Walking down the supermarket aisle in search of coffee, I have this warm inner glow. If I choose a pack that boasts the Fair Trade logo, or that of any other third-party certifying agency, I’ll be doing good just by paying a little more for something that I am going to buy anyway. The extra I pay will find its way to the poor farmers who grow the coffee, and together enlightened coffee drinkers can make their lives better. But it seems I’m at least somewhat mistaken. Certified coffee is certainly better than nothing, but it isn’t doing as much good as I fondly imagine. And the price premium I pay could be doing a lot more.
In this episode I hear about coffee that’s more ethical than fair, and about some of the ways in which Fair Trade falls short.
Facebook, Twitter, and now Google have discovered that Russia bought political ads during the election. Kaspersky is spying. So is the Google Home Mini. Google buys 60db. Project Loon may give Puerto Rico Internet while Elon Musk gives them power, and Zuckerberg looks on in VR. Don't try to rob a bank using information you find online. YouTube bans bump stock videos. Carl's Jr begs Amazon to buy them in bizarre Twitter campaign. Oculus announces a standalone VR headset. Google Assistant has a higher IQ than Siri.
Google is 19 years old. Its present to us? Cool Google Doodles. Its present to itself? 2,000 HTC Engineers. Google and Levi's make a smart jacket. Google might make a better-sounding Home. Amazon is definitely making approximately 724 new Echo devices, including a smaller Echo, Zigbee-enabled Echo Plus, Echo Spot, Echo Buttons, and more. Just don't try playing YouTube videos on your Echo Show. Twitter tests 280 character limits.
Google has a whole lotta leaks. Pixel 2 XL! Google Home Mini! Google Pixelbook! Coral Daydream VR headsets! Google might buy HTC's phone division any second now. Chrome will block autoplay videos in January. Google Tez makes payments with sound in India. Apparently everyone is letting users target ads using racist phrases. And we celebrate 20 years of Google.
Ron's pick: Sonarr app
Jason's Pick: Instal custom Oreo themes with Substratum and Andromeda
Starting with this audio bit I’m making a few changes.
I’m ditching the episode numbers. My audio bits are not a podcast, they aren’t really episodes, and keeping track of the numbers is just more work. I will, however, denote in the title that this is an audio post.
I’m also switching to the audio format that comes directly out of Voice Memos on the iPhone rather than doing the work of converting the file to MP3. If you have any issues listening to this audio file please let me know.
Qualcomm (which is a TWiT sponsor) says Android beats iPhone. Samsung wants a folding phone. Everybody hates Silicon Valley, especially Facebook - most especially, the ex-Googlers who founded Bodega. Oxford commas, "they" as a neutral singular pronoun, and how to pronounce cuneiform. Pharma bro: do not pass go. Blueborn attack could affect 5 billion devices. Equifax - now that none of our information is private, what's next? Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review. Welcome Alexis Ohanian Jr.
Tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance at (one) source
In the past year or so there has been a slew of high-level meetings pointing to antibiotic resistance as a growing threat to human well-being. But then, resistance was always an inevitable, Darwinian consequence of antibiotic use. Well before penicillin was widely available, Ernst Chain, who went on to win a Nobel Prize for his work on penicillin, noted that some bacteria were capable of neutralising the antibiotic.
What is new about the recent pronouncements and decisions is that the use of antibiotics in agriculture is being recognised, somewhat belatedly, as a major source of resistance. Antibiotic manufacturers and the animal health industry have, since the start, done everything they can to deny that. Indeed, the history of efforts to regulate the use of antibiotics in agriculture reveals a pretty sordid approach to public health.
But while it can be hard to prove the connection between agriculture and a specific case of antibiotic resistance, a look at hundreds of recent academic studies showed that almost three quarters of them did demonstrate a conclusive link.
Antibiotic resistance – whether it originates with agriculture or inappropriate medical use – takes us back almost 100 years, when infectious diseases we now consider trivial could, and did, kill. It reduces the effectiveness of other procedures too, such as surgery and chemotherapy, by making it more likely that a subsequent infection will wreck the patient’s prospects. So it imposes huge costs on society as a whole.
Maybe society as a whole needs to tackle the problem. The Oxford Martin School, which supports a portfolio of highly interdisciplinary research groups at Oxford University, has a Programme on Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease. They recently published a paper proposing a tax on animal products produced with antibiotics. Could that possibly work?
Here’s another great example of a negative externality. Too often capitalism brushes over these and creates a larger longer term cost by not taking these into account. It’s almost assuredly the case that taxing the use of these types of antibiotics across the broadest base of users (eaters) (thereby minimizing the overall marginal cost), would help to minimize the use of these or at least we’d have the funding for improving the base issue in the future. In some sense, the additional cost of eating organic meat is similar to this type of “tax”, but the money is allocated in a different way.
Not covered here are some of the economic problems of developing future antibiotics when our current ones have ceased to function as the result of increased resistance over time. This additional problem is an even bigger worry for the longer term. In some sense, it’s all akin to the cost of smoking and second hand smoke–the present day marginal cost to the smoker of cigarettes and taxes is idiotically low in comparison to the massive future cost of their overall health as well as that of the society surrounding them. Better to put that cost upfront for those who really prefer to smoke so that the actual externalities are taken into account from the start.
How important is it for companies to have good morals? Hackers in US power grid. An Oreo deep dive. Essential Phone: beautiful, unfixable. Facebook code controls 16% of the average website. Will Apple or Amazon make the next James Bond film? Farewell, Solaris. Good riddance, Juicero.
Google partners with Walmart to take on Amazon. Amazon's Whole Foods acquisition clears the FTC. Google Home gets phone calling and Bluetooth features. Supreme Court may have to decide if you can google that on Bing. New Chromebook Pixel and Google Home Dot? Google Assistant headphones? Treble might work on existing phones. Android Oreo is official. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is super expensive - unless you bought a Note 7. Terms of service controversies from Sonos, Plex, and Uber. Plus: Hamburger Helper, peanut butter Oreos, foie gras lollipops, queso, bisto, and chicken in a can.
Jeff's number: What FB is paying and expecting for Watch episodes
Stacey's thing: The Prepared
Jason's tool: Google's Inbox can finally show multiple email accounts at once
Use the internet to help hurricane Harvey victims. Leo discovers ASMR. Google takes Tango down a notch with ARCore. New Pixel Phones 10/5. 2017 Eclipse Megamovie. Google Translate crowdsources Mr. Squidward Kim Jong Il. Should Estonia nationalize the internet? How the CIA made Google. Essential leaks customer drivers licences. Facebook's transparency mess. Amazon officially owns Whole Foods. Cortana and Alexa get all smoochy. Uber's new CEO is ready for a big job.
Neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer kicked off Go Daddy, Google, Cloudflare, Twitter, and more. Essential phone will be here next week. Pixel 2 passes the FCC, will feature squeezable sides. Allo on the web is still too limited. YouTube will show how many people are watching right now. Mark Zuckerberg's political ambitions. Ordering pizza on Facebook. Trump's DOJ wants 1.3 million IP addresses of people protesting Trump. Ikea smart bulbs work with HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Home.
Google engineer writes men's rights diatribe. Google fires him. Discussion ensues. Also: Deepmind vs. Starcraft, get a new phone every 30 days, Amazon's secret brands, Instagram depression, and the 8th best tech writer in the US.
US Digital Service - making government better. Alphabet Q2 earnings up, stocks down. Chrome's ad blocker is available to devs. Not everybody likes Google's plan to track offline sales. Is privacy a fad? Facebook hits 2 billion users. Bitcoin splits, and miners revolt. ACLU supports John Oliver. Millennials confused by discovery of broadcast TV.
Jeff's Number: $600/head SV restaurant with gold-flecked steaks
Matt Cutt's Thing: Hack the Pentagon!
Kevin Marks' Stuff: IndieWeb.org, Liberty Foundation, extra thumb prosthetic
Awesome to see/hear Matt Cutts return to the show.