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Episode 144 November 20, 2018 | 29min

Screen Time and Me Time: Let’s Talk About Platform Obsessions

How do our obsessions with technology influence our lives?

Show Notes

Everything You Like Is Garbage: You know the creepy feeling of walking into a dark room and finding your kid hunched over the iPad with their eyes glazed over? So do we. On this week’s episode, Paul and Rich talk about addiction and obsession —  words that are used interchangeably but that speak to different experiences. What kind of parenting decisions need to be made when kids are addicted to screens? What are Silicon Valley parents doing for their kids in response to the tech they push into the world? We discuss how kids are adaptable and curious — Rich, for example, grew up in a bookless home on a steady diet of Tom and Jerry cartoons, and he turned out fine! We also let you in on our own obsessions: chocolate, watches and old book collections.

Rich Ziade It is something! There is— it’s about two-thirds of the way into eating the chocolate. It’s kind of odd and then—

Paul Ford You can’t chew.

RZ You can’t— no, you won’t get it. You won’t get that buzz.

PF It lives under your mouth. It’s— it’s like— it’s like a drug.

RZ It is and it starts to hit like brain centers.

PF Yeah—

RZ And it gets weird.

PF It’s like Klonopin for rich people.

RZ [Laughing] So melting Klonopin.

PF Yeah [music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. We should talk about the things that we’re obsessed about that aren’t technology. Just to frame it a little bit.

RZ Ok.

PF You like chocolate.

RZ I like really, really good chocolate.

PF It’s pretty exhausting. I gotta be honest, to— to be your friend but, at the same time, once I finally gave in and was like, “Alright, let em have it.” Cuz your— you’ll come up with what looks like a— like an overpriced candy bar and you’ll be like, “If you chew this I’ll punch you in the face, ok?” And the first few times I’m like, “This is just annoying.” I’m just waiting for something to get squishy. But then the reality is that with some of them you give em a minute—

RZ It’s kind of incredible.

PF And they start telling you a little story.

RZ Yeah.

PF They’re like, “Oh I was once a bean in the mountains [yeah] of Vietnam [yeah] and then someone picked me and then I’m— nothing really too much happened to me after that because I’m a single source [sings] chocolate bar!” [Both laugh] What are some of the brands?

RZ Uh there’s a— a brand called Amadi. By the way—

PF Yeah that’s the one.

[1:39]

RZ— Godiva. Godiva is like—

PF Booo!

RZ— is like—

PF No, that’s the thing: lemme just tell everyone: everything— every chocolate you’ve ever liked, unless you’re in this world, is garbage and you’re an animal for eating it.

RZ Ok. So. Godiva is like the Banana Republic of chocolate.

PF Right.

RZ It’s kind of pitched as higher end [Paul laughs] —

PF It’s khaki pants of chocolate.

RZ [Laughing] But it’s actually if you really go shop at Barney’s [yeah] and the fancier shops, Banana Republic isn’t really higher end. Tell me— tell me one of your obsessions, Paul.

PF [Sighs] I have a lot of nerd obsessions like I, you know—

RZ We all do.

PF Yeah. Non-nerd: I really do like getting on eBay and looking at old books, like— and especially lots of books like— like eBay lots, like thousands of books or—

RZ Like you’ll get three boxes.

PF Yeah, not three! Sometimes 2,000. Sometimes it’s like the whole library is— is the personal library is getting unloaded or the— the used bookstore is going out of business. And I think there’s a lot of intertwining fantasies there which is like I love books. Still do [yeah]. I mostly don’t buy them anymore because they take up a lot of space; I live in an apartment, and— [sighs] —

RZ And you read on your phone.

[2:45]

PF I read on my phone and I have enough stuff.

RZ Yeah, yeah, yeah.

PF But there’s a part of me that just really appreciates books. The— I still have thousands at home and I like to through them, I like to look at them. And I have associations with all the spines and— and sort of what they all mean [yeah sure] and I love old reference books, things like that. So I really like older stuff. There’s— it’s funny because I— I love, you know, there’s a part of me that really feels I should be interested in like rare volumes from the 1600s, like that’s the true bibliophile [hmm] but it’s not. What I like is the old encyclopedia from like 1890 about manners or about etiquette [hmm] or just like random stuff [yeah]. So they’re very soothing, these obsessions.

RZ And I get it. And— and— first off: you make me sound like an eight-year-old. We talked about chocolate for a minute and then—

PF No—

RZ— we got into your wonderful obsession with books.

PF [Chuckles] Not really because uh we— we should share with the YouTube video— or we should share the YouTube video of people eating the Almandi chocolate and sniffing to the sound of Steely Dan. That— they put up—

RZ That’s Joe Cocker. [Paul laughs] It’s bad. It’s not good. It’s not good.

PF And this is not— this is not for kids is what that says.

RZ No. No. This is for sophisticated adults.

PF You need to really enjoy the fine stylings of Joe Cocker.

RZ While you eat chocolate. Are obsessions good?

PF I think that— well it really depends. There’s some really bad obsessions that people can get.

RZ Addiction.

PF There’s addiction and then there’s also like I— I don’t know [sighs] it’s a real— it’s a really tricky one. The Kardashians is a good example. Some people have a really fun, silly relationship with that show and they think it’s [mm hmm] really interesting and they get a kick out of it and it tells them something about their own lives and they really like. Other people are— are just hating themselves cuz they can’t have a 4,000 dollar handbag.

[4:32]

RZ Right they’re not gonna be happy.

PF Yeah.

RZ It’s— it’s an— an unreachable quality of life, status, that just people dream about and obsess over. That’s a bad obsession. That’s a bad obsession.

PF The chocolate is ultimately like a relatively medium-sized indulgence. You know, it’s just—

RZ It’s— it’s also—

PF It’s literally the—

RZ It’s ephemeral. I’m not gonna put it in a shel— on a shelf.

PF No, it’s the cache you have in your— I don’t really want the books when I’m looking at them.

RZ I don’t— I mean I wanna eat the chocolates and that’s that. [Stammers] —

PF I pulled a few triggers. I got— I wanted um old copies of The Whole Earth Review which is kind of an unusual magazine that came out in the eighties. And— nerdy, but I wanted copies of Omni Magazine which was like an early—

RZ I remember Omni.

PF I wanted the originals. I wanted to see the ads. I wanted to remember [yeah] sort of how it felt [yeah]. So I bought those. It cost a couple hundred bucks. So I mean it’s— it’s— there’s— and then they took up— they take up a lot of shelf space though and then I’m like—

RZ It’s the feeling of this thing that I think about a lot, that I possibly can’t have, and when I do have it, I find some joy. I mean you— [I think there’s—]. You’re not well if you’re sitting there rubbing the book for days on end.

PF That’s right.

RZ Like that’s not what it’s a— I— I like watches. It’s another [that’s right]. I don’t know if I’d call it an obsession.

[5:42]

PF I don’t— it’s not an obsession. It seems to be that there’s almost a therapeutic function, right? Where you’re like, “I’m kinda stressed or stuff is going on or I just like— I need something to do for a half hour to settle my brain down.” And that’s when I see you creep over to your RSS feed of watch blogs.

RZ Awristocrat!

PF That might be—

RZ That’s spelled W-R-I-S-T. I don’t wanna collect em. I like having them. I tend to get tired of them—

PF I can vouch for this.

RZ I don’t really want a room like a closet full of watches lined up.

PF Well and also not to get into the numbers but we know some people that have done really, insanely well for themselves. Your collection is very nice and very special and very lovely but it’s not earth shattering.

RZ No. No.

PF You— you have— it’s not museum quality.

RZ Not only that, I don’t want them long term [yeah]. I mean there are a couple that I’ve tied to events in my life that I’ll probably hold onto but the other’s are like, oh— ok. That was fun.

PF Yeah—

RZ That’s the thing.

PF I got my pleasure out of this—

RZ It’s not a material possession thing. Or an asset. Some people are like, “If I hold onto this for 20 years it’ll be worth three times as much.”

PF It really is about the emotional reaction.

RZ Yes.

PF I think once you get into the asset that’s a whole different set of emotions, right?

RZ Yeah.

[6:47]

PF Like for me I have limited— I don’t wanna move— I have limited shelf space [yeah] and so there’s a sort of like, what’s the most meaningful things I could put on that shelf? And then—

RZ Question. Let me ask you a question: is it— do you love the physical object when you talk about your books or are you talking about just purely the content— [Paul sighs] cuz if it’s the content you could probably find it online or wherever.

PF Oh the content’s everywhere. Yeah that’s not my worry.

RZ Is it the physical thing?

PF It’s the physical thing. It’s the space it takes up. Like how am I gonna apportion that space? What’s valuable?

RZ No, no, but your love for it to begin with?

PF I really do love it and the one of the things—

RZ The physical thing.

PF If— if I had more time, I would spend more of that time like with books and a notebook. That would be really satisfying.

RZ Ok.

PF I actually have a process, I really like reading. Occasionally I see something interesting, I would take a picture of it and tweet it [yeah]. Like that would be pure happiness for me [yeah]. I just don’t— especially with having little kids like, you know, they go to bed around 8:30 and I— I just am not gonna sit at a table and read for two hours.

RZ Yes.

PF I’m gonna goof off and watch some TV and answer emails.

RZ Alright so let’s pivot into something that’s kind of, sort of sits as a juxtaposition when people talk about experiences today. Now, even if you weighed into our industry—

PF Well I can— I can bridge this for you. There was just a big Apple event, it was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

[8:03]

RZ That’s a beautiful space, by the way.

PF It is. It is.

RZ I live near it.

PF Somebody was worried that— that Apple had bought it.

RZ Dude, there were Apple flags [Paul laughs] all around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and, by the way, there’s an Apple Store across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music [Listen—] that is absolutely striking and it looked like it was over.

PF Yeah.

RZ [Laughs] The dictator had arrived—

PF Like there’s a big floating—

RZ— the flags had been planted.

PF There’s a giant Tim Cook head just sorta hovering.

RZ [Laughs] Yeah and it’s like— yeah. And— and—

PF “Strength through iOS.”

RZ And you better start singing their song. If you don’t start singing their song, they’re gonna put you on the trucks and off you go.

PF I think a third of America would probably pledge to Apple if it said, “We are the new government.”

RZ I think so! So it looked weird, you know why? Because it was— it was nondescript. Apple being Apple there wasn’t a single word about what was happening.

PF Right, so it’s just like, “Our presence is here.”

RZ It was just apples with swirls of colors modify— modifying the logo. That’s the experience and look [stammers] —

[8:59]

PF Well and Apple’s— people have been obsessed with the Apple brand since the seventies.

RZ Yes. Because it tried to humanize something that was— that felt very difficult to touch and to come near.

PF And then, I mean, even before Steve Jobs, there were pictures— people shaving the Apple logo in their heads. And then—

RZ It was a big deal.

PF— as Jobs sort of made it more and more kind of this cult of quality, it got more and more intense, and I think that didn’t exactly scale.

RZ No but—

PF The brand works harder than any other brand.

RZ It really does and— and they’re— I mean you can’t deny the craft that is— that is just—

PF Well this is supreme, I mean I have—

RZ— touching every aspect of the product.

PF It’s almost inconceivable how— what these things are. Like every little piece represents thousands and thousands of person hours [yes] of unbelievable labor going back 40, 50 years. I mean they— they just are kinda— they just encapsulate all human culture [yes] into this tiny little box.

RZ Well, I mean, we’ve really reached a threshold where I think we’re— people are starting to get scared. We talked a few minutes ago about obsession being get. Like your love of books is just a wonderful thing to talk through and talk about. I love watches but I’m not consumed by them. You wouldn’t call it an addiction. And what you’re hearing more and more of lately is the— the words obsession and addiction being used kind of interchangeably.

PF That’s right and we’re very worried about children and phones.

RZ Children and phones [yeah] and there was some articles—

PF And iPads and—

RZ Yeah. There were some articles recently where The New York Times said that in silicon valley, where they conjured up all this shit, they’re obsessed with their kids not using their phones.

PF That’s right. I have an answer: just get your kids Chromebooks [music fades in] because they wanna throw those in the garbage. It’s wonderful.

RZ Hard.

PF Oh I love it.

RZ It’s hard [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down].

PF Rich, let’s interrupt our marketing podcast [music fades out] to do some marketing.

RZ Despite what all these inventions do to your brain, Postlight’s really good at building them.

PF We are [Rich laughing]. No matter what. No matter how many children’s brains are ruined by small devices [Rich laughs], um we are the device children ruiner— no, we’re not. We make really great software—

RZ We channel a very different set of obsessions around great design, great engineering to build really great apps, really great platforms.

PF We’re ethically concerned, too, we’re not going for addition. We’re not that kinda shop.

RZ No, no.

PF You call us because you have a business model and you want— now we love when people engage and are connected to stuff.

RZ Yes.

PF You know, we want people to really—

RZ No, engagement’s part of success for us, for sure.

PF We love people to use our stuff but we’re not— we’re not trying to figure out how to keep you on that phone for eight hours a day. Uh but we can help people— you know, when they open up a Postlight app, they think, “Wow, this looks, behaves, and operates exactly like the other really good apps that I’m used to.” We are— we’re at a very high level of quality, we take it very seriously. It’s— we’re not the cheapest for that reason but we’re pretty good.

RZ Very reasonable.

[11:59]

PF We are overall when people work with us over time they come back again and again and again. We love that.

RZ Visit postlight.com and you will see a bunch of work [music fades in].

PF That is true. Take a look at our work and send an email to [email protected] [music plays alone for six seconds]. First of all: most of what children like to do with a screen is consume media.

RZ Sure.

PF When we grew up, we had, you know, Commodores and Amigas and Macs and whatever and you had to do computer things with computers because they wouldn’t play videos. Not really. Not until the nineties, and even then it was like little crappy videos [yup]. The current state is, you know, which of a hundred billion hours of video can I watch before somebody realizes that— you know, like when my parents are sleeping in, I wanna— like my kids will just sort of negotiate for computer time and the computer time that they want is Netflix and YouTube.

RZ Understandably.

PF Yup.

RZ I mean it’s kind of magical. You’re holding this thing that’s a pound.

PF It’s not just that though. They— if I remind them or if I say, “No, you can’t have that but you can have,” and then the number two thing that they like to do— and there’s lots of games on there, cuz it’ll play Android games, I will say like, you know, it’s just like Barbie—

RZ Shopping Barbie.

PF Yeah, Shopping Barbie or weird like princess games and so on and [yeah] there’s a profile of my children in Russia that’s probably about 700 pages long at this point [Rich laughs] but the um if I say, “You know what? Take some time on Google Maps and go look around Staten Island,” they love it.

RZ I mean that’s wonderful. It’s exploration.

PF They get to see the whole world. They get to see it.

RZ Sure. Sure.

[13:34]

PF It’s like— like you’d imagine with kids, they wanna see their house [yeah] and then they wanna see their school and then they’re like, “I’ve been there,” and it’ll be relatively close by, it’s Grand Army Plaza [of course]. So they love that and then Google knows everywhere my children are looking and that’s cool.

RZ And they’re in your house. Yeah. [Paul laughs]. So ok so. Let’s bring this into the whole—

PF Well see Netflix—

RZ “Ok. Let’s avoid kid addiction blah blah blah.”

PF I mean let’s look at how the different companies react to this, right? Like Netflix just goes online, “You’re gonna binge watch this garbage and we’re gonna continue to shovel it down your baby bird mouths and you’re gonna give us money every month. You’re gonna forget how much you’re paying and you’re just gonna suck it up through your nose like cocaine.”

RZ Worth noting: there is no setting, in Netflix, to not make another show start when one ends.

PF Oh yeah!

RZ It probably would take an engineer and a QA staff [no] a day to put this switch in.

PF Netflix is the product equivalent of dumping a like a bag of candy hearts on the floor and saying, “Go, pig.” [Rich laughs] You’re— and you’re like, “I don’t even like candy hearts!” [Makes gross chomping sounds].

RZ “But ok!” [Laughs]

PF That’s— that’s my experience of Netflix.

RZ So. Alright. Let me— let me rant for a second here. It is scary I mean a kid— they do have a glazed look in their eyes if you leave em too long holding an iPad or a Chromebook.

PF Oh, you know what’s bad? I got my kids sound cancelling headphones cuz I’ve got twins, right? [Oh god!] And they can’t— and I have this issue where every now and then the light’ll cut out in the room where it’s kind of my office space where they have their computers so I can watch them. So if I’ll like walk away, I tend to be kinda— I try to be close unless I’m asleep when they’re using the machines and they don’t get a lot of time with them but when you walk in and the room is dark and the screen is on their face and they’re wearing headphones, I’m like, “I am breeding monsters.”

RZ Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[15:24]

PF This is— like it needs to feel public and they need to be connected and near other humans when they’re using this stuff. I don’t— it’s pretty bad when they just lock in.

RZ It’s scary. It’s scary. Right. So this is the fear and this fear is actually even more pronounced than Silicon Valley where they, frankly, invented a lot of this stuff which is, you know, New York Times wrote it up as almost this kind of irony.

PF I’m so tired of all the drama though. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” Cuz here’s what— Silicon Valley’s so proud of itself for destroying the world.

RZ It’s—

PF They love to fantasize about all the incredible cultural power they have. They can’t build a skyscraper.

RZ It’s this [both laugh] —

PF [Laughing] That thing— they built one good skyscraper—

RZ They can’t. After five stories, they’re fuckin’ confused.

PF Everything is sinking!

RZ They are confused.

PF You know they’re like, “Oh hey, we dug a hole four blocks away and we destroyed this skyscraper.” I’m like— what did we— New York City [yeah], we sure as hell can’t build Google.

RZ No.

PF But, you know, we’ve been doing that since 1910 [Rich laughs], you know, maybe you could’ve sent somebody over.

RZ It takes like three weeks.

PF Seriously.

RZ “Holy shit! When did that come up?!?”

[16:24]

PF Why don’t you just bring your— bring one of your iPhones out and take some pictures of the Woolworth building which went up [Rich laughs] in like 1915 and then take that back to San Francisco— what the hell, even email it over wireless. We have that in the parks. And uh and then maybe, you know, what you do is when you get the architectural renderings, I don’t know if they’ve ever seen this, you get the blueprints and you just write the words, “Don’t sink.” [Yeah] And that’s actually how the people in construction know but anyway San Franc—

RZ They love to signal out that they’re seeing things that other people aren’t seeing.

PF That’s right.

RZ They love to say, “Oh my god—”

PF They— oh yeah [whistles].

RZ “We are about three years ahead of this, guys, let’s talk this through.”

PF The phone emergency.

RZ All of it, right?

PF Yeah, they’re really into like— this is the thing: they’re kinda missing climate— we’re not gonna get to really, really strong AI taking over the world before climate change destroys all the computers. Like we’ve, you know, [Rich laughs] like [stammers] like I know Moore’s Law.

RZ We’re losing that race.

PF I know Moore’s Law! We’re gonna get— it’ll just be like Seamless’ll be really fast and then one day there’ll be four feet of water in front of your door. Like you’re not gonna get a really great, intelligent assistant.

RZ True. So wait! I mean is it legitimate?

PF It’s a lot of consum—

RZ We have to watch with these kids staring at their phones like passively?

[17:32]

PF Of course, of course you do. But you know what? God. Uh. As a parent, first of all: kids need to wind down like anyone else. It’s what you put in the brain.

RZ Ok.

PF Like uh maybe I’m lucky. I have good readers. I have very active, healthy kids. They’re healthier than I ever was. And they’re engaged and they have friends. They have all the regular problems that kids have, but it’s not cuz they’re watching an extra hour of Netflix every week. This is not really what we’re talking about. Now if my daughter was playing Candy Crush obsessively, you know, at age eight or nine, she’s seven now, then that’s an issue because that is like— that is a growing brain that has given itself entirely to Candy Crush.

RZ Yeah. You have to diversify the experiences.

PF And I have— my son likes YouTube cuz he loves to watch other people play video games and people are very paranoid about it—

RZ Well that’s a big thing, right?

PF I watch it really carefully. Everybody’s worried about strange alleys but, I don’t know, I keep a pretty close eye, I kinda know what’s in his queue and—

RZ I’m not sure if that’s that much different from watching other people play sports.

PF It’s like anything, I see— I have a little boy who loves to run and play soccer.

RZ Again: same parallels, right?

PF Yeah.

RZ Uh I mean that kid needs to run and play soccer, otherwise they go bonkers, and like my boy but—

PF If he tries to convince—

RZ— frankly, watching sports isn’t [yeah] destroying anybody. Uh people have been doing it for many years. At first they couldn’t watch it, they’d have to listen to it.

PF There’s so many other things to panic about.

[18:58]

RZ I’m gonna rant for a minute here.

PF Rant!

RZ My parents weren’t reading a lot of books. First off: there were no websites about how— we fled a war and we were immigrants in the country. I watched probably eight to twelve thousand hours of a mo— of a cat trying to eat a mouse.

PF [Laughs] And What’s Happening!!

RZ And [laughs] —

PF There was a cluster of after school reruns on when we were kids.

RZ Dude, it was— I— if you— we just— we just took a shit on Netflix. If you put on Netflix and wanna teach your kid the value of green vegetables [yeah] there is a cartoon for the value [oh yeah] like understanding and appreciating the value of green vegetables.

PF Have you seen the show Hilda?

RZ No. They’re all spectacular, dude.

PF Oh it’s a charming narrative of a little girl with trolls. Oh, it’s wonderful.

RZ Everybody’s learning manners! They’re learning how to eat [uh huh]; they’re learning about the world. There’s this show called Super Wings.

PF That’s right. And when they’re ready for Hitler, there’s 40 or 50 thousand shows to watch.

RZ Just a channel away [laughs].

PF Yeah! And then you switch to Amazon Prime and you got a hundred thousand.

RZ [Laughs boisterously] So, look, man, I’m not saying I came out great. That’s questionable [Paul laughs] but shit!

PF That’s a lot of podcast right there.

RZ I watched a lot— a lot— my mom was a smoker and she was going through a lot of stuff [uh huh] and it was hard, it was a new country, and I am just eating up Tom and Jerry. It’s a cartoon where a cat is trying to eat a mouse [sure] and it’s the dumbest thing you ever saw and I thought it was really funny [mm hmm] and I’ve watched the same episodes of that cartoon probably hundreds of times and I’m ok. I think—

[20:43]

PF When did you— when did you actually start reading? Was it law school? Was it undergrad? Like not learning to read but like there’s a point where you started to read a lot of books and a lot of stuff.

RZ It was probably undergrad.

PF Yeah.

RZ Yeah.

PF That’s the big difference, right? Like I think the only thing that would’ve been different in your life is if you’d started earlier.

RZ I think that’s right. I also was very fortunate you could pop open the back of an Apple 2 when I was 15.

PF Yeah. See but you had to read and learn about how that worked too.

RZ I did. I did.

PF And, you know, you’re reading the catalogue, you’re reading the computer magazine. Like you wanted access to that world.

RZ True. That’s true.

PF Yeah so that— This is the thing that people miss about technology and I think this actually does get— it kinda takes us all the way back around. When you’re young, the world inside of that computer is a whole world and that was true whether it’s an Apple 2 or the phone, and it is actually— people are worried about Google and they’re worried about Apple. See I don’t— when you’re a kid and when you’re a teenager you know that there are forces outside of your control that are much bigger than you and you can’t tell which ones are good or bad and you don’t really trust any of them.

RZ True.

PF What kids are doing right now is they’re looking at their phones and sometimes they’re mindlessly consuming content. As they get older, most kids get real suspicious and they start to take it apart, and they start to wonder what’s going on.

[21:55]

RZ And I think that’s really cool and, you know, you’re seeing a lot of products out there like little bits and— and where you can actually take apart the toy and make a different toy out of the parts because there are no screws on that iPad. That thing is sealed tight [that’s right]. It’s just a magic box to them [mm hmm]. They have no idea. They don’t even call it a computer. It’s just this thing that just has an endless supply of stuff.

PF Yeah and this is uh—

RZ I want them to be able to interact which, by the way, there are some wonderful things out there on an iPad or on a Chromebook, where they interact and they explore [dude] and they learn and they build. I had none of that.

PF Listen to me: we got you and me saying, “Oh it’s wonderful to explore.” And you’ve got the people in Silicon Valley saying, “Keep it away from them cuz it will destroy them.” You know what’s really gonna happen? Human beings have their own will and they’re pretty mischievous and they like to tear things apart like primates.

RZ True.

PF Teenagers will ruin everything. This current generation will come up and they will see Facebook and they will see Twitter and they will Google and they’ll be like, “What is this trash? It’s just been around forever.”

RZ That’s very true.

PF And you’re gonna go work at Google, it’s gonna be like going to work for the phone system when we were kids [yeah]. I mean it’s just like— this world will collapse into itself and that doesn’t mean that billionaires won’t remain billionaires or giant organizations won’t exist, it just means that tech moves fast, people can create what they want in order to communicate, and nobody maintains a lock in. So I’m just sort of like— we’re talking and we’re worrying about children because they don’t seem to have a lot of power but they have a lot of will, and they will start tearing all this stuff down to shreds.

RZ I think that’s exactly right.

PF And if you won’t let it and you lock em down, then they’ll go do something else.

RZ And— and I think the best thing we can do is to encourage that. I do think there’s a crossing point that if you let that kid— I do have— I’ve had friends over and they’re ten or 12 and—

[23:41]

PF Oh and the kid just stares.

RZ He’s— he’s just not— they’re it’s their babysitter, right?

PF Yeah, see—

RZ And the iPad is in their hands and their heads are down and they don’t— they don’t even say hello.

PF My kids— my kids wanted an iPad at four and I was like, “Eh.” [No] Cuz it’s too much like candy. Just little rectangles of delicious candy.

RZ It’s the passcode for us. We have an iPad, they don’t know it. And if we tell them, “You’re gonna get 15 minutes,” you’ll get 15 minutes.

PF Yeah. What is your— let’s close out on this: what is your um we said non-nerd obsessions earlier [mm hmm]. What’s your nerd obsession?

RZ Emulation.

PF Oh really?!?

RZ I love emulation.

PF It’s funny cuz we don’t talk about this that much but I’m pretty obsessed with it too.

RZ I know. It’s so cool. It just makes me happy.

PF Tell the people what emulation is.

RZ Emulation is when a machine transforms itself to behave entirely like another machine. So if you own—

PF Usually an older machine. Not always. But usually.

RZ Usually an older machine. I remember when they tried to press the gas and like the N64 emulator came out around when the N64 was out.

PF Yeah, it was like Mario could hop once a minute.

[24:42]

RZ [Laughs] But you know I mean credit to them for trying it’s like, “Wait a minute, it’s the same CPU, we can do this.”

PF This is— this is the super nerd like power play is to be an emulator writer cuz—

RZ Ah! It’s so badass!

PF— what you’re doing, you’re simulating another piece of hardware in software.

RZ Yeah. It’s so cool.

PF So that people can like play their games or run their software.

RZ And when the archive put out like, “Yeah. Here’s 11,000 arcade games you can play in your browser.” It’s over.

PF Internet Archive, yeah. That’s good. That’s the work of our friend, Jason Scott.

RZ And I was like, “Well, that’s that!”

PF And thousands of other people over time.

RZ Uh it’s just really cool. It’s cool cuz I like to see the glitchy startup. I like— [yeah] I like to see it boot up cuz it’s truly emulating. It’s not a port.

PF No and it’s rough around the edges, you know, you’re just like, “Oh this is where we came from.”

RZ What about you?

PF I like to research things actually. So lately I’ve been researching storage a lot. Like there’s just— I wanna know like what would it take to get a petabyte of information. This is actually inspired by Alan Kay who was a really uh important thinker in early technology and sort of big at Xerox PARC who at one point wrote an article about how what they were building was sort of the ten, 15 year later computer. You know they’re— they built these computers at Xerox that cost like 120,000 dollars in the seventies so like as much as a house.

RZ Yeah.

PF And— but they were trying to be desktop computers and I’m just sort of thinking to myself like what would the equivalent machine be for 15 years from now? And it’s gonna something like that— it’s gonna be, you know, what we think of now as almost infinite storage and [yeah] the processors can’t get too much faster but there were gonna be a lot more of them and there’ll be lots of little— so I just sort of— I like to continually come back to that mental exercise because the moment that we’re in now where five companies control the world and— and everything is sort of online and works in a certain way is going to change. And I just— I need to keep that in my head so that I feel like I’m adapting and ready for the future.

[26:36]

RZ Right. Growing up, Paul, I loved Legos.

PF Sure!

RZ And what I loved about them is obviously that they allowed you to be creative [mm hmm]. You could build stuff. I used to build houses and if you looked in the window of the house there was a little living room [mm hmm] cuz I’d make a couch and put it in the house [oh yeah] and a little table and a little TV. And my— my son gets Lego box gifts all the time.

PF Oh god yeah. No. Infinite supply.

RZ And they suck.

PF Yeah.

RZ Because it’s a little bat mobile.

PF Yeah.

RZ And the pieces are extremely specific to building just that batmobile and the instruction manual is 22 pages of how to make the batmobile and nothing else. And they— they have taken all the oxygen out of the room and there is no room for creativity and he can’t do anything else with those pieces. And this is more fundamentally my fear with where technology’s gone in that the controls that have been imposed—

PF “Follow these instructions to get this great outcome.”

RZ And you can’t come outside those guardrails, right? Like you can’t leap em.

PF Well cuz that used to be you were exploring your world and kind of figuring out— humans, you know, we’re primates. We wanna know where’s the— where are the boundaries? What’s the territory we can get to? [Exactly] What kind of power can we have? And you had a power where you were like, “I can make a house.”

RZ Yes.

[27:54]

PF “I am a house maker. I wasn’t that before and now I am.”

RZ Exactly. Exactly.

PF I will say it is fun to see, you know, I’ve got seven year old twins and now they get those and they follow the instructions together and they make them and then they tear them apart and they go into the mulch supply of the regular Legos which they still play with. So it’s working— it’s working at that age but [yeah] it— it actually— when they were younger which your son’s about a year younger, when they would get the toy, they would really feel obligated towards the toy.

RZ “I want the thing on the box”

PF That’s right.

RZ And that was it. And that was it. And beyond that and when you broke apart, which is did, it’s Legos.

PF Of course.

RZ They viewed it as broken.

PF No, it— as they grow that becomes a more ephemeral experience except for the people who get obsessed with Legos and want everything to be perfect.

RZ Right.

PF So, obsessions! Good or bad?

RZ Who knows?!? [Music fades in.]

PF Alright, Rich, let’s get out of here.

RZ Yeah, I wanna go use my phone.

PF I’m gonna have some chocolate. You getting chocolate?

RZ And I’m gonna stare at my watch while I eat chocolate. I have chocolate. I will give you chocolate. We will have a couple of chocolate links next to the podcast.

PF You know if you ever wanna work with us, there’s a very good chance you will have a piece of chocolate given to you in that first meeting.

RZ Excellent chance.

PF You just have to bring it up. We don’t like to showcase this too much cuz—

RZ No. No, no.

PF— people are like, “What?!”

RZ “What wrong . . . with this person?”

PF Yeah but if you want that piece of chocolate and even if you just want a little conversation: [email protected] That email goes straight to me and Rich and uh we like to talk.

RZ Have a great week.

PF Bye, everybody [music ramps up, plays alone for five seconds, fades out to end].