Tomorrow. I am here with the entire regular crew this time, Matthew, Will, and Aaron. And if you’re like us, you’re probably just kicking back from a veritable Thanksgiving feast, you’ve stuffed your face with all the… Well, stuffing and turducken, and tofurky, and sweet potato casserole your glutinous little stomach could desire. And after a goodly snooze or food coma, you’re going to have think about the choices you’re going to make on the morrow for it is Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, or perhaps you’re waiting for Cyber Monday, so as to avoid being stampled… Stampled? Stomped… Stomped…
00:44 Will Duffield: Trampled. [laughter]
00:46 Paul Matzko: Trampled.
00:47 Aaron Ross Powell: Just keep going.
00:48 Paul Matzko: By hordes of shoppers. Either way, you need to buy something for these special people in your life, as well as your cousin Todd who is the worst, but you’ll feel bad if he gets you a present again this year, and you got him nothing like last year when he… Well, wherever I was. Yes, we’re finding gifts. It is a staple of the tech media at this time of year to put out a hot tech gadgets for the nerds in your life list. It’s fun, it’s easy to copy, lots of clicks light reading. We’re gonna do something slightly different here on Building Tomorrow. Rather than giving you a literal list of gadgets, we’re going to proffer our suggestions of the top technologies and innovations that if they become the hot new tech toy of the season, and were adopted en mass like a Tickle Me Elmo, but for tech toys they would do the most to transform our lives for the better.
01:39 Paul Matzko: We’re gonna stick to North American tech innovation because if we didn’t… Well, as Aaron pointed out, we’d be air-dropping smart phones over the developing world, they would just win handily, like no competition. Smart phones for everyone. That’s not very interesting for a competition. So, and we’re also not going to do an exact gadget or company necessarily, we’re thinking about the underlying tech, and we’re gonna vote for the winners, guys who can’t vote for your own, vote for someone else’s, we can even… If we wanna be real fancy, we can go like Maine and do rank to choice voting in the spirit of last month. So let’s kick things off with Will, what is your hot tech gadget?
02:19 Will Duffield: So, I’m gonna go with the Fitbit. And now, a lot of you think of that as something you wear when you go on a run to track how far you’ve run, or how high your heart rate went while you were doing it, but it has much more universal, really health centric potential applications. So you wear a device that tracks your heart rate, as well as other bio-signs over time, and it allows you to create a fairly comprehensive picture of how your body is behaving throughout the day, day in and day out. And this can allow either you or your doctor perhaps, to begin to identify certain patterns that could then also potentially be aggregated with other people’s Fitbit data to see larger societal health patterns. Where people sleeping well? What do people do before they sleep well versus when they don’t have a good night sleep?
03:29 Will Duffield: And it can provide for fairly cheap collection of very interesting health data through what is now kind of got a boost the other year as a running killer app. Now, they’ve been trying to move into the smart watch and mobile payments market, but long term, Fitbit itself as a goal, seized the idea of building a service business related to digital health as the long term quest for the product, as are others in that space, and firms more on the health side interested in making use of this data.
04:21 Aaron Ross Powell: Are you worried about the privacy implications of this though? That this is… I mean this is by definition, this is very personal data.
04:27 Will Duffield: Thank you. Yes, I am kind of ignoring that, ghosting over it for now, obviously another sort of running app that allowed people to compare their runs called Strava earlier this year, became a little bit notorious for effectively outlining the perimeters of military bases around the world because as soldiers would jog the fence in the morning, they’d be comparing themselves to others who might have been posted there in the past, and all of this was being posted on the global Strava runs map, so you could see these little glowing lines around facilities say, in Syria, that officially didn’t exist.
05:06 Will Duffield: Now, yes, there is. Obviously, if you were to lose access or control over your individualized, that is, non-anonymized Fitbit data, someone could know how you’re sleeping, when you’re active, if you had sex that night, just by looking at your heart rate and other bio signs over time. So there is some concern there, but I think overall, the benefits of being able to learn that about yourself, which is difficult otherwise, and also very expensive. People are sent in for sleep studies, or to go and wear a heart monitor over lunch for a week, and these not only take folks out of the rest of their lives. A lot of people don’t wanna do that, take the time to do that, so they just don’t get the treatment they perhaps would, otherwise. And it simplifies all of this collection.
06:06 Paul Matzko: I would think in theory you can aggregate this. Right. So you can strip out identifying personal information and being like… You’re then being compared against the faceless mass of data. Kinda like you do at 23andMe. Like yes, in theory, in 23andMe, there’s a risk of privacy breach if that information gets leaked by your genetic make-up, but they strip out your personal identifying information so that other people can be compared, not against you as an individual, but against the aggregated profile. So imagine the same thing could be true…
06:36 Will Duffield: Yeah. You can identify local trends that way as well. How much worse are people sleeping? Thanks to the new highway built next to their development. And you aren’t then dealing just with individual anecdotes from people in that community, but you can really look at how long they were sleeping for, how long they were in REM cycles across numerous individuals within that space…
07:01 Paul Matzko: This is kind of…
07:02 Will Duffield: And your natural control groups as well. Yeah.
07:04 Paul Matzko: So this is like a case of something that’s underutilized right now or in like… Lots of people have Fitbits, but they are… It’s kinda like they are glorified step counters in a sense.
07:14 Will Duffield: Yes. The infrastructure that you would need for these sort of health-facing or health-centric applications isn’t there yet. It’s coming, but obviously the wider Fitbit and similar devices are adopted now, the more of a market there will be for those sorts of uses of that data down the road. And if you buy all of your relatives a Fitbit for Christmas, then we can move incrementally towards that healthier world.
07:46 Paul Matzko: Nice, alright. I like it. So our first entry here is the Fitbit. Maybe not specifically, but a Fitbit like device, a health tracker for improving consumer health. Our next entry is a little bit different. So it’s not a literal device, it’s software rather than a device innovation. It’s end-to-end encryption. I have that right, Feeney?
08:11 Will Duffield: No one wants to get a software for Christmas. [chuckle]
08:13 Matthew Feeney: No one wants to be told that they’re overweight and slow for Christmas.
08:17 Matthew Feeney: Oh. [laughter] So… And, unlike the previous nomination, this one actually takes privacy into account. So, if I could air drop devices or software to families in America, it would be services that allow for people to engage in end-to-end encrypted communication. There are services out there, such as ProtonMail and Tutanota, which are email services that allow people to end-to-end encrypt their emails. There are messaging services, like Signal and Wickr, Wire that I know all four of us use here at CATO. And, the great thing about this is it’s easy to use, low cost but with very high benefits.
09:01 Matthew Feeney: A lot of great benefits, namely protection against surveillance. The sad state of affairs is that our emails don’t enjoy as much protection as we would like, thanks to legislation and Supreme Court precedent. So, in the name of privacy and increased security, I would wish that everyone around Thanksgiving tables and Christmas gatherings and everything in between, sign-up for a low cost or even free end-to-end encrypted service. That’s my nomination.
09:37 Paul Matzko: So you go into your grandpa… Grandma’s email account, set her up with a VPN client or Tor or something. And, “Here you go Grandma, here’s your… “
09:50 Matthew Feeney: Yeah. It depends how much you wanna get into the weeds. You could do a whole lot of… [chuckle] You could… You could really go a little crazy with services like this. But, in fact, many listeners probably already use this technology and don’t know it if they use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage. Right. But I think it’s worth people getting out there to see the other cool services that are out there. So that would be my holiday wish.
10:17 Paul Matzko: That’s pretty good. Anyone care to piggyback on back on top of that?
10:22 Aaron Ross Powell: I mean is it… Will’s., So Will’s has the effects, there’s all these health effects that in the aggregate and if everyone is using this stuff but for the consumer, for the person who gets the Fitbit aside from if it tells them that they’re wildly out of shape and just makes them depressed, but they… You get that it’s kind of a it’s a neat little thing for the person to have. Is that the case with the end-to-end encrypted? So are you basically saying, “Grandma, I’m gonna switch you from Gmail to ProtonMail, and the… There’s no real benefit to you in terms of the day-to-day use, but it means that you’re more secure”. Does it make sense? Like what’s the kind of consumer hook that makes the consumer wanna use this stuff outside of we in this room are all paranoid libertarians who don’t want the government snooping?
11:15 Matthew Feeney: No. Well, I don’t think that privacy and security is something that only paranoid libertarians need or desire, and it’s true that it’s not as easy to show off in a coffee shop that you have. You have to probably open up your smart phone and show the app, and some people might think isn’t that just that not that much different from Gmail. Right?
11:36 Aaron Ross Powell: Not it’s a signal with stickers like you have all over the back of your laptop.
11:39 Matthew Feeney: Yeah, I like stickers on my laptop. [chuckle]
11:42 Aaron Ross Powell: And then they make sure to really work you over at security.
11:47 Matthew Feeney: I don’t know, I’ve been rather happy with how I’ve been treated by the federal government’s airport security personnel.
11:56 Aaron Ross Powell: The accent makes you come off as trustworthy.
11:57 Matthew Feeney: I don’t usually talk during this… [laughter] But yes, I get what you’re saying. It’s not a new product in the way that a Fitbit is. You can’t hold it in your hand, an orb of encryption. Right. You can’t do that, but I think the selling point is enough to get people interested. Of course, if you go to Grandma and say, “Hey here’s a free Tutanota or ProtonMail account.” And they say, “Oh why do I need that?” I guess it’s a good excuse to talk about the sad state of affairs when it comes to privacy in the United States. But yeah, it’s not something you can flash around, that’s for sure.
12:34 Aaron Ross Powell: Do you see any physical products designed to offer those sorts of services? Like either a router you can buy that attempts to encrypt everything that runs through it, or even, I don’t know, I’m imagining some kind of 5G hotspot you can wear as a necklace that then your phone connects to that and…
12:54 Matthew Feeney: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m not…
12:55 Aaron Ross Powell: It would make it sexier in a way. You could have an orb of encryption.
13:00 Matthew Feeney: It would also put you on a few more radars I suppose if there was… No one can look at my iPhone and see that I have certain apps or services. Right. And I’m pretty happy with that state of affairs I have to say.
13:14 Aaron Ross Powell: I mean to some extent though, you mentioned the iPhone, that is exactly what you’re describing. This is a device and this is the case for other, I think Android phones do this now too, that the whole device itself, everything on it is encrypted, and doesn’t decrypt until you enter in your pass code, and the default messaging service that it comes with, iMessage, which I think is one if you consider messaging services like as social networks, it’s one of the largest social networks in terms of daily traffic in the US.
13:46 Matthew Feeney: Well, I think an added benefit to at least my present proposal, is that it prompts excuses for interesting conversations. And I don’t want to bash Google unnecessarily, right. So Google produces products that a lot of people like and are really good and easy to use, but I think if you actually introduced every adult in America to the kind of interesting companies and services that are out there, we would just living a more interesting world with people actually having more urgent conversations about security and privacy.
14:20 Paul Matzko: So, here’s maybe a selling point to get the security skeptical, the folks who aren’t paranoid enough like good, rational folks like us. You can hook them on the idea of ISP switching. Right? So you can say, “Hey look do you like the shows you see on Netflix or on Amazon Prime or on any of these other services? Well, did you know that if you just use a VPN client or an ISP switching client you can access a whole new world of content on other national Netflixes, other shows. You can watch football games for free. You can watch… ” So, all of which is legal, it’s not illegal to mask your ISP, basically what your computer identifies itself as. So not only are you giving them security, they’re using a client that obscures who they are and what they’re doing on the Internet, you’re also giving them access to do stuff, stuff that ordinary consumers like and want.
15:21 Matthew Feeney: So something I will add, not that I think I need to cause I think I’m probably getting more votes than Fitbit at this point, but well we’ll see. You should have a survey. [laughter]
15:28 Paul Matzko: Good luck.
15:28 Matthew Feeney: We’ll see. I find, and this is totally anecdotal, that there’s this frustrating degree of reluctance to do anything about the state of surveillance. The Snowden revelations come out and everyone sort of rolls their eyes and they think, “Well, what am I suppose to do about the… I can’t give up email and I’m not gonna stop using the internet or my phone, and I’m not going to stop going outside. So what should I do about this?” And actually, I think not enough people know that there are really cheap, low-cost, low-barrier to entry ways of protecting themselves, but very few… Comparatively few people do it. And I think that’s a shame.
16:03 Will Duffield: Decoder ring costs about $3 and you can get pigeons for free anywhere.
16:08 Matthew Feeney: Right. Well, you’re only allowed to have one nomination, Will, and so you can’t put in [laughter] coding rings and pigeons as well.
16:15 Paul Matzko: Well, into your point, it’s actually gone pretty mainstream. The idea that you shouldn’t just leave your laptop camera unexposed. To me it’s now become ordinary for folks to tape over it. Now manufacturers are building in a little slot like physical manual slides. So it’s something that five years ago people did respond to with, like, “What’s wrong with you, you paranoiacs? That you were worried about that?” It’s… That stuff can become accepted and even expected and an encryption is one of those things that you can see. It’s in the near future. People are just gonna demand it, as a matter of course.
16:50 Matthew Feeney: Hope so.
16:51 Paul Matzko: Yeah. Well there’s a natural segue, I think here between what Matthew’s proposing with end-to-end encryption and Aaron your idea. So pitch us your gift of the season.
17:01 Aaron Ross Powell: Sure, so this does pick up with the end-to-end encryption and expands upon it a fair amount, which is, the decentralized web. And so my… If… The product that I pick is decentralized web browsers/clients. So there’s a number of them out there. There’s the status.im is one. I think, Coinbase has Coinbase wallet, I believe it’s called, there is another that used to be called Toshi. It was the product that I think, they bought, but there’s a handful of these things. And basically what they are is a crypto wallet, usually an Ethereum wallet, they can hold Ethereum tokens of various kinds. A end-to-end encrypted messaging platform that’s sometimes built on their open protocols that are kinda part of the… Associated with the Ethereum that it gets built on. And then an ability to connect to web called decentralized web apps which are basically like regular web pages, but the data, your data as you’re browsing them, as you’re using them as you log into them is controlled by you.
18:19 Aaron Ross Powell: So you’re not really… They’re kind of spread out more, and the way that they are run is different so that they’re harder to shut down. There isn’t a centralized server that someone could go and turn off all of Facebook because it’s living across different things. So you get the effects that Matthew is talking about. You could not… It’s not email. It’s instant messaging, but you could certainly, you could build a decentralized email platform of a sort into this thing and have access to it. And these are usually mobile apps, but there’s desktop versions as well. But you also are getting the crypto thing so you can do things like basically status has what amounts to Venmo, like a Venmo client, but you’re sending each other Ethereum tokens, or other kinds of tokens, instead. And you can be browsing what looks like the regular web, but is in this decentralized more private, more robust set up, that is less accessible to government snooping, government shutting down, and so on. Will rolled his eyes when I mentioned this…
19:31 Will Duffield: Oh. I was just gonna ask whether Mastodon would… Does that meet your high bar for decentralized services?
19:39 Matthew Feeney: What’s Mastodon?
19:40 Will Duffield: It’s an attempt to decentralize Twitter. So anyone can create their own Mastodon server and ran a Mastodon instance, which is…
19:48 Aaron Ross Powell: It’s basically kind of email re-skinned to be Twitter, so your servers would be like having an email server but then they can… The servers can talk to each other. So you can… Your tweets on it get sent out to the other people who are following you and so you can switch servers and different servers can have different rules about… This is the kind of content we are gonna moderate it, we’re gonna allow or this is the advertisement we’re gonna show or not.
20:16 Aaron Ross Powell: Yeah, I mean the difference with these d’apps is that they have… They have the wallet address is part of it that you kind of have an identity that you can carry between them. It’s based on your… The keys in your wallet…
20:33 Will Duffield: And tied to payments, somehow?
20:35 Aaron Ross Powell: It can be tied to payments ‘cause it’s the same wallet address, that is the wallet address, for payments, but so they’re slightly technical, there’s technical differences on the backend, but it from the consumer standpoint, these are similar sorts of things. And I picked this one in part because they can see in this episode that if this was what was given to everyone, what would you… Then you kind of waving your magic wand and suddenly everyone in the US is using this thing. And right now these products, I fully confess, kind of suck. As instant messengers, they are a little bit slow compared to other Facebook Messenger whatever. They don’t have as many features, the apps are a little bit feel more in development, a lot of them are still in beta status.
21:23 Matthew Feeney: And no one else is on them. It’s hard to talk…
21:24 Aaron Ross Powell: And not just many people.
21:25 Matthew Feeney: To your friends on these things when they’re all still on Facebook.
21:28 Aaron Ross Powell: Sure, but all of those are issues that get overcome by…
21:32 Matthew Feeney: Say like conceit.
21:32 Aaron Ross Powell: By the conceit, which is if everyone is using it, then all of your friends are on it, and just like with the web, the original web, once lots and lots of people started using it, we started seeing really rapid development in the space, and so this is… If I can make everyone in the US, kind of start using this thing, it kick starts that development. But I think as far as the benefits of this, again kind of picking up from Matthew’s, is this allows us if we did this then by default all or most of us would be having the majority of our digital communications in an encrypted space. We would be doing it in a way… We would be interacting with the web in a way that where we own our data, have control over our data, and it is again less accessible to surveillance. And all of this would be plugged into an economic system that would allow us to have economic relationships with each other whether that’s paying your part of rent or paying at the restaurant or reimbursing your friend for something or buying products online that’s happening in this privacy respecting decentralized fashion that is outside of the reach of governments. And so in one little app, it allows us to take an extraordinary portion of our digitally-mediated lives and just move it out of the political sphere, move it out of the state sphere and move it into a place that I think is much more liberty respecting.
23:05 Matthew Feeney: I wonder if the participation in all of this is a selling point. So I guess the conceit of the episode is we just assume everyone grabs it. But it reminds me a little bit of the Tor network, that the more people that participate in this the better it becomes, and you don’t have to be a computer scientist to contribute to these interesting systems necessarily. You can just be a part of it to know that you are contributing. And some of the more exciting applications of the stuff I think, Aaron, is talking about are anti-censorship applications which would be pretty cool, especially when you consider governments like the Chinese that are pretty keen on censorship. So the sort of decentralized nature of it I think is a big selling point. You can tell people that they are actually taking part in a great social good without having to have to quit their job or to donate a huge amount of money, they can in virtue of being just part of the network they are contributing.
24:07 Aaron Ross Powell: I mean it is not an unalloyed good I guess given what we expect to go on what happens in there.
24:14 S?: Yes.
24:15 Will Duffield: I don’t know the Tor comment… There you can use Tor and then you can help to cover for government spies. And if you’re a good patriotic person, maybe you really enjoy that. But if you are skeptical as to how the US behave around the world…
24:33 Matthew Feeney: Angels and demons are gonna use every new piece of technology, and there are costs to our privacy and our security with all different kinds of technology. I’m certainly willing to put that in the cost column but we shouldn’t forget the huge number of benefits too.
24:48 Aaron Ross Powell: I would also say that with the exception of Fitbit, these are tech that the demons are already using. We are not… This isn’t a tech that we’ve kind of made up out of whole cloth. It is already out there. You can download, you can use Tor right now if you want to, you can run Protonmail if you want to, you could download the status client and run it on your phone right now if you want to. And so people who have a strong incentive to be using this stuff because they are up to no good are already using it. So simply asking lots and lots of more people to use it means that you’re just… You’re likely to be bringing in a whole bunch of people who aren’t gonna be using it for no good.
25:26 Paul Matzko: Yeah. That’s a good point. Well, this also reminds me something else I think we have the difference here between the concrete and my own example will be concrete as well The Fitbit or the Smart diapers, I’ll be talking about and then encryption and decentralized internet that which is more abstract and also it only works because of our conceit. Because if it comes to small scale innovation, you need to give consumers a reason to buy. They are more likely to say “I wanna buy this thing because in isolation if I have it my life is better,” versus “I am gonna buy this hoping a million other people buy it and then we’ll all benefit with scale.” Right? So the conceit of the episode is necessary for this to happen. But it makes you wonder with the original internet, right? So how do you go from only essentially government and researchers, academic researchers and the government using the early stages of the internet to mass adoption ‘cause we had to bridge that abstract divide at one point 20-30 years ago, right. And…
26:34 Paul Matzko: But then again there was kind of a killer app in the sense of… Remember what you circulated if you wanted to get your grandma surfing online, what did you use?
26:44 Aaron Ross Powell: That AOL disk?
26:45 Paul Matzko: Yes exactly. You deluge them with like free internet time, the little discs, AOL online.
26:52 Will Duffield: I think that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say anything good about that in decades.
26:56 Paul Matzko: I know yeah, it is all gonna be counter-intuitive here but there was something good about it which was that it was an entry point for folks who weren’t… They were not thinking about, “Can I build this thing called the Web 1.0 that will benefit all of society through rapid innovation and joining us together.” No they were thinking, “Oh if I get this physical CD and load it on my computer and click on this stuff I can like chat with people in the chatroom.
27:20 Will Duffield: Well and they advertised that. I mean looking at early internet advertising can be fascinating because they really are selling not just their service but the idea of the Internet as a product. The old what was it E-Trade or there’s a video of Bill Clinton when he’s in right at the end of his second term lame-duck and Hillary leaves him to go campaign and he is bumming around the White House and he has an intern teaching him how to use the internet and they’re mimicking a popular internet commercial of the time. And we can put that up in the show notes.
27:58 Paul Matzko: Yeah we’ll have to.
28:00 Will Duffield: It’s a fun one looking at how this was sold.
28:01 Paul Matzko: As long as the intern… As long as the intern wasn’t Monica Lewinsky.
28:04 Will Duffield: No it’s a dude it’s all fine.
28:07 Paul Matzko: But I mean again there you have the illustration right like there has to be an entry point into this abstract thing. Some of the things you’re mentioning Aaron like the ability you have a crypto wallet that is easy to use, easy to exchange in the way that can’t be tracked by whoever, by you know ad companies, by corporations, by the government what you’re spending money on online that’s an entry. But people get why that that could have value so I think that’s a key way of thinking about that. Well why don’t we return to something a bit more grounded it my killer product for this holiday season is something that I think all parents will appreciate, or people who’ve had kids in the past. Most kids you know you don’t wanna lump of coal in you’re stocking at Christmas but all I want for Christmas is to avoid a lump of something else in my kid’s diapers.
29:01 S?: How long did he spend writing that joke?
29:03 Paul Matzko: Almost 10 second.
29:04 Aaron Ross Powell: He pulled out he’s got it written down.
29:06 Paul Matzko: I got it written down, it was that, it was that important to me that I get that out. But okay, so Aaron will get this as someone who has kids I get this as someone who has a kid, being a parent is both incredibly amazing and the worst at the same time. And the worst part about being a parent at least for the first couple of years is changing diapers, right? Like that kids…
29:26 Will Duffield: I though it was the sleep deprivation.
29:30 Paul Matzko: Well, it is like maybe a close…
29:32 Aaron Ross Powell: Changing diapers while sleep-deprived is certainly a poor combination.
29:35 Paul Matzko: That’s… Yeah, yeah that’s not a great combination either when you’re so sleep deprived you drop the diaper that you just changed and… Yeah, kids produce an astonishingly amount of incredibly disgusting substances and that’s like you that’s what you’re dealing with when you change diapers, and when you change them anyone who’s changed diapers knows… Here’s the process for you guys who don’t have kids. It’s you’ve been an hour or two since the last diaper change you start getting suspicious, it’s time for another. You know you think you see an abnormal bulge in the pants of your kid, is it though just a little urine that can be ignored safely for an hour or two or is it you know did they drop some poo and you have to change it or else it’s gonna just create a massive mess? You have to check. So you start with the sniff test, you just stick your nose there and take a good old whiff, and that’s the first diagnosis test.
30:32 Paul Matzko: And if that fails you have to you go spelunking, you try to check in the back of the diaper to see if you see something right. Like it is unpleasant, this is a deeply unpleasant thing but you have to do it or else your kid will get rashes, your kid will create messes, it’s just part of parenting. So my killer innovation for this holiday season it’s actually from a new outfit called, “Verily,” which is actually under the Google Alphabet umbrella company it’s their life sciences division. But they patented a smart diaper that will be able to distinguish between urine and poop, It will measure conductivity, impedance, temperature in the fibers of the diaper itself to detect the presence of liquids and solids. So all the diapers would come with that sensing fiber built in and then you’d have like a detachable relay that would send the information to an app on your smartphone so you change the kids diaper, you pop the little relay on and you will know real-time, live updates. Has your kid gone? What have they done? Do I need to change them now?
31:37 Paul Matzko: And like the amount of mess and frustration unpleasant sniffing that you would have to do as a parent would go down dramatically if you just knew that information. Like it sounds like a small thing compared to a new web or like better health outcomes for you with your Fitbit or avoiding government surveillance. But when it comes to like the lived experience of millions of parents in this country having that kind of information makes your life quantifiably better on a day-to-day basis.
32:09 Matthew Feeney: I think you’ve given a great pitch, but at this point only five people are still listening…
32:15 Matthew Feeney: [32:15] ____ description of…
32:17 Will Duffield: I like it, you know any time we can be…
32:19 Matthew Feeney: We’re just gonna claim the win right.
32:21 Will Duffield: Yeah anytime…
32:21 Paul Matzko: Everyone just eat lots of turkey and now you’re…
32:24 Matthew Feeney: I feel slightly like I am flat eye. [32:26] ____.
32:26 Will Duffield: You’ll have kids soon Matthew. Any time you can be pro-tech and pro-natalism that seems good to me. Now, how does this… I hear Google involved in this. What kind of data do they get from this? Is there a…
32:45 Aaron Ross Powell: When you open up the diaper to change it you see a pad…
32:46 Will Duffield: Interaction…
32:46 Will Duffield: Well yeah but are we getting literally cradle-to-grave data collection now, where they use that to predict future behaviors about you. How long did it take for you to become potty-trained etcetera? What does that say about impulse control and on?
33:02 Paul Matzko: Well, in a less dystopian vision of that would be like, “Hey we know how many diapers you’ve changed so we know you’re running out of diapers, it’s time for automatic subscription to diapers on the Amazon to ship you a package. You could also imagine a use case where you say, as that tech gets more advanced, it’s not just detecting what did they do, it’s detecting information about, well, does your kid have…
33:30 Will Duffield: Like a stool sample.
33:32 Paul Matzko: Stool yeah… It’s essentially doing stool sampling giving information that goes to their doctor, to your pediatrician, who can monitor and like, “Oh no, they’ve had… They might have diarrhea and it’s time for you to bring them in for dehydration to check like, this could actually improve health outcomes for kids as well. And it’s not just kids. I was thinking too, who else wears lots of diapers. It’s the elderly folks in nursing homes and hospices who… Especially if their senile, can’t do this for themselves.
34:00 Will Duffield: And there’s a real dignitary benefit, I think as well to… This knowledge being provided by the diaper rather than an elder care provider having to look down the back of a 75-year-old man’s drawers, that there’s a dignitary harm in that, no one’s really comfortable with it, and it’s unpleasant. And to receive it in the form of more sanitized data, I think, could make the experience more pleasant.
34:27 Paul Matzko: Well, and too there… In that use case, there’s a sense that… So one of the big… There’s lots of really bad health outcomes, that apply to the elderly, so like when if it’s a baby if you don’t change your diaper soon enough, they get a diaper rash which is unpleasant, they’re uncomfortable, they scream and holler, and it makes your life miserable. And so it’s good if you can mitigate that. But with the elderly if you don’t change them often enough, they get bed sores, they… Like urinary tract infections, it kills them. I mean oftentimes those are shocks the system that killed the elder… Number of times the elderly, senile elderly folks in nursing homes die because they just weren’t changed off enough is higher than you think. So this is tech that could save lives as well, and provide better quality of life too. So that’s my pitch. I guess in the Fitbit kind of category of a more literal device…
35:19 Will Duffield: You’re definitely gonna win now, ‘cause everyone doesn’t wanna be anti-old people and babies.
35:23 Paul Matzko: Yes.
35:23 Will Duffield: You’re definitely gonna win.
35:24 Aaron Ross Powell: Mine is still the best thing to receive in a box under the tree.
35:28 Paul Matzko: That’s true.
35:29 Will Duffield: We have instructions to download something or diapers…
35:32 Matthew Feeney: It’s the thought that counts.
35:34 Will Duffield: Versus.
35:35 Aaron Ross Powell: And you can make small FitBits for babies. And so Will can get in on that.
35:40 Paul Matzko: Yes.
35:40 Matthew Feeney: Yeah. Or maybe just put the Fitbit in the diaper. It is the relay. There you go. Yeah.
35:45 Will Duffield: I’ll take it.
35:47 Paul Matzko: All right. So, 8ff air, we have written down our selections, but we’re gonna go around and announce them live. So, Aaron, let’s start off with you.
35:54 Aaron Ross Powell: I gotta give my vote since, as I can’t vote for myself which mine is obviously the best if… Any of you were better than mine. That’s why I would have chosen as mine, but I’m gonna start with Matthew.
36:07 Will Duffield: Woo hoo.
36:07 Aaron Ross Powell: Just ‘cause in the… My ranking of values, the stick it to the state and in surveillance stuff…
36:15 Will Duffield: It’s just software, eating everyone else’s Christmas gifts.
36:18 Aaron Ross Powell: You’re buying them a gift certificate to something. So I’m gonna pick my first vote, it goes to Matthew’s, and then encrypted communications. My second vote goes to Paul’s diapers. Just simply because I went through three children of my own. And this sounds like it would have made things marginally easier.
36:44 Matthew Feeney: Yeah. Is it me now?
36:47 Paul Matzko: All you go.
36:47 Matthew Feeney: Yes. Alright, because I cannot vote for myself, but I also wanna stick it to the state, my first vote goes to Aaron’s Web 2.0. I’m not a parent, but I may be in the future and in the future I want that to be as little mess as possible, and I also don’t wanna come across as anti-old people or baby. So my second vote, goes to Paul.
37:10 S?: Woo hoo.
37:10 Aaron Ross Powell: All right, well. First vote, to Paul, with the smart diapers. Hey, natalism wins man.
37:21 Paul Matzko: I should have found the way…
37:22 Aaron Ross Powell: In this selection and more generally.
37:23 Paul Matzko: Should find a way of working puppies in there too, diapers for puppies.
37:29 Will Duffield: We just need kids, not people getting dogs as kids. And I think… Secondly, I’ll go for Aaron’s d’Apps. It feels like it kind of includes a lot of Matthew’s proposal as well, but it’s more expensive. And yeah.
37:50 Paul Matzko: Okay. All right. And I have Web 2.0 Aaron’s, for my first vote. And then second, for Fitbit.
37:58 Will Duffield: Finally. Someone…
38:00 Paul Matzko: You got on the board, Will’s on the board. And I think our big… It’s all gonna come down to Tess, I suspect here. So this is our producer, Tess. You have heard her voice, maybe a time or two. But weigh in Tess, give us the all-important fifth vote.
38:15 Tess Terrible: Okay, well. We’re tied with Web 2.0 and diapers. So my first vote is gonna go to Encryption.
38:26 Matthew Feeney: Thank you.
38:27 Tess Terrible: And my second vote are a tie-breaker. Though I’m not sure how this is going to promote the general welfare and building a better future tomorrow. I’m gonna go with diapers.
38:40 Paul Matzko: Woo hoo. All right, by a hair. I think diapers has a kind of… Though diapers only had one first-place vote and three second-place votes. And Web 2.0 had two first-place votes and one second. So…
38:53 Aaron Ross Powell: I think that gives it to me.
38:55 Will Duffield: Nah.
38:56 Paul Matzko: On rate choice, it might. Yeah.
38:58 Matthew Feeney: If you give two points for every first point, every first vote and then only one point for a second vote… Do you see what I mean? Yeah.
39:07 Matthew Feeney: Yeah, it does go to Aaron, then. Then five points versus four for diapers.
39:11 Aaron Ross Powell: This is the kind of procedure we should have thought through before recording.
39:14 Matthew Feeney: You know what else we should probably mention in full disclosure, because now I’m bitter. Aaron is Tess’s boss.
39:21 Matthew Feeney: And I just wanna make sure the listeners know this.
39:24 Paul Matzko: It’s a dirty pool here, a dirty pool. Well, it was good. Well, thank you all for listening to Building Tomorrow. And now you have some ideas for what to put under the tree. And probably it’s not gonna be any of these things. And until next week, be well and Happy Thanksgiving.
39:43 Paul Matzko: Building Tomorrow is produced by Tess Terrible. If you enjoy our show, please rate, review and subscribe to us on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. To learn about Building Tomorrow, or to discover other great podcasts, visit us on the web at libertarianism.org.