How will we send commands to computers in the future? When we finally evolve beyond keyboards, mice, touchscreens, and voice controls, what’s next? This month, Facebook hinted at how it’s thinking about the future of human-computer interactions. The company unveiled a concept for a wrist-worn wearable that can interpret the nerve impulses in the wearer’s arm to virtually mimic hand movements and finger taps. Also, we witnessed a debate about how facial recognition should be used in the AR glasses Facebook reportedly plans to release later this year.
For this episode, we are joined by WIRED editor-at-large Steven Levy, who has written extensively about Facebook for the magazine and is the author of Facebook: The Inside Story. We discuss Facebook’s vision of future interfaces, possible applications for these wearable devices, and whether Facebook has earned the public trust necessary to tap into people’s brain signals.
Steven’s book is now available in paperback. Read Lauren’s story about the wrist-wearable concept unveiled this week. Read our original news story on the Facebook Portal’s launch, as well as Adrienne So’s story about how she grew to love the device during the pandemic. BuzzFeed News reported on Facebook’s internal meeting about AR glasses and facial recognition in late February.
Steven recommends Tom Stoppard: A Life, by Hermione Lee. Lauren recommends enabling the handwashing timer on your Apple Watch. Mike recommends the Showtime series City on a Hill; season 2 starts on March 28.
Steven Levy can be found on Twitter @StevenLevy. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here. Also, if you buy one of the books we link to in these show notes, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.
WIRED Brand Lab is a creative studio from the publisher of WIRED. The WIRED newsroom is not involved in the creation of Brand Lab content.
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Michael Calore: Lauren.
Lauren Goode: Gilad, is that you?
MC: Lauren, it’s me. It’s Mike. Snackfight.
MC: Oh God, I go away for one week and this whole place falls apart.
LG: Where’s Gilad?
[Gadget Lab intro theme music]
MC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, senior editor at WIRED.
LG: And the actual cohost of this show, we should say. I’m Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED and the other cohost.
MC: We are also joined this week by WIRED editor-at-large Steven Levy. Steven, welcome back to the show.
Steven Levy: Thank you.
MC: Today we are talking about Facebook. Some of you might know that Steven literally wrote the book on Facebook. It’s called Facebook: The Inside Story. It’s 15 bucks on Kindle. It gets a 4.4 out of five rating on Amazon. You should definitely check it out. Steven covers a lot of ground in the book. But this week we’re going to zoom in on one particular corner of the Facebook empire, the company’s research and development labs. We’re talking about that this week because Facebook just unveiled some of its concepts for new forms of human-computer interactions. Basically, the company is thinking about what sorts of new and different gadgets and devices we can use to send signals to computers. So if you throw away the keyboard and the mouse, throw away touchscreens, throw away voice controls, what’s next? Lauren, you wrote a story about this for WIRED this week. What problem is Facebook trying to solve here?
LG: OK. So first off, I think it’s important to note that this is in Facebook’s labs, which they call their Reality Labs, but they are their research and development labs. So what we saw this week were concepts, and one of the concepts that really stood out was a wrist wearable. I likened it to something that looks like an iPod on the wrist. It very much looks like a prototype. It’s not sleek or sophisticated looking. It’s geeky. But what Facebook has been doing is experimenting with using a sensor filled wearable device to help you control computers sort of through the air.
The reason why Facebook is talking about this, even though it is quite literally years from us using it, is because for years the company’s motto was, “Move fast and break things,” and the company developed a lot of products without necessarily putting users or user privacy first. It’s gotten into a lot of trouble, right, over the past few years, and journalists like ourselves have been scrutinizing the company because of that. So now it seems that Facebook sort of wants to engage on these new products early, before they’re available to the public, because there is something about them that’s a little bit creepy and that their ambitions are kind of sweeping, like, “We want to introduce this new paradigm shift in computing,” and that sort of stuff. Understandably, it makes people nervous. And so Facebook is like, “Let’s pull back the curtain a little bit and show you this, this one part of it, this wearable.”
MC: So get the public talking about it, get people engaged and start getting used to the idea of this thing existing well before it actually exists.
LG: Right, right. We should say too that the way that it was presented, the idea of this wearable, which uses electromyography, right, to basically measure your nerve to muscle signals and then kind of let you control things in the air, right, is that it’s supposed to help create new interactions in AR and VR. So a lot of people know that Facebook acquired Oculus a few years back for $2 billion. It now makes pretty good VR headsets, including the Oculus Quest 2, which is pretty groundbreaking for what it does. The company has also been pretty open about the fact that it’s working on AR glasses, which are going to be a little bit more lightweight than a big VR headset. But what happens when you start to wear these headset displays is that you don’t quite know what to do with your hands, particularly in a VR headset when you can’t see your hands.
But even in AR, I’ve used HoloLens and you’re supposed to use air gestures with your hands, and we talked about this a couple of weeks ago on the Gadget Lab, it can get pretty awkward. So part of their goal, I think, in developing this wearable was to say, “Hey, this is what you could use to gesture in AR and VR.” But I actually think it’s the part… I’d love to hear Steven’s thoughts on this. I actually think it’s the part where they say like, “Yeah, but this is not just AR, VR. This is something we envision people using instead of the keyboard,” or, “It’s a new version of the mouse,” or, “It’s going to be like an air interface you use to control your home appliances,” that I think is a lot more interesting.
SL: Well, actually, I think I was the first journalist to actually use this technology, and this was before Facebook got hold of it. This technology began in a company called CTRL-labs-.
LG: Right, which Facebook bought.
SL: … and it was founded by a guy named Thomas Reardon, who was a former Microsoft guy. He was Bill Gates’ assistant who helped clue Bill Gates to how important the internet was. He’s a fascinating guy. He loved technology and got a degree in the classics and then got a degree in neuroscience. He became a neuroscientist and started this company that had these wristbands that basically pick up the signals to the brain. When your brain tells your hand to do something, it goes along your arm, and he sort of hijacks that signal so it can go out to a computer. So when I tested it, literally, people in his lab were typing with this thing by just twitching their fingers a little, the kind of little twitching you give before you’re about to throw a baseball or something like that.
So when Facebook got wind of this technology, it made a very big play to buy the company and spent just south of a billion dollars, I think, maybe it didn’t want to put so many zeros on it to get government scrutiny, and brought Reardon and his team into Facebook, into their Reality Labs. And this is the first glimpse we’ve had of what they’ve done with it. It is kind of a interface play as Reardon envisioned it, but it’s also part of this vision, as you say, that happened when Facebook bought Oculus, that Mark Zuckerberg was convinced that in 10 years or so this was going to be the next big paradigm, and Facebook had to be ahead of it.
Facebook almost missed the mobile revolution. They were late to it, and they had to do this big, big push to be able to get ahead of it. They were successful in that. But Zuckerberg told himself, “I never want that to happen to me again. When the next big paradigm shift comes, I want to be on top of it. I want to be ahead of the game.” When he bought Oculus, he thought he was in a position to then throw more billions of dollars of research into the effort, and when we were all going to use augmented reality, virtual reality, there would be Mark Zuckerberg sitting on all these patents and technology that would make Facebook the king.
MC: Yeah. They can afford to take those big gambles on what is going to be the new technology in the future, and if nine out of 10 of them don’t pan out, then that’s still kind of OK.
SL: Yeah. But it’s interesting because when he bought Oculus it was 2014, and everyone said, “Wow, a 10 year bet. That’s amazing.” Well, in 10 years, we’re not all going to be using virtual reality instead of our keyboards. So it’ll take a little longer if it happens.
MC: So, Lauren, this device, as we said, it’s a human-computer interface. It’s not a brain-computer interface. Can you talk a little bit about what the differences are there and why people might get confused when they see this prototype in action?
LG: Right. I think this is an important thing to note because I think one of the natural responses you would have, if you’ve looked at these Facebook prototype videos that they’ve put out this week, is you’d say, “Oh, Facebook is reading your mind, or maybe it wants to control your mind.” It depends on which direction that control is going in. But there are a few different overlapping technologies in this area of human-computer interaction. So that field, human-computer interaction, is decades old, right? It’s often referred to as HCI. That just basically means the way we as humans interact with computers.
Then there’s this emerging field of BCI, which is brain computer interaction. That is something that’s often referred to, like, say, what Elon Musk is doing with Neuralink, right, which involves a more invasive implant in the brain and then would involve some kind of direct control from the mind to the computer. Facebook, by the way, has also kind of experimented with BCI. They partnered with UCSF back in 2019 to run a study that involved more invasive implants. But then there are these sensor layers that sit on top of the body that oftentimes researchers are using to basically interpret neuroelectrical signals and then use those impulses, interpret those impulses and process them to do some type of computing.
So there’s something like EEG, which a lot of people, you’ve probably seen. It’s electroencephalography where you are wearing a kind of cap, and the cap has all these different nodes on it, right? It’s an electrophysiological monitoring system that interprets electrical activities of the brain. That’s typically used just in research and that kind of thing. Then there’s EMG, which we’re talking about with this wearable device, and in this case going on the wrist, but that’s electromyography, and it’s basically interpreting these nerve to muscle signals.
And so there are varying levels of invasiveness here that you need to consider when you’re thinking about measuring your body’s activities and how that is signaling something to a computer. I think that in some cases it’s very much like edging into brain reading, and in other cases they’re steps removed, right, from what’s happening in the nerve to muscle signals and what that’s telling the computer. I think in this case, what Facebook is showing off is the latter.
SL: How is Facebook going to deal with misinformation from the brain to your wrist? Are they going to-
LG: That is an excellent question.
MC: Users are going to have to flag it. Actually, we’ll talk about some of the ethical considerations in the second half of the show. But I do have one more question for the both of you, which is that we’ve all been reporting on this stuff for a long time, and people have been trying to do completely hardware-free computer interfaces for years, right? Like, just your controls and just using hands, using eye tracking. Most attempts at this are a lot more ambitious than the technology allows. So I’m wondering if Facebook’s huge bank account and its basically unlimited resources would make a difference here, or are there certain barriers to completely hardware-free computer interfaces that money can’t dissolve?
SL: Well, like a lot of things, the idea to do this kind of stuff came way before we had the computer power and AI and sensor power to actually implement it. It was like in the 1970s, Nicholas Negroponte and the precursor to the Media Lab. He had this room where you’d go in, and without any hardware on you, you’d be able to control an interface of a computer. It took a very long time before we could do that, but now we have games where people pick up your motions and it’s pretty accurate. I think that Facebook, they specifically argued that it’s time now to tackle the remaining hurdles for that to be real. They have this lab in Seattle which is trying to make those remaining breakthroughs which they feel they’ve identified to make this stuff into reality.
LG: I couldn’t have said it better than Steven.
MC: All right. Well, we’re going to take a break right now, and then when we come back, we’ll talk a little bit more about Facebook.
MC: Welcome back. If the idea of giving Facebook access to your neural pathways makes you uneasy, you are probably not alone. Facebook has been criticized for violating user privacy and allowing disinformation to fester on its platforms. Public trust in the company isn’t exactly great. Now, Steven, you wrote the book on Facebook. So I’m going to ask you, should we be worried about wearing something made by Facebook?
SL: Well, I think we have to look at it with great scrutiny. A few years ago, Facebook came out with a device called the Portal, and basically, they put a camera in your living room, bedroom, wherever you put the thing. Everyone jumped on it saying, “This is the last company we want to buy this device from.” I think originally it didn’t sell well, and then eventually the technology wasn’t too bad and it started selling more. I think, though, Facebook’s gathering information is sort of coming to a head with government regulation, and I think that maybe in the long-term, by the time some of these things we’re talking about now come to fruition, Facebook will be constrained in what it can do with our information. So we just have to worry about anyone reading our brains, not particularly Facebook.
LG: Yeah. One of the things that I’m finding interesting about this particular corner of Facebook, their Reality Labs, is that the executive who’s leading the team, Andrew Bosworth, he is someone who seems to be pretty open. This team has posted blog posts fairly frequently about their big, sweeping plans, their 10 year vision, and Andrew Bosworth, or Boz, as he is known throughout the industry, or boztank, as he is known on Twitter, is actually an active Twitterer, and he engages a lot on that platform. He engages with reporters, and sometimes it gets pretty feisty. Sometimes he tweets things and I’m like, “I am just really not quite sure what he is talking about there, and I would love to poke at that a little bit more.”
But what’s happening, I think, is kind of what I referred to earlier, is that Facebook knows it has a trust problem, and so it is trying to engage on some of these emerging technologies early, but it’s also this dynamic where they say a lot without saying much. That’s certainly the experience I had earlier this week when I had the chance to ask Andrew Bosworth about this new wrist device. I said, “Should people trust Facebook?” And one of the things he said is, “Well, we have to earn trust,” and then he kind of went off about that, and I’m paraphrasing. Then I said, “So how do you earn that trust?” And the answer, there were some platitudes there. It was, “Oh, you can’t surprise people, and it takes a long time, and trust arrives on horseback…” What is it? “Trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback,”-
MC: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
LG: … as the saying goes or something like that. It still didn’t seem very clear to me exactly how Facebook is planning to both acknowledge that it has some pretty serious misinformation and, in the past, privacy problems. So it seems to me that Facebook still has some work to do when it comes to acknowledging that people are going to be very skittish about any kind of wearable device that’s going to interpret your physiological signals and offer more specifics on how it plans to handle the data that’s being processed on these devices.
SL: Yeah. I’m glad you talked about Bosworth. He’s a fairly interesting character in the history of Facebook. He came over relatively early. He was involved in the original News Feed, helping get that out the door, and that was a really controversial product when it first came out. It had a lot of privacy concerns. He was about to take a big sabbatical when Zuckerberg decided that he really needed him to figure out how they could make money in the mobile age. Zuckerberg literally stopped Bosworth from leaving the airport with his family to go on this sabbatical and to take charge of the ads for mobile and figure out how to do that. And he did that. He’s a controversial guy. He’s very outspoken, and sometimes he gets into trouble at Facebook. You see him, he looks like Ben Roethlisberger, a big bulky guy.
LG: He does.
SL: But he grew up in Silicon Valley, and right in the middle of the valley, and his family has been there for over 100 years. So he really has technology in his veins. He also had a farm. I think he won a 4-H Award for a cow or something like that. But he’s a big-
LG: Is this in the book?
SL: Yeah, yeah.
LG: I feel like I need to know about the cow. OK.
SL: You learn a lot from my book, Lauren.
LG: I promise you, Steven, one day I will get through all 600 pages.
SL: When the Oculus division was in trouble, the culture of it, it was a gaming company, it wasn’t taking off for complicated reasons, they got rid of the founder of Oculus, the guy in charge of the technology, Palmer Luckey. He was basically thrown out for his politics. And Zuckerberg, again, went to Bosworth and said, “I want you to fix this,” and he changed it. Oculus essentially is no more as a division. It’s called the, I guess, the reality, the augmented and virtual reality part of Facebook, and the hardware part. Bosworth is in charge and he’s made some sense of it.
MC: He’s also made a little bit of controversy recently. I want to take you guys back to the end of February when notes from a company-wide Facebook meeting leaked. BuzzFeed News reported on some of the details from that meeting. So we already know, it’s been widely reported and Boz has been very vocal about the fact that Facebook is to release a set of AR glasses this year. In this February meeting, Boz noted that Facebook has been considering building facial recognition technology into those AR glasses.
During the meeting, as reported by BuzzFeed News, one unnamed employee raised some concerns. They asked Boz if users would be able to mark their faces as unsearchable. They also argued that facial recognition in glasses could cause real world harm like people stalking each other because they can see personal information in their AR glasses about the other person. I’m wondering if these fears are widespread. Would normal Facebook users worry about these things, or just people like us, or the tech savvy people who pay attention to the controversy around facial recognition?
LG: I’m going to let Steven talk about some of the internal dynamics and politics at Facebook because he is so well-informed on that. But if I can just make a note quickly about some of the technology we’re talking about. This pertains both to AR glasses and then this wrist prototype that we saw this week. Generally, what’s happening is there’s a healthy amount of artificial intelligence that’s being used to process this data and machine learning. What we’re starting to see happen with some hardware is that the machine learning can happen, quote, unquote, “on device,” which means it happens on the computer itself and it isn’t necessarily being sent to the cloud and then back down to the device in order to process all of these sort of algorithms that are being used to make the devices smarter, make them intelligent. Generally processing this information on device is considered more private because you’re just simply not sending as much personal data to the cloud. Apple, I think, is one example of a company that’s been pretty committed to performing machine learning functions on device.
One of the questions when it comes to AR glasses or a wrist wearable is how much of that is happening on device, and that’s one of the questions that I did ask Boz this week, because they sort of gestured at it, no pun intended, about how they were going to handle all this computation. He basically said like, “We’re going to do as much as possible on device,” but he wouldn’t commit to how much computation they were going to end up offloading to the cloud. In which case, you’re just sort of sharing the data in a different way. And Facebook, that’s what Facebook does. Facebook shares data, right? So they don’t sell it, Senator, but they share it. So I think a lot of these concerns are going to come down to, yes, not only the company’s sort of internal policies on how they handle data, but some of this is technical. Like, how much of it is going to be processed on… If facial recognition, for example, would be processed on a set of AR glasses, or if it’s going to rely ultimately on cloud services.
SL: Yeah. I think that that debate goes on within Facebook a lot. Part of what matters, really, is how important it is to Facebook. Facial recognition is kind of a third rail for not just Facebook but a lot of companies that are involved in AI. Google is one of them. And I think there’s a company called Clearview … is it?-
LG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
SL: … which it has its own service that people are terrified of. It’s a way to pick anyone’s face out. But if you have AR glasses, the fact is, it’s a value to you to know, particularly if you’re in a group where your friends are around and you’re not very good at faces and names to say, “Oh, that’s the person you met a year ago at the same conference.” That could be a useful thing. The question is, how do you do that while maintaining privacy? I think that Facebook is very poorly positioned to make the case that we should accept it because we don’t trust Facebook very much.
LG: Right. I mean, some of the scenarios you think about, just, I think there was quite literally a Black Mirror episode about this where people are walking around and you can sort of see each other’s social statuses above their heads as you’re walking around. That even seems not as scary as potentially just someone stalking you because they’ve figured out all of this personal information about you because they looked at you through AR glasses. That vision of the future, frankly, is pretty terrifying.
MC: Yeah. Boz did say that the company would have a “public conversation,” to use his words, about facial recognition in AR glasses. I’m curious about what that conversation would look like. Would it happen on Facebook? Would it happen in the media?
SL: Well, the conversation will be great, but then Facebook is going to do what it wants to do.
MC: Is that what’s happened in the past?
SL: Well, there’s been a number of times when there’s been conversations. I write about it in my book, Facebook: The Inside Story, where these kinds of issues are batted around. People tell Mark Zuckerberg, his lieutenants tell him, “Maybe this isn’t a great idea for us to do,” and Zuckerberg takes it all in and then does what he wants to do, which is often against their advice. It happened with the degree to which they shared information in 2010 in their platform, and that’s what got them in trouble with Cambridge Analytica.
LG: I wish someone would write a book about this.
SL: I wish someone would read the book about it.
MC: It’s available at your local library. It’s available on all the places where you buy books. But anyway, Steven, thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. We know that the book came out last year, but we’re grateful that you were able to bring some of that knowledge into 2021 because it’s still relevant.
SL: Thank you.
MC: It’s still relevant.
SL: Well, the paperback just came out. So, yeah.
LG: Oh. Steven, I actually think you were the last person we had in studio to talk about your book.
LG: Is that right?
SL: That was great.
MC: This is our 50th remote recording.
MC: Yeah. Anyway, let’s take a quick break, and when we come back, we will do our recommendations.
MC: All right. Welcome back to the final segment of the show where we recommend a thing that you, the listener, might be interested in. It could be a movie, a book, a show, a website, a news story on the internet. Let’s start with Steven. Steven, what is your recommendation?
SL: Well, I’ve been reading a lot of fat books in the last year. Guess why? Some of them are biographies, like on Jimmy Carter, Obama’s memoir. But lately, I’m in the middle of Tom Stoppard: A Life. It’s a biography by Hermione Lee. It’s a big, long book that tells you everything you want to know about Tom Stoppard, and I want to know a lot about him because he’s a fantastic playwright. I’m really sorry that the pandemic stopped his most recent play from coming to Broadway and stopped everyone from going to Broadway. But he’s a fascinating person who has a real skill with bringing across scientific concepts into dramatic, humanistic plays and complicated history. So if you’re at all a fan of theater or certainly of Tom Stoppard, go get this book and read it for the next eight months, whatever it takes.
MC: It’s that big, huh?
SL: It’s longer than Facebook: The Inside Story.
MC: So it’s a door-Stoppard.
SL: Oh, get him out of here.
LG: Ohhh, that was pretty good. That was pretty good. Mike, you’re back on as cohost.
MC: Hey, now.
LG: Move over, Gilad.
MC: Take that, Gilad.
MC: Lauren, what is your recommendation?
LG: … I did have one quick question for Steven. Steven, have you ever written a play?
LG: I think you should write the Facebook play.
SL: That’d be interesting. That’d be interesting.
LG: That would be really good.
SL: But I’ve gone to a lot of plays, but not in the last year.
LG: Well, if any agents are listening right now and you’re looking for a playwright to write Facebook: The Inside Story, I highly recommend my friend, Steven Levy here.
SL: I think that Boz would definitely be a character in that play.
LG: Oh, yes. He’d be great.
MC: Lauren, what is your recommendation?
LG: Who would play Boz? All right. Sorry. All right. Since we’re talking about wearables, I have to recommend, it’s a little thing, but it’s a big thing, the Handwashing Timer on Apple Watch. So I thought it was pretty creepy when Apple first revealed this. I remember Kevin Lynch on stage at one of their… Actually, was it a virtual event or was it in person? My gosh, I’m trying to remember now how long ago this was. I think it was a virtual event because I think it was during Covid.
SL: Yeah. Why would it be in person if he’s talking about hand washing, which we do after Covid?
LG: Right. Unless they were really ahead of the curve. I mean, I would have to look up the date of when this was, but Kevin Lynch was demonstrating how you could rub your hands together under the sink, and then the watch would interpret these squishing soaping sounds. And I was like, “I do not like this vision of the future. It’s freaking me out.” But I’ve activated it on the Apple Watch, and I have to say, it’s really helpful. Washing your hands is one of those things like brushing your teeth where you think you’re doing it for a really long time, and you’re actually not doing it for long enough. So as soon as you start washing your hands under the sink, the Apple Watch, it just automatically starts a timer. It counts down to 20 seconds, and then when you’re all done you get confetti, and it’s basically like, “You did it!” and you feel like a champ.
I have to say, I also now have a smart toothbrush that tells me when I’ve brushed for two minutes, and I feel like a champ when I use that too. So, yeah, this is a free application if you already have the Apple Watch. You have to have the Apple Watch Series 4 or later. You activate it by going into the My Watch app on your iPhone first and going to the hand washing feature, and then you sort of activate it so that the watch will automatically detect when you’re washing your hands. But if you do have an Apple Watch and you haven’t turned this feature on yet, I do recommend it.
MC: If you don’t have an Apple Watch, you can always sing a song, right? So what’s your 20 second song?
LG: Some people say “Happy Birthday,” but I think “Happy Birthday” is actually shorter than 20 seconds.
SL: You’re supposed to sing it twice.
LG: Yeah. So sing it twice. You know at least two people who are having a birthday. So, Mike, what’s your recommendation?
MC: I would like to recommend a television show that is a couple years old, but season two is about to start at the end of this month. It’s on Showtime and it’s called City on a Hill. Season two of City on a Hill starts March 28th, and if you have Showtime or if you have Amazon Prime you can watch the whole first season to prepare yourself. I’m recommending it because it flew in under the radar. It is a very tense and very well-written and very well acted crime drama. It takes place in Boston, my hometown. All of the characters are people who are based on people who were in real life in the early ’90s in Boston politics.
It’s basically about, it’s cops and robbers and a DA who’s trying to do good and clean up the city. It stars Kevin Bacon in the role of the FBI agent at the center of the story, and it is primo Kevin Bacon. It is Kevin Bacon like you’ve never seen him before. It is USDA grade A Bacon on this show. I can’t get enough of his character, his little asides, his little winks that he does. It’s just amazing. He deserves all the Emmys. So City on a Hill.
MC: Definitely check it out in preparation for season two, which starts in a couple of weeks.
SL: Does Kevin Bacon have a Boston accent in this?
MC: Everybody has a Boston accent in this.
SL: He’s from Philadelphia, you know?
MC: Yes, and he disappears in the role. He does a fantastic Boston accent. I can spot a bad Boston accent from this side of the 128, and he does not have a bad one. It is very good.
LG: What does a bad Boston accent sound like?
MC: I’m not even going to do it. It’s somebody who says like, “I parked the car in Harvard Yard.”
LG: Right, right.
MC: Yeah, that’s-
MC: Don’t do that.
LG: So, yeah, I used to date someone from Boston. Actually, in general, I’ve dated people from Massachusetts. It’s a whole other story. But we used to have this joke we would say, which is not a good joke, but we would say like, “OK,” so, Mike, for example, “what do you call when someone sticks their hand in a socket and they get a bunch of little electrical…”
LG: Shocks, right. Then we’d say, “What do you call a big fish that’s swimming in the ocean off the shore of Cape Cod that you definitely don’t want to interact with?”
MC: A whale!
LG: No, it’s a shark. Sorry. It’s really bad.
MC: Well, now I’m going to go call my parents so I can hear their Boston accents.
MC: All right. Well, that’s our show. Steven, thanks again for coming on. It was great to have you back.
SL: It’s great to be on.
MC: Thank you all for listening. If you have feedback about the show, you can find all of us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. This show is produced by the amazing Boone Ashworth. Goodbye, and we will be back next week.
[Gadget Lab outro theme music]
LG: Here’s another one. So what do you call a very popular white fish that people have often? Sometimes it’s referred to as Baccalà. What kind of fish is that?
LG: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And what do you do when it’s someone’s birthday and you forgot to get a gift and you run to CVS and the last minute you have to get a…
LG:Or here’s another one. Here’s another one. What do you call the tan colored pleated pants that men often wear, just sort of like as a very-
LG: Khakis, uh-huh (affirmative). And when you are running out the door and you’ve lost something and you need to go somewhere, inevitably, the thing you’ve lost is your…
LG: Car keys!
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