On this episode of Unlocking Us
I’m talking with tech journalist Kara Swisher and NYU professor Scott Galloway, co-hosts of the podcast Pivot, a weekly discussion on the latest news as it relates to the worlds of business and tech. I start to do some word association with them, but we quickly go deep and take a hard, illuminating look at Big Tech. This is a great conversation for those of us who regularly engage with tech platforms but maybe who don’t understand their motivations, what they’re up to next, and the myriad ways they shape our lives and democracies. Let’s dig in.
Listen to the episode
Pivot, a podcast from New York Magazine. Every Tuesday and Friday, Recode’s Kara Swisher and NYU professor Scott Galloway offer sharp, unfiltered insights into the biggest stories in tech, business, and politics. They make bold predictions, pick winners and losers, and bicker and banter like no other. After all, with great power comes great scrutiny.
Brené Brown: Hi, everyone. I’m Brené Brown, and this is Unlocking Us.
BB: Wooh, what a fun conversation you’re getting ready to listen to and be a part of. So Steve and I like to listen to Pivot, the Pivot podcast together sometimes, with tech journalist, Kara Swisher, and NYU Professor, Scott Galloway. And I don’t even know how to describe their podcast, but I always feel smarter, more pissed off, sometimes more confused and provoked when I listen to it. And so today, I’m actually talking with Kara and Scott, about… I had a list of things. I was going to do a word association game with them, you’ll see in the conversation, where I just wanted them to give us thoughts on all of these big tech companies and tech people who we interface with and hear about all the time, but I don’t think we understand and know enough about. We say Facebook, we’ll say Tesla, we’ll say Spotify, we’ll say all these names, but what’s really going on and how are these folks outside of our awareness, at least mine, often, shaping the world I live in, the democracies I want to uphold. How is that happening? Well, as you’ll see, we didn’t get past Facebook, because it took us down a really…
BB: I don’t know. What’s the word I’m looking for? Scary, hard, illuminating look at big tech in general. I’m so glad you’re here for this. I thought about, “Should this be a Dare to Lead podcast?” And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “No, this needs a broader audience of people who are not just listening to leadership and organizational development work, but parents and people just like you and me, who engage with platforms, who are apparently built in a way that is causing a lot of us a lot of pain.” I’m glad you’re here. It’s a provocative conversation. I agree with a lot of what they say. I disagree with some stuff that they say, but I love the conversation and I appreciate both Scott and Kara.
BB: All right, before we jump in, let me tell you a little bit about Kara and Scott. Kara is the co-host of Pivot from New York Magazine, and the host of the New York Times podcast, Sway. She’s also editor-at-large at New York Magazine, co-founder of Recode from Vox Media, a New York Times contributing opinion writer, and a regular contributor to NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. She previously hosted the podcast, Recode Decode and Too Embarrassed to Ask, at Vox. Swisher co-founded Recode, was producer and host of the Recode Decode podcast, and before that, co-produced and co-hosted the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital Conference series, now called the Code Conference with Walt Mossberg. It was and still is the country’s premier conference on tech and media.
BB: Scott is a co-host of Pivot and the Prof G Podcast, as well as a professor at NYU Stern School of Business, where he teaches brand strategy and digital marketing, and was named one of the world’s 50 best business school professors by Poets & Quants, in 2012. He is the founder of Red Envelope, Prophet Brand Strategy and L2 Inc, acquired by Gartner, on the New York Stock Exchange, that’s ITE, and the acquisition happened 2017. You can tell I’m not used to reading N-Y-S-E. I started to say, “Not Your Mother’s Jeans.” But, no, that’s not it. Okay, Scott’s books, The Four and Algebra of Happiness debuted on the New York Times and Apple bestseller list. He has served on boards of directors, including the New York Times company, Urban Outfitters and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He received a BA from UCLA and his MBA is from Berkeley. I’m glad you’re here for this conversation. Let’s dig in.
BB: Okay, Scott and Kara, welcome to Unlocking Us.
Kara Swisher: Thank you, Brené.
Scott Galloway: Thanks, Brené. Nice to meet you.
BB: Nice to meet you, too. I’ve got so many questions, but I’m going to start with this. How did y’all end up together on Pivot? I love Pivot. I’m a Pivot fan, because I learn so much, and then I also really enjoy hearing y’all shoot the shit sometimes, but I also learn a ton. How did y’all meet?
KS: So I was at the DLD Conference in Germany. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. It’s run by Burda, and I’ve gone many years and it’s… After a while, you go to conferences and you’re sort of bored by people’s speeches, and you know what’s coming. Then this person came up onto the stage and started giving a presentation and it woke me up, honestly. I was sort of sleepy and in the corner kind of thing. And he started to say things that I didn’t… I listen to everybody, and I hadn’t heard these insights before, about tech and media. And he was obnoxious and funny, and the Germans did not know what…they’re all around me like, “Who is this guy?” essentially. And I was really intrigued by someone who had some insights that I hadn’t thought of, actually. And so I went up to him and I said, “That was really funny.” I’m sure he forgets when I did that, “And you should come on my show, Recode Decode in New York, when you’re there next.” And he did. And he came on the show and, again, it was the same kind of interesting insights. He predicted the Amazon Whole Foods merger on that show, before it happened, and we had a real chemistry right away. And so, the numbers came back for this thing and it was high. It was as close to Elon Musk levels of engagement, with listeners and numbers. And, Scott, you can take it from there.
SG: I just want to say, Brené, I’m really enjoying your podcast so far. This is…
BB: I’m just here to observe.
SG: I have never listened to a podcast until I was on one with Kara. And then what she leaves out is, they called us… They called me back and said, “So you had some of the biggest numbers we’ve ever recorded in the history of Recode, and we think it was a mistake. So we want to bring you back to validate whether it was a mistake or not.” Then after…
KS: That was directly from me, just so you know.
SG: After working my ass off for 30 years, Kara has made me an overnight success. So I owe a lot to Kara.
KS: Yeah. No, so anyway, so we did it again the second time and it was the same thing. And so, the chemistry was there right away. We were going to rebrand the second show I had at Vox, and Scott was the only person I wanted to do it with, oddly enough. We didn’t know each other very well, but I enjoyed it. Every time I did it, it was insightful, enjoyed, offended in a good way, disagreed in a good way. So, I don’t know. It’s just a lot of fun.
SG: And here we are.
KS: Here we are.
BB: Yeah. It’s so good to listen to. Sometimes it’s cringey in the best ways, but it’s really good, and I always learn something.
SG: Thank you, Brené.
KS: Cringey is our goal, cringey is our motto.
BB: Cringey is your brand, I like it.
KS: Yeah, 100%.
BB: Success, checks out. All right, here’s what I want to do today. I didn’t tell y’all ahead of time, then y’all can be like, “No, we’re not going to do it,” or you can comply. The folks in our Unlocking Us community, I think much like myself, interface, engage with, hear about these tech companies and these individuals on a daily basis, but we have really no understanding, I think I’ll speak for myself, of how they shape our lives, how they shape democracy, what they’re up to and what we need to know. So I want to play word association with you, both. I want to say the name of a company or the name of a person. I want you to tell us what you think we need to know, or what you think, and then I want to ask you what the people who passionately disagree with you, would say. Does that make sense?
KS: Yeah, makes sense, makes sense. Scott, you go first. Ladies first.
BB: Okay. Scott, ready?
SG: Mendacious fox.
BB: Oh, so exciting. Okay, why?
SG: Have institutionalized teen depression, the weaponizations of our elections and made our discourse more coarse, and leveraged our gross idolatry of innovators to overrun our government and are an enormous threat to the greatest experiment in history, which is the United States.
BB: Machiavellian in approach or unintended consequence of the quest for power and money?
SG: I don’t think they had set out to damage the world. I don’t think they’re inherently bad people. I don’t think Mussolini woke up in the morning and thought he wanted to be evil. But I think, as they recognized the externalities and very negative attributes that are obvious, as evidenced by the whistleblower, they decided to ignore them because they were more interested in maintaining power and shareholder wealth than actually addressing the very obvious negative externalities that were propping up everywhere around them. But I think very few people wake up in history and think, “I’m going to be evil today,” so I’ll give them that. I don’t think they were born evil.
KS: They were born evil.
BB: I don’t think many people wake up and say, “I’m going to be evil.”
SG: Right, agreed.
BB: But as someone who studies human experience and emotion, people do wake up and say, “I’m going to discharge the pain that I’m experiencing.” I need some more. I need to better understand. What would they say to that? If you leveled that charge, would they say, “That’s bullshit,” and, “We’re making the world a better place.”? I guess I don’t understand.
SG: Kara knows them better than I do and is much more qualified to answer that.
KS: Well, I think I… I’ll take the opposite side. I think they think they have created great wealth. They think they’ve created a great company and employ people. I think they would say that. I think they feel victimized. They’re not victimized, but they feel that way, and therefore everybody’s being too hard. Since the beginning of time when I covered them, they were always upset when I said something critical. Instead of reflecting on it, this particular company… Oh, other companies do reflect on it, like Brian Chesky of Airbnb and others, these people do not reflect on it, and often say, “You’re being mean. You’re overstating it.” I’ve always thought they were the most compromised company on the face of the planet, and that includes oil companies. At least they know what they’re doing, they understand. —– companies knew what they were doing, they just did it anyway, they made the choice. And these people, they know what they’re doing and they don’t believe it. They don’t believe the facts right in front of their face. I don’t know why.
BB: I think I’m a pretty smart person for the most part, but I don’t… I still don’t get it. Is it for influence? Is it for money? How much money do you need? Is it for power? Is it proving? What is the… Go way, way deep. What’s driving it at the deepest level?
SG: I think it’s for love. I think that when you live in a capitalist society, every incremental dollar you get, garners more influence, garners more recognition, more camaraderie, people laugh hard at your jokes, elected leaders want your view, your selection set of mates goes up, you can provide and do wonderful things for strangers, who adore you. I think, to be wealthier and wealthier in a capitalist society is to be loved. So I think that they do it for the recognition that everyday, we afford more and more, to innovators and people who are wealthy. And that is, as a nation becomes wealthier, its reliance on a super being and church attendance goes down, and into that void of wanting people who can answer the unanswerable, that we can adore. The closest thing we have to magic or the god-like mysticism of magic is technology, and so we take these innovators and you collapse that with the capitalist idolatry of the dollar and you end up with Jesus Christ-like love and worship. I think that is very intoxicating, and there’s a difference between being worth a billion and being worth 100 billion and forging new ground in terms of a company that’s seen as changing the world, I think it’s very seductive, I think it’s very intoxicating.
SG: You surround yourself with people that increasingly screen out things you don’t want to hear, because we avoid pain as a species. And when it’s raining money outside, it blurs your vision. And to a certain extent, I don’t blame them as much as I blame us. And that is, it’s our job to regulate and put in place, laws that protect us from that type of idolatry, that type of addiction to power and love, and regulate them. And, unfortunately, we haven’t provided the same sort of guard rails and adult supervision in the form of regulation that we’ve provided other industries. So I think it’s our problem, quite frankly.
KS: It’s not, actually. It’s their problem, Scott. It’s a cult. You know what I mean? It’s a soft fleecy cult with very comfortable shoes and fantastic green smoothies and kombucha and stuff like that, but it’s a cult nonetheless. And what’s really interesting about when you talk to them, when they leave the company… I get a call from everyone who leaves the company who says, “Ugh, I’m so glad I can finally talk to you.” Right, that’s what it feels like. When you see all those documentaries on these cults that’s… The people are suddenly… They get awoken or something.
KS: Yeah. And everyone around each of these leaders… We actually asked this question of Brian Chesky said, “Everyone around you tells you you’re right and, therefore, you’re right. And if you keep those same people around you, no disagreeable people, no sand in the oyster, no irritant, you begin to believe you’re victimized, that people don’t understand you.” It’s not that we don’t think some of the stuff they’re creating is amazing, and it is. It’s that they don’t recognize consequences. It’s really astonishing when you… About any of the products. I’ve told the story when they showed me their live Facebook Live, and I said, “What if people kill each other? And they’re like, “What? You’re terrible, Kara.” And I’m like, “I’m sorry. Human history seems to… Murder seems to be a popular among humanity, and if they get bigger tools, they’re going to abuse them.” So it’s a cult of people, and all of whom are paid to be that way. And they form a little circle and agree violently with each other, and everyone who’s outside is the enemy. They won’t talk to me at all. They used to, but now they won’t, obviously not. But lots of other tech people do, because they’re aware. Their worlds gets smaller and smaller and smaller the richer and richer and richer they get. So, I don’t know. More cashmere but less space.
BB: I’ll tell you what scares me about what you’re saying. There’s a shit-ton that scares me about what you’re saying, actually. But what scares me a lot about what you’re saying is… I’ve got this list of things I want to ask you about.
BB: But, Scott, you said love. And I want to dig in for a second, because I think this may have implications across other people in other companies I want to ask you about. Is it love or is it adoration and reverence?
SG: I think that’s an interesting point. But I would argue that to be successful in a capitalist society affords you the accoutrements that are often associated with being loved. And just to be crude about it, at least as a man, your selection set of mates expands exponentially. Your opportunities for romantic relationship and friendships and love grow exponentially with your wealth. We don’t like to talk about it, but I stand by that. I have a lot of close friends in New York who complain about their girlfriends. I’m like, “If you didn’t have money, your selection set of mates would be really uninteresting. You’re not that interesting a person.” And I think, in a capitalist society where we keep figuring out ways to offer people better healthcare, better opportunities for your children, to have resources and to have influence and to be part of a dialogue. I get elected representatives calling me all the time and asking me for advice, and it feels really good. It makes me feel relevant. It makes me feel meaningful. And what I also have to acknowledge is that started happening when I started giving money to candidates. So, a capitalist society continually invents new influence, new ways to be loved and to be recognized and to be relevant no matter how wealthy you get. Billionaires speak to their senators on average every 30 days, but you have got to be a billionaire.
BB: Jesus, is that true? Is that a true statistic?
SG: On average, a billionaire speaks to his or her senator every 30 days. Anyways, there’s a difference. People think that… Something you said, I would challenge, that at some point you don’t need more money. One of the unique attributes and amazing thing about America and capitalist societies is, their ability to segment the market and keep offering you more for more money. Think about airlines. It used to be coach or business class. Then they came up with economy comfort. Then they came up with lie flat seats. Then they came up with fractional jets. Then they came up with full jet ownership. Then they came up with jets that could go extended range. No matter how much money you have, there’s somebody who will build you a $500 million boat that is tangibly better than the $400 million boat. I think they all wake up every morning and say, “Hello, wealthiest person in the world.” And I think they’re going to die trying to get there. I don’t think they want to be worth 60 billion. I think they want to be worth 211, which is one billion more than Elon Musk.
KS: That’s not true, Scott. A lot of them are aware of the problem, of the problem of people agreeing with them and licking them up and down all day, etcetera. I think sometimes, when someone’s articulating some of this about their victimization or people are unfair, the press is unfair, that’s one of their favorites, it’s the old saying, “You’re so poor, all you have is money,” to them, and some of them get it. The penny does drop for a lot of them. And that’s why a lot of people go. They keep the money, but they go. And it’s interesting, I was just watching Severance, which is this new Ben Stiller thing on Apple TV, which is really interesting too. But it’s the idea of that you have to bifurcate your work from your personal life. Even if your personal life is bad, it affects your work, or if it’s good, it affects your work. But it reminded me of people who work on, say, drones at Google or facial recognition at Amazon or whatever. Part of them has to go, “Oh my God. What I’m making could do this,” or, “What I’m making could ruin elections.” And I think that there’s people in there that are like, “I can’t do this.” They would like to have two brains, and some of these very wealthy people have two brains. They have two brains.
BB: Yeah, it’s a compartmentalization thing, when I’ve done work before at the CIA. The human mind’s capacity for compartmentalizing when it threatens either earning or love is pretty astonishing actually.
BB: I was asking about the reverence piece because one of the things that we see in the research is reverence increases for people if we buy their victimization narrative. So when we have reverence for something… Unlike admiration. Admiration, actually, when we admire someone, we want to be better… We want to be better versions of ourselves. When we have reverence for something or someone, we want to get closer to that thing. And if that thing is in any way victimized or perceived to be victimized or that’s the narrative, our reverence for them increases. Maybe we can see that with the Trump administration, right?
KS: With Trump, right? Trump… Trump.
BB: Okay, so let me just ask you this because I can’t get… I had this whole do-do-do-do-do list of things I wanted to talk about, but I’m stuck here for some reason. But… So what’s the fix? So I don’t want to just piss and moan.
KS: Nothing, nothing.
BB: So do I tell my Aunt Gladys, “Stop checking in on Facebook to see how our bridge club’s doing… ” That seems like a small pebble in a big pond of problems. So… Are anti-trust laws realistic? Are we going to get there? What’s the solution to this?
KS: It’s too far. The architecture is wrong. The whole architecture… The way it’s architected and the way that the business plan wants this to happen, wants anger to happen, wants engagement to be enragement, the whole way it’s built. There are other ways to build it. You can design it differently. You can have a group of people that take responsibility for what they’re doing and actually edit. You saw the situation at Spotify where they kept trying to pretend they weren’t in charge of Joe Rogan, and they kind of are, and… They can decide to sell it. That’s fine. That’s capitalism. But they never could acknowledge that they were anything but a benign platform. So acknowledgement of their responsibility and consequences, and then some legislation around privacy, around these business plans, around… Anti-trust is very hard. It’s very slow. Funding… It’s just not going to work, it’s just not going to work. It may slow them down, but something else will happen. Right now, it’s shocking that Apple, which is one of the most powerful companies on the planet, the most valuable, is the regulator for Facebook right now, and possibly could be the regulator for Tesla.
BB: How so?
KS: Because they passed this… They had this thing with this opt-in advertising policy where it screwed with Facebook’s business and… To the tune of $10 billion so far, which is letting users choose privacy over what Facebook was doing, and so it really hurt their business. Other businesses didn’t hurt, but it has hurt a number of businesses. And so we shouldn’t have Apple as our regulator. We’re relying on the goodwill of Tim Cook, and also the business… That’s good for his business to do that. So there’s not a lot you can do when the architecture is designed to enrage. And it’s an easy playground from malevolent players. There’s just no… We’ve made it so easy for shitty people to advantage themselves, like Alex Jones or anti-vax people or whatever. And then they get to stand on a high horse talking about free speech, which this has nothing to do with.
SG: I’m more hopeful than Kara. I do think that we’ve faced… The railroads were very powerful, the aluminum companies, the “seven sisters.” Anti-trust, I think, breaking up these players would not only lower rents in corporate America, but… And send better behavior, because I think there’s a lot of great companies or advertisers who would rather not advertise on Facebook or Google, but don’t feel as if they have any choice. So I think choice and competition, which is a key component…
KS: You’re seeing it now with their stock. Yeah, you’re… Scott’s right in that regard. Stock will take care of it.
SG: And they lost… Actually, they ask about $200 billion in value with Tim Cook shutting off or tracking. But also, I don’t think any of this gets much better until someone does a perp walk. Do you have kids, Brené?
SG: So if you got a call… I don’t know if any of them are in high school, but if you’re on that weird hamster wheel trying to figure out how to get your kids into a good college. If someone calls you right now and says, “Hi, I’m the sailing coach from Yale, and all I need is a half a million bucks and I can get your kid in under the auspices of a student athlete,” you’re hanging up the phone because Aunt Becky did a perp walk. And I don’t think any of this gets better until someone in big tech is seen in an orange jumpsuit. Because right now, the general feeling is it’s attacks, the depressing teen serving up extreme dieting content, suggesting two-thirds of extremist sites were suggested by the algorithm to young men. I don’t think there’s any incentive really for them to do what’s required, because right now the penalties are fines, and they make so much money that there really isn’t a fine that can…
KS: It’s a parking ticket.
SG: Let’s be honest, if a meter in front of our house costs $100, but the ticket was 15 cents, we’d all break the law every day.
BB: Every day.
KS: Every day.
SG: That’s the current construct we have. And prison or the threat of prison or the tangible threat of prison is what I call the algebra of deterrence, and right now that factor just isn’t present until a big tech executive does a perp walk. And I would argue, you say, “Well, you don’t use the law like that, Scott.” I would argue there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in prison who’ve done less damage to fellow Americans than these organizations, so…
KS: Or what happened to the opiate manufacturers, the cigarette… We’ve seen these things happen. He’s right about that. There’s… The only problem with this is… Cigarettes, for sure, addictive. This is addictive. It hits… It’s everything. It’s not just addictive, it’s also necessary. You need to use it to live, essentially, especially during the pandemic. It’s also huge and powerful. It’s also the richest people on the planet. It’s also… And there’s never been an industry that crawls down your brain and controls it, and you have to keep using it. Opiates, everyone knows, you didn’t have to keep using, but it creates a huge societal problem, expensive societal problem, that we’re still trying to clean up with the jump from opiates to heroin to fentanyl. You see it going everywhere, huge problem. This thing crawls down your brain and you can’t stop using it because you need it for your livelihood or to deliver groceries or whatever it is, especially during the pandemic. And so the pandemic essentially has us hooked on these companies, they’ve never been wealthier, and we can’t do anything about it. We need them. And so it’s a very difficult situation.
KS: Now, what Scott was saying about the stock is true. It’s down 40% since the beginning of the year, or something like that, with Facebook. That’s a number of reasons but it has to do with Apple cutting off its oxygen, its business oxygen, which I applaud, although I don’t like Apple doing it, right. I’d like the government to do privacy legislation or data protection legislation, etcetera, and other things. They’re trying to shift their business plan. People aren’t using it as much.
BB: Would you agree or disagree, I’m curious…
BB: It seems to me, and this is a scary proposition, I understand, but it seems to me when I talk to people, their expectations of ethical decision-making are really… They have a stronger belief in corporate leaders than the government now.
KS: And Scott can speak to that, yeah. Why wouldn’t they?
BB: I don’t know. Are we staring down the barrel of basically a neutered government and the norms will be set by what corporations will tolerate?
KS: I think they’ve been doing that for a long time. But, Scott, you’re more up on this one.
SG: It all started with Reagan, and that is this 40 years screen against government. “Hi, I’m from the government. I’m here to help.” Seven scariest words. And it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy where we cut their budgets, and that makes a government neutered and less competent, which you lose faith. In Israel, we respect our military leaders. In Britain, believe it or not, they do respect their leaders. In America, we respect athletes and entrepreneurs. And what I think is missing also in our society is no connective tissue. In the 60s and 70s when we passed great civil rights legislation, a lot of their… Our elected leaders had served in a uniform of the same color, and they saw each other as Americans before they saw each other as red or blue. And it appears we’ve lost that connective tissue, and, unfortunately, I think, COVID only makes it worse as we segregate into our little cohorts where we look, smell and feel more like each other. There’s a lot of research, especially out of the UK, showing that when you don’t mix with people, you don’t go to the mall, you don’t go to the grocery store, when you don’t see the homeless veteran on the off or the on-ramp, you’re just less empathetic. You don’t see each other as Americans.
SG: And then when you’re fed a diet, an algorithmly driven diet that promotes you being angry at the other side and constantly reinforces your beliefs to the point that you live in a hermetically sealed bubble, it creates a level of polarization where we now see each other as the enemy. People are angrier… Democrats are angrier at Republicans right now, and vice versa, than they are at Putin who’s about to potentially throw the world into chaos. So I think we lack a connective tissue as Americans, and I think it started in the Reagan administration. And it’s just so… It never has made any sense to me that people are so angry at the government. I constantly say I’m a product of the government having gotten here… I’m speaking to you because of the grace and generosity of the regents at the University of California and California taxpayers at UCLA in Berkeley. But people talk about government as if it’s some menace that’s plotting against you. Government is us. We elect these people. They’re us. And so I don’t… Until we get back to the point of loving our government and the country and having some connective tissue that’s beyond political party, this is played out as if it was the Russians’ dream, to divide us, to atomize your competition.
KS: And it was, and it has been. They’ve certainly used that in a lot of ways. I think the problem that we face is that we’ve gotten all these choices of these things, but we have no choice at all. And so when you think about the largeness and the size and the amount of money these people have, it’s unprecedented in the history of the world, including these powerful companies. And it used to be, we were scared of, in tech, at least of Microsoft. It was one company. Now there’s six of them or five of them, or four, or whatever… However you want to slice it. And they all are powerful in their own way over a certain part of society, but they have enormous societal implications. And so something simple like tossing Trump off of Twitter, right, we may agree with that, and he did break rules over and over again, and they finally got around on January 6 when he went a step too far, which he had already done, by the way, many times according to their rules, that they never enforced. And you may have thought, “Okay, that’s good. They finally get him off.” But just think about it, two people made that decision, the CEO of Facebook and the CEO of Twitter impacting the President of the United States. Even if you disagree with them, that’s got to trouble anybody.
KS: We have elected officials. We may think they’re compromised. Citizens United certainly didn’t help. But the fact the matter is, they’re elected and they’re accountable in some way. These people are not. Even if you think they’re great or they’re nice people, they’re not accountable, and they don’t have to be. Nobody can make them, and they have unlimited funds and unlimited power. So we just rely on them not being bad. [chuckle] We rely on them not being bad. And we want their dating services, their apps, their everything. It’s really quite unprecedented that you love the people who control you. [chuckle]
BB: It is completely. As a family systems person it’s completely in system theory, it is completely the abusive dependent family relationship. It is… Yeah, that’s it. It’s…
KS: It’s like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is on… Or something like whenever she was in the wheelchair…
BB: Yeah, and it’s interesting too. I started my research six months before 9/11, obviously coincidentally, and just looking back… Scott riffing off what you were saying about this government thing. I remember just as a qualitative researcher thinking, “Wow, terrorism is time-released fear. It’s a single act that over time releases… ” You only have to do one thing and then sit back and wait for people to start really hating each other, and then they will destroy themselves.
KS: It’s… It’s like OxyContin, right, it’s slow release…
BB: It is. It’s time-released fear. And I thought, “Whatever started with Reagan… ” And I wasn’t so sure, I was in graduate school then so you can only imagine that we were on top of that. But it was really exacerbated by 9/11. What makes y’all hopeful? What are you hopeful about?
KS: Every empire dies. Babylon was… Is a book I’m working on right now.
SG: That’s not hopeful.
KS: Well, no, but Babylon used to run everything. Greece used to run…
BB: What are you hopeful for in our lifetimes?
KS: That our young people… I think about my kids. I have a lot of kids, and Scott does too. They’re on to it. They don’t need it as much. They don’t… They’re pulling away from it. You saw the numbers drop with Facebook, that they’re like, “No, thank you,” that it doesn’t upend every single thing in their lives. And so I think that’s a little hopeful. I think kids are much savvier, and I don’t mean millennials, I mean below them. Gen… Whatever gen they’re supposed to be.
BB: Gen Z-ers.
KS: Gen Z-ers. My kids seem to have a pretty healthy relationship with technology. They certainly use their phones and everything else. That said, there’s a lot of kids who are always on Instagram or TikTok, or they live that way, or they live in the influencer lifestyle. But a lot of them seem on to these people, very on to them. I don’t know. Scott, what about you?
SG: Yeah. As Kara… I’m a glass half empty guy, but I think it’s hard not to recognize there’s huge potential. I think a lot about post-Corona… We could unlock tremendous healthcare, if you think about the amount of research, 11,000 peer reviewed academic papers on vaccines. We could be entering a great age of discovery, not only about healthcare, but it’s our ability to distribute it out away from doctors’ offices and hospitals and to smartphones and smart speakers, such that people who have been intimidated by or couldn’t afford to get preventive health care. If you think about a mother who has a child that suffers from diabetes… And let’s be honest, it’s always the mom. She spent 16 weeks of her year managing that child’s healthcare, going to the doctor’s office, getting the ‘scrip, getting the referral to the specialist, going to the CVS, coming back. Can we give her, using new technologies, eight weeks a year back for self-care or to take care of others or to make more money?
KS: Commuting to the office, all that wasted time. Technology is supposed to be good. We’ve just been mostly in the Empire Strikes Back period of our technology. It doesn’t have to be that way. It could do climate change tech, there could be all kinds of mitigation. Commuting, giving people back their lives, new ways to work. Technology is neutral, really, in a lot of ways. It’s a question of how they use it and what we use it for. It doesn’t have to be negative. It’s just the way they built these… Facebook built itself, it’s a perfect place for Alex Jones and others to thrive. It’s perfect. It’s like a mold. They need to get the mold out is what they have to do, and they don’t particularly want to.
BB: There’s no incentive.
KS: Everybody gets to say whatever they want. I’m like, “Mmm, that sounds… ” That sounds like The Purge to me, everyone gets to kill each other. Okay, sure. That’s the kind of… If you take it to the extreme. But it doesn’t have to be, like Scott said, it can be very positive. Telehealth… Obviously, tele-education didn’t work out so well during the pandemic, but that’s okay. We looked at it, it was a big experiment, and now we know we need to have in-person classes, that it’s better for kids.
BB: Great, great strides in mental health… In mental health and therapy. Yeah.
KS: That’s right. Mental health, therapy, everyone recognizes. There’s all kinds of positive things. It’s sort of like when you think about flight or… Everything is a technology, like flight. If you don’t want to be the person who says flight’s wrong, flight is amazing. It just has… It can also make… There’s a very famous quote, I think it’s Paul Coelho, or something like that, where he said, “When you invent electricity, you invent the electric chair, but you also invent light.” So, it’s pretty much that simple. Or the ship, you invent the ship, you invent the shipwreck. So, you don’t have to have shipwrecks all the time.
BB: Can I ask y’all an ethical question, a conceptual ethical question. I did this interview with Ben Wizner, who heads up free speech for the ACLU. It was a great conversation.
KS: He’s a great guy.
BB: Yeah, he’s a really incredible guy. I learned so much. I was looking for clarity, but of course there was nothing but just grey. The law doesn’t give us what we need all the time. He said that the whole scaffolding for the country is built on the idea that we should not intervene, oversee in people’s behaviors, that people are responsible for their own behaviors and we’re not responsible for that. And so what I’m trying to understand is, when you think about… Let’s just take one really scary, awful thing for me on social media is this extreme dieting, eating disorder, stuff that’s being driven. Where is the line between what the government or what corporations should control for and what belongs to individual parents? Certainly, if you’re targeting kids, which they are, I’m not articulating the question well, but do you get…
KS: Yeah, I get what you… I understand what Ben says, but it doesn’t exist. We have stop signs. Is that a free speech? I like to speed.
BB: No, I get that argument. We have stop signs, and you can’t drink and drive. And…
KS: You can’t pee in public, you can’t… Peeing is an expression. Right, Scott? Don’t you think so? Peeing in public? I don’t know.
SG: I express less and less as I get older. But anyways, go ahead.
KS: I thinks it’s… I think… Think about… There’s something on TikTok, for example, which I just am fascinated by, called Sleeping Chicken. It’s Nyquil chicken, have you heard about this?
BB: Oh, God, no. I don’t…
KS: You inject Nyquil or you soak chicken in Nyquil and then eat it. Then it cooks sort of like ceviche, I guess, in some fashion. Very dangerous. Now, people should be able to do that. Hey, whatever. They should be able to post on it. But you know what, if you’re TikTok and you’re letting that happen, there’s something wrong with you as a business, right? And so, sure, people should be able to do it, but, no, they shouldn’t, right? Or at least the company can say, “You could do it, but not on our… Not under my store,” kind of thing. And that’s really where it comes down to, is ethical responsibility over ridiculous behavior. Or the challenge on TikTok of hitting your teacher. There was one… Wasn’t that stopped?
BB: I agree with everything. I just want to… I want to think about what the other people… The other side are saying. I think they’re saying, “Why are we trying to control for people’s stupid choices?”
SG: Yeah, but, Brené, we hold… If people decide to do a Tide pod challenge and start ingesting Tide pods, we do hold Procter & Gamble accountable through our class action suits against Procter & Gamble. And I think that weapon of mass distraction on behalf of big tech is to create this notion that it’s a subtle nuanced difficult problem. I think it’s actually more simple than they would have us believe.
SG: And that is we age gate pornography, we age gate the military, we age gate alcohol, we age gate drugs. I don’t understand why we’re not age gating technology that forces 14-year-old girls, or motivates them, to put provocative pictures of theirselves online such that they can be evaluated by their full peer group and by strange men all over the world. This is a business run on perversion from day one. It is bad for them, bad for their self-esteem, and the moment social went on mobile, we saw self-harm, not reported, but actual hospital admissions of self-harm among girls, go up 120%.
SG: And just as when we are able to make that sort of attribution for other industries, we sue them and they stop doing it. But, unfortunately, because there are more lobbyists who work full-time for Amazon than there are sitting US senators, because there are more people in the PR and Comms department of Facebook than there are journalists at the Washington Post, we have been overrun and they have been able to implement things like Section 230 and continue to serve up extreme dieting sites to a 15-year-old girl who is 5-foot 10, 100 pounds, and they continue to serve up extremist content on white supremacists to young men who are looking for reasons to find people to hate. They always go to… And we go to this navel-gazing of, these are such complex nuanced problems. Fuck that.
KS: They’re not. They also hide around the First Amendment when they don’t even have a conception of it. The appeal to the emotionality of the free speech and First Amendment and sort of hide behind it, when in fact, they edit all the time. They edit all the time. When Mark Zuckerberg decided one day that Holocaust deniers were fine, next day they weren’t, he just decided that… They just… They go on and on about free speech until they decide to make a rule and change it. So they hide behind it and they abuse what is really a wonderful idea, right, what is a really wonderful idea, and try to hide their terrible business plans behind a very lofty idea about people being able to express themselves. But people don’t get the… People are constantly edited all day long. And they take a word, likefree speech when it’s editing, they change a word like fake news when it’s propaganda, right? Just go back to the original word. Gosh, Scott we’re not very funny. We’re usually funny, Brené. You made us unfunny.
BB: No, no, no, no, no. I…
KS: You made us unfunny and non-dirty. We like to make dirty jokes and make fun of…
SG: I’ll start. Comes easy.
BB: Oh, no, no, no. But no joke, this is really…
KS: She has a clean audience, Scott, as opposed to ours. Ours is super not, you know what I mean?
BB: That’s probably why I love listening to y’all. But I guess the thing that I don’t think I knew until I started listening to y’all is that it’s just like around race and white supremacy, the system is not broken, it was designed this way.
KS: Yeah, design… Architect.
BB: But the intentionality behind it is almost hard for me to get my head around sometimes.
KS: Well, something I always say… I say it over and over again. I’m hoping it gets way out there, is that the reason it’s unsafe is because the people who made it never felt unsafe a day in their lives. If you say that over…
BB: Oh, God.
KS: And over and over again. And that’s very easy as…
BB: Say that again.
KS: The people who designed this don’t worry about safety because they’ve never felt unsafe a day in their lives. They’re not unsafe, they’re very safe, and so the idea of people being unsafe, they think that’s noise or whining or whatever. And sometimes it is, sometimes it is. People shouldn’t… Have a little less… Be pre-offended a little less and be… Stop being persistently aggrieved. That’s a real disease of our culture right now. But, at the same time, these people didn’t… It’s like number 12 on the list. And you know this. I was telling Scott a story… With my sons, we were walking down the street at night, and I do a little bit of looking around. And I have very tall, big sons, and they’re like, “What are you doing, Mom?” I’m like, “Oh, you don’t know. You don’t know.” And they’re like, “Know what?” And I’m like, “I could get attacked any time.” I don’t know why I think that. I haven’t really been attacked, but I know it, as a woman, that it’s a possibility. And my son’s very lovely, tall white men in America, and really don’t feel unsafe all. They just don’t. Maybe they will or whatever, but they don’t. Not at the start.
BB: Let me ask y’all this question. It’s something that a lot of people when they found out I was going to talk to you. Can you… I don’t know if I want help understanding it. Maybe I do, only if it’s in service of this other question. What do we need to know about cryptocurrency and NFTs if we know nothing? Are these things that are going to come and go, or is it time to self-educate and like… What’s going on?
KS: Scott, why don’t you start? I think it’s important but, Scott… It’s full of grifters though, too. Melania Trump, for example, but go ahead.
SG: We’re going to need a bigger boat. I think a lot of things in our society, big problems, reverse engineer to, one, the epicenter is that for the first time in the history of our country, a 30-year-old man or woman isn’t doing as well as his or her parents, and that creates anger and then you go specifically to economic security, going back to the desire to be able to afford a decent lifestyle, provide for your family, feel loved. And when you can no longer do that… You play by the rules and you’re not doing as well. The ultimate compact in any society is that your kids are going to do better than their parents, and we have broken that compact the first time in our nation’s history. And then a crisis comes along… And a crisis is actually a means of germinating these pyrophilic plants and giving opportunity to young people. The reason I have economic security is when the economic crisis of 2008 hit, I took all my money and I bought Apple at 13 bucks a share and Amazon at 120 because we let stocks fall. We used COVID as cloud cover to bail out rich people. And that is, we threw some loaves of bread and some circuses for the poor, but two-thirds, at least, of that six or seven trillion dollars went to bailing out the incumbents, and that’s the existing rich.
SG: And when you bail out the restaurant owner that has a failing restaurant, who’s a Baby Boomer, you’re taking away opportunity from the recent 28 graduate of the Brooklyn Culinary Academy, you’re taking away their shot to come in and buy that restaurant for pennies on the dollar. You’re taking away the shot for someone to come and buy their own Brooklyn real estate at $300 a square foot. So what happens when a younger generation sees their wealth as a percentage of GDP in 30 years go from 19% of GDP to 9%, we’ve literally cut the wealth of people under the age of 40 in half. They’re going to create their own volatility and their own asset classes. So they’re like, “It’s too late to buy Amazon. It’s too late to buy Apple. All the big games are gone so I’m going to create new speculative assets, crypto, meme stocks. I’m going to create my own…” Volatility is great for young people because they can survive it, they can make more money, they’re willing to take those risks.
BB: Because time is the variable on their side?
KS: Mm-hmm, yep.
SG: You and I want to be in safe stocks, Brené. We want to diversify. We want to diversify… We don’t have as much time to make it back. We’re not about getting rich as much as we are about not getting poor. Young people can be much more volatile. So when you take away that volatility, they’re going to create it themselves. Cryptocurrency is essentially the manifestation of what has gone on the last 50 years, and that is the rich weaponizing governments so they can transfer money from the young to the old. That has been going on for the last 50 years.
SG: And these asset classes, I would argue, are mostly speculative, but so much incredible human and financial capital has gone into it. It is likely there will be some enduring innovation that comes out of it.
BB: Can I stop you for just a second, and can I ask you to unpack the sentence, “these asset classes are speculative”? I think I know what it means, but for people who… An asset class is this group of investments?
KS: Right, it’s just something that people say it’s worth it. It’s just worth it. And then it goes up and down, like Bitcoin is a good example. There’s nothing inherent there, it’s just like when gold is made into jewelry, I guess, but it’s just… Anything is speculative, but then it becomes put to use, currency can be speculative, but it’s also useful in terms of buying things. Right?
KS: And so, I think one of the things you have to think about it is that there’s all kinds of… Like real estate is speculation and office… There’s too much office space now because nobody’s in the office. That’s speculative. Every single thing, shoes, sneakers are speculative. Trading cards are speculative. If you want to think of NFTs, think of them as baseball trading cards or sneakers or whatever. Some things will be valuable, some things will not, there’ll be a lot of grifting, who owns what, but it’s a good way to show the chain of ownership of a digital asset.
KS: That’s all. That’s all. It’s just a contract. It’s very easy, it’s actually… People go a little nuts about it, like, “Why am I paying this much?” because why did you pay much for anything… Why is anything worth anything? And in the case of these assets, there’s going to be a change in how we do currency worldwide, there just is… The dollar is now the fiat currency of the world, essentially, and so why does it have to be? Why is it? Just because it is, because it’s the most stable. But this started out in countries where the currency went up and down, and people did not have, like in South America is where a lot of these entrepreneurs were from, because they were seeing their inflation just eat up all their money, all their currency. And so it makes sense, it makes sense you’d create another currency that doesn’t have that volatility and then eventually some of it will be put to buying and selling things and trading things, and then it’s like, “Why is a quarter worth a quarter?” because we say it is. It just is, right? Is it? You have to think about it that way. Scott is more adept to talk about the idea of why it’s worth something…
SG: Yeah, when you buy a stock, you’re buying the rights to underlying cash flows, when you buy real estate, you have domain to a piece of land and you can live there, so it has utility… People will say that Bitcoin has established what’s called scarcity credibility, and that is the US dollar has lost a lot of scarcity credibility, because one in $3 in circulation has been printed since COVID, whereas people do believe that Bitcoin will stop being mined at 21 million coins. So it’s established itself as sort of this unmalleable store of value. Ethereum has some underlying technology that helps print NFTs, which will be a great way of signaling online that you’re wealthy and interesting. The same way when I buy a Grayson Perry piece of art, it signals wealth, masculinity and artisanship offline. Now, 99% of these coins, and I think a lot of people in crypto would say this, are probably going away, that they’re just speculation and a chance to play Keno. And that’s okay as long as you… I love gambling, I love putting on a kilt, taking 1,000 bucks going down, getting fucked up and losing it all, and it was worth it. It’s consumption.
KS: Why are you wearing a kilt? Why the kilt? Where did the kilt come in?
SG: Why? Because I can, Kara.
BB: Are you Scottish?
SG: I am Scottish.
KS: Of course he is, he had to do that for you.
SG: I am Scottish, the athletes that brought home gold, the women’s curling team, all Scotswomen…
KS: They had nothing to do with you, they had nothing to do with Scott… They had zero to do with Scott. They don’t even know who Scott is.
SG: All have something to do with each other, there’s like 11 of us in America. I’m the third most famous Scottish person in America, there’s five of us.
KS: Let’s think about a Brené Coin, for example, what would a Brené coin be? There’s some value to you in some fashion, like meeting with you, or maybe you could give them special this and that, and the coin is worth, that’d mean you could only buy it if you have the coin.
SG: That’s tokenizing scarcity.
KS: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: Tokenizing scarcity.
KS: That’s right. There’s only one Brené.
SG: I’ll give you an example, and I think this is going to happen. What if Chanel issued 10,000 coins and said, “Anyone who owns this coin gets access to any 10 pieces of fashion or jewelry that we have at any time. You get access to the most aspirational fashion events in the world, a very high EQ person to dress you. It’s the perfect gift for your fourth wife.” What would that coin go for? What would that coin go for?
KS: Not your third one.
SG: I think we could tokenize… Can you imagine a Stanford?
SG: I think it’d go for more than that. It would have speculation and underlying utility and signaling value, and only owners of the Chanel Coin can have the Chanel logo in front of their house or as a logo in the Metaverse.
KS: Their virtual house in the Metaverse, yeah.
BB: Jesus Christ.
SG: Okay, let me give you another example. What if you issued a Cedar Sinai, a Jackson Memorial or a Langone coin and said that, “You want lifetime health care? No insurance? Text message-based, cradle-to-grave health care for your family, if you own this coin.” You give them this coin, they have access to a lifetime, “and we’re only issuing 10,000 of them”, what would that coin go for?
KS: Yeah. And then you could sell it, yeah. That’s a good coin.
SG: So, you’re going to see… You’re going to see all kinds… You’re going to see all kinds of crazy interesting uses that will be stored on the blockchain, similar to a lot of innovation. There’ll be mania, a lot of it’ll go away. People will say that it was fraud, but there will be enduring innovation here.
KS: 100. It’s like the early internet. I don’t know if you were around Brené, but a lot of it was crazy and they were crazy people, and so, one of the things that when someone… When I started covering the internet 30 years ago, someone’s like, “What’s on it?” I was like, “Everything.” And they were like, “What do you mean everything?” I’m like, “Everything.” What is… Look around, was there a tree, a car, a bush… Everything around in the real world. And no one understood that. Right, and it’s the same thing, it’s the exact same thing. A lot of grift, much more utility than grift in the end, if it’s done right, and the same problems we’re going to face… I just interviewed Bob Iger about the Metaverse, and he’s like, “Do you think we have problems now in web 2.0, welcome to the horror… ” Think about Disney as a brand, thinking about the things that people could do with their brands in the Metaverse in a really sick way, right, and they will… They will. You have to anticipate that.
BB: Jesus God.
KS: God, sorry, Brené.
BB: I’m not a sheltered person, y’all, I’m just… I’m really not.
KS: Well, we’re going to take your brain and put it in a new sentient body… Do you want to get to that? That’s later.
BB: Y’all are just like…
KS: I mean, lifespan and health span is really interesting, too.
BB: I’m going to get to my last question because I’m going to squeeze some joy out of this and that’s going to be my rapid fire with y’all, but before we go to the rapid fire… You know it’s so funny, because we were, we had this conversation internally, should this just be Dare to Lead, which is a real business audience for us, or should this be Unlocking Us, which is a wider, just general audience…
BB: And I was like, This should be Unlocking Us, because this is the shit everybody hears about, and then stops for a minute and says, “Do I need to know this or not know this?”
KS: They do.
BB: And people need to know this. Every time I split my time between Houston and Austin, and we’re always in my husband’s truck going back and forth, and we always listen to Pivot together, and then we just we pause it, and we just look at each other and then we just keep driving, and then we’re like… We look at each other and go, Oh, he’s kind of being a dick, and then we’ll look at you, you know that would be you Scotts-man.
SG: You’re talking about Kara right? Oh wait.
KS: No. They’re never… People scream at me in the streets, “Scott’s such a dick.” They do that to me. And I’m like…
KS: No, and then…
SG: You say that like it’s a bad thing.
KS: Exactly. Exactly.
BB: Yeah. But then they will say I’m like Kara, Kara it’s like we’re talking to y’all so I wanted this to go to a broader group because, man, I do not like the fact that myself included, are so deeply engaged with these forces that we choose to know nothing about, that is a choice because knowing about them is an inconvenience.
KS: Well, Brené, you’ve become the cheapest date in the world to these people, you give them everything, including the ability to monetize you and you get a map… I don’t know. What do you get… Like think about it, you’re a cheap date is what you are.
KS: And Scott knows about cheap dates.
BB: Why am I…
KS: No, you people… Because you trade so much private information to these people by your movements, by your use of their technology, by your…
BB: Oh, I okay yes. Okay.
KS: Pushing, you’re not a cheap date in general, I’m sure you’re very expensive date as a person, but when you think about the trade that you’re making with technology companies, and you’re unprotected by your legislators and your regulators, they get everything in this trade, if this is a trade, you’d be the sucker, right, because you think you’re getting a lot…
BB: No I’m telling you. Let me tell something… I read an article, I tried to find something on the Guardian yesterday, it’s got like this thing that takes up like half of my screen, I’m in a hurry, they’re like, “Do you want to check your privacy settings or let us have everything?” “I’m like, have everything, move on.”
SG: Yeah, have at it.
BB: I have got to read my article, it’s… I am a cheap date. Okay, here’s a question for both of you, y’all are big prediction makers, I love this, y’all are bold in your predictions.
KS: It’s Scott?
BB: No no no.
KS: Okay. It’s Scott.
BB: Let’s start with you, Kara.
KS: All right. All right.
BB: Big winner of 2022, Kara, in technology in media?
KS: Apple, Apple.
SG: Yeah, I think… I almost never do this. I think I agree with Kara, I think that Apple is poised to have so much credibility I think their poised to go into cars. I think they could actually go in to search if they wanted… Right now.
SG: Yeah, so I would say…
KS: Glasses They will have glasses out this year?
BB: If we’re talking about Big Tech, and I think the big loser will be the Oculus and Facebook… Voice technology is huge. I think the Metaverse is a bit over-hyped, but if you wanted to distill it down to a single company on a risk-adjusted basis, it would feel like a big winner is probably Apple right now.
BB: Who’s your big loser Kara?
KS: Facebook, or the American society in terms of anti-vax for this past year, how we’ve been badly misinformed, but Facebook, I think would be the loser. Facebook, no question.
BB: Is it just… What is the word I’m looking for? That means something more subtle than stupid, naïve. Is it just naïve of me to think, You know, I’m really deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem personally, phones, laptops, everything else… Could they just be the good guys and just clean it all up and be…
KS: No look at what… Things are going… I happen to like them, but they’re better than… It’s just it’s a low bar though, Brené. They’ve all kinds of things in China and ….
BB: But they are cleaning that up right?
KS: We have to…
BB: But they’re cleaning up the supply chain and human rights issues?
KS: They are trying but they are still a for-profit company, don’t hug a for-profit company ever. Don’t rely on them to be…
SG: It’s not… The key to capitalism is that… You have these for-profit companies that are primarily focused on profits that will avoid taxes, that will license their IP to their Irish subsidiaries, so they can avoid paying US taxes. They will make…
KS: They’ll do deals with China – the Chinese government.
SG: Yeah They’ll have factories that outsource to contractors who may not have the same standards, they outsource pollution, but that’s kind of their job, it’s our job to regulate them, and for some reason, I believe we’ve been asleep at the switch. If we’re waiting for the better angels of executives to show up, that is a bad strategy.
KS: It is.
BB: It is?
SG: Well yeah, our government, we invented Silly Putty and we turned back Hitler, our government rocks, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t continue to invest in it and be hopeful for it and hold it accountable, without it…
KS: And as broken as it is, we voted for them. We at least voted for them and so that’s…
BB: No, Yeah.
KS: That’s the power. And we can vote them out. You can… You actually can… Things do change.
BB: No I believe that and I do believe that we’ve lost our way when it comes to… I don’t know. There’s…
SG: Where did you go to school Brené?
BB: University of Texas.
SG: Okay, so that’s the government, you’re a product of the government.
BB: No, Yeah, I have a Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD in social work, I’m a friend of the government’s.
BB: But I also have seen a shift in the government in my lifetime, from being agents of change to agents of control. And…
KS: That too. But it doesn’t have to be, again, like basic.
BB: It doesn’t have to be.
KS: It doesn’t have to be.
BB: And I understand that I vote but I’m still strapped with Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton and…
BB: These folks… I will never give up, because I do think the measure of a country is still the government and how they take care of the most vulnerable people.
KS: We used to have the Salem Witch Trials, we had McCarthyism.
KS: This is not something fresh and new, it’s just a question of how much commitment you have to fight for the things you believe in.
SG: When we passed last year, the Child Tax Credit, we cut childhood poverty in half. And that’s an incredible feat. And we can continue to do incredible things. We can come up with incredible vaccines, we can come up with laws that protect our vulnerable, we can put telescopes into space that will tell us about the beginning of time. And these are all brought to you by a group of people who come together to express their collective strength as Americans known as the government, and we need to stop this bullshit screed against us and stop criticizing government.
KS: Guess who invented the internet? The government. The government invented the internet. They gave it as a gift to the American people and the world, and guess who’s making all the money off it? Not the US government, not… [chuckle] And by the way, one thing that we’re putting out here is it’s not just in this country. Facebook and others have such a deleterious effect everywhere else, much stronger.
BB: Is that true?
KS: Yeah, oh my god, that was… One of the things with the Frances Haugen revelations, a lot of people focused on the teen girls, but the stuff happening in other countries where Facebook is the internet is really frightening and dangerous. And if you listen to anyone, Maria Ressa from the Philippines, who is the one who alerted me to this stuff very early on, is very articulate, just won the Nobel Peace Prize and you should have her on. She’s amazing. She was the one that really started to point the finger saying, “This is having a real effect,” and Duterte was using the internet and Facebook and other things to murder democracy. That’s what he was doing, and she called it out and she went to jail, but around the world, that’s what’s really most dangerous, is this gift to the world by the US government, which we paid for, is now Tim Cook or Apple is the most valuable company in the world, trillions of dollars. 10 richest people in the world are all technology internet people. We paid for that. And then we give them our stuff. That’s what I’m saying, it’s like, “This is yours, so you don’t have to grab it, but it’s yours, so you deserve to have control over it much more so than they should”.
BB: Okay, ready? Rapid Fire. Who wants to go first? Same question. Who needs less time?
KS: Scott. All right. [chuckle]
BB: Okay, I’ll mix it up. Scott, go first on this one. Fill in the blank for me. Vulnerability is…
BB: Kara. Vulnerability is…
KS: Scott Galloway.
SG: That’s your vulnerability? I’m the soft tissue in your life?
KS: All right, I’ll do another one. Death. Death Brené, obviously.
BB: I’m not going to let you do that.
KS: Oh God, I did… She tried to get me before Scott and she said, “I’m back!” She’s back, She doesn’t give up on her vulnerability and stuff.
BB: No, I’m not going to let you do that.
KS: I’m the vulnerabiliest. That’s what I am.
BB: Vulnerability is…
KS: Is… Children.
BB: That’s true. Yeah. Okay. Kara, you’re called to be really brave, but your fear is real and you can feel it in your throat. What’s the very first thing you do?
KS: Keep going.
BB: Scott, very first thing you do when you’re really afraid?
SG: A saying that’s helped me through a lot of hard times is “Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems.”
BB: Mm, beautiful.
KS: Mm, beautiful.
BB: Okay. Scott, what’s something that people often get wrong about you?
SG: That I don’t care.
KS: That I’m mean.
BB: Okay, Scott, last TV show you binged and loved?
SG: I binge a lot…
KS: You do.
SG: I just watched all nine seasons again of Game of Thrones with my 14-year-old son. That was very rewarding.
BB: Do you love it?
SG: Adore it, love it, think it’s inspiration, just… It’s incredible that humans can come together and do something like that.
BB: Yeah, creativity can really be a hope instiller for me too. Kara, what’s the last thing you binged and loved?
KS: Cobra Kai.
SG: Oh yeah, we both love Mare of Easttown, that was wonderful, we both…
KS: Mare of Easttown.
SG: We bonded over that. Both of us watched at the same time.
BB: Okay. This is a hard one. Kara, favorite movie?
KS: Oh, Gladiator.
BB: Gladiator, okay. Scott?
SG: Not a great movie, but it moved me, The Black Stallion, it was a nice story about a boy and his mother.
KS: Oh, that’s sweet Scott.
SG: Isn’t that nice?
SG: I’m trying to be more likeable.
BB: Kara, a concert you’ll never forget?
KS: Oh wow. I don’t like concerts that much. Oh, a very small little concert I went to in Barclay that I love was Cheryl Wheeler, who’s a very not well-known folk singer. It was just lovely, she was right up close and she was… She’s such a good singer, has a beautiful voice and very funny. I like small concerts, I don’t like big ones.
BB: Yeah. Scott?
SG: 1985, Greek Theater, Squeeze open for the Go-Gos and I got my first kiss that night.
SG: I’m good at this.
BB: What year was that?
SG: I win, I win.
KS: You do, you do.
BB: You win.
KS: Got his first kiss.
BB: But what year was that?
KS: What year was that? ’85?
SG: Yeah no, I was 38.
BB: Oh man, I remember when Squeeze toured with the Go-Go’s.
SG: Yeah it was actually… I got the year wrong. I’m sorry, I was thinking I was trying to… It was last year of high school, it was like 1981.
SG: ’83 yeah, it was ’83. I graduated my high school in ’82, I don’t like to acknowledge that, but… Yeah, Greek Theater, early 1982.
KS: What was the girl’s name?
SG: Lena. Prettiest girl in the school. She liked me because I was funny.
KS: Oh, well…
BB: I like it. All right, this is a good one. You’ll have to have answers to this, both of you. Scott first. Favorite meal?
SG: In-N-Out burger.
KS: Really? God dang.
SG: 100 percent.
BB: You talking about cheap date.
KS: Yeah. Gosh, favorite meal. Oh gosh. It isn’t easy for me, I like lots of things. Oysters.
BB: Raw? On half shells?
KS: Yes, yes, up in Point Reyes. In a place… In a Point Reyes grocery store there.
BB: A snapshot, Scott, of an ordinary moment in your life that really brings you joy.
SG: Oh, it’s on my phone, my boys hugging me.
KS: The kids. And whatever kid picture is on, just… I have a recent one of me carrying Clara around this weekend. Just love it. It’s just funny. Makes me laugh.
BB: Last question. What’s one thing that you’re both really deeply grateful for right now?
SG: Yeah, I’m grateful that my parents decided at the age of 19 to get on a steamship and emigrate to America. The smartest thing I’ve ever done was being born here.
KS: That’s a good one, Scott.
KS: I would say my wife and all my children. I would say that, but I think more so is the ability to change. To be creative and change and the luckiness to be able to do it and the fortitude to do it. To change and do exciting things and say, “I’m going to try that.” I think we both do that. Well, you do that too Scott. We both sort of are like, “Next, cool,” that kind of thing.
BB: That’s a big one.
KS: Scott is my greatest gratitude.
SG: Good, I’m your soft tissue.
KS: I actually, shockingly, really, have grown to really like Scott a lot.
BB: Okay. Let me get to this. This is my favorite part right here. Okay. We asked y’all for five songs you can’t live without. We put a playlist together. Kara you gave us: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto…
KS: Yeah. I’ve listened to it 400 times. Yeah.
BB: Oh, I bet, with your kids. “Light of A Clear Blue Morning” by Dolly Parton. “Jesus Take The Wheel” by Carrie Underwood, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Johnny Cash.
KS: Such a good song.
KS: It’s “Wahine ‘Ilikea.”
BB: ‘Ilikea by Dennis Kamakahi?
KS: I think it’s Kamahima. Something like that. Yeah.
BB: One sentence? No semicolons, em dashes or bullshit like that? One sentence? What does this mini mixtape say about you, Kara Swisher?
KS: One sentence.
BB: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” “Jesus Take The Wheel,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Wahine ‘Ilikea.”
KS: Peace though in a world of pain.
BB: That’s beautiful.
KS: Thank you.
BB: Scott. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, “Livin’ Thing” by ELO, “Even The Losers” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Gypsy” Fleetwood Mac and “More Than a Feeling” by Boston.
KS: Of course.
SG: But mine wasn’t curated in some PBS mashup you edited there.
KS: Oh my god. That’s one of my favorite songs.
SG: I sent my Spotify…
BB: No, no, no, no. I will not tolerate any kind of bullshit around her playlist.
SG: Brené won’t allow me to admit that she… She says I’m her vulnerability, but I brag on her music choice.
KS: “More Than a Feeling,” it’s more than a feeling.
SG: I sent my Spotify… I sent my top five songs from Spotify. I’m not sure I would have picked…
BB: What does it say about you?
KS: That’s because you got to second base with that song. You got to second base with the last song.
SG: Late at night I get ridiculously fucked up and I dance to ’80s music. Alone.
KS: I can see that.
BB: I can see that.
KS: I can see that.
BB: That checks out, too.
KS: I can see that.
KS: That checks out.
BB: Thank you all so much for spending some time with us.
SG: Thank you.
KS: Thank you Brené.
BB: Good questions.
SG: You’re fun Brené.
BB: Thanks for Pivot. It’s so good.
KS: Thank you.
SG: Thank you. Thanks for saying that.
KS: I love that your husband and you sit in a car and yell at us. We love that idea.
SG: Yeah. That’s nice.
BB: We do. And we talk right back to you.
KS: Good you should. We’ll keep being as crazy.
SG: Well, we’re listening and we care.
KS: We’re listening.
SG: We really care.
KS: Our message; we care.
SG: You’re heard and so our advertisers. Please download it a million times so we can make more Benjamins. Kara’s got like 45 kids. We need you to listen more.
BB: You do have a newborn, right?
KS: I do. Yeah. I had two kids during the pandemic. Yes.
SG: She does.
KS: I did, two kids.
KS: Thank you.
BB: Thank ya’ll very much and…
KS: Thanks, Brené.
SG: Thank you.
BB: Thanks for opening our eyes to shit we don’t want to see. We appreciate you.
BB: All right, look, if you’re interested in more conversations like this between Scott and Kara, you need to listen to the Pivot podcast. It’s interesting. You can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts. We’ll link everything on the Unlocking Us episode page on brenebrown.com. You can find Kara online at vox.com/karaswisher. She’s on Instagram and Twitter at @KaraSwisher. And you can find Scott online at profgalloway.com. And he’s on Twitter at @ProfGalloway. Some fun news, yesterday the paperback book of The Gifts of Imperfection came out. March 1st was the date. Thank you, thank you for the incredible response to Atlas of the Heart. I very much appreciate it. Do not forget that every episode of Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead has an episode page on brenebrown.com where you can find all kinds of links, downloads, and transcripts are available. They’re beautifully done by our team which I’m always grateful for, for a lot of reasons. Sometimes I like to read stuff, accessibility reasons. They’re usually available three to five business days after the podcast hits the airwaves. This is an uncertain hard world, and we need each other. Stay awkward, brave and kind, take care of yourselves and the people you love. I’ll see you soon.
BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez and the amazing Gina Chavez.
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