For years, companies and techno-bros have been saying that self-driving cars are ready to roll. Now companies like the ride-hailing service Lyft are actually letting customers take rides in autonomous vehicles. And at CES this year, John Deere unveiled a self-driving tractor that lets farmers put the latest automation tech to work in their fields. But if the time for self-driving vehicles is finally nigh, what does that mean for the workers who make a living behind the wheel?
This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED staff writer Aarian Marshall joins us to talk about the increasingly near future of autonomous vehicles. Then, a conversation with Jody Kelman, the head of Lyft’s autonomous driving division, and Aubrey Donnellan, a cofounder and the chief operating officer at the John Deere subsidiary Bear Flag Robotics.
Aarian recommends the HoMedics TotalComfort Portable Ultrasonic Humidifier. Mike recommends the Substack newsletter The Signal from David Katznelson. Lauren recommends Brandon Taylor’s Substack, Sweater Weather.
Aarian Marshall can be found on Twitter @aarianmarshall. 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.
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Lauren Goode: Mike.
Michael Calore: Lauren.
LG: Mike, how do you feel when you see an autonomous vehicle on the road? Because we're seeing a lot of them these days around where we live in San Francisco. Are you excited? Do you feel trepidation?
MC: I feel low-grade anxiety. I'm usually on my bike so I give them a very wide berth, I don't exactly trust them yet.
LG: Mm-hmm. Sometimes I see people texting or Snapchatting while they're driving, and I'm like, yeah, let's just bring on the autonomous vehicles. But I'm also curious, like how soon that's a reality.
MC: Oh, a decade at least. People love driving their cars, it's going to take a while.
LG: Well, we might get a little more clarity on this from our guests on the podcast today.
[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]
LG: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I'm Lauren Goode, I'm a senior writer at WIRED.
MC: And I'm Michael Calore, I'm a senior editor at WIRED.
LG: And today we're also joined by WIRED staff writer Aarian Marshall. Hey, Aarian.
Aarian Marshall: Hello.
LG: It's been a while, and it's great to have you back on.
AM: So nice to be here.
LG: So, today we're talking about self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles. Now, Aarian, you cover all elements of transportation for us here at WIRED. And recently during CES, the big annual consumer electronics fest, you spoke with Jody Kelman, the head of Lyft's autonomous driving division, and you also spoke with Aubrey Donnellan, who is the cofounder and the chief operating officer at Bear Flag Robotics. A lot of people have probably heard of Lyft, maybe not so much Bear Flag, but what you should know about Bear Flag Robotics is that they're now owned by John Deere.
So, both of them painted pretty rosy pictures of how autonomous vehicles could change everything from cities to farming operations, but actually implementing this tech is complicated, as we've reported a bunch on WIRED. They also talked a bit about how they initially envisioned certain use cases for their AV tech, and it ended up being deployed in different ways, which I think is something we're sort of grappling with more broadly in technology. Aarian, before we go to the interview itself, first tell us a little bit about how these two companies are approaching autonomous transportation and the different markets they serve.
AM: Yeah. So the companies are pretty different and serve pretty different markets. Lyft is an interesting case because they actually had their own team of engineers in Palo Alto working on self-driving technology, and then last year they sold that part of the business to Toyota. So now all they do in terms of autonomous vehicles is partner with other companies who are building the technology, to deploy it eventually in their ride-hailing network. So, folks like Jody over there are dealing with kind of product questions about who's going to use autonomous vehicles? How are they going to want to use them? Are there going to be certain likes and dislikes? Sort of the marketing questions around AVs.
And then folks over at Bear Flag Robotics are dealing with very different people, they are dealing with farmers, they're dealing with ag workers. And in those sorts of contexts and in lots of industry contexts, manufacturing, things that have to do with factories, AVs are actually out and about already doing little tasks, tasks that are routinized, that don't require the sort of complex thinking that driving a car does. So, John Deere, actually at CES unveiled a new tractor that has lots of more autonomous capabilities and it can do a lot in the fields right now.
MC: Yeah. Another WIRED contributor, Will Knight, wrote a story about that tractor. Did you talk about it in this interview that we're going to hear?
AM: We did a little bit, we didn't really get into the specifics. Something that Will touched on that we don't touch on in this conversation you'll hear is the issue of right to repair, and farm equipment, which is not something I report on, but is so critical in these questions about this technology that's coming out. And who's going to control, who gets to change that technology to make it more suitable for the people who own it for their needs? Is that something they're going to get to do? Is the company going to totally retain the ability to do that? So it was sort of big, interesting philosophical questions that will continue to swirl around products like that new John Deere tractor.
LG: Aarian, with the cars that we see driving around here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the ones that are eventually supposed to transport us, humans, and not autonomously like kind of roll over soil and help farmers, people discuss the levels of autonomous driving quite a bit, right? There's a certain threshold, Level 4, at which the car becomes a little more sentient. How close are we really to widespread Level 4 or Level 5 autonomous driving?
AM: I'd say it totally depends where you are. There are going to be some places in California, maybe even San Francisco, for example, where companies like Cruise, which is owned by General Motors, and Waymo, which is a Google Alphabet spinoff, where they're testing all the time and trying to figure out this very complicated driving task in a complicated place. But California's nice because the weather's nice, regulators have created processes that allow people to develop their technology, and kind of go through these rubber stamp processes that make the people feel a bit safer about getting into them maybe.
So it could be that we see autonomy in that kind of place before we see it in New York City, where there's less testing happening and in particular geographies and things like that. That said, that kind of "highest level" of autonomy, which is Level 5, that's where the car does everything in all contexts—I think it's pretty clear at this point when you talk to people that are building this technology and experts that that's really never going to happen. You're never going to be able to get into a car that can drive anywhere at any time, in snow, in hurricanes, in cities, in different countries. So, it's going to be a bit more complicated than the big futuristic dreams, but it'll be interesting to watch it play out.
LG: All right, Aarian, thanks so much for that overview. Let's go listen to your interview.
[Some silky smooth beats play]
AM: Hi, everyone. I'm Aarian Marshall, and I am a staff writer at WIRED. In a moment I'll be joined virtually by Aubrey Donnellan and Jody Kelman. Aubrey is the cofounder and CEO of Bear Flag Robotics, which is a John Deere company, and Jody is the head of Lyft Autonomous, which means she leads the consumer and marketplace products at Lyft. Thank you both so much for being here.
Jody Kelman: Awesome to be here.
Aubrey Donnellan: Thanks for having us, Aarian.
AM: I wanted to start off by first pointing out that you both are operating and helping oversee autonomous products in very different contexts, but you're also with some of the few companies that have really seen real-world deployment of automated vehicles. And I'm wondering, Aubrey, you can start this off, what the most surprising thing has been in having real people use your automated products?
AD: When we started Bear Flag Robotics, we talked to so many different growers about what their pain points were, how automation and autonomy could affect their businesses and their lives in fundamental ways. So we had a hunch as to the impact that having real-world machines out there working in live operations would have for these people and business owners, but it really wasn't until we did get out there and start providing these services for many different growers of different types, different seasons, and really start to see that the value proposition for them went way beyond what we thought, which was addressing a labor shortage issue in agriculture. And while it is a very prescient pain point, we started to see how growers became really innovative when you give them this technology, and all of the other things, how they're utilizing the data and the precision nature of the technology to actually farm better than they could before, aside from the pain point that they all thought we were solving up front.
AM: Oh, that's interesting. So, people have been sort of interacting with it a little more differently than you had anticipated?
AD: Yeah. I mean, people really get creative when you give them technology that lets them do things they've never been able to do before. But sometimes it's hard for, I think, customers to elucidate those use cases until you actually put a product in their hands that can show them value of some sort, and until they're using it day-to-day, it actually is solving a problem of theirs. And then what we saw was that freedom to get more creative with the additional value that automation and autonomy could bring them, beyond just, like, you don't need a driver in the cab of a tractor.
AM: Jody, I'm wondering what Lyft has learned. I think I was looking back in, you all have been working with Motional on autonomous deployments, I think since 2018, what are some of the big surprising things that you've learned about how people are interacting with robotaxis, particularly in Las Vegas, which I know is where we're supposed to be.
JK: Yes. So, first off, stepping back for a moment, I think one of the first surprises for people is that they can do this in the Lyft app today. If you're a Lyft rider, you can open up your Lyft app in Las Vegas with Motional, in Phoenix with Waymo, or most recently we actually launched, right before the holidays with Argo and Ford in South Beach, Miami. And this looks like any other mode of transportation in the Lyft app. So the same way you might request a Lyft Classic ride, or a bike or scooter through Lyft, you can now request self-driving rides through the Lyft app. And I think that's really, when we think about our role in how we bring this technology to market, we really see Lyft playing this role in the trust equation for a rider.
So, if you're thinking about self-driving as this kind of far-away technology that maybe is going to exist 20 or 30 years from now, what we're really helping you do is see what it's like today as a real form of transportation. And we've done well over 100,000 rides with our partners, paid rides in self-driving cars through the Lyft app today. So I think the first big surprising thing is frankly just that this is here and it's now. I think the second big thing we see that is incredibly, I would say, counterintuitive is that consumers are really ready for this technology. We have something like a 4.97 out of 5-star rating on the self-driving rides we've done to date, and we see that 96 percent of people want to ride again. And so, very far from this being something that scares people, which is often how the storyline is portrayed, what we see is there's really an energy for this new technology that is going to be safer, that's going to be more affordable, and that's going to provide even better experiences than we're able to get through any form of transportation today.
AM: Do you find that there's a particular reaction that people have when that self-driving car, still, I should note, with someone in it, monitoring it, anything they say in particular when that actually happens to them?
JK: I have now done, like, I would guess I'm up in the actual hundreds of rides where I have accompanied people on their first self-driving ride, which is, I would say, sort of the single biggest perk of my job, and the most common pattern I see is that at the very beginning people are nervous when they get into the car. They don't totally trust what the car is going to do. They're kind of staring at the wheel, they're watching the safety driver's hands kind of hover under the wheel and making sure the car is doing what they expect. It depends on the length of time, but I'd say it usually takes somewhere between three and five minutes for someone to totally forget that they are in a self-driving car.
We've done a fair amount of research on this. We do both pre-research and post-research on the rides, and the single biggest piece of feedback people give us after the rides is that it was boring. As someone who is trying to be part of bringing what I think is going to be a game-changing technology to market, usually what I want to be doing is bringing something that's incredibly interesting to market. In this case, I love that boring is our baseline, and that we are able to build from there.
[The beats play]
LG: All right, we're going to take a quick break and then come back with more of Aarian's interview about the future of autonomous driving.
AM: Agriculture and different industries like that have been using automation for some time, and I wonder if there's anything you can take away from the experiences of folks like Aubrey, folks like Bear Flag Robotics, in creating products in a very different context, but that still use similar technology.
JK: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the biggest takeaways for all of us, and I think you started to touch on this with Aubrey, is the idea that the faster you can get your end customer engaged with the technology, the better you will build towards their needs today. So, I'll give you a very tactical example from our world. You mentioned we started this with Motional in 2018. We actually did our very first pilot with Motional predecessor, NuTonomy, in Boston in 2017. And when we started these programs, the big thing we thought Lyft riders were going to need from us was really a focus on safety. So we thought all of our product designs and sort of product suite was built to make sure they really trusted what the car was doing.
And when we got into the field with these riders, and we did ride-alongs, and we did interviews, and we did surveys with them, we asked them what they were experiencing. What we realized is, actually, the biggest thing for them is a baseline of familiarity. So, if you think about kind of like a, almost a Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we tend to think safety is foundational to everything we do, and before you meet other needs, you have to establish that safety foundation, but there's almost this underlying, I call it pattern recognition that people don't want to deal with a lot of cognitive load when they're trying something new. So the idea of being able to use, for instance, a familiar Lyft app to open the door of a car, or to be able to adjust the temperature or the entertainment in a car, being able to build on those familiar patterns, turned out to be even more foundational than explicitly addressing that potential of, how do I know what the car is seeing, doing, and thinking?
AM: Same question for you, Aubrey, is there anything, and I'm wondering particularly for you from a kind of technical standpoint, whether there's anything for a product in agriculture to learn from what's going on on America's roads right now, and the kind of testing that's going on for personal automobiles.
AD: One hundred percent. We can learn so much from each other. But even before that, Jody, what you're saying resonates so much in agriculture in different ways. At John Deere we talk a lot about how autonomy is so much more for us than getting from point A to point B. It's not, you can take the person out of the cab so that your system can navigate autonomously, but that's not going to get your farm farmed, your job done. In farming, you have all sorts of equipment that operate in different times of the year for different tasks. And that equipment is really complex, it's super cool to work on, but it requires, there's like a pretty heavy cognitive load, and you need a skilled operator, which is part of the problem with our labor shortages: You really do need skilled operators in the cabs of these vehicles to be monitoring what is going on, not only in front of the vehicle, but behind the vehicle, what's going on on some of your sensor feedback screens? Are the control systems within the vehicle interacting with the crop?
Not to mention the environment is really rugged and can be very tough on the human body. We have people in UI, UX, ergonomics. I mean, if you've ever been in a tractor before, and you're sitting in a tractor for eight hours, it is so tough on just your physical body, not to mention all of the mental activities that you need to do. So, point being, I think there's a lot of synergies in what you experience with Lyft, in that, automation of these smaller, less grandiose tasks that humans have to do, and they're not even always aware of, can be just as meaningful, if not even more meaningful, than the automation of the driving itself.
And I feel really grateful to be working at John Deere now; you know we're part of John Deere. They are a market leader in this precision ag space, and they've been working on … Their approach has been automation of these lower-level tasks that a human does in the cab to make their drivers and their growers more productive, more profitable, their machines more efficient, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, all to build to this place where we can take the humans out of the cab, we can run day and night, 24/7, we can scale up or down operations at the drop of a hat without human resources. But you need all of these lower-level things to be in place, in addition to safety—number one, you cannot hurt or harm anyone. That is a huge piece of this. And I think even though the tasks that we automate in agriculture are completely irrelevant to what you work on at Lyft, I think that still holds true, is to not overlook those things.
JK: What you're touching on, I think that the companies that are doing this, that are worth their salt, kind of ironically put the human at the center of their robotic innovation, right? We are all thinking about what the end impact is rather than thinking about the technology as an end to itself. And I think one of the dividing lines you're starting to see in the marketplace is, really, autonomy companies that are designing with the end user in mind, versus those that are kind of, they're still excited about the problem, they're maybe pushing forward on some piece of the technical innovation. But I think over time, you'll see the companies that put the end user first kind of winning the autonomy race.
AD: I really do think we can all learn from each other and leverage technology and infrastructure in safety, how we approach safety in scenarios, and how we do heavy-duty data capture, data processing, over-the-air updates to a global fleet. I think that's something that all of us have in common in our challenges that aren't necessarily our core competency. There's other companies in the ecosystem that we can leverage, but I do feel personally, we can come together and help each other, all ships rise, in those infrastructure areas, because it is a pain point, I think, for all of us trying to deploy this technology at scale.
AM: Yeah. Aubrey, I'm wondering if, and Jody too, I am wondering if you feel, aside from WIRED HQ, I'm wondering if you think there are places to have those conversations, industry-wide across everyone who's working on automation in lots of different contexts? Are there places where you're able to gather and share the important information you need to?
AD: I think there are great forums out there, especially industry-specific. I know in agriculture, we do, but I think we could do better pulling industries together, geos together, and having those discussions, especially involving regulatory issues.
JK: Yeah. I certainly think there are forums where it's happening. Interestingly, Europe, I think is actually leading the way on this, not super surprisingly, they've taken a very collaborative approach to autonomy. The US is a little more bottom-up, but you do see we're part of things like the Self-Driving Coalition or the AV Coalition for Safer Streets that are bringing together industry groups to make sure that we are actually building to the same standards. I also think there's really interesting work to be done there, or done out there around data. So you see companies like Motional releasing things like the nuScenes data set. The more that we can build towards these open data sets or data sets that allow the industry to move faster, the more we are going to be able to get this technology onto the roads quickly, safely, and collectively.
AM: Yeah. Well, when you were talking before about smart companies really thinking about how the end user is using automation as a product, that got me thinking about the ever-present questions about automation and job loss. I know when I talk to people who are out doing jobs every day, that's something that scares them a lot. Jody, how are you thinking about and talking to Lyft drivers about the kinds of experiments and deployments you're running with Motional, what that might mean for them in the future?
JK: I think it's critical to state out front that we believe drivers are always going to have, frankly, even more earning opportunities than they do today on the Lyft platform. So today, a company like Lyft represents less than 1 percent of vehicle miles traveled on the road. And as we are able to grow everything, from serving more communities to reducing the price point at which we're able to offer transportation to our users, we do know that there is a lot of room for that pie to grow. But I also think the piece of this that people talk much less about is the job creation aspect of autonomy. So everything from, we are going to need to open service centers across the country that are cleaning, servicing, maintaining these vehicles. Today, we actually have hired our first customer service representatives who are working with Lyft riders who take a self-driving ride on our platform. So, as we start thinking about what autonomy is going to bring, both for our country, frankly, and for Lyft in specific, we do see a huge amount of opportunity here in addition to the change that it's certainly going to bring.
AM: Same question for you, Aubrey, I'm wondering how you guarantee that you're not just talking to the folks who are buying John Deere products and Bear Flag Robotics products, the farmers, but then also the agriculture workforce, the folks that are doing the day-to-day work, and how you make sure that they're not going to lose their jobs, those sorts of concerns.
AD: Absolutely. So, we have, half of our company are agricultural professionals. We would be nowhere close to where we are without those people, and specifically the piece in not only operating equipment, but how to farm, and how to reach growers and build products that they actually need, not just what we think they need. So we've created jobs at Bear Flag more than there would've been otherwise, but in ag we're experiencing a real labor shortage. People are pretty concerned that there's no … I think that it was told to me recently, 1 percent employment growth from 2019 to 2029 in agriculture, which is less than the average for all others. It's not great. And it's an aging workforce; people are concerned that they're not going to be able to meet the growing demand for food, which we all know is exploding globally with the existing human resources that we have.
And so, it is an existential threat that I think the conversation is totally warranted, and we can talk about, as we take away the need for human drivers, what does that mean for people who want to be in agriculture? And it's actually pretty bright, because we're up-leveling people's skills, we're relieving people of tough and dangerous jobs so that they're able to go use their time to do higher-value tasks on the farm. But the real and genuine issue is that we're solving a problem in ag, and it is a labor shortage problem. And so, we're met typically with gratitude for helping people mitigate not only today, but how they forecast this problem in the future for their farms.
JK: As you're talking Aubrey, it's bringing to mind one of our core technology differences, which is, robotaxis deployed in urban markets; they're typically a much more complex use case than sort of farming along a field. It's part of why you see a lot of autonomous and roboticists going to ag tech and to trucking, because frankly, robotaxi technology is hard. And so, it is also worth stating, we don't see autonomy coming to market on public roads all at once and in a wave, right? This is going to happen in pockets over time in certain cities, in certain weather conditions, at certain times of day. And so, that's also one of the big roles that Lyft will end up playing is, turns out when you want to get a ride, Aarian, like, you want to go from point A to point B, you don't want to go from point A to point B just 10 percent of the time, when the car is able to service it. And so, being able to have a hybrid network of both human drivers and autonomous robotaxis actually allows us to bring that technology to market that much faster.
AM: Jody, you anticipated the million-dollar, probably multi-trillion-dollar, question that I'm sure you're very sick of, which is, when are these things going to get here, but also, what does a company like Lyft need to learn before they can get here? What are the big open questions that will determine when I can use my phone and dial up my driverless Lyft ride?
JK: I think it's a really good use story here, which is, we will start rolling out the first driverless cars on Lyft at the end of 2023 with Motional. So, we have been quite public about that, we're incredibly excited, it will happen on the streets of Las Vegas. And what I think you will then see is, we'll add, again, these sort of small pockets of certain cities at certain times of day when it's not snowing and not raining to bring other partners' technology to the Lyft platform. And what we're going to see is this really starting in earnest next year, but with the awareness that this is location-dependent, it's not happening all at once. I think for us, the single biggest question that we needed to answer has been answered, which is, are customers ready, and are there reasonable guidelines out there in the marketplace for us to know what “safe enough” looks like?
And I think one, with partners, like the AVSC, we have been part of developing these sort of shared guidelines for what it looks like to roll out an autonomous car safely. And then increasingly, we're really trying to help partner companies understand what it looks like even to compare to something like what safe behavior might look like on a given road segment in San Francisco from a human-powered car. And so, increasingly, I think the first question we needed to answer was always, are consumers ready to try this? I think we know the answer to that question. And if anything, the answer we're getting is kind of, please get them to me sooner and in more places. But the safety question has really been one of the gating questions, and increasingly, again, through some of this intercompany work that we have been doing with safety experts, everyone from Ford, Argo, and Motional, to Waymo, we are seeing sort of a standard emerge for what it is going to look like to actually roll out a fully driverless car safely.
And I think that's a place where I never want to be in a world where any company is doing it alone. I think that is a place where we want regulatory bodies stepping in. We want industry consortiums coming together and really setting a standard that everyone needs to hold up to account. And so, I think that's really one of the areas of innovation that I've been most excited to see, and then excited to play a role within that by having this very interesting data set that no one else out there has, which is, access to how safe do you need to be to actually be safer than a human driver on the road?
AM: It's all right. I'll get excited for innovations in government regulation. That's the fun step.
JK: Yes. If you want me to nerd out, I'll nerd out on NHTSA all day long, but-
AM: That's good to know. I'll keep that in mind. Aubrey, I want to ask you the same question, which is, when can an ag worker kind of just step out of the tractor, but I also have a question for Twitter for you that I want to get to, which is, what is the reaction from farmers who may feel like they're adding more complex systems to their workflow, or is there a general openness to new tools in the toolbox? So, if you could answer both of those huge questions in a few minutes that would be great.
AD: Yeah, absolutely. So, in terms of, when? It's here already. I mean, that's the good news is like we've been out in market for a couple years now. You guys saw a press release from John Deere making a really big announcement company-wide about being in market. And growers are going to be using, growers are already using our technology, they're going to be using it at a larger scale this year and just growing from that. That's the great thing in agriculture, there's no lack of opportunity to go tackle with automation. And so, we're in market today, and we're just going to be taking more and more down, we're starting with tillage, then we're going to tackle planting, harvesting, all the steps in the production system and continue adding value to it for growers.
In terms of the Twitter question, I think growers are some of the most innovative experimental customers I've ever dealt with in my career, and I haven't always been in agriculture. They know their bottom line better than anybody, so whatever technology you provide them, you better know your business case and you better know the value that you're providing to them. But in terms of trying new things, I mean, you go on farms and people create new tools and new technology themselves that we've never seen sold by an OEM or a tech company before, homegrown systems, and you see a lot of innovation in the ag space. Growers take a ton of pride in knowing their own land and having a leg up maybe on their competition and how to do a certain operation better. I think that culture is already there in agriculture, and so, when you come to the table with something that's transformational for them, they're really excited about it.
Though in the past, I think this isn't exclusive to agriculture, they've seen a lot of tech that sounds great, you know, it's going to answer their problems, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't. We used to get feedback about the data side of our business, how we can provide these insights coming off of our sensors and predictive analytics that's super cool to talk about, really promising, but for a grower who's worried about literally the changing weather of tomorrow and how that's going to affect their yields for the rest of the year, there's more skepticism in, is this technology really going to help me for this growing season, or is this a nice to have? And they're busy people, so they don't want to waste their time. And so, I think that is something, and I love working with types of people like that because it's brass tax. If you go out and you show them how technology, and we do, we show up with our machines, we automate their tasks, and then they're sold. They're ready, they say, "Well, how can we get 10 more of these things on my farm?" They're ready to adopt it, they're very, very quick adopters, but they need to see the value. It needs to make sense financially for them as well. I don't know if that-
AM: That makes a lot of sense.
AM: We're looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. That is it for us today, we are out of time. Thank you so much to Aubrey and Jody for this great conversation, and of course my assistant. Thanks to all of you out there on the internet for tuning into our virtual WIRED HQ. And you can see the full lineup at WIRED.com/HQ. And from all of us at WIRED, I hope you have a good and healthy day, and that we'll see you back in person sometime soon.
[More sick beats permeate the soundscape]
LG: Let's take another quick break, and when we come back, we'll have our weekly recommendations.
LG: All right, Aarian, since you've been driving this show, what's your recommendation this week?
AM: Well, my recommendation is something I just bought that I'm really enjoying, and this is kind of dirty, but we have forced air in my apartment here, and it's been really cold where I live in Washington, DC, so we've had the heat up really high and I get really dried out and I'm constantly convinced I have Covid, it's really awful. So, I bought myself a little personal humidifier. It's from Homedics, and it's called the TotalComfort Rechargeable Personal Ultrasonic Humidifier. And it like spits out little bits of water, and it's just really delightful, and it's keeping me nice and hydrated in these terrible cold months.
LG: That is an extremely Gadget Lab recommendation, and I love it, I respect it. I usually-
MC: How much was it?
AM: Oh, I think it was $19.99, somewhere around there.
AM: Maybe $25.
MC: Even perfecter.
LG: You know what? It's priceless. It is priceless. Thank you for that recommendation, we'll link to it in the show notes. Mike, what's your recommendation this week?
MC: I'm going to recommend a Substack newsletter, it's a free newsletter that you can donate to, it is called The Signal and it's written by a guy named David Katznelson. David spends a lot of time surfing some of the more obscure corners of the internet and comes up with all sorts of cultural gems. He gives you articles to read, photographs to look at, painters to learn about, music to listen to, free movies to watch. It's a lot of fun because every time I open it, I learn something. And how often can you say that about a newsletter these days because there are so many of them. But yeah, I really like it. I would recommend it to anybody who is really into, not necessarily counterculture stuff, but just cultural stuff that is a little bit outside the mainstream. So yeah, The Signal from David Katznelson.
LG: I also have a Substack recommendation this week.
MC: We're both recommending newsletters, this really is like peak newsletter right now.
LG: At this moment, on Gadget Lab! I admit though that I saw you were recommending a Substack and I was going back and forth between a few different things. The Substack I would like to recommend is called Sweater Weather by Brandon Taylor. And I pay for it, but I can't tell you off the top of my head how much a subscription is, but whatever it is, it's worth it, you should subscribe. Taylor describes his Substack as a series of essays about literature, culture, and so many feelings. And I think he just writes really fluidly and compellingly about everything from Succession, the HBO show, to contemporary Black horror, to Freud and psychology, to our often very delicate and anxiety-inducing relationships to the internet. And I think I just love his reading. Whenever I start one of his essays, I have to finish it, it's so good. And so, I highly recommend subscribing to sweater weather.
MC: Nice. Does it only come out in the autumn and the winter?
LG: That's right. Only in the cold weather months. Yes. No, that is not true, at least not that I know. All right. That's our show for this week. Thanks again to Aarian for joining us, it's been great to have you back on the show.
AM: Thanks for having me.
LG: And thanks for hosting that interview at WIRED HQ during CES this year. Thanks to all of you for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter, just check the show notes, or feel free to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, we do love reading those. This show is produced by the excellent, Boone Ashworth, who really does drive the show every week. Have a great day, we'll be back next week.
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