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64 mins

The Problem Podcast

Mark Cuban, Maria Ressa & Julia Ioffe Join Our 2022 WrapUpFestPalooza

The year is almost over and we’re going out with a bang! Entrepreneur Mark Cuban is here. Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa is here. Whip-smart journalist Julia Ioffe is here. Come on, you can’t beat that lineup. Join us as we break down some of 2022’s biggest moments: Elon’s Twitter tumult, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the coming AI apocalypse, and, of course, the collapse of crypto and Sam Bankman-Fried. Come for the copious amount of Yiddish, stay for a look back at the year that was, the year that wasn’t—and the year that, God willing, will never be. Season 2 is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Mark Cuban, Maria Ressa & Julia Ioffe Join Our 2022 WrapUpFestPalooza

Ep 220 Final Transcript

Jon: Welcome to the podcast everybody. The Problem with me, Jon Stewart. The Problem. Today’s our special end of the year, extravaganza, a year in review. A wrap up fest? Palooza? I don’t know what you’re gonna call it. I’m sure we’re gonna get into Russia, and crypto, and Elon, and — Oh, what a f***ing year. 

[INTRO MUSIC]

Interview with Julia Ioffe, Maria Ressa, and Mark Cuban Begins

Jon: All right we’re very delighted to have a panel of friends of the show. You may recognize ’em from the Apple TV+ show, the podcast, or, uh, life and the news. Uh, we’ve got entrepreneur and co-founder of Cost Plus Drugs, Mark Cuban. 

Mark Cuban: What’s up, Jon.

Jon: Cost Plus Drugs. Welcome, sir. That–

Mark: Thank you, sir.

Jon: That’s, uh, that’s a wonderful introduction. Uh, journalist, CEO, of Rappler and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Maria Ressa is joining us—

Maria Ressa: Hello.

Jon: —from the Philippines.

Maria: Yes.

Jon: Oh, Maria. So it’s so delightful to see you again. And founding partner and Washington, correspondent for Puck, Julia Ioffe, uh, is also gonna be joining us. Uh, I want to ask you guys, uh, I, it, it’s hard not to just start with the main news. Uh, have all of you been suspended from Twitter, [LAUGHTER] and, uh, and should we just pool our money and buy it? And when I say pool our money, I mean, Mark, will you buy it?

Mark: [MARK LAUGHS] Yeah. I kind of figured. It’s Elon’s company. Elon gets to do what Elon wants to do. He played, he paid price for admission, you know, win, lose, or draw. We’ll find out.

Jon: Yeah, it’s, it’s kind of nice to see it in this, uh, arbitrary, pernicious, uh, state. I—

Julia Ioffe: You mean free speech absolutism? Is that what you mean, Jon?

Jon: That’s exactly — I believe that’s what I meant. 

Julia: OK.

Jon: By the way, he who controls the chalkboard controls the absolutism. Now, the person that I think has the most at stake here, if we’re being honest, is Maria Ressa. Who faces censorship, uh, and the penalty of imprisonment in the Philippines. And so it’s very easy for us to sit here and watch glibly, but for Maria, I’m assuming this is a chilling bit of turn of events.

Maria: Uh, I think it’s both chilling and instructional. You know, it really shows you the basic question is why does one rich man have that much power over the public sphere globally? You know? And, uh, it has never happened this way, uh, in the past. And this platform in particular, because of its design—

Jon: Mh-mm.

Maria: —is global in scope. So, um, that’s — and I think this is part of what we’ve been trying to point out, is that in the medium term, to just try to fix everything that is wrong. Fix the information ecosystem, which means stop what social media has done. Put guardrails on these and, and what is happening on Twitter is a perfect example why you need this.

Jon: Well, that’s interesting. So Mark, you know this cat Mark, you know, you know Elon.

Mark: Little bit, yeah.

Jon: You’re excited to see him take it over cuz you thought you, he could use. But it’s pretty clear that there’s a fine line between being a disruptor and being a—

Mark: The king.

Jon: —utterly narcissistic—

Mark: Yeah. The king.

Jon: —anarchist, sanctimonious nutbag.

Julia: Dictator. 

Jon: What the f*** happened?

Mark: It’s Rupert Murdoch on a different platform. You know? It’s always been this way. It’s not, it’s not something new. It’s always been this way. Walter Cronkite decided what went on his show. You know, Rupert Murdoch has been for corporate advocacy since Rupert Murdoch was born. You know?

Jon: Right.

Mark: There’s, there’s just, it’s just a different platform and so we’re starting to understand this. And look, and even with the Twitter files, with, you know, even though there was no, there, there, we got insight into how Twitter worked in their decision making process. And while they tried to stick to their terms of service, there’s always going to be a gray area where decisions are made about information. And so we’re just getting to, you know, in this particular case, the guy making the sausage is showing his recipe even though he’s saying he’s making cupcakes, he’s making hotdogs, right? And we’re getting to see how they’re made.

Jon: Mark, have you had breakfast yet? Because it seems to me that, uh, a lot of these food analogies may be based on you—

[CRINKLE BAG NOISE]

Mark: Right here. [MARK LAUGHS]

Jon: There you go, baby! That’s what I’m talking about!

Mark: My ALYSSA’s Healthy Cookies.

Jon: Oh, that’s delightful. Julia, uh, as a journalist, you’ve also gotta be thinking to yourself, well, how, if I don’t know where the mines are buried, I don’t know where not to step and my entire job is based on not treading lightly, but walking into this. The problem is, you know, he made a big deal of Twitter files showing the corruption within the decision making process of moderating this free speech town square platform. I would bet you a Twitter files from the last 24 hours [JULIA LAUGHS], would be a tiny release because it would just be Elon, “What should we do?” Answer: “F*** these guys, get ’em all done.” He just shut down Twitter spaces because one of those journalists confronted him on the fact that he didn’t dox Elon, he was just reporting on it.

Julia: Mm-hmm.

Jon: So Julia, what for a — forget about guardrails. Where’s the map? What’s the rule of the road here?

Julia: Well, I do think it’s interesting that these self-declared, uh, free speech absolutists are absolute and protecting their own speech, right? It’s, it’s free speech for them, but for really nobody else, especially if it’s speech criticizing them, then that’s really, uh, really out of bounds.

Jon: Mm-hmm

Julia: Um, look, I think that, it’s always been a — Twitter has always been a fraught space for journalists and I imagine that there are a lot of editors that are watching this with some relief. And then they’re like, “Oh, good.”

Jon: Interesting.

Julia: “You know, just blow, blow this thing up and let’s just not have any journalists on Twitter,” because Twitter has given so many editors, so many of our bosses, such, you know, shpilkes in the genechtagazoink [MARK LAUGHS] Because, because–

Jon: Wow. Lemme just, lemme just stop you right there. What a beautiful tribute to Hanukkah. [LAUGHTER] Was to have—

Mark: Oh my God.

Jon: To have–

Mark: I thought my grandparents just jumped on and said something.

Jon: There is, there is a punim that is, that is, that is smiling.

Mark: That is very shayna.

Jon: There you go.

Julia: It’s Linda Richmond. Anyway—

Jon: But you bring up a great point.

Julia: Right, because they were always freaking out that we were saying things that would, um, compromise our objectivity or that would get us in trouble and I’ve gotten in trouble on there a fair amount of times, and there was, there was so much hand wringing in, um, on kind of an in editorial that I think the public didn’t see. And I think there’s a lot of, there are a lot of editors that are just hoping that this thing just blows up and this way it’ll look like it’s not that, that the editors are kind of turning the screws on their journalists, which they’ve been doing for years, by the way.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: Including at publications like The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the New York Times. Um, but that it’ll look like big, bad Elon Musk has come down, uh, has come out and shut down Twitter for journalists and, um, they were trying to protect free speech.

Jon: Well, let’s go, let’s, let’s flip it on its head. You know, you could also say that, uh, journalists and editors and and publications are just upset that they’ve lost the gatekeeping powers that had formerly been invested in them, and that they had wielded that authority, uh, perniciously and uh, and in a partisan way. And so this is the revenge of the revenge of the free speech libertarians. But on the flip side of that, couldn’t you make a case that Twitter blowing up is a good thing for journalists because they’re so wedded to its circadian rhythm as though it’s news that journalists have turned this space into reality when in fact Twitter is not reality?

Julia: Well, I think it emerged, I think it became a really important platform because of journalists, because, and because of people—

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: —who acted like they were journalists. It was a kind of newsfeed and a bespoke newsfeed for a lot of people—

Jon: A crowdsourced for journalists.

Julia: Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, but only for journalists. Only for journalists, right? Because, you know, Jon, I don’t necessarily agree that this is good for journalists in one respect it’s good because everybody wants to hate the king and they get to do it in their own way. Right? So everybody unifies in that perspective. But the other side of the coin is everything is long tail. You know, the, the beauty of Twitter is you’re able to accumulate followers. Right? It’s not algorithmically driven. 

Julia: Yes, and build a brand on there.

Mark: Yeah. And you’re able to define your brand. It’s not like TikTok where it’s all algorithmic and followers don’t really have an impact. It’s very much chronological and it’s very much follower driven, where, you know, everybody at the, in the early days of Twitter, when it evolved from being a social medium, “Hey, what are you doing at South by Southwest tonight?” to, “Hey, let’s get my news, or let me promote something.” 

Julia: Mm-hmm.

Mark: Now it, it’s very mu— it’s very different and it’s very brand driven. 

Julia: I think it actually created a lot of journalists and opened and, and kind of lay leveled the playing field, and cre—, and allowed a lot of people into the profession, not just of journalism, but comedy, um, other kinds of storytelling that wouldn’t have made it into these traditionally very elite spaces that are very hard to break into. That’s one. And then back to your original question, to turn it back on its head again, you know, um, Elon bought this platform in part because conservatives were saying, you know, “Us being shadow banned on Twitter, us being demoted on Twitter is a violation of our First Amendment rights.” And liberals, ironically, were saying, well, this is a, “This is a, a private company. They can do whatever they want.” And they were saying, “No, no, no.”

Mark: I think you’re giving Elon too much credit. Yeah, I think you’re giving Elon too much credit.

Julia: Well, but — so hold on. But, no, no, no. Whether that was his thought process or not, but now that he owns it, uh now conservatives are saying, “Well now it’s a private company, he can do whatever he wants and it’s not a First Amendment right.” Right?  So now it turns out again, they’re not free speech absolutists. Yeah.

Jon: Well, like everything else becomes a tit for tat ownership over libs or conservatives. But my point is more this, isn’t it a problem if journalists view the ranking of trends on Twitter? If — aren’t you outsourcing your editorial authority by just, and I do think journalists have done this and newsrooms have done this. They scan Twitter and they look at the trend and they look at how it’s ranked and they decide, “Oh, that’s the top story. That’s the most important thing going on in the world right now. That’s the urgency.” And you see how it influences coverage.

Maria: I mean, it’s more than that, right? Like, so I would disagree with something Mark said that it isn’t just Elon kind of, you know, being the owner and the gatekeeper of this. These are his rules. So he exercises the power media use to exercise. Um, we never could exercise this kind of power because the power of technology is significantly different from traditional media where we all saw the same thing where our, where we weren’t cloned as you know, where data privacy is thrown out the door and—

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Maria: —algorithms of amplification determine, actually on Twitter in particular, lies spread at least six times faster than really boring facts. So from the very beginning, this platform—

Jon: Wait, that’s been quantified at six times, Maria? 

Maria: This is— 

Jon: Six times faster?

Maria: Yeah. This is an MIT study from 2018. Lies—

Jon: Oh wow.

Maria: —spread at least six times faster than facts on social media.

Jon: Right.

Maria: And then you add on top of that, that you know, it is the kind of, um, weaknesses of it. The way it was set up to basically keep you scrolling, right? Because that’s the end goal of this. Keep you scrolling so the platform makes money —

Jon: Sure. It’s monetized by engagement and the amount of time you spend on it, that’s how they make their money.

Maria: And it has actually, gotten rid of, you know, it has atomized meaning and given flattened what engagement even means. But because it just wants to make money out of us, it has come in, used our biology against us. Used insidiously, manipulated our emotion.

Jon: Wow.

Maria: And a system of advertising and marketing that was once advertising and marketing has now been used for political power and geopolitical power. So this is insidious manipulation and this is now a behavior modification system. And we’re Pavlov’s dogs. 

Jon: Boom.

Maria: And where is this OK? Sorry. This is like—

Jon: Maria Ressa!

Maria: This is what I wrote a book about. You know?

Jon: I’m so down with this. I’m gonna, I’m gonna go even further. Twitter is the opiate of the people.

Mark: No, absolutely.

Jon: It is of the masses.

Mark: No. Facebook, yes.

Jon: And haven’t reporters been corrupted by it?

Mark: Facebook, yes. Cause I think that survey alluded to Facebook and not to Twitter. Right? Cause Twitter really didn’t have as much weight in 2018. It was Facebook and yes we saw this before.

Maria: No it was Twitter —

Mark: Oh, was it? OK.

Maria: It was actually on Twitter. Yeah. It was an MIT study done by Sinan Aral and then the guy who was formerly a CTO of Twitter, but it happens in every social media.

Jon: Right.

Maria: No, but Mark you have the money so tell us. 

Mark: Yeah. I know what Elon’s thinking, right? It’s a toy. You buy different things. You know, you can afford different things, but at the same time, I think we saw this all before with Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, right?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Mark: This is not new, right? This is something that’s happened before and that’s why I analogized it to Rupert Murdoch in different platforms. Rupert Murdoch bought what he needed in order to have an impact, right? He didn’t just say, “OK, we’ll just let the audience take us where it goes.” He was very specific in what he was trying to accomplish and I—

Jon: Well I would say is it Elon? Because he said, “I want Ron DeSantis for president.” He said it.

Mark: Yeah.

Jon: He has a political goal.

Mark: And I think tomorrow it could be somebody different. [JON LAUGHS] I think Elon is being Elon because he wants to, you know, he bought a new toy. He’s concerned about the economics. He’s trying to figure out a way where he can have his impact and be the king while at the same time paying his bills. And as an entrepreneur, that’s a process. So what we’re doing, I’ve started a lot of companies and I’m a ready-fire-aim-entrepreneur, right?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Mark: It’s like, “OK I’ve gotta, I gotta visualize where I want it to go. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get there.” That’s exactly what Elon is doing right now. He wants to be the king. He doesn’t know exactly how he’s going to get there. If Joe Biden said, “Elon, you’re exactly right. We’re gonna make you the de facto communications protocol and a standard that’ll make you the ultimate, the TCPIP of communications, right, of news and information communications,” he would love Joe Biden.

Jon: Oh, that’s interesting. But here’s, here’s a couple of things though on that Mark. One is you can be good at Twitter or you can own Twitter, but you can’t be both. And I think you cannot be a participant in the system. You have to maintain some sort of neutrality. As it goes along, especially given the fact that this is a monopoly. There is no viable competitor to Twitter, as we’ve seen.

Mark: Go to Post.news. Go to Post.news. You know, there, it’s not yet. Right?

Jon: Listen, you can go to Mastodon and Parlor and Post.news and all these places. It’s like saying, I don’t want to—

Mark: There isn’t until there is, right? There isn’t until there is. That’s—

Jon: Right, but let me ask you then, if you’re, if this is Shark Tank, are you in or out? Is Twitter an investment right now for you?

Mark: Depends on the valuation, right? [JON LAUGHS]

Julia: Or Post. Is Post an investment? [MARK LAUGHS]

Mark: You know what I would do Post? Yes, I would do Post. Now they wanted a 250 million dollar valuation, so I would question that cause I think that’s way too high for where it’s at. But yeah, I think Post has got a shot because—

Jon: Well think about that though, 250 million, 250 million to 44 billion.

Julia: What about Mastodon?

Mark: Mastodon, I didn’t like it. Mastodon was too hard to use. 

Jon: Right.

Mark: Mastodon with all the different servers and distribution. It wasn’t intuitive. Whereas Post.news is now the question for Post.news and the competitors is how will they exercise their editorial strength? Right? At what point will they start to say, “No, you can’t post this.” And that’ll define where it goes. Because —

Jon: Well are you 4Chan or are you 8chan or are you Reddit? or are you, I mean, moderation is always a complex issue, but Julia I noticed—

Mark: Always the hard part.

Jon: —you, you shook your head a little bit when I was talking about how Twitter itself had corrupted, as Maria and I were sort of commiserating on behavior modification. That I thought Twitter had corrupted journalists and a news model because it seduced them into likes and followers and that they allowed the trends to, and the circadian rhythm of the trends to be real life when it’s not. But, I saw you shook your head a little bit, in disapproval, so, where, where do you disagree with that?

Julia: Oh, that’s just the Jewish way of agreeing. No, I’m kidding. [LAUGHTER] [CLAPPING HANDS]

Mark: Oh my goodness.

Julia: Um. No, actua— [JON LAUGHS]. No, so no. Actually, I mean, I think that’s true. And I think that Donald Trump understood that, you know, in his bones.

Jon: Better than anybody.

Julia: And was able to manipulate the s**t out of that. And that’s why he was, it was like, you know, he turned the press into, you know, like a dog with a bone anytime he tweeted—

Jon: That’s right.

Julia: The news cycle was would shift, right?

Jon: He understood. The behavior modification.

Julia: On the other hand, I have not been a journalist who covers that kind of stuff, and Twitter has been something else for me. So when—

Jon: It does have value. There’s no question. There’s great value.

Julia: Right and so, for example, when Putin invaded Ukraine, and even now, there’s great value in Twitter abroad, right? And it does serve as a great resource tool and a great newsfeed. 

Jon: Julia I just, first of all, I want to thank you for throwing more Yiddish into the podcast. [LAUGHS] Second of all—

Mark: Oh my goodness. Oy. Oy double oy.

Jon: I just, I wanna thank you for the most natural segue I think we could possibly imagine on any kind of a podcast, uh, and that’s, let’s move into that, you know, because the other—

Julia: OK.

Jon: —obviously huge story in the world right now is Putin and Ukraine. And, you know, I’m gonna also put the grassroots revolution, and protests that we’re seeing in Iran and Twitter is invaluable for those who are powerless against a regime. Unfortunately, the regime can also kind of reverse engineer at some points. But Julia, I’ll ask you, moving away from the Twitter aspect of it, are you heartened by Ukraine, standing fast against Russia? Do you feel that this will be an escalation? Has the west provoked this as some critics have said? Where do you stand right now on Ukraine/Russia?

Julia: Oh my God. That is, so many questions.

Jon: Yeah. I do that. 

Julia: But before I get into that, I do wanna say that I, and I think Maria would probably feel similarly, is that I, a lot of our, and Lydia Polgreen at the New York Times has written about this really well.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: I think that when we talk about social media, we talk about it in a very insular way, just as it applies to the U.S. And social media abroad, especially in authoritarian or in semi-authoritarian regimes, plays a very different role.

Jon: That’s right.

Julia: And so, for example when—

Jon: And overseas they have more guardrails on social media than they do here, there’s a lot more in Europe and India.

Julia: Yes. But it also, so for example, when we were debating in the U.S. whether you could, whether we should allow, uh, political ads on Facebook. Everybody here said, “Oh, obviously it’s a no-brainer. We should not allow political ads on Facebook.”

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: The Russian opposition when it existed, said, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. That’s our only way to get ads out to the public because we are complete, we have no access to television. The Kremlin controls all of that. We have no access to the airwaves at all. All we have is Facebook and social media.”

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: So it’s when you make a blanket policy based on the U.S. you know, it’s too wide of a brush.

Jon: Right.

Mark: I mean, that’s Elon’s failing too, because, you know, you can’t dox Elon, but three quarters of the world is being doxed at any particular point in time. There’s no way for anybody else other than Elon to ban anybody or protect themselves.

Julia: Well, he also, what was interesting is that he suspended an account that was Russian oligarch’s, jets being, you know, being tracked, which was like, “Oh, really? You wanna protect those guys? OK.”

Jon:  Right. Maria, you’re someone, so you live in a country that obviously uh, has a more authoritarian bent, although what’s, how is the new boss, same as the old boss? How is Marcos, uh, in relation to Duterte?

Maria: You know Marcos is a little bit better than our last administration, just cause the bar was so low. But this is a Marcos, this is President Marcos, 36 years before he was overwhelmingly elected his father, and the family was thrown out by a people power revolt. Part of the reason that he won, he won now is because of information operations that began in 2014, not coincidentally the same time as Russian information operations against Crimea. Which was used in Ukraine. Um, so this is all like, well, well, picking up three things. I think, uh, one, this technology has pushed journalism to be its worst, right? Because the incentive structure gives widest distribution to the most salacious, the one that makes you angry, afraid or hateful.

Jon: Incentivized for conflict and outrage, right?

Maria: Right. And, and more than that for lies, right? So it’s really–

Jon: Right.

Maria: And, and remember, if we don’t have integrity of facts, then we don’t have integrity of elections.

Jon: And it can be weaponized. Knowing that you can weaponize it.

Mark: And, and look at the business of news across the world, all the money is gone. Right? 

Maria: Yes.

Mark: There are no fact checkers anymore. And you talked about looking at trending, um, news items as a way of determining what you’re gonna write about or produce. 

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Mark: That’s a way of saving money, you know?

Jon: Right.

Mark: You don’t need as many producers, you don’t need as many editors. You don’t need as many reporters, cuz a lot of the work is done for you.

Jon: So what’s the balance, Maria, when you talk about that freedom of expression versus guardrails that can be weaponized by authoritarian regimes. What’s the balance?

Maria: Well, right now I could go to jail for the rest of my life because of the information operations that my government has done against me. China. Facebook took down information operations from China that was attacking me and journalists in the Philippines. Right? But let me pick up, pull up the global parts of the, of Twitter. Cause Twitter in the Philippines is actually significantly better than Facebook or YouTube, right? It is. I’m actually far more protected on Twitter, uh, even though now they’re, they’re coming in, and part of that was just a take up on Twitter isn’t as large as the take up on Facebook. A hundred percent of Filipinos on the internet are on Facebook. Facebook is our internet. And a lot of the videos, of course, TikTok coming in, but a lot of the videos that were distributed on Facebook and subsequently Twitter came from YouTube. So this is an entire ecosystem, but I think the — putting up what you had said, which is, you know, this is very different outside the United States. Most of the time um, these American tech companies care about what happens in America because they also make the most money from America and Europe. In our parts of the world, there aren’t enough people who understand our language, who understand the nuances. But it is also, here’s the flip side. It is also where activists, human rights activists, journalists, actually can reach. It flattens. It allows you to reach lawmakers in the United States, in the EU, and when Elon first bought it and took over, there was actually an ongoing, you mentioned Iran. Iran was an ongoing campaign on Twitter at that point in time.

Jon: Right.

Maria: As was Egypt. You know, one of the main proponents of the Arab Spring had just started a hunger campaign, and this was heading towards the climate change. And all of this was turned upside down because Elon decided that he would randomly change things when he felt like it. I think this is the difference between programming as in one program. This is your quirks and you can own it, and you can do what you want, but this is an entire global system where people lose their lives.

Jon: Wow. Boy Maria, it’s enormous. What an underreported story is that the sort of arbitrary machinations of Elon Musk have actually had ram– huge ramifications for activists on the ground in Iran. But then, you know, he’s providing, you know, uh, uh, internet for Ukrainians, like it’s such a mixed bag.

Julia: But he just, but he just hiked the prices by 25%. Did you see that?

Jon: I did not see that.

Julia: He sent a — It was like a month ago. Starlink sent out a notice to Ukrainians. It was like, uh, “Thanks for using Starlink. Uh, we’re now raising prices by 25%. Thanks for using it. Bye.”

Jon: Well, so the flip side of that is Russia, which controls all of the information and the Russian people. If they had access to the real on the ground information in Ukraine, I would imagine Putin would be in a more precarious position than he’s even in right now. Julia, how are they getting any of the information as far as they’re concerned, uh, Russia is winning and that de-nazification continues.

Julia: I don’t know that it’s that simple. I think that, uh, there was actually a great episode about this of The Daily, a couple, a few days ago.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: Between Sabrina Tavernise, who’s a former Russia correspondent, and Valerie Hopkins, who’s a cor, uh, current, a Russia correspondent for the New York Times and who’s in Moscow now, which is incredibly dangerous.

Jon: I’m sure.

Julia: And she, and she went to a, uh, draft office, a military draft office, and spoke to people, men going in and their mothers and wives and, uh, girlfriends standing outside. And, um, and basically what she came away with a very, like, a very vivid picture of what we’ve all been picking up on, is that Russians are so bombarded with disinformation and misinformation that inevitably they just shut off. And, which is I think what you see in some corners of the U.S. too, where it’s like, “I don’t even know what to believe anymore. Everybody’s lying. And so I’m just gonna go back to my little life. I, nothing depends on me anyway. The big people at the top decide, they’re not gonna ask me. Um, my life is too insignificant. My opinion doesn’t matter. And, and I don’t believe anyone anyway, cuz there, there’s too much of it and they’re all lying. So I’m just gonna shut off.”

Jon: Like a fatalism takes over.

Julia: Yeah. But that’s by design, right? And it’s on purpose. Uh, because then when you’re called up, you don’t wanna go, you don’t wanna die, you don’t really understand what the war is for. Most Russians don’t really understand what the, some really support it, but most are, don’t really understand what it’s for. But then they’re like, “I don’t know, like they called me up. I don’t wanna go to jail for not go for draft dodging.”

Jon: Right.

Julia: “And I guess the people at the top know better, but, and I don’t know what to believe anymore, so I’ll just go.” 

Jon: Right.

Julia: And, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people feel that way. That’s a good way to wa– wage a war, um, in the short term, right? And, but I, I think that’s, and, and you see that I think replicated another authoritarian regimes around the world and by, uh, leaders who lean authoritarian, hint, hint.

Jon: Right.

Julia: Who you know, bombard you with so much again, uh so many lies.

Jon: But at a certain point Julia the facts on the ground are the facts on the ground. And if enough Russian families are losing their sons, you know, there is a certain reality to, uh, an extended war and a siege that the casualties begin to pile up and people begin to see the terrible price. 

Julia: But they’re not Americans. I just want you to understand they’re not Americans. Like they don’t expect their lives to get better. They don’t expect their lives to be good.

Jon: I see what you’re saying. I see what you’re saying. So they’re all—

Mark: And, and that’s kind of the Russian zeitgeist, right? In Russia—

Jon: They’re still in the Tolstoy, they’re in the Tolstoy era.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah.

Julia: They don’t, they, they expect like, it’s like, OK, can I—

Jon: Life is to suffer?

Julia: So, yeah. And so, and just real quick, this is the, the joke that will explain the Russian mentality to you where, you know, a bunch of Russian peasants are standing in a giant sea of liquid sewage, and it comes up to like right under everybody’s noses and everybody’s standing there with their tops of their head sticking out and one guy sticks his head out up. Looks around and is like, “Hey, we’re all standing here in s**t. Why are we doing this? Let, let us, let’s go. Let’s get organized. Let’s improve our lot. Why are we just standing here in s***,” and somebody else looks up and goes, “Shh, stop making waves.”

[MARK AND JON LAUGH]

Mark: That’s Russia. Yeah. Yeah.

Jon: Uh, one of those people, uh, that, that’s why Karl Marx apparently was like, “Look, we should get outta here.” And everybody was like, “I don’t know how well that’s gonna work out.” 

Julia: Yeah. 

Jon: Uh, Mark, I wanna talk to you. So you’ve got, you’ve got media, uh, and you’ve got the political system. But the truth is, capitalism is really the thing that interconnects all of these cultures. And ultimately, you know, when Julia’s talking about a group of people who decide, we’re just gonna go provincial. We’re gonna go local, we’re gonna give up, or then there’s another group that’s only connecting through, uh, kind of social media and information and disinformation and weaponization of said information. But business people have a ground, you know, level reality that they have to stick to that is interconnected and globalized. And what is the power that they can influence—

Mark: They just leave. They just leave. It’s just not worth it, right? You know, let— to Maria’s point, most of the money is in the United States. And so it’s not worth jeopardizing your brand because whatever is written is not gonna be kind to you if you sustain your business operations in any type of authoritative country. Just not, it’s not worth it so they leave.

Jon: But even the places that are more oligarch oriented or state run like China, you know, clearly, you know, they’re able to maintain a globalized economy while still exercising a real authoritarian control?

Mark: Well, it’s changing now too. 

Jon: Right. 

Mark: It depends on what industry, right? So you see what’s happening with semiconductors, you know, there’s a lot of money to be made in China selling any type of high-end technology related to semiconductors. First, you know, our government is saying, “No, you can’t do it.” And, second, they’re not doing it because at some point you realize you don’t want to kill the golden goose, right?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Mark: If China Inc. is stronger than America Inc. across the board with new AI technologies and semiconductor technologies, you know, we all have bigger problems. And so there is some rationality and pragmatism from corporate America in how they view international operations. It’s just not worth being in an environment. Unless you’re some subversive organization, the Wagner group or whatever, right. But you know. 

Jon: Right. 

Mark: It’s typically not worth it.

Jon: But don’t we always, the United States in particular does this. We punish the citizens of these authoritarian regimes through sanctions. So we create, we’ve done it in Iran, we’ve done it all around the world, and we create these economic bars and economic deprivations and the people that suffer as, as Mark, I think alluded to, aren’t the oligarchs and they aren’t the business people. And they aren’t corrupt government officials. It’s the individuals on the ground. The people of Iran—

Mark: Without question. Yeah. 

Jon: —suffer terribly under the kinds of sanctions. And Maria living in a country that has a more authoritarian bent. What is your opinion of the efficacy of those kinds of things and what we can do; what is the leverage that democratic societies have other than punishing the citizens of countries already suffering under a lack of freedom?

Maria: Well, so first, before I answer that one, let me just twist this just a little bit. You know, social media, the tech, when they became gatekeepers, because lies spread faster than facts because now modern authoritarians basically lie all the time. Then they say it’s the other guy who’s lying, and it’s those journalists who are lying and then everyone goes to, you know, “So who is telling —” there is no truth, right? That’s the goal of Russian dezinformatsiya. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the number of democracies globally has rolled back to 1989 levels,  because if you don’t have integrity of facts, you don’t have integrity of elections. We are democratically electing illiberal leaders, the United States also having done some of this. But the — so as we roll it back, right, so 60% of the world today is under authoritarian rule. 60%. And it looks like—

Jon: Right. Is that the highest since 1989? That’s the highest since the USSR fell, cuz that’s ‘89 is when the Berlin wall, and all that. Yeah.

Maria: Correct, correct. So, really if you look at the next two years, if nothing significant is done in the United States, must take a role in this because it was first started by American tech companies. If nothing significant is done, we will have enough elections. We will elect more illiberal leaders democratically. And they don’t just crumble the institutions of democracy in their countries. They do it, they ally globally, like. Would Belarus — would this be a Democratic country today if Russia didn’t come in to help? So, and then to pull up what Mark said, which is, you know, in the end it is power and money, but it cannot be like climate change where you take power and money right now, and then you kill the world for anyone else. This is where we are headed with democracy. And so, what do we do in the immediate term is well —

Jon: But don’t you think, Maria — and I’ll ask all you guys — but isn’t the rolling back of liberal democracies and the increase in illiberal democracies a product of instability? And when you look at instability, who are the actors of instability within the world? And I would say the United States has unleashed a large part of the momentum for these illiberal governments by our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Who sent all those migrants across the seas into Europe that caused the voters in those areas to then turn to the right and LePen and Maloney and Sweden. You know, we’ve played a really large role in creating — Oh boy, Julia. [MARK LAUGHS] Alright. For those of you who are just listening on the podcast, as I was getting up ahead of steam about the United States policies leading to illiberal democracies Julia — let the record show Julia Ioffe has raised her hand and the chair recognizes the gentle woman from her, what appears to be her library. Yes?

Julia: Yeah. I think that is partially true. I think the migrants coming from across the sea to Europe are the result actually of people rising up and asking for democracy and countries like Russia coming in and trying to put that down. And countries like — Putin specifically weaponizing —

Jon: But you’re talking about Syria pretty much solely, no?

Julia: Well, that’s what happened. That’s where they were mostly coming from. That is what gave us Brexit. That is what gave us the, mostly the right turn in European politics. That was Putin helped create that flow of refugees in 2015 by coming in with tremendous air power that the Syrian regime no longer had and bombing Aleppo, bombing aid convoys bombing hospitals, bombing schools and creating a refugee flow, weaponizing that refugee flow against Europe because the EU had sanctioned him for taking over Crimea and trying to break up the unity inside the EU and hoping to weaken sanctions on him. So I think it’s a little bit —

Jon: But that doesn’t excuse our actions in Iraq and Libya.

Julia: Yeah. But yeah, but — I understand. But I think that um I think where this argument falters a little bit is the presumption that, again, it’s very — I find that argument to be a little bit solipsistic and provincial, which is —

Jon: That’s my trademark, Julia! [LAUGHTER] That’s what I do. That’s my jam.

Julia: It assumes that the US is the only actor in the world, and it takes away agency from all other countries.

Jon: Sure.

Julia: There are plenty of other actors in the world who create instability. Instability is kind of the default for the world’s country — for the world.

Jon: I was not suggesting that the United States is the sole purveyor of instability —

Julia: Yeah, but I —

Jon: But we are an incredibly powerful force that unleashed a good deal of destabilization in that part of the world.

Julia: Absolutely. But I don’t think that that’s what is the only thing driving the world toward —that is what’s driving the world toward autocracy.

Jon: Gimme a percentage. Gimme your — uh oh!

Julia: Ooh, Maria.

Jon: Now Maria’s got her hand up.

Julia: Ooh, Maria.

Jon: Alright, come on. Give — talk to me about what’s —

Julia: Tag team. Back again. [MARK LAUGHS]

Jon:  — talk to me about what’s driving this move towards autocracy. Because if World War III is coming I want to know who’s the allied powers and who are the axis powers and who are we joining up with? So Maria.

Maria: I go back and I wrote a whole book about this, right? What is the fundamental game changer? What you brought up, like Julia said, in many ways, that still happens at the speed of human comprehension. And human beings and society shift to these things, right? Elections happen at the speed of human comprehension. What does not happen at the speed of human comprehension is information warfare, information operation. So what you’re talking about of Russian capture of media is very, very different from Russian disinformation that targeted Americans and continues to target with dezinformatsiya, right? Russian military doctrine says that disinformation, information warfare is part of its military doctrine. And this is the best part that I love. Yuri Andropov, former KGB chair, says that dezinformatsiya is like cocaine. You take it once or twice and you’re gonna be OK, but if you take it all the time, you are a changed person. We have taken it all the time since at least 2019.

Mark: It’s gonna get worse.

Maria. Right and it is going to get worse.

Jon: Wait, what? Wait, hold on. Cuban, you can’t just chime in it’s gonna get worse.

Mark: It’s gonna get worse. Have you played with ChatGPT at all?

Maria: Yes!

Jon: Oh God.

Mark: The next battle is not as much about —

Maria: And Dall-E

Mark: Yeah. The next battle isn’t so much about Twitter or control of Twitter. It’s who controls the AI models and the information that goes in there, right? Because if you play with any of these ChatGPT, you know, da Vinci version 3.5 —not to get too much in the weeds, right? 

Jon: Right. 

Mark: We’re just in the first inning of what’s gonna happen with AI interactive models. And so if you go to ChatGPI and open AI.com and play with it, it’s stunning. It’s stunning how far it is. But imagine, you know, this is version 3.5. 

Jon: How it can be weaponized. Yeah. Right. 

Mark: Yeah, yeah. Version 10. What goes into those models is going to be more impactful than Twitter. Like my 13 year old is already scheming how to write his papers. Right? Because you [JON LAUGHS] you, you could tell me, you could, you could go in there and say, write me a paper about Russian disinformation approaches written for an eighth grader and it’ll do it at an eighth grade level.

Jon: Holy s***.

Mark: It’s insane.

Jon: OK, so let me, let me try and put an optimistic spin on it then. So, the world has always been destabilized, not just by America. Thank you Julia. Uh, but by the introduction of new forms of media, I mean from the Gutenberg Press to, uh, radio to television.

Julia: Don’t forget the clay tablet. Oh my God. [MARK LAUGHS]

Jon: The clay tablet was a f***ing game changer. Game changer. Julia. I still have my own clay tablet. [LAUGHTER] 

Mark: It starts with 10 lines, right? 

Jon: But, the point being that whenever these new forms of communication are entered into the system, human comprehension is not able to digest them in a way that is not destabilizing. 

Maria: Immediately.

Jon: But there is a little bit, or have we reached a point where this technology is so agile and so virulent? That human comprehension can’t catch up, or will Mark your 13 year old, are they more immune to its negative uh, uh, deprivations, because it’s not new to them. Their brains are more, uh, evolved.

Mark: Our generation, right? Gen X and older people doesn’t get it, right. Gen Z and younger, they’re not only native to it, they know how to block things out, right? Just like we would tell our parents, you know, “I don’t want to deal with it. I’m not doing whatever,” but they, they’re, they’re better able to deal with it, but they’re also going to define what comes next. Not our generation, their generation, and they’re more in tune to all these issues we’re discussing. It’s new to us because we’re stuck in a legacy world.

Jon: But it’s stabilizing. These new technologies in and of themselves – are destabilizing.

Mark: Far worse.

Jon: – are destabilizing.

Mark: Yeah. Far worse than what we’ve seen so far, because they’re dem – what, Twitter or Facebook to a certain extent, they’re democratic. Within the filters that an Elon or Zuckerberg or whoever else puts. 

Jon: Mm-hmm

Mark: Once these things start taking on a life of their own, and that’s, that’s the foundation of, you know, a ChatGPT and, and da Vinci 3.5.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Mark: Taking on a life of its own. So the machine itself will have an influence and it’ll be difficult for us to define why and how the machine makes the decisions that it makes and who controls the machine. 

Jon: Julia, you’ve seen this from, you know, the Russian side, the American side. In your mind, what’s the best way to deal then with these new weaponized misinformation and disinformation, uh, technologies that absolutely do draw people together, but also can clearly be weaponized to create conflict and destabilization. What’s your, you know, do you have a sense of solution.

Julia: I think, um, I think Europe has done a pretty good job. I mean, laws and regulations are always going to lag behind technology by the time—

Jon: Mm-hmm

Julia: —uh, a lawmaker or a state body figures out what a technology really is and figures out what threat or risk it poses to society. How to regulate it, what guardrails to put on it, then figures out how to get it through the legislative process, blah, blah, blah. It will have already evolved 15 times at least.

Jon: Mm-hmm

Julia: But I think Europe has done a pretty good job of regulating that space. But unfortunately, I think it’s always gonna be at the margins because so much of it is not just the technology, but it is, I mean, there’s a reason I made a joke about the clay tablet and you mentioned the printing press.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: So much of it is that it’s just a tool in the hands of human nature. And, um, it is what people do with it and what people decide to do with it. And that, I mean, you can only put up so many guardrails, right?

Jon: I’ve always said that you can split an atom and you can create energy for an entire continent, or you can blow it up and which one did, obviously, humans decide to do first? But, uh, you know, maybe what I’m wondering is, if democracies are analog, if people are analog and these technologies are digital, then we’ll never be agile enough because a system of checks and balances is never gonna be agile enough to catch up.

Mark: Never. Never.

Jon: So maybe these new crowdsource decentralizing technologies also hold the answer. Maybe the guardrails —

Mark: Are we talking crypto now? [MARK LAUGHS]

Jon: Well maybe, we’re gonna get it, but, but maybe the idea is crypto information guardrails. Maybe the idea is crowdsourced blockchained moderation of these systems because it’s going to be more agile. I mean, as funny as like, we may make Wikipedia out to be. It’s a pretty good system for moderating information.

Julia: That can be weaponized too.

Mark: I mean, we’ll get to a point in the not too distant future – where it will be, “I didn’t write it, my reporter didn’t write it. The CEO didn’t write it. The dictator didn’t write it. It was the AI that wrote it. It’s not my fault. It’s the AI’s fault.” You know, and we’ll have to extend sources. It’s, we’re, we’re going into a whole new world and I don’t even think realize how much things are going to change. The, you know, the AI stuff, AI is more impactful than anything I’ve seen in, in my, in, in my career.

Jon: It’s not gonna be the termin – it’s not like Terminator AI.

Mark: No. Not yet.

Jon: It’s like we just don’t know what’s real and what’s not AI, right?

Mark: Yeah, I mean we all have limited time. So we have to make our own editorial decisions on who we trust and who we don’t trust. And that’s one of the values of Twitter. You know, I follow this person cuz I trust them. I follow that, don’t follow that person cuz I don’t, I don’t trust what they say. With AI, it’s not an an, an individual, it’s an accumulation and an ingestion and spidering of everything, right? And it’s gonna be really difficult to reverse engineer and there’s gonna be people who trust it and it’s going to be insane.

Jon: So Maria, how then do — how do these sources earn their editorial trust? How do they earn their authority in a world where it’s changing so quickly? And will that become more valuable? You know, the way that they said Cronkite earned his editorial authority.

Maria: We have to move out of the old world, right? I mean, in the Nobel lecture last year, I said, you know, this is like there’s an atom bomb that exploded in the information ecosystem.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Maria: And we have to do what happened when the atom bomb exploded, and it still is, right? So what did they do? The world came together in a completely different way. They created the United Nations. They created NATO, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What are the standards and ethics? What are the values that will govern this? Why is this what manipulates our emotions and our minds? Why is that not governed the same way the genetic technology, CRISPR technology is governed from the very beginning. Laws were put in place. We can now customize babies, you know, but we can’t because government stepped in. Democratic government stepped in and said, you know, “We can be Gods, but we don’t have the wisdom of Gods.” We, and this is where I, I do say, uh, the same thing Julia said, which is the EU is ahead of the game, but it is because the United States and other democratic nations have let power and money loose without guarding the people, the users. We need to move from users to citizens and demanding.

Jon: Julia’s not even Jewish agreeing now, she’s just flat out agreeing. [LAUGHTER] She’s just actually now she’s, she’s not shaking her head no, she’s nodding up and down vigorously seconding, uh, Maria Ressa. Julia, is that, is that your mindset as well?

Julia: Yeah, I mean, I think that, uh, that’s, that’s kind of the problem the U.S. and that, you know, getting back to the Elon problem, right? Is that, money can pretty much buy you anything in the U.S. And getting back to the, I mean the other big story of, of the, of the last month or so, which is Sam Bankman-Fried and—

Jon: Hmm, I’m not familiar with this. Could you, could you film me in? [MARK LAUGHS] I haven’t, I haven’t heard anything. You know, it’s funny cuz I’m, I’m going to the Bahamas this winter and I just wanna make sure that everything is –

Mark: There’s probably cheap real estate for you down there, Jon. [MARK LAUGHS]

Jon: No, I would imagine so. Uh, but go ahead Julia. 

Julia: Yeah. And, and you know, we just came out of the midterms and there was the whole thing of, you know, Peter Teal had two of his candidates, and, and actually my, my colleague, uh, Teddy Schleifer did an amazing job covering this of, you know, the way that Mitch McConnell was constantly, uh, his team was constantly in touch with Peter Teal and trying to get more money out of him. And that there’s this whole shadow election happening behind the, before anybody even gets to cast a vote. There’s, you know, it’s actually called a shadow primary. You know, that where — before anybody even gets to cast a vote, the person who raises the most money is the one who gets to advance to even start campaigning, right?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Julia: And it’s a problem that was made worse by Citizens United, but I think, you know, the whole, I am here in Washington, DC where it’s quite swampy. Uh—

Jon: Yes, it is.

Julia: The lobbying apparatus is insane. The fact that you can, you know, stop any bill that you can add all kinds of things that gum up the works, um, that prevent the kinds of regulations that you need to control this kind of technology from getting out.

Jon: Julia are you about to make an announcement that America needs a superhero and you have a big, major announcement to make concerning that. Maybe perhaps with trading cards [MARK LAUGHS] and, uh—

Mark: NFT trading cards, right?

Jon: NFT trading cards in some kind of superhero. [INAUDIBLE]

Mark: Yeah. [MARK LAUGHS]

Maria: Oh my God.

Julia: I’m not, I’m not, I’m, I’m, I’m even worse at Photoshop than Donald Trump is.

Jon: All right.

Mark: Oh my God.

Jon: But getting to that Mark, you know, Julia brings up Sam Bankman-Fried became a player, not just because of his whatever, crypto and hedge fund and Alameda, and, uh, FTT tokens. He became a player because he had millions of dollars to give to the political system. That’s how he insinuated himself, and he did it as much as he’s doing his Chauncey Gardener routine now in all of his interviews [MARK LAUGHS]—

Mark: Great movies.

Jon —like, “I don’t know this happened. I just woke up.”

Mark: Nah.

Jon: You know the—

Julia: Flawless.

Jon: —the intention was, I think, to corrupt the parts of the system that he knew needed to be corrupted for him to carry on his scheme—

Mark: Of course.

Jon: —unfettered.

Mark: Yeah. All of this comes down to transparency, right? Where there is no transparency, there is extraordinary risk. And we all try to shortcut things through trust, through brands, et cetera. And whether it is, you know, authoritative regimes, whether it’s the United States, whether it’s dealing with digital, whether it’s dealing with AI, whether it’s dealing with pharmaceuticals where you find opacity and lack of transparency, you’re gonna find fraud at one level or another. And so when it comes to legislating any of this, it comes down to who’s willing to keep the kimona open. And like Maria was talking about, CRISPR and everything, that’s relatively transparent because people have to experiment and those things get published. And we don’t see that in politics and business in other areas. And so where we can legislate for transparency, where you have to disclose all these things because it’s digital, it’s easier to disclose. It’s easier to review, it’s easier to analyze, but we have no transparency. And as long as that’s the case, SBF can do what he does — what he did. Just like Donald Trump used to say, “Yeah, I know these politicians cuz I gave him all this money and they’ll do what I said.”

Jon: Right.

Mark: You know, it, the—

Jon: But isn’t it a matter of degree though?

Mark: —game has changed.

Jon: Because when you think about, OK, there’s no transparency on, we knew that this guy was giving people money, but I think when the Supreme Court redefined corruption as it must be explicit quid pro quo, we lost a really great tool at rooting out this kind of insinuation. And I’ll go even further, you know, when I look at the, uh, intricate workings of Wall Street, it doesn’t look that much different from the s*** that Sam Bankman-Fried pulled.

Mark: Of course not.

Jon: And that the legalized corruption that we have in this country looks very similar to everybody wants to go, “Well that was clearly a Ponzi scheme.” Well, how the f*** is it different from a lot of the stuff that I see at the heart of congressional stock trades and conflict of interest on Wall Street and payment for order flows and all that other s*** that goes on there.

Mark: It’s, it’s not different. I mean, money buys power, period, end of story. And once you get it, there’s different ways of confirming it. You know, in the case of Elon, he buys the platform. In the case of Sam Bankman-Fried, he bought politicians.

Jon: Right. 

Mark: And particularly in an area that people don’t fully understand, like crypto. You know? It, I heard this line the other day. It takes a couple frauds to pop a bubble, right? A financial bubble. It took Enron and WorldCom MCI. Now it’s gonna take, you know, what we saw with, um, with Sam and, uh, who was the, with Tara and Luna and all the others there, and Three Arrows Capital. You know, so now crypto will get its act together, but we don’t have the equivalent in, in government. You know, we don’t have the equivalent in politics yet. Everybody’s still corrupted, you know, and you, you talk about domination. It’s a two-party system. It’s the easiest system in the world to dominate because if you can rise to power in one of the two, you have half the power. You know, it’s until we change it.

Jon: But to Maria’s point, that’s just, but that’s just America.

Mark: Yeah, no, I get it just America. Yeah.

Jon: And the systems are now globalized and you know, when you look at the largest—

Mark: But they called, they call the president, the leader of the free world for a reason, you know, and that’s within a two-party structure. So there’s the duopoly and you have a 50% chance if you can get the top of either one of ’em to be the most powerful person in the world. Sounds like a commercial, you know? [JON LAUGHS] But that, that’s an inherent, you know, it’s an inherent problem that we have. That’s why I’m a fan of rank choice voting. Not to get too far Field.

Jon: Maria, when you look at, like, when I look at that SBF story and, and the crypto and all that, I also look at the media’s utter irresponsibility in when this cat first showed up, I mean, they licked him up and down and treated him like a rockstar. The very same people that are now saying, “Oh, this was clearly a Ponzi scheme, Bernie Madoff type guy,” how do you, you know, when I look at CNBC, or Fox Business or those. These are 24 hour news organizations that have basically become kind of cheerleaders for a lot of these incredibly risky and newfangled, uh, types of financial instruments that most people don’t understand. And, ultimately retail is the group that gets screwed. So how do you, how do you put the screws to a media to be more responsible, not just the company?

Maria: Well, so it’s, it’s not even just that financial instrument, it’s technology again, right, because the crypto part was the beginning of it, and then —So how did everything shift? Because we all believed in the power of technology. Again, I was the truest of true believers in social media until it became unfettered. And the, and the harms were very, very clear. And it was, and it became very personal. In crypto, all of the things that they used to say. So what did I do? I worked with civil, I was on the board, and I like, looked at it and I was like, ‘This is like not quite anything that, that it’s built up to be.” So I think definitely—

Mark: Are you talking about crypto or Sam?

Maria: —onboarding—Crypto

Jon: I don’t even know—

Maria: I mean [MARIA & MARK LAUGH] on almost all fronts of what…

Jon: Right.

Maria: I think at the beginning, and this would be from twenty o…  2014 moving forward, right? Everybody, it’s the hockey stick of, of growth. And, and there was [MARIA SNAPS HER FINGERS] always like the unicorn. Everyone wanted to be the unicorn. I did. I did a startup. I did, I did a series A. Right? That’s what everyone wants. People thought there was a shortcut that easy money is easy money and tech was the way to do it. It isn’t true. There are harms that come with that and we are now feeling.

Mark: There’s a difference between the underpin technology and crypto. You know, there’s a signal on the noise. In crypto, there was 99% of it was noise, but there’s real value with signal there. But look, I was sat on the phone with Sam for an hour talking crypto, right? 

Jon: Right. 

Mark: And he’s smart, he understands it. But I didn’t know he was a crook anymore than you know, any other Ponzi schemer. You don’t know until, you know, right?

Jon: Right.

Mark: He’s in his particular case, something a loose — 

Jon: But the question is, you can’t just dismiss him as a crook because he’s following a playbook that is actually been, uh, you know, may—

Mark: Well, that’s what psychopaths do, right? [JON LAUGHS] You know, they, they see the obvious—

Jon: You went from a crook to a psychopath!

Mark: Yeah. Well, they go, sometimes they’re, they’re one and the same, right?

Julia: Yeah.

Jon: Right, right, right, right. So maybe the lesson is this guys, and, and I’m cognizant of your time and we’ll wrap up and I’ve so appreciated the conversation. Uh, it, it’s this, with technology and, and all these, uh, things that are associated with technology moving so quickly. There’s no question that people, given our true nature, will pervert almost anything you put in front of us. And, and now that the velocity of the perversions have come so far and so fast, we need robust protections from ourselves and most pace instincts. And we don’t know. We don’t know where that’s going to come from, but we’re hoping that it comes from the collective efforts of well-intentioned, smart, uh, people who will be earning their authority. Yes?

Julia: Yes.

Mark: Hope so.

Jon: So we’re done here? So no World War III?

Julia: Uh.

Maria: I mean—

Jon: Aw man.

Maria: —You could argue World War III [LAUGHTER] is happening already. 

Mark: It’s just got lousy branding.

Maria: Right? I mean you can argue it is happening and it is not just a conventional war in Russia and Ukraine. You know, it’s individual. Sorry. I’ll, I’ll shut up on that because I do think we are in a war, each of us on these platforms, but I’m on, that’s my, that’s it comes with the inability to tell fact from fiction all across the board.

Jon: Right.

Maria: And is it any surprise when the, when the companies, the platforms that connect us, prioritize the spread of lies? It’s almost like telling your kid lie all the time, and I’ll keep rewarding you. That’s the world we live in.

Jon: Boy, that’s such an incredible point. And I think, you know, I think about my kids cuz they’re, they’re now getting to the age where they’re about to go off to college. But so much of their education when they’re younger is, you know, don’t cut people in line. It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice, you know, all these sort of really basic rules of the road without acknowledging that the road has changed so drastically. And maybe some of the antidote to this is to get into the schools and start revealing the matrix to them early. Here’s what they’re doing to you, here’s how you need to combat it. Julia, what do you think?

Julia: I was gonna say that one of the harshest revelations of adulthood for me was learning that all of those rules were actually not true. And that, that I was the one sucker who thought they were. [LAUGHTER] That I was like—

Mark: There’s two of us. There’s at least two of us.

Julia: Do you know what I mean?

Maria: Three, three of us!

Julia: I was like, “Oh, are we not actually doing this? Am I the one idiot who thought this was that, that I was taking this all literally? S***!” You know? [JON LAUGHS] And, and, um, I think the people and that and that, that was, um, one of the things that’s so, I think disillusioned me about, uh, adulthood, that was, that all the things that I was taught as a kid by my, you know, very idealistic anti-Soviet, uh, parents, like dissident parents, was that actually, uh, the people who get the furthest in America are the people who say those things, but do the exact opposite.

Jon: Right. That’s dark.

Maria: I hope you’re wrong Julia.

Jon: We just went, we can’t, we can’t end on dark like that. We can’t. I’m sorry.

Mark: Yeah.

Jon: I, and I refuse to believe it. And here, here’s what I think. The overwhelming majority of people, truthfully, just wanna be left the f*** alone. 

Julia: I live in Washington. Yeah.

Jon: That’s true. That’s bad.

Julia: Yeah. [JULIA LAUGHS] 

Jon: They wanna be left the f*** alone, and it doesn’t take many to destroy the value of the whole. It’s a, it’s a, you know, you have to try and distinguish between ignorance and malevolence and the, the better we are at doing it, there’s always gonna be people who want to reverse engineer the information we give them with malevolence. But generally, ignorance is epidemic and curable. And malevolence is just, we just have to limit the damage in my mind.

Julia: We just have to cure cancer. You know, it’s like [JON LAUGHS] like what you just said that’s like—

Mark: Yeah, that’s coming. [JON LAUGHING AND CLAPPING HIS HANDS] That’s coming.

Julia: You just have to get world’s peace. You know?

Jon: No!

Julia: It’s like—

Jon: No, no, that’s, no, it’s not pie in the sky. I’m telling you. Isn’t that the whole pursuit though? Isn’t that why—

Julia: Yes.

Jon: —you do what you do?

Jon: Isn’t that—

Julia: But it’s — yeah.

Jon: Isn’t that why we do this?

Julia: Yeah. It’s asymptotic, you know, it’s like you’ll never reach the limit. I don’t know.

Jon: Doesn’t matter, man.

Julia: Sure. Pursue it. Yeah.

Jon: Sit—

Julia: It’s like in the pursuit—

Jon: Everybody’s gotta be Sisyphus because at some point, if we’re all f***ing Sisyphus, the rock goes over the mountain. It has to.

Julia: Or at least moves. 

Jon: It has to!

Julia: Fine, fine. Or moves. That’s fine.

Jon: Wrap it up for us, Mark. Wrap it up for us.

Mark: [MARK LAUGHS] Oh, thanks a lot. You know, the most valuable asset any of us have is our time and digital, um, information gives us a shortcut so we can retain as much time as possible. So we take advantage of that shortcut and people who are malevolent understand that and they understand how to take advantage of our quest to retain our time. And so, again, I’ll go back to transparency. You know, social media on, on, um, is 10 years old, 11 years old. And so in the timeframe of life and generations, it’s just a smidgen. And when we look back in 20 years, we’ll realize we screwed it up a lot. But I think we’ll figure it out. And I think, you know, social media won’t have the impact that it once had. You know, AI is our risk factor right now, and we need to really be concerned about ethics because it’ll be the information source that we go to above and beyond social media that can be influenced.

Jon: Right. 

Mark: And we don’t even understand how that works yet.

Jon: Right and we better learn those lessons quickly. Uh, guys, I can’t thank you enough for, for spending, uh, your valuable asset of time with us. Maria Ressa, Mark Cuban, Julia Ioffe, uh, it’s our year in review wrap up podcast extravaganza. Thank you so much guys. 

Mark: Thanks everybody.

Julia: Thank you.

Maria: Thank you.

Jon: Uh, it’s The Problem with Jon Stewart. Check us out on Apple TV+ as well. And, uh, we’ll see you guys in the new year. Thanks so much.

[OUTRO MUSIC] 

Jon: “The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast” is an Apple TV+ podcast and a joint Busboy Production.

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