If you're American, it's easier than ever to go to Cuba, a country that's remained, mas o menos, off limits for the last 60 years or so. In fact, you can go to cheapair.com, buy a ticket, fill out a couple forms confirming you fit into one of several broad approved categories of person (you probably do), and hop on a flight direct to Havana. But should you?
As we've explored in a series of stories over the last couple weeks, Cuba is still very much an island ruled by an authoritarian regime, with nearly all industry and services owned and operated by that regime. There's little starvation or homelessness on the island, but there's also very little free expression, internet access, or free flow of information. Overt propaganda is everywhere, and there are neighborhood watch groups specifically designed to inform on people who are "counterrevolutionary."
And so, if you go to Cuba to sit on a beach, smoke cigars, and drink mojitos, you are ostensibly putting money directly into the pockets of that regime. Maybe that bothers you, maybe it doesn't. But should it? After spending three weeks reporting in Cuba, I spoke to Jose Luis Martinez of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba about this topic and about the general internet connectivity and technological situation in the country.
Afterwards, Motherboard staffers talk about their biggest work technology gaffes—if you've done anything particularly embarrassing, please tweet it my way: @jason_koebler.
Who goes to the Pokemon World Championships in 2015? Well, we did, for one—mostly to find out who else was there.
Well over a decade after its heyday, Pokemon is still going strong. There's now nearly 800 Pokemon, but there are still lots of kids, teens, and older nerds trying to catch 'em all. We caught up with some of the best players of both the card game and the video game at Boston's World Championships to see how the community has changed over the last few years.
Uber drivers set their own hours, file taxes independently, and often own their cars. They don’t get health insurance from Uber and they don’t wear uniforms. And yet, Uber controls much of what they do by setting prices, handling their tips, and micromanaging them through its driver rating system. Are these drivers independent contractors, working for a strict boss? Or are they employees, entitled to benefits and covered expenses?
A law firm has filed a class action lawsuit against Uber in California on behalf of the state’s drivers, alleging that the company had misclassified them as independent contractors. Uber is going to the mat to defend the status quo, arguing that the class is too large, that drivers want to be independent contractors (which isn’t really material to their classification), and even trying to make itself seem more like Wal-Mart.
Brian Shiro really wants to go to space. He wants to go to space so badly, in fact, that he’s applied to NASA’s astronaut program. Twice. Both times he fell just short. He’s hoping the third time’s the charm.
Until then, he’ll be heading up Astronauts4Hire, an appropriately-named astronaut contracting service. Wth A4H, Brian hopes to open doors for aspiring astronauts to the burgeoning commercial space industry, and also provide flight and simulation training to pad their resumés.
I first learned about Brian’s story while editing a profile of him published a few weeks ago on Motherboard. The story was written by Sarah Scoles, an ace science writer (who, in a past life, did research on one of the telescopes in the Quiet Zone in Green Bank, West Virginia). It’s a fascinating look into the psyche of someone with perhaps the biggest dream of all, a dream more potent than ever as a new space racestruggles to get off the ground.
I thought it would be worth exploring Brian’s story a bit further. I chatted with both him and Sarah about where A4H is going, why “space is hard” is a tired excuse for companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, and what needs to happen for commercial space travel to be open to everyone, not just rich folks who can afford $100,000 tickets to low-Earth orbit. Also: Are either of them game for a one-way ticket to Mars?
After listening be sure to check out Sarah’s original profile of Brian Shiro on Motherboard.
We travel to the crater of the first atomic bomb with one of the youngest and last surviving Manhattan Project scientists. This is his story.
When did you get rid of your last computer or cell phone? It was probably pretty recently—we replace our technology all the time. But it's not this way for everyone: A contingent of diehard retro computing enthusiasts are still programming, hacking, tinkering with, and playing games on the Apple II, a 38-year-old computer originally released in 1977.
And every July, about 70 of these diehards head to Rockhurst University in Kansas City for KansasFest, a conference dedicated exclusively to all things Apple II. More accurately, it's kind of like a sleepaway camp. For six days, the 70-or-so attendees will eat together, sleep in the same dorm, chug mountain dew to stay awake, and hack away at these things.
I visited KFest, as it's affectionately known, to see why anyone would ever want to keep using a computer that's coming up on its 40th anniversary.
For the last six months or so, you've been listening to us talk at you about simulated universes and head transplants and transhumanism and all sorts of topics (and we thank you very much for that). But we haven't really told you all that much about ourselves.
This week on Radio Motherboard, there is no guest, there is no topic, and there are no real rules. Instead, we bring through a whole bunch of Motherboard staffers (as in, whoever was available at the time) to learn what exactly it is they do around these parts. Along the way we talk about filming documentaries, corgis and professional wrestling, digital journalism, and, of course, encryption and security.
I've also heard back from our Editor-in-Chief Derek Mead, who shamefully informed me that those Vultures over at New York Magazine pulled off a 9-8 victory over the Vice softball team in a heartbreaker. This will all make sense later, I promise.
It’s now been just over a year and a half of the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. We’ve dabbled in vaccines, but the best prevention method is still abstaining from contact with symptomatic patients, and the best treatment is still basically hydration. We’ve figured out that Ebola survivors seem at least temporarily immune, making them ideal health workers, but we still haven’t perfected treatment protocols and caretakers are still dying from the disease.
This week on Radio Motherboard, we spoke to Kayla Ruble, who covered the outbreak in Liberia for Vice News, and who says we’ve learned that the most effective way to fight Ebola is to be aggressive with the most basic tactics: public awareness, basic sanitation, and working with the local culture instead of against it. We also talked to Mahad Ibrahim, who ᔒconsulted with the Liberia Ministry of Health & Social Welfare in order to organize information coming out of the outbreak. He says we’ve learned that computers and mobile phones simply don’t work the way they’re intended in a crisis, and it’s better to have local health workers and volunteers take down notes on paper and digitize it later.
We also spoke to Decontee Davis, who contracted the virus almost exactly a year ago. She’s the woman who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her fiancé before he died a few wards over. “People are still afraid. Even me, I am afraid,” she said. “If there is a single case, Liberia is still [in] outbreak. Right now, we have up to four cases. People are still afraid.”
“I will be happy when Liberia is completely Ebola free.”
In October 2012, the gossip site Gawker published an edited video of Hulk Hogan having sex. In response, the former pro-wrestler sued the company. It's now going to court in a case that could have wide-ranging consequences for the First Amendment.
On this most American of holidays, it’s a good time to take a look at how we select the people who run this ol’ country many of you call home. Like everything else, social media and technology are playing a huge role in campaign strategy.
Much was made of President Obama’s digital campaign, and for good reason: He lapped Mitt Romney in reaching people online with the help of his CTO, Harper Reed. Reed and Dylan Richard, the Director of Engineering for Obama’s campaign, joined us this week to talk about what they did on the campaign and about what has changed over the last four years. Are you going to be spammed on Snapchat by Marco Rubio? Hit up on WhatsApp by Hillary Clinton? Probably yes! And can Reddit turn its Bernie Sanders love into something resembling real political momentum?
We assume that the next world war will be a technological one, but the United States and its potential adversaries are increasingly developing tech designed to blast enemies into the past. In Ghost Fleet, real cybersecurity and war experts Peter W. Singer and August Cole explore what would actually happen in a war between the United States and China. There's drones and hacking, sure, but what happens when our space capabilities are taken offline? What happens if China hacks all the microchips we bought from them?
In this version of the future, war is as gritty and as human as it's ever been. Singer footnotes the entire book with references to actual technology, speeches, military plots and documents to add a layer of realism not seen in most sci fi. Radio Motherboard talks to Singer about writing the book, and the staff discusses how climate-induced strife and constant cyberattacks and hacking incidents has already plunged much of the world into conflict.
Radio Motherboard is sponsored by Casper Mattresses. You can enter code VICE for $50 off any mattress.
We're all living two lives. We've got whatever's going on in the physical world, and then we've got our online personas—our Facebook and Twitter profiles, our Gchat lives, our Reddit accounts, our OKCupid and Tinder profiles. How do you make sense of it all? And how are we supposed to find love when everyone lives in two separate worlds?
Comedian Aziz Ansari calls our smartphones the "world's largest singles bar," and he's not wrong. At any moment, we can text whoever we want, check out of reality, or swipe through Tinder. The internet is connecting us to new people, but it's getting harder to make a lasting connection with someone when another option is simply a swipe away.
This week, we talk about how technology has affected our dating lives, talk to Aziz about his new book, Modern Romance, and talk to his coauthor, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, about how to make sense of this new world we've found ourselves in.
What happens to our brains and our psyche when a huge portion of humanity spends their lives persistently jacked in to their computers, their tablets, their smartphones, their screens? We don't really know—in a sense, we're performing one massive uncontrolled experiment on most of the developed world.
This week, we've been exploring everything mankind knows about the brain and technology's effect on it. Nathalie Nahai, the "web psychologist," has been doing this for her career. She's researchers how the web changes our expectations, our behavior, our attention spans, and our mood. Later this month, she'll be hosting the "Humanise the Web" conference in London, where she and other experts will be exploring our connection with the internet and how, maybe, we can make it a little more like the real world.
It's only June, and it's already been a very good summer for sci-fi. From the soaring optimism of Tomorrowland to the postapocalyptic dreariness of Mad Max to the outright unsettling nature of Ex Machina, there's already been plenty of speculative fiction to chew through. But we at Motherboard had been too busy making the site to enjoy any of the summer's biggest films. So we decided to change that with one back-to-back-to-back nine hour movie marathon. Before, during, and after the marathon, we discussed how these three looks at the future fit into the sci-fi canon, what they have to say about our future (and our present), whether they succeeded at creating a believable world, and whether they were actually any good.
Radio Motherboard is sponsored by Casper Mattresses. You can enter code VICE for $50 off any mattress: casper.com/?utm_source=vice&ut…podcast.motherboard
We talk about Elon Musk and his companies, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity all the time, but what is Musk's longterm plan? How do the companies fit together and, should Musk manage to create a reusable rocket or launch an array of internet-providing satellites, what happens then? Radio Motherboard talks to Ashlee Vance, author of a new biography about Musk, about how you write a book about one of the most fascinating (and busy) humans on Earth. We even try to give Musk a call.
Radio Motherboard is sponsored by Casper Mattresses. You can enter code VICE for $50 off any mattress: https://casper.com/?utm_source=vice&utm_medium=podcast&utm_campaign=motherboard&cvosrc=podcast.podcast.motherboard
In this episode of Radio Motherboard, we talked to New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper about the process of researching his new book about Bitcoin. We also spoke to Courtney Marie Warner, who loves Bitcoin, even though it put her boyfriend in prison. And we spoke to some random people at a park to see just how far we have to go before Bitcoin is truly mainstream.
*This podcast contains spoilers for the movie Good Kill*
The military's drone pilots are physically removed from the battlefield, but, seven days a week, they spend 12-hour days staring at a screen, waiting for orders to kill from above. And then they go home, or to the bar, or to their daughter's dance recital.
Good Kill and Grounded, a new movie and play starring Ethan Hawke and Ann Hatheway, respectively, take a look at the psychological toll being a drone pilot takes on a person. Motherboard talks with Hawke and director Andrew Niccol about the making of the film, its accuracy, and its importance as a first step toward showing Americans the brutal truth behind the targeted killing program.
The world seems real, but is it really? As humans get better at simulating artificial intelligence, it seems at least plausible that we could create life that is both conscious and has free will. And if we can create conscious life, who's to say that the universe, as we know it, wasn't created by superintelligent artificial intelligence who wanted to simulate their past?
We talk to Nick Bostrom, the Oxford University philosopher who originally came up with this theory. Then we switch gears ever so slightly to talk with Craig Hogan, a Department of Energy researcher who is actively trying to prove that we're living not in a simulation, but in a hologram, which is a completely different thing. Finally, the Motherboard staff talks about glitches in the Matrix or moments that seem totally unreal.
Radio Motherboard is sponsored by Casper Mattresses. You can enter code VICE for $50 off any mattress: casper.com?utm_source=vice&utm_medium=podcast&utm_campaign=motherboard&cvosrc=podcast.podcast.motherboard
Why would someone willingly spend years hanging out with people who make fun of recently dead teens? To write a book about the experience, of course. Motherboard meets Whitney Phillips, a Humboldt State University researcher and author of 'This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things,' an academic look at why internet trolls act the way they do.
In 2017, Valery Spiridonov hopes to become the first human to have his head transplanted onto a new body. We talk to Val, his would-be surgeon Sergio Canavero, and Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist about the process. Then, Motherboard's staff talks about Cookie Clicker, our new office obsession.
Do we have to die? The world's first transhumanist candidate for president doesn't think so.
The Silk Road trial has only been going on for two weeks, and already it’s had its fair share of drama: There have been setups by the prosecution, accusations and alternative theories tossed out by the defense, and, yes, selfies. Motherboard’s Kari Paul has been at the trial every day of the week, and our reporters have been covering Silk […]
If you see the words “copyright” and “law” juxtaposed next to each other, and your eyes glaze over, we don’t necessarily blame you. But copyright law is insane, and a wonderful, constant source of nutty human interest cases that explore every part of art, culture, and greediness. This week on Radio Motherboard, we invited the Electronic Frontier […]
The first season of the ultra-popular podcast Serial is over, but lots of questions remain, in no small part due to the lack of evidence tying then-high school student Adnan Syed to the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Huge swaths of Sarah Koenig’s longform storytelling (and reporting) experiment are dedicated to frustratingly minute details of what cell […]
In her filmmaking, the director Laura Poitras—my guest on this edition of Radio Motherboard—likes to document reality as it happens, those moments of uncertainty that often don’t appear on film. “There’s something about how we look at the past which has a kind of finality and closure to it, where life doesn’t usually happen that way,” she told me. […]