Advances in technology are increasing at a rate we’ve never experienced before. Many will need to decide how much privacy they’re willing to give up for the sake of convenience and the impact that AI will have on that decision. Today’s guest is Leo Laporte. Leo is a broadcaster, author, tech pundit, the former host of The Tech Guy weekly radio show, and the founder and host of Twit.tv which is a podcast network focused on technology.“The ultimate goal of the show and the podcasts is to educate people on technology so they can use it and understand it and be an active player in their own fate. It’s harder now than ever.” - Leo Laporte Click To Tweet
- [1:20] – Leo has been in broadcasting since 1976. He explains how he got into the industry.
- [5:02] – Eventually, Leo found himself learning more about technology which led to him writing for magazines.
- [9:32] – In 2004, Leo started a podcast network.
- [13:02] – Podcasting didn’t peak until 2018 and Leo already had a lot of podcast content online.
- [15:13] – Leo explains that if he were to start Twit.tv now, it would be a completely different business.
- [19:01] – Although technology has advanced, Chris admits he still loves listening to the radio and often has it on in the background.
- [21:40] – What motivated Leo to keep up was the terror and desperation callers showed when asking him questions.
- [24:09] – The goal has always been to educate people on technology but it is harder now than ever with how fast things are changing.
- [26:46] – A common problem right now is pig butchering. It is also becoming more and more apparent that many scammers are laborers.
- [31:04] – People in the field have to have the hope that people are good and we can help each other.
- [32:29] – Leo shares the experience of his ex-wife falling victim to a scam.
- [35:14] – A lot of people have the misconception that social media sites like Facebook operate like smaller businesses.
- [37:22] – Initially, AI like ChatGPT was pretty basic, but as it improves over time, scammers will be even stronger.
- [39:42] – What sounds impossible right now will be not only possible but a reality soon.
- [42:37] – If you are willing to give up some privacy, there are some real benefits you will get out of that.
- [44:17] – Leo shares what he expects will be available by the end of this year.
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Leo, thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast.
It's an honor, Chris. I don't think I have much to add about internet safety, but thank you for asking me. We've had some of the biggest names in the business. You know how to get good guests. Maybe it was the holidays, and you have a whole lot of people. Anyway, I'm glad I could be here.
I'm so excited to have you here. I was back in your studio 10 years ago, and we'll throw a photo of that in the show notes. There is proof that I was actually there.
He's wearing a fez.
The TWiT fez.
To be fair, we were all wearing fezes.
That's very true. I was looking a little bit about your background. You have been in the media in some form or another for not my entire lifetime, thank goodness, but close to it. Was that your plan?
Yeah, well, sort of. It was 1976. That's when I got my FCC radio telecommunications operator third class ticket, which in the United States at the time, you needed to work at a radio station because at radio stations, you had to take meter readings. It all started in college for me.
College wasn't going all that well. I'm not a great student. I don't know what it was. I didn't like being told what to do. I'm still a student, I guess, in many ways, but I don't like being told what I have to study. Anyway, it wasn't working out great. I think this was my sophomore year, and I decided to check out the campus radio station.
Frankly, my ambition was to be an actor. The school I was at did not have acting classes for undergraduates, so I couldn't do that. In fact, I ended up majoring in Chinese history, which I know was an example of me doing what I wanted to do. Maybe you should’ve told me not to.
To pay my way, I was working in the campus dining hall. I used to do voices as I served the mashed potatoes, which in hindsight was probably extremely annoying. People would tell me things like, “Oh, you should be in radio,” by which I now understand them to mean, “You should get the hell out of here. Go do that somewhere where people want you to do that.”
Anyway, I took it seriously. I went to the campus radio station. Like many colleges, they had a little station. Unlike colleges, this one was really an old one and was grandfathered in by the FCC. It was actually a commercial class license, so they could have ads.
It was a little bit more serious. I worked there, fell in love with it, and got my license. I took a train to New York City to the FCC office to take the test and got my license. That's 47 years ago, 48 years ago. It'd been 47 years ago last December, so I'm getting close to my 50th anniversary in broadcasting.
Yeah. I remember looking at ads where they said you have to have three-to-five years' experience and thinking, “Well, I'll never get that.” Little did I know, it was a life sentence.
Just add an extra zero to it.
Holy cow. No, but I loved it. I really have loved it. I've been able to change what I do. The industry is more abundant, a little bit partly due to the Internet, but also their own malfeasance. But I was able to jump into podcasting.
What happened is I was working in radio in the late 90s and at the same time writing for computer magazines. When I was doing radio early on, I was just a DJ or a general talk show host, but I had a hobby. I got into computing pretty early on. I was dumping a lot of quarters into Chuck E. Cheese arcade machines. I said, “There's got to be a better way.”
I went out and I got an Atari 2600, one of the original Atari game consoles. They called it the VCS, the video console system/video command system. Instead of playing Battlezone at Chuck E. Cheese, I played Atari Battlezone. It wasn't quite as good, but it saved me some quarters.
I said, “This is cool.” I thought it'd be even more cool if I got the Atari-made computer at the time, the Atari 400. I got that, and that was cool. They had Atari BASIC, and I started typing in programs from Compute! and other magazines.
It had a membrane keyboard, and my fingertips were so sore. Then they had Atari 800, which had a real keyboard. This was really Atari's clone of the Apple II. It was a 6502 processor. I got more and more into that and I thought, “This is an expensive hobby,” because a disc drive was $1500, because nobody had discs.
I said, “I better figure out a way to subsidize this,” and that was writing for magazines. I wrote for now-defunct magazines like BYTE and InfoWorld, some really obscure Atari magazines. Just little reviews and stuff, but it was a way to get stuff.
I did that for a long time. In parallel, was a talk show host and a DJ. It was only in the early 90s that I was able to merge the two. I got a chance to do a computer talk show. Thanks to John C. Dvorak, who was, at the time, a very well-known computer columnist. He became a friend, and we started doing a show together. It gradually, over the years, turned into a full-time computer call-in talk show.
I got the TV in the late 90s first with The Site. Ziff Davis, the company that I had written some stuff for and I was working for, asked me to work on a treatment for a show. They said it's top secret, but Microsoft and NBC are going to create a channel called MSNBC, and they're going to need computer programming because it's MSNBC.
They pitched Ziff Davis. They asked me to write a treatment. We went up to 30 Rock in New York City, the headquarters for NBC, when I rode up the elevator, the executive suite, and pitched along with some other Ziff Davis people, a technology show for MSNBC. They said, “Yeah.”
I was doing a show called The Site, and I played a virtual character on that called Dev Null. That was cool. I had done a little TV before that. I used to do regular segments and stuff. It's doing TV and radio at the same time, but this was really cool. MSNBC realized, really, “We're just NBC; forget the MS part.” That was when princess Diana got killed, and it became an all-new station. They dumped the technology stuff.
Ziff Davis said, “Well, OK. We'll do a 24-hour cable channel based on technology,” which was a crazy idea in 1998 called, and you may remember, it was initially called ZDTV, but so many people thought it was about pasta. We had changed the name from ZDTV to Tech TV. There's a thought.
Paul Allen, who is one of the Microsoft founders, put a lot of money into it, eventually bought it entirely around 2001. By 2004, he realized he was losing his shirt. I think he lost several hundred million dollars. When you're a multi-billionaire, […]. He sold it to Comcast, and Comcast brought in their channel called G4, which is a gaming channel, and the guy who ran that, and they decided they wanted to go youth.
They fired me. They didn't cancel the show, but they canceled a bunch of hosts who were a little over the hill and kept the younger ones. They kept doing the show, The Screensavers, which I was hosting with Patrick Norton, but they got rid of me and Patrick, because we were a little too old for the demographic they thought they were going to serve and kept the young people. So there I am in 2004.
I knew this was coming, so I had gotten back into radio. I started doing a radio show at KFI in Los Angeles, The Tech Guy. I was the tech guy on KFI—see, it rhymes. I did that for a few years.
After about three years of that, I said, “I don't know.” I had started a podcast network at the same time because I was only working on weekends. I thought, “Well, that means I have five days a week; I should do something else. I don't want to be a lazy bone,” so I started a podcast network in late 2004. First show was the radio show. Second show was what we call TWiT, This Week in Tech, and that became the name of the network.
What was it even called, podcasting back then?
Yeah. It all started, because I was doing the radio show. I was putting the shows on the web. Even from day one, I'd ask KFI, “Can I just take the recordings and put them on the web?” They said, “Yeah. Who would want that?” So I put them on the web.
In September of that year, 2004, a kid—and I'll never forget him, he's around still, and I love him—Matt Bischoff called me. He was 14 years old and said, “Hey, are you going to make a podcast out of it?” I said, “What's a podcast?” He explained, “Well, it's what you're already doing. It's an audio on the web, but it has an RSS feed so people will be alerted that you've posted a new show.” I said, “Yeah, sure, why not?” For a long time, I was just typing in the XML for the feed by hand. That was the first podcast.
About spring of 2005—actually, it started in January, 2005 at Macworld Expo, because I'm a radio guy—I had the microphone, I had the headphones and a recorder—I'd just gone to MacWorld Expo, and a bunch of my old tech TV friends, including Patrick and a few others, Kevin Rose, were at Macworld Expo. I said, “Let's go over to this brew pub, and I have the recording equipment. Let's just do a little roundtable,” so we did. It was the very first episode of TWiT.
At the time, we didn't call it what we call it, TWiT. We called it The Revenge of the Screensavers, but Comcast quickly put an end to that. I recorded it, and 20,000 people downloaded it. I went, “Well, maybe there is something to this podcast. Maybe Matt Bischoff was right.” But the problem was none of us were in the same area.
This is well before people got used to Zoom, Skype, and all that stuff. I thought, “Well, I can't really do it because I couldn't do it every week.” About April of 2005, somebody called the radio show on Skype and it sounded like we sound right now. It was like you're in the room with them.
Normally when you call, you listen to a talk radio show, it's very bad quality. This sounded so good. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Well, I'm using this thing called Skype.” That's when a lightbulb went on in my head and I thought, “Well, we could probably do a podcast this way,” and we did.
We started doing it. It was a lot of work, because I didn't have isolated tracks for each person. They were all in one big muddy puddle. People, the quality, bandwidth, and everything was terrible. So I'd spend hours after every show trying to fix it.
You're doing all your own audio editing?
It's just me. Yeah. People thought I was in my basement, but actually I tried a little attic office. It's really little; it was 10 feet by five feet or something. It's tiny, and I was doing it up there. But it grew, because it got a lot of attention. There was some demand for it, mostly because people who used to watch tech TV missed that old style. The new channel wasn't really the same.
I thought, “Well, maybe this is a business.” I started an LLC, and we slowly grew it by adding shows. It's funny, that's the way up. We peaked probably 2015, 2014, but podcasting peaked in 2017 or 2018 with Serial and all that. Some of our audience got pulled away into big name podcasts.
Now, a few years later, really, YouTube stars are really dominant. That's where most of the advertising is going to YouTube and Google. Podcasting is a little bit smaller than it was. I don't want to go out of business. A lot of podcast networks have gone out of business this year and last year. We're trying not to do that.
We're shrinking down. I now understand when a company says, “We're right-sizing,” it's not really a euphemism. It is a euphemism, but it's not. What they're really trying to do is they've got too many people. We've shrunk down a little bit, we're smaller. It's about 15 people who work for me now.
I do six shows, and I'd say we do three or four more. We have a very active membership club that has sustained us. In fact, if it weren't for that, I don't know if we'd still be around, but we fortunately. Patreon really changed everything.
I was about to say like Patreon, or was it exactly Patreon?
It's a Patreon company they acquired called Memberful that's designed specifically for what we're doing. They have the backend for when you join, you get a special feed that's just for you that is of the ad-free version of the show and stuff like that. They have all that backend, the payment system and all that. We can't do that. It's worth the cut that they take, which is not insignificant, but we don't have the expertise or the manpower to do that.
One of the amazing things about the Internet these days is that you can now work with companies like that, they take all of it off your shoulders, and you don't have to be an expert. You don't have to have someone in-house that can do everything.
I'll tell you, if I were starting TWiT today, it would be a completely different kind of business. When I was starting this in 2004, like I said, I was doing the feeds by hand. There was no infrastructure, but also I had in my head this idea that I'd come from mainstream media. I thought, “Well, I'm building a local TV station or radio station but without the antenna.” We have video, we have a studio, we have a control board. We have all the things that a small TV station would have. We stream live. We do all those things, but we do it at a fraction of the cost. At the time, I knew how much it costs to do Tech TV. I thought, “Hey, I'm 1/100 of the cost of Tech TV. Next step, profit.” For a long time that was true, but nowadays it's way overkill.
Nobody does what we do. It's silly, unless you're Marques Brownlee, to have a dedicated studio. At one point, we had a 10,000-square-foot studio with a 10,000-square-foot basement. We had 40 cameras. It got really elaborate, and mostly it's because it was my playpen.
I was about to say that a lot of my business with whatismyipaddress.com has been about, “Well, this is just fun for me.” We were talking before we started recording that I ran the website out of my house. I had a Barracuda load balancer. I had fixed wireless, because I couldn't get enough copper.
We never do that today.
This was just fun.
Yeah, but we never do it that way.
No, never. If I look back at it, I'm like, “Oh, my gosh. What in the world was I thinking?”
But you had to pretty much. That's the thing. Technology changes so fast. Everything's changed so fast. In the old days, you'd start a business. You'd probably have a few decades before things changed so much that your way of doing business was out of touch, like Polaroid or Kodak. Nowadays, that happens in five years or even less. You have to be pretty nimble, I think, to continue to succeed in this internet era.You have to be pretty nimble, I think, to continue to succeed in this internet era. -Leo Laporte Click To Tweet
How long did you have The Tech Guy radio show?
Nineteen years. I started that in 2004, and I retired last year, about a year ago. The reason was it wasn't making any money anymore. It was similar to this podcast thing. Radio is a little ahead of time. Radio is dying even faster.
They couldn't sell it anymore. I didn't want to do it for free. It wasn't quite free, but I think I was getting $5000 a month or something. It was a small amount compared to what it had been and what it should be for a national show that's on 500 stations. I just said, yeah. It was a mutual agreement. I said, “I think it's time to call it quits.”
They had somebody they wanted to use, Rich DeMuro, who does the KTLA tech stuff. He's actually syndicated all over on TV. He always wanted to do it. He was always in the wings as somebody to take over for me on vacations and stuff. I said, “Yeah, Rich would be great.” Rich has taken it over. I'm happy. He's happy. I hope they're making money on it, but honestly, radio is not a great business anymore. Who listens to the radio?
Do you really?
My wife and I were down in the Los Angeles area. We've probably listened to KFI. I've probably listened to KFI for 25–30 years.
It's the people, right?
It's the people, but we just always have a radio on in the background somewhere.
It has to coincide with your life. Almost all radio listening is in the car. Very few people listen at home. Do you listen at home too?
Yeah. I usually tell my wife to turn off the radio when I'm recording, but it's usually on.
Do you have a collection of buggies? No, I'm kidding. That's the horses.
No, no horses, no buggies. I do have the one behind me.
You do? See, there you go. You are an old timer. I love radio. The medium, that's the thing. Podcasting is the same for me. It's a voice in your ear, so I love the medium. You don't have to have a tower anymore to do it. The Internet really is superior.
I just bought a new car, and it comes with XM satellite radio. It's like, “Well, fine.” But as soon as the free subscription runs out, I'm not going to renew it, because it's all on my phone. I got it all right here.
I think that that's a good example of a business, huge capital expense to set an XM series up. But times change so rapidly, the Internet has completely changed everything. That's what your show is about, frankly. It's navigating this world that is so different from even a few years ago.
Absolutely. This is behind the scenes questions, I guess. Doing the radio show, how did you manage all the random questions that you get? It's really surprising. I have a support email address, and I don't know why people ask me the questions. I would expect all the questions would be IP address-related questions, but I get random questions.
People are desperate, and I think that's why it was hard for me to leave the show. It's hard to be a user these days. If you're lucky, you have a family member or a close friend who's willing to help you, but usually that support wears out pretty quickly. People are desperate for the information.
Here I am going on the air six hours a week, answering completely. They're screened, but only screened to see if you're a dribbling idiot or crazy. Even then it failed mostly. We don't screen for content, so it was random questions about technology. What really motivated me to keep up was sheer terror because you don't want to look like an idiot on the air.
I always promised myself that I wouldn't make up an answer or ad lib an answer that might not be accurate. I didn't want to be like ChatGPT—no hallucinations. I really said to myself again and again, “It's OK to say, ‘I don't know.’” That's in real life. That's sometimes hard for people to say, “I don't know. I don't know that.”I always promised myself that I wouldn't make up an answer or ad lib an answer that might not be accurate. I didn't want to be like ChatGPT—no hallucinations. I really said to myself again and again, “It's OK to say, ‘I don't… Click To Tweet
Every time I said I don't know, it was a stimulus to the next day to go out, find out, and learn it. The next time somebody asked that question, I'd be able to answer it. You do that for 19 years, and pretty soon you can answer pretty much every question that comes in.
If I remember right, you also had the chat room going live.
Yeah, that was always really helpful. Even when I started doing radio in the early 90s, we would have a chat room. That's why it was an IRC, because it started in the 90s. The IRC is a technology that even predates the world wide web.
These internet relay chat rooms supported me for years because there were smart people in there. I always acted like the radio show was a user group. It wasn't ask the answer man. I think sometimes people thought of it that way, but really I didn't want it to be. “I am the answer man; ask me anything.” It was more, as a community, there's pretty much nothing we can't figure out. Between me, the other people listening to the show who will call in in our chat room, we could probably answer almost any technology question. That was, I think, a sensible way to do it. I didn't want to set myself up as, “I know everything. Ask me any question.”
It wasn't Ask Jeeves.
Yeah, right. I did take great pleasure, though, in knowing this stuff. Mostly what I thought the value that I added was not merely knowing it, but being able to explain it in a way that made sense. I like to use analogies.
I didn't want to dumb it down. I never wanted to dumb it down. I wanted to treat my audience as intelligent, but I also understand that they're not computer experts and not technology experts to explain it to them in a way that they can get it.
Really, the ultimate goal of the show and even of all the podcasts that I do, is to educate people on technology so that they can use it, so they can understand it, so they can be an active player in their fate. I think that's really important. It's more important now than ever.Really, the ultimate goal of the show and even of all the podcasts that I do, is to educate people on technology so that they can use it, so they can understand it, so they can be an active player in their fate. -Leo Laporte Click To Tweet
That's always a hard line to figure out in terms of, I don't want to be hyper-technical and confuse people, and I don't want to dumb it down to where it's not helpful or doesn't help them to be able to say, “Oh, now that I know this, I can apply it to these other things.”
I didn't want to patronize people, either. I always want to assume that you're intelligent. You just don't know this particular thing. That's the nice thing. I think the thing I love about talk radio that I miss a little bit in podcasting is talk radio is a conversation, you know the other person on the other line. You can say, “Well, does that make sense?” “Do you understand that?” “What is it?” And they can do follow-ups.
It really is a dialogue, and that's something I miss a little bit in podcasting. We do our podcasts live for that reason. We have a chat room for that reason, but it isn't quite as interactive as call-in radio. There's nothing like call-in radio for that.
I can imagine. Were there recurring themes that you saw where consumers were getting themselves in over their heads?
A lot of what we did is what you do on this show, which was to help people stay safe online and particularly against scammers. That's become more and more of a problem. The people who listen to my podcasts are, for the most part, tech enthusiasts. They're somewhat well-educated on this stuff.
The people who listened to the radio show were normal people in their cars or doing their shopping. They had real questions. As you point out, every week they had real vulnerabilities. There are real soft spots out there, and the bad guys have no compunction about pushing on those.
The latest, of course, is pig butchering. I'm sure you've talked about this. I, practically every week, get on and say, “Hey, if somebody texts you and says, ‘Hi,’ they're not your friend. If somebody texts you and says, ‘Hey, this is Joe. I'm not going to be able to come into work today. Can you cover for me?’ It isn't some nice, innocent fellow who got the wrong number. It's a scammer,” and now we're learning.
I don't know if you saw The New York Times exposé on this, but now we're learning that actually the people doing these are actually, to some degree, slave labor. It's a terrible, terrible business. It just shows you how evil people can be when they're greedy.
People who are normal people but somehow get sucked into this as a job, get put in a compound, they're locked in, their passports are taken away, they're living in a dormitory with hundreds of other people and thousands of smartphones, and their tired job all day long is pig butchering. They're saying, “Hey, what's happening?” And then getting in a conversation with you.
I know you've talked about this, but it bears repeating. I'd repeat it every week on the radio show. They are not trying to get to know you. They are not your friends. Ultimately, there will be a con. Ultimately, they will take money from you. They might try to sell you cryptocurrency. They might say, “Oh, man….” They might have a sob story for you.
They are sneaky as heck, and they're terrible. The thing is, these poor people who are doing it are very strongly motivated to do it because they're, in effect, slave labor. They get in trouble if they don't deliver. It's really a terrible, terrible scam. It happens in areas of the world where they're not well regulated, and they can get away with this. It's terrible.
I know. When I got my first text message that was, “Hi,” I was like, “OK, I don't recognize this area code.”
I should just look at my phone, because I get them all the time. What's interesting is how they've gotten more and more clever about what they'll say, because what they're trying to do is—as always, as every scam, and if you listen to the show, I hope you do, you know this—every scam is to play upon your either greed, fear, or ignorance.
Or even good naturedness.
Or your good naturedness.
Like you said, “Hey, this is Bob. Can you cover my shift?” Clearly, I want to tell Bob you've got the wrong person.
Exactly. You want to be a nice guy. That's when they take advantage of your good naturedness, but almost all con games going back to time immemorial rely on your greed as well. Eventually, they're going to get you by saying, “Hey, I could invest some money for you that would make you a lot of money,” something like that. So don't fall for that. There's somebody who keeps offering me money.
They just want to support TWiT.
Yeah. No, there's somebody who thinks my name is Michelle. Never has been. I'm getting a lot of texts from somebody who's saying, “Michelle, I could lend you up to $10,000 right now.” But that's not a pig-butchering scam. That's just a sales scam. I have quite a few of these. I don't think it does any good, but usually I'll block and report. The only reason to report it is so that they can't use that phone number anymore, but that's why they have thousands of smartphones on the rack.
There are so many platforms where they can get so many.
They can spoof your number.
Yeah. It irks me to say that that happens.
The good news is that, and I'm sure you covered this, we covered it, there are three guys who were responsible for a lot of this who have been arrested. The thing is, it's not the people who are running the slave farms down in Myanmar. In order to keep getting the money into a bank account, they have to have confederates in the US and elsewhere that can help with these financial transactions. They got three of them, and that's good news. It's hard to prosecute this stuff. That's the real reason it exists.
Because so many of the people moving the money are people that have been snookered into a scam of moving the money. In a sense, yeah, they've now become complicit in the crime, but they're a victim in the same way.
Right. It makes you despair about humankind. I know you had Troy Hunt on. He's one of the greatest people in the world. I don't know how he keeps his good humor because he's seen all of these horrible scams. At some point, I would just say people are awful.
I think we do it because we have the hope that there are people out there that are good. We want to help those people. The evil people, they'll get what's coming to them.
Or they won't, whatever. Ninety-nine point nine percent of humans are great and are wonderful, but we all have this little tiny bit of devil in us. Unfortunately, some people let it take over. It makes me sad when I see it. It’s really sad.
I want to ask you a question that I would normally have asked you before we started recording. I don't mean to put you on the spot; not intentional. I'm always trying to talk about how people should not feel ashamed if they've fallen for a scam or if they've been hacked.
I try to particularly ask people who are in cyber security or who talk about scams a lot. Have you ever been scammed, hacked, fallen victim to a cyber security incident, or someone in your family?
Pretty lucky, I haven't, but my ex-wife did to the tune of $5000. It was a pig-butchering scam. It's sad because she is just the most generous, kind, and loving person, and that's why they get her every single time.
Our landscape gardener, I guess his Yahoo! Mail—this was really common a few years ago—got hacked. We got an email from him from his address. He knew our name because they'd gone through his email, so he knew our name. He knew his name. He knew his business.
It said, “Hi, Jennifer. I'm in Europe and I just got mugged. They took my passport. They took my wallet. I don't know who to call. If you can wire me a thousand dollars, I can get home. I want to come back to work next week.” She was this close to sending the money. She's the one in our family who keeps getting bit. I don't know what it is. I've told her again and again.
It's really easy to fall for this stuff. I've come close. I got a link somewhere that looked like it was a link to Twitter. I clicked it, and it was a Twitter login page. That's when I started thinking. I looked at the address, and it wasn't TWITTER, it was TVVITTER. But on the screen, it looked really close to TW. Had I entered my credentials, then they would have gotten my Twitter account.
One way I avoid this, fortunately I saw it, but even if I hadn't seen it, and you've said this a million times, turn on two-factor, because even if I had entered my login and password, they wouldn't have been able to get my account because they wouldn't have had the two-factor. I know it's an annoyance. It's the hardest thing in the world to get your sophisticated family and friends to do this, but it makes a huge difference.
Even my wife, who I wish she would, is reluctant to use two-factor because it's inconvenient. I keep hammering at home. There are these stages that you get your loved ones and your family to go through. First one, get a gosh darn password manager and use it. Second one, turn on two-factor. But if you can get people to do this maybe inch by inch, they won't get scammed for the most part. They really are going to be a lot safer online. They're much less likely anyway to get hacked or lose their Facebook account.
We used to get that call on the radio show all the time. “I lost my Google account, lost my Facebook account.” It's a tragedy for those people, especially as many did if they're running their business through their Facebook account. They haven't just lost their personal account, they've lost their business account. It's a tragedy.
I think people also assume that Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple are normal mom-and-pop businesses like your storefront down the street. They're not. They're massive behemoths.
I had one caller call the show. She said, “I lost my Google account, but you know what? I found their offices in Irvine. I went down there and banged on the door.” I said, “Oh, interesting. Did anybody answer?” She said, “No.” I said, “Nobody's inside that building. If they are, they're salespeople. They can't help you.” People assume it's a normal business. Google, for the most part, tech support is a Python script. It's not a human being.
There's no phone number you can call for tech support.
Unless you pay them. If you pay them for something—this is the other thing I try to drill into people's heads. We're so used to free internet. We forget that nothing's free. One of the things you give up with a free service is support. They can barely afford support when you buy a $3000 laptop. Support is a very expensive thing to do. It takes humans; it takes call centers. It's an expensive thing to do.
Don't expect support. Don't expect much sympathy even if you lose your account. It probably says somewhere in the fine print. It probably says exactly that. “Don't hold us responsible. It's not our fault.”
That's a tough thing for people. It's like, “Oh, my account got compromised.” Clearly, something bad happened to you, and there's nowhere that you can go.
There's very little recourse, yeah. That was the hardest call for me to take on the radio show for 19 years. First, it was their AOL account, then it was their Excite account, then it was their GeoCities account, and then it was their Google account. It's been going on for 19 years, and we never learn. We never learn, but what are you going to do?
It'll be a ChatGPT account next.
I guess get ready. I'm just fascinated. I'm sure you are by the advent of AI. For a long time, I was very skeptical about it because it just seemed like it's a parlor trick. Nice. It's able to generate reasonable sounding text, but it's not very intelligent. But increasingly, we're getting closer and closer to a time when it is, and this is going to really enable scammers. They won't need slave farms anymore. This is going to be a huge, not improvement in the quality of the attacks, but a vast increase in the number of attacks.
Yeah, because they can ramp it up if they're not relying on a human being to enter stuff. It's all infinitely scalable, which is scary.
I have a lot of friends who work in AI, but I have one friend in AI who's very bullish about AI. He says it's going to get really weird in the next 10 years. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that I think he might be right. We're talking about how quickly the business cycle has turned in the Internet era. You ain't seen nothing.
Yeah. A good example, Sports Illustrated created a bunch of AI authors to write for their website to promote products and created personalities for each of these AI authors. Someone called them out on it, and all of a sudden, all that content is gone. The CEO is now gone.
We're going to see a lot more of that. That's not going to stop anybody. It's just the beginning. I think that you will, I will, and everybody listening will at some point in the next five to 10 years have a very competent AI assistant. I'm not talking Siri, Alexa, or Google. I'm talking about an AI assistant that actually can do stuff for you. I think that's just around the corner.
I use ChatGPT. They have that new thing that you can create a GPT, which is what we in the old days just called an expert system. Imagine if you're an auto repair guy. You could get all the manuals that you have, all that six-foot shelf of paper that you have to thumb through to figure something out. If you could get an AI to ingest it all, then you could just query the AI. “Hey, I'm looking here at the lug bolt on the oil tank and it seems to be stripped. What should I do?”
It can tell you and show you, “That's here. That's here.” I've created a couple of them for the programming language I use. I used to have to thumb through books, search for answers, go to Stack Exchange and places. What I did is I fed it all the books that I use. I said, “Don't ever answer anything that's not in the book.” I don't worry about it making up stuff, and I get very useful, competent answers.
It's a smart index in some respects, but it also synthesizes. It can say, “Oh, I see they're talking about that subject here, this subject there, and that subject there. I can put those three things together into a coherent paragraph.” That saved me searching around. We're there already. That's happened. I think that there are going to be some really useful tools that we will be getting.
It was a huge revolution in technology when the App Store happened. The App Store revolution started on the iPhone, is now on Android. That created a whole new multi-billion dollar economy, and completely changed how we use computers. We're about to enter the App Store era for AI. I think the same explosion is going to happen over the next few years in AI apps, whether it's on your phone, on your TV, in your car.
Everywhere you go, there will be a personal knowledgeable assistant who can help you in real ways. I'm not talking like Siri—“Let me show you what I found on the web about that”—but real useful ways.
I'm looking forward to the day where my glasses have, I guess, AR built into them. It knows this is somebody that you know. I'm one of those people who, if I only interact with somebody in a particular context, and I run across them at the grocery store, they're like, “Hey, Chris.” And I'm just like, “I have no idea who you are.” The glasses will say, “Hey, this is Bob.”
“You bought your bacon from this guy. You see him every day.” No, we're there, by the way, very close to it. Meta's Ray-Ban glasses now are very competent. They have an AI assistant. They talk to you, and they just added a feature that has a camera. You can take a picture of something and say, “What's that?” Or, “Translate that.” Or, I think, soon, “Who is that?” The only thing that's stopping that right now is privacy issues.
This is where I'm funny. I'm a privacy advocate, but at the same time, and this has always been the case, if you are able and willing to give up some of your privacy, which I do, by the way, I have no privacy, there are some real benefits that you can get out of that. I think that's going to be a really interesting debate over the next few years of do you want this AI to be useful or do you want to be completely private? I think many people say, “No, no. I don't care.” But those of us who are willing to give up our privacy might get some real benefits. There might be something to watch out for.I think that's going to be a really interesting debate over the next few years of do you want this AI to be useful or do you want to be completely private? -Leo Laporte Click To Tweet
I would love to see AI good enough that I have an interaction. It's always watching us. Not necessarily recording it, but it's, “Hey, you had a conversation with Bob.” Your AI now knows who Bob is. “He talked about his wife, his kids.”
We can do that today, the only thing stopping is privacy concerns. The Humane Pin, the pin on there is intended to record all your conversations. I have a good friend who asked permission. The three of us sitting around a table, recorded the conversation. A couple of minutes later, he says, “Well, here are some of the synopsis.”
He had the device record us, transcribed it, sent it to an AI, synopsized it, provided a task list of things we were going to do, action items. It did all in a matter of a minute or two at a low cost, but it has privacy issues. You can't go around recording every conversation you have. Or can you, or should you? This is going to be an interesting question.
I would love that thing for meetings, where everyone's in agreement. We're on this Zoom call together. We know it's going to be recorded. At the end of the meeting, the AI kicks back, “Hey, Chris. You’re going to take care of this, and you're going to get it done by this date. So and so, you're going to take care of these things.”
Right. You can do that already, and that's only going to get by the end of this year, by the end of 2024. Absolutely, you'll have those features. It will be opt in. I guess it has to be an opt-in.
Personally, I would love it if it could just record my whole day. I can't because of privacy issues, but I would love every conversation I have, every interaction I have. That's how it would know that that's your butcher. It would only know that that's your butcher, because it was recording your interactions with them at the butcher shop.
Honestly, it's going to happen because the companies that are doing this know you want it. They also know you want privacy, but they know you want it, so they're going to find a way to give it to you.
The impression I get is the vast majority of people say they want privacy, if you ask them, “Do you want privacy?” But in practice, they want just a very minimal amount of privacy. “I want this stuff to be public, but this is the small subset of stuff I want to be private.”
I'm not saying you don't have every right. It's completely correct that you should get to choose. It's your stuff. You should totally get to choose. I'm not disagreeing with that. I'm just saying there's a price to be paid. AI isn't going to be as good as you'd like it to be.
Yeah. We live in very, very interesting times.
We do. That's the truest thing ever said. It's amazing.
The fact that we can have this conversation on opposite ends of California and the video quality is great.
This is lightyears ahead of when I started podcasting, what we could do. It blows me away. We were talking before the show about bandwidth. Most people have amazing bandwidth that we completely take for granted. But for you and me trying to run our little businesses on a dial-up line or a T1, this is amazing. We know we still take it for granted.
The fact that I've got a fiber internet connection coming into my home for under a hundred dollars a month with 99.999% uptime compared to 20 years ago, or I guess closer to 30, 20 some-odd years, or 25 years ago, a 1.5 megabit DSL was cutting edge. That was, “Oh, my gosh. That's fast, Chris.”
I got an ISDN line. It wasn't so long ago. I got an ISDN line. This was very complicated. You have to have a CSU, DSU, all this equipment. What did I get? I got 128 kilobits times two. It was barely faster than a 56K modem. It was like four 56K modems, but boy, did I feel like I was living in the space age.We've come so far. We're, I think, going to continue to go so far. I think the next thing is AI. Get ready, because it's going to be a wild ride. -Leo Laporte Click To Tweet
That was just a few years ago. That was my first broadband connection. We've come so far. We're, I think, going to continue to go so far. I think the next thing is AI. Get ready, because it's going to be a wild ride.
It is. We have gone an appropriate length of time here.
Are you saying it's over?
If it were you and me, we're sitting in the house together, I'd go on for about four hours, but we have families that are going to be looking at their watches saying, “What is this guy doing?”
My wife said, “Are you doing another podcast? All right, I'm going to Target.” I got until the Target run is over. No, I think this is probably a good time to wrap it up.
I think this is perfect. Where can people find more about TWit? And what are the shows again that you guys run?
It's really simple. The best thing to do is Google TWiT. To my knowledge, let me open an incognito page to make sure this is still true. If you Google TWiT, I think we're the number one thing you'll find. Right after Merriam-Webster’s definition of a silly, annoying person, a fool, you'll find us. Tech podcasts from people you trust. This Week in Tech. Just Google TWiT; it still works.
Right between the definitions. Pregnant goldfish and a silly, annoying person. That's me.
A pregnant goldfish, that's awesome.
Every week, I get an email from somebody saying, you know what TWiT really means?
“Yes. I've been doing this for a little while.” Leo, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
My pleasure. It's so great to talk to you, Chris. Come visit us again.