AS Seen On

By: Stephan Spencer


Brad Templeton
“We should marry the old world of personal computer storage to the current world of cloud storage. There’s still room for both.”
Brad Templeton

At this point, it’s hard to imagine our lives without technology. In today’s episode, we’ll uncover the fascinating journey of an individual who has surfed the swelling wave of tech and the internet from its inception, bearing witness to its evolution at every stage.

Brad Templeton is founding faculty for Computing & Networks at Singularity University and Chairman Emeritus and futurist of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation. He founded ClariNet Communications Corp., the world’s first “dot-com” company! He also created Rec.Humor.Funny and its website,, the world’s longest-running blog. He’s a provocative guy with a lot to say!

In this episode, we take a deep dive into the murky waters of data rights, addressing personal data – the intangible currency that we’re all spending, often without even realizing it. Brad has been a pioneering voice in the conversation around data rights, examining the intersection of data privacy, civil rights, and digital consumption. It’s a high-speed, boundary-pushing discourse with some eye-opening revelations you’re not going to want to miss. So, without any further ado, on with the show!

In this Episode

  • [00:44]Stephan introduces his next guest, Brad Templeton. Brad is a founding faculty member of Computing & Networks at Singularity University and Chairman Emeritus and futurist of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
  • [01:56]Brad shares how he started Clarinet and what sparked his passion to begin the venture.
  • [06:47]Stephan asks Brad how he got involved with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Brad speaks about the personal importance of the mission.
  • [11:04] Brad discusses a new course he’s planning about data security and how he wants to title it, “Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
  • [15:05]Brad shares his insight on how companies currently acquire users’ data. He highlights the importance of awareness of what online data collection entails and how it can affect the privacy of individuals.
  • [18:08]Brad cites examples of how people can protect their own data.
  • [21:29]The initiatives and projects Brad focuses on to help address the issue of data rights.
  • [27:34]Brad explains the implications of driving a smart car and how driver data is collected.
  • [33:06]Brad shares how people can contact him, access his resources on data security, and have conversations with him online.

Jump to Links and Resources

Brad, it’s so great to have you on the show.

Good to be here.

So ClariNet, I think that’s how you built your initial chunk of wealth back in the day. Was that in the 80s or 90s? Something like that?

The wealth comes, the wealth goes, unfortunately. But yes, that was my first business success. I sold that in 1997, so that’s now a little while ago. It was the first company that was created to do business on the Internet. There were obviously companies before that that were selling the internet itself, the internet service providers. But then everybody was sitting sort of around saying, “Okay, this is not like a genius idea of mine or anything .”

Everybody wanted to say, “How could we do business on this network?” It’s really great because there were rules at the time that said that the backbone of the Internet, which is funded by the US government, was not for commercial use.

I basically found a loophole. I found a way that I could sell an electronic newspaper to people and use that network for delivery that still complied with the rules. And so that’s how I got to be first, not because I was the first person to think of it. But nonetheless, I had to think of many things for the first time in the process of building it.

That’s so cool. How did you end up starting that company? What was the spark of genius that got you going in that?

You know that funny thing is, and I’ve written this up. That’s a story I could do an hour about because there’s actually a lot of fun complexity. It all begins with my first introduction to the Internet in the late 1970s.

The 70s. Wow!

It wasn’t even called the Internet then; it was called the ARPANET. At that time, I was like everybody else. I was very excited about personal computers and was working for the very first personal computer software company. I worked a little bit on a program called VisiCalc. Your older readers will know what that is. That’s the original spreadsheet program. Sort of the very first, the thing they got the term “killer app” for was the VisiCalc.

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I got on the ARPANET in order to do some work on the companion program for VisiCalc called VisiPlot, which I wrote for the IBM PC. And I was like, wow, a lot of people had this epiphany in a while, but I had it in the 70s instead of later on. This is actually what the computers are for.

Yes, it’s great to do spreadsheets, play games, write programs, and all the things that we do on them, but they’re for talking to other people. That’s what the internet is for. That’s what the computer is for. And so, I got heavily involved in networking, and then I got too involved, and many people also have recognized that in themselves. I said, “Either I have to get off this thing, or I have to make my living on it.” I foolishly chose to make my living on it.

I was doing the thing you mentioned. I had the most popular newsgroup. I was the Elon Musk of my day. I had the most Twitter followers, as one would say. I wanted to figure out, “Could I publish for money?” That’s how I went towards making an online newspaper, which was, again, I don’t think, it was any spark of genius. It was pretty obvious that people would want to move newspapers and all those other things into the online world.

And so that’s what I decided to do. I got licenses from various news sources like UPI (the wire service), later the Associated Press, Reuters, and other companies. I licensed syndicated columns. In fact, it all started mostly because I was doing comedy, and I wanted to publish the column of Dave Barry. Dave’s not as popular these days. But at the time, he was the most popular and favorite comedy writer as a columnist in the online world at least.

People were always throwing his columns around, posting them on mailing lists, and sending them out to people. I said, “Well, maybe people would pay a little bit of money just to get this great thing because everyone loves it.” They wouldn’t sell to me at all, but I went into all the other stuff, built the whole newspaper, and started pushing it out to different companies.

That’s the abbreviated version, but it traces a path back from that one epiphany, which has certainly altered the course of my life to use this network for people to interact with each other. We’ll probably get into, later in this conversation, the negative epiphany that I and many others have had in just the last few years. That while we actually foresaw a lot of things, we didn’t adequately deal with the issue of how people would use it as a propaganda tool, as a way to manipulate and spread information for negative reasons.

The online cloud computing architecture needs change.

Everyone’s worried about this right now. Many people think the way to solve that is to give up some important values that we should still hold. They want to basically censor and kick people off the network, where they don’t say what they don’t like.

And of course, people on both sides of the political spectrum argue that the other side should be kicked off, and that’s part of what’s going on on Twitter right now– it’s a battle between those sides. That’s become the whole issue in the present. But nonetheless, I’ve made a few jokes about it, I think overall it’s still good that we built this.

What got you involved with the Electronic Frontier Foundation speaking about things like propaganda and having the right to publish whatever you want on the Internet? EFF is such a wonderful organization. Were you one of the founders?

I wasn’t one of the original founders. I knew them. This will be one of those synergy sort of things. Three people primarily founded the EFF, although the main one was Mitch Kapor. I’d worked for him when he was also at this personal software, VisiCorp, this early software company. He had written the Apple 2 version of VisiPlot. I told you I had written the IBM PC version of VisiPlot. I didn’t use his code; I just rewrote a different program under the same name.

I had known Mitch for a long time, for more than ten years at that point, and then he went off and founded EFF. Like many people, I have a philosophical bent towards protecting free speech and civil liberties. And so, to do that, when these became under threat, was an important thing.

I was a member right away, but it was after I sold my business and had more time that I joined the board of the organization in the late 90s. And then I was chairman of it for ten years, somewhere in the middle of that span there. However, even before the EFF was formed, I had the strange distinction of being the first person to be the target of what’s now called the “cancel campaign.”

Those who work in encryption and security can be their own worst enemies as they see any imperfection as personal failure. Click To Tweet

It’s not what made me like free speech actually, but certainly, it would make you like it if you hadn’t before. And when I was doing Rec.Humor.Funny– It’s odd we don’t really get into stuff, as this is all more than 30 years ago now. When I was doing that, I would post jokes. And well, let me shock you and surprise you that occasionally, there are jokes that bother people and are not 100% politically correct.

A series of random choices actually made a bad joke, allowed in the wrong way on the very wrong day because I just had the computer, and posted them randomly. But if you were one of those people who believe in karma, which I’m not, karma collided in the wrong way that day. Karma today has just become getting a good parking spot and no longer has anything to do with reincarnation. However, one guy got upset and decided to do this giant campaign to shut the thing down and get me kicked out.

He called my office to try and get me fired and realized I own the company, so that doesn’t work very well—all of these elements. And I will say, unlike some of today’s campaigns, I will say that it wasn’t very successful. The reaction was the reverse. The response was, “How dare you try and censor something on our network? That’s not how we roll here.” and so people came to my defense.

Although it got banned at the university that I fed it through, the one I’d gone to, and I used them. In those days, you had to connect through someone else. It wasn’t a commercial service you could buy. I got banned at Stanford University as well because of this campaign. Those bans were eventually reversed, although it took a fair bit of work. A lot of interesting people got involved in reversing the bans.

Quite strangely, the BBC did a documentary episode about this last year. The story is interesting, and I’m not surprised people might want to hear about the first attempts at canceling and all that stuff. But they went so far as to claim that this episode was the reason the internet has a free speech culture, which, again, some people think is a bad thing now instead of a good thing.

It’s funny. They said I was the reason for all the free speech culture. Some of my friends say, “Wow, you must be proud.” Other people say, “Oh, you’re that guy.”  Of course, I wasn’t. The culture existed long before these events.

And also, again, not the first incident, but an incident of what later got called the Streisand effect, which, if you’ve heard that term, Barbra Streisand tried to get some photos of her house that were taken by someone who was on a plane. She didn’t like her nice house being on the internet. The immediate result was everybody was sharing pictures of Barbra Streisand’s house. She got the exact opposite of what she wanted.

The same thing happened with Rec.Humor.Funny. The guy wants to ban me. He does get me banned in a few places. But eventually, it’s reversed, and it becomes the most popular thing on the internet in exchange, so a little bit of “living well is the best revenge” going on there.  

This week I proposed that, and many people have agreed, we need a new course in the core curriculum of high schools in the world, certainly in the United States. Now, that’s very difficult to ask for because you’d have to say what goes out of the core curriculum, and everything would be firmly defended. But the course I want is a course on critical thinking, but its main goal is to deal with situations where there are flaws in the human psyche, like the biases that we have, the addictive behaviors we have, and the ways that people will trick us.

There are a lot of people out in the world who want to trick us, lie to us, fool us, get us to do things, buy things, vote for things, and I think people need to be prepared. They need to understand how a mortgage works to get the math right on how they spend their money and how payday loans and credit card debt are bad ideas, which all tap into tricks in our minds or misunderstandings about math, history, science, and psychology.

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This is what I think students should be prepared for. Even though I have a degree in mathematics, I would sacrifice some math from the core curriculum to teach them these things. The name I have for this course has been a little controversial. I want to call it “Defense Against the Dark Arts.” It’s a fantastic and perfect name. The only downside is there’s a segment of society that is not as free speech-oriented as I am. They’ve come to hate Joanne Rowling for her opinions.

Anyway, the reason I think that name is important, and I might even fight a little bit against that course, is that what we have is an entire generation coming up in two generations of children who’ve all dreamed in their hearts about “wouldn’t it be great to go to a magic school, and take Defense Against the Dark Arts? They would teach me that there are all sorts of people in the world who will play tricks on me.” They are going to play tricks on you, and you must know how to defend yourself against that.

Because the real world is actually like that. Many people are going to exploit the various flaws and biases that psychologists have studied for a long time. These are not like made-up things. They’re scientifically well-documented things. And they are going to use these on me to fool, trick, and do something to my disadvantage, and I need to be prepared for it. That’s why I would love to see a course like that. Maybe we can make it happen.

It’d be a fun course. There’d be lessons on con games, right? It’s like watching The Sting. If you remember that movie or any movie about a con man. We were entertained by that. Magicians would come in and teach misdirection and how you fool people into doing other things. It can be even more fun than your trigonometry. Not that trigonometry isn’t fun. I don’t want to say this. Again, I have a degree in math, so I got to believe that.

Do you believe in other kinds of more metaphysical dark art like witchcraft, black magic, and that sort of thing?

No, I do not. The one-word answer is it’s 100%. While people might come out of this class still believing those things, the class would make cases for them about why they shouldn’t alter their life based on that belief. If you want to have spiritual beliefs for yourself and to guide yourself morally, that’s fine and you should have that. There’s no problem in getting that kind of lesson from your elders and your parents and so on.

So I think you would identify yourself as a materialist.

You figured that out. I’ll tell you the one reason to be funny is if you’re going to try and teach people things. Here, again, science shows that if you give people emotion when you tell them something, they will remember it better. I could make you laugh, or I could make you cry, but most people prefer the laugh part than the cry part.

What’s that expression? People don’t remember what you tell them; they remember how you made them feel—something like that.

Do remember a little bit of what they tell you. But in terms of reinforcing memory, emotion makes a strong play. 

Let’s go back to the EFF because I’m fascinated by this concept of data rights and how it mirrors civil rights, that people need to be aware of how their data is being used against them. They are the product if they’re not the customer because they’re not paying for the service. They need to be aware of  how their information is being collected and used against them. Could you comment on this and give us some further wisdom on the topic?

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Yeah. It is likely that if you give up data to somebody, it will eventually be used for something else. It’s pretty rare that you don’t find that that happens. And you’re absolutely right. The companies that are offering free services supported by advertising are basically making use of your  data and your attention in order to influence you usually for the fairly mundane idea of just getting you to buy different products.

I mean what drives 90% of this is, “hey, if we can tweak what product you buy, you buy my product, yay I get rich.” I don’t know if that’s nefarious or not. I’m not sure. It’s  how we want the internet to be funded, though. I regret greatly that the way the Internet developed was that almost all funding of things on the Internet has come from advertising. There’s a small sector that has subscription.

My company, ClariNet, was from the days before there was an advertising internet. So we pitched old paid subscriptions. Maybe that was a business mistake because the subscription people obviously have done very well. That’s not something I am pleased happened, that everything came from subscription because indeed it bends them to work not in your interests, but in the interests of their advertisers.

About the same time, a few years ago, I met an executive from Netflix, talking about the thinking that they do at Netflix about how they work to make you binge-watch shows on Netflix and spend your whole weekend watching every episode of Futurama or something, which at the end of the weekend, you go, “Did I want to spend my weekend doing that? I probably didn’t.” It was entertaining while you did it, but that’s what they get you to do.

They play all the same tricks Facebook does to keep you pushing that button, or you don’t even have to push a button. It plays the next show without you pushing anything. That’s the kind of trick that goes on. They don’t have advertising. They’re putting in advertising this year. But right now, they don’t have advertising, and it’s all just to get you to pay the monthly fee and keep the credit card authorized.

It isn’t just that that’s motivated us in that way. But yes, we’ve built a massive surveillance apparatus all in the name of getting you to buy a different brand of shoes  and that’s probably not been a positive step. People have to try and not to give out their data, and it’s become harder and harder.

We’ve made it easier and easier for people to ask you for your data or to learn it, watch you, gain it, and then use it to manipulate you. They may just manipulate what type of shoe you buy but also manipulate how you think and vote too.

Which gets back to what you were saying earlier about propaganda. What are you thinking is the solution here? What can our listeners do to help bring about a better internet and also protect their own data?

My company, ClariNet, was from before there was an advertising internet.

To protect your data, there are several steps that people can take. The EFF website has our lines and tools to protect your privacy. There are two core parties you want to protect your data from. (1) Things like corporations that have mostly this profit motive. (2) Governments that are going to do more to you than just pick which product you buy.

Finally, we now have political forces, like Vladimir Putin, who want to use your data to muck up your politics and change your opinion. You’ve got to be wary of all of those. We like encryption tools that make it difficult for people to intercept your private communications.

When the World Wide Web first came about in the 1990s, it was built without encryption. Anyone who could tap into the Wi-Fi hotspot you were on or get onto the wires could see your private communications. This was done because first drafts of things don’t always include everything you’d like to include. But also because the US government at the time passed a law saying that encryption software was like a weapon, like a gun.

Encryption has been used in the military for a long time. It has many origins within the military and the weapon world. They used that to say this is ammunition, so companies cannot put encryption in their web tools if they export them outside the United States. They were allowed to put in useless encryption, which was useless.

As a result, people said, “Well, it’s too much work to get past these regulations and get approval.” And there’s no such thing as publishing software just in the United States on the internet. It’s kind of a joke to think that you could say, “Here’s the software only available” especially in those days.

There are two core parties you want to protect your data from. (1) Corporations that have mostly this profit motive. (2) Governments that are going to do more to you than pick which product you buy.

It’s a very porous wall today, but they try to detect where you are and control what you get that way. But in terms of keeping weapons under lock and key, it’s ridiculous. So the result was everybody just said, “Okay fine, we won’t put any encryption in.” Then EFF actually fought a case for a long time to get those restrictions taken away, and we did. We won.

The problem was that the internet was getting very large without encryption and privacy. Then it took decades to get things to slowly switch over, so the EFF has been involved in two tools. (1) To make sure you go to the private and encrypted form of every web page you visit. (2) Another which has made it easier for those web pages to make themselves encrypted. Finally, today, most of your web traffic is going privately and can’t be snooped on by people, and that’s a nice thing. These are some of the real victories the EFF has had in helping you protect that.

The other thing is there have been several privacy initiatives around the world. We’ve also been producing tools to help you set your browser up and configure it so that it doesn’t reveal everything about you everywhere you go. Still, I can’t say we’re winning the battle. There are victories, but the battle is hard. There are still many sites collecting a lot of data about you, and they sometimes use it against your own interests.

If you were to put out some sort of initiative, some project, or get people to participate in some crowd-sourced initiative, what would it be that would help address this issue of data rights, protecting people’s privacy, and helping make this a better world online?

I have proposed a few initiatives in that direction. One, for email, it still hasn’t happened, but for most of your email, while the channels that go over are encrypted, you still send the email without encryption. And I believe that some simple software changes could make that happen a lot more.

Sometimes, encryption and security people are their worst enemies because they feel bad if they don’t make the security perfect. And so because of that, sometimes we get no security because we couldn’t make perfect security work. And it turns out that there are a lot of times when slightly imperfect security would be much better than no security, certainly better than no security, and even better than the attempt that there’s security. That’s one thing I like to have happened.

Frictionless technology is vital. People will love and embrace it.

Another thing that I’ve talked about is to change the cloud computing architecture we have online. Today, we’ve all moved almost everything you will use on the web, even the software recording this podcast conversation with us is cloud-based. We go to a server from some company, then connect to that server and transmit things. It may download software to our machine to help this particular program, but some don’t.

In the old days, basically you had a computer in your house, and your data was on that computer. If a program got downloaded to your computer, in the old days, you bought it on floppy disks and CDs. 

In the old world, you downloaded and ran the software on your computer and data. You saw your results on your computer. It never left your computer. There was never the opportunity for other people to snoop on it other than by putting spyware on your computer. Right now, you have a tool on your computer that checks if someone tries to put some spyware on it and brings a big flashing warning.

The funny thing is, that’s why we’re told it doesn’t do anything for us anymore because we’re not running things on our computers anymore. If Facebook were on your computer, they would immediately be fighting it and saying, “This has to be deleted because this thing is spying on you and recording and sending all your data to the cloud.” But we’ve come just to say that’s the way things work.

The EFF has been involved in two tools. (1) To ensure you go to the private and encrypted form of every web page you visit. (2) Make it easier for web pages to make themselves encrypted.

What I have proposed, and this is a hard slog to make something like this happen, is that we should find a marriage between the old world of the personal computer and the cloud world we live in today. We’ve had a pendulum swing back and forth. We can make it swing back.

I believe what should happen is just as when you sign up for an internet provider like your cable company or phone company, and they give you a mailbox, for example, for email, when you do that, the one thing they should provide you is a little piece of cloud. You could have that piece of cloud in your house, but you could also get it for most people that wouldn’t know how to do that. They wouldn’t necessarily know how to set that up.

For people who don’t know how to set that up, there’d be a piece of cloud that you paid for. There’s a monthly fee. Every month, I give money to my internet company for services. One of the things I’d get for that money would be a piece of cloud.

And whenever someone wanted to write an application like Facebook or anything else, they would write the software and they’d store it somewhere but my data would live on my piece of the cloud, and their software would run on my piece of the cloud and do the things it does. It would still talk to their cloud for things where I need to share information with other people, but only for that. Only when we need to share the data would it be shared. That would become the exception rather than the rule.

Today, they just get all the data. Facebook has a room full of people who sit there thinking, how can we take this data and make more money from it? That’s their job. It’s no surprise; it’s what stockholders want.

Instead of having a room full of people saying, “We have all this data. How can we make money from it?” Say, “We don’t have this data. But our customers have the data. They come to us for software. How can we make our customers’ lives better?” That’s how I would prefer this run. If technology could enable that, it would be a better step.

Is an organization besides the EFF trying to make a big effort in this area?

If technology could improve the customers’ lives, it would be a better step.

Yeah. A few other people have also made initiatives roughly in this area. One of them is Tim Berners-Lee, who originally conceived the World Wide Web and who runs the World Wide Web consortium. I’ve done a few things in my life, but he’s got a lot of cred. Even so, he has not been able to get this to come to being yet. I hope they can continue and do that.

There are a lot of attractions to the cloud. Those attractions are not just that, “We get all your data in our machine and can make money from it.” That isn’t attraction. But from an engineering standpoint, if you are Facebook, it’s much easier to have everything just running on the computer in your building, where you can configure and change it.

The old world of downloading spreadsheet programs, word processors, and so on to your computer was more private, but it was a nightmare for the software developers because they didn’t control where the software ran. They’d always be, “Oh, the software doesn’t work on your computer because you’ve configured it a little bit differently, you’ve got this plugin, or whatever it is.” It’s a big support problem.

It’s much easier, although much more expensive, but venture capitalists haven’t minded that. The world has given so much money to these internet companies that they haven’t minded paying for all the computing to make this happen. Google spends billions of dollars providing all these services to us. We love those services. We use Google a lot. They get to sell a lot of ads, and they make money from it.

Skype is a program that’s the other way. Skype runs on your computers. You don’t need any servers for Skype. They have a few servers, but the Skype traffic doesn’t get routed through the computers.

It was much easier to start a company when the customers paid for the computing, not you. Today, the only way to start a company is to get investors to pay for computing for your company. Now, you do the computing, not the computer on the customers’ desks.

From an engineering standpoint, if you are Facebook, it’s much easier to have everything running on the computer in your building, where you can configure and change it.

What happens if somebody is driving a smart car, which I know that’s a topic that’s near and dear to your heart, and that smart vehicle is communicating with the cloud and is tracking your movements, and that’s available for not just Google, but other monolithic companies, maybe government, and so forth, to utilize and analyze? There goes your privacy in a way that’s quite disturbing.

Also, if the powers that be have control over not just tracking this but also sending commands to your smart car, they could make it stop in the middle of a freeway. “Here we have OJ Simpson and a big car chase. Let’s just stop his car.” Why wouldn’t they overreach and stop anybody’s car, even on suspicion? Suddenly, we’re kind of asleep, not realizing we’re the frog being boiled slowly.

By the way, the frog does jump out of the pot. They’ve tested that. We always use that metaphor that frogs will not jump out if you raise the water temperature slowly. No, they just jump out fine. We’re stupider than the frogs.

I’ve written a few essays about this, and I’ve torn myself  because the technology is so valuable because of the immense number of people who die or are maimed in car accidents worldwide. 1.3 million people die every year. There are many millions more seriously injured. That’s such a serious problem that we would be ready to give up a little bit of privacy to fix that problem. But it’s possible not to give up that much of our privacy. We are going to give up some of it.

There are two ways that these cars might exist. One is that you might own the car, it is more responsible to you, it can drive itself, and you can tell it, but you will command it nonetheless through the cloud, and there will be services from the company that made the car for you. And you will have to trust them.

Market forces can play some role here, but it’s not sure they can play enough. However, the car is not one you own, it’s just a taxi. It’s like Uber, and you just summon it and some other company owns it, runs it, and manages it. And If it was a taxi company, obviously you wouldn’t be upset if I told you, “Do you realize the taxi driver could just stop or take you somewhere else?”

If O.J. Simpson had taken a taxi, and when seven policemen surrounded it, the taxi driver probably would have just pulled over and handed OJ to the police. Of course, the cab driver would have. It’s not different from that, but it is different in the sense that if everyone’s in a taxi, then we’re in a situation where we must be more worried about that. It’s not a new idea that you hand the driving and control over to someone else.

We must diligently protect our digital rights.

In the world of taxis, what’s new would be a world where taxis are pretty much how you get around, and you don’t bother to own a car anymore. There are a lot of attractions to not owning a car anymore if you can get a taxi service at a low price. You don’t have to pay for a car, garage, or other things. There are a lot of economic attractions to that.

I hope, but I’m not entirely optimistic, that we will work to protect our rights in this. Another example is in the original world of the taxi, a world that’s gone in many places. You paid for cabs with cash. There wasn’t a record that you took a cab from A to B. But now, we always pay with credit cards. If we use Uber, Lyft, or any of these companies, even most cabs these days, you’re paying with a credit card. There is a record of who you were and where you went.

Again, we love it. The first thing people loved about Uber was, “Hey, I don’t have to fumble for change when I get out of the cab. I just walk away.” I remember after getting used to Uber, some friends and I took a cab in Los Angeles to a hotel. We got out of the cab, we just started walking to the hotel, and the driver said, “Hey.” “Oh, right, yeah, we’re supposed to pay you. Sorry about that.”

We’ve gotten so used to and love so much not having to fumble for change, but indeed, now the credit card record exists. Everywhere you’ve been with Uber, they have the record in their databases. It’s so seductive that it’s pretty difficult to figure out how we’re going to make this happen, and I propose some ways to make it happen. The problem is, they may only be of appeal to people like me with tinfoil hats. Because they take extra steps. If you want to take something like an Uber without a credit card or identifying yourself, well then you’ll have to put up a bond because they will have to say, “Well, what if you throw up in the car, and we have to clean it? How do we charge you for that?” “You have a right to charge me for that if I do that.”

People should try and optimize their lives, but they should work on focusing on things that can be shown repeatedly that they work.

With my credit card, they’ll say, “No problem, we’ll just bill your credit card. We’ll take it to the carwash.” If I wanted to travel anonymously, and there was no driver in the car, they have a right to ask how I’m going to pay for that, which means I might have to source out, “Well, I got someone else to post a bond so you can get the money. Or you can find me and arrest me if I trashed the car.”

I don’t know easy solutions that will be seamless and frictionless. Frictionless is important. People love it. If you can make something like Uber where you just get in, get out, and have nothing to fuzz with, people will pick that way when they can.

Be a little seductive. Convenience.

It’s also good. I love it too. That is not a bad thing. It’s the fact that if you do it that way, it’s harder to keep your privacy. That’s the question.

If our listener is interested in learning more from you, following your thoughts on robocars, data rights, privacy, and all the cool stuff you do online, where’s the best place for them to go?

I have a couple of different websites. The blog is the one which is the newest stuff, and that’s called or, but is the homepage. You’ll find links to the blog there. You’ll find links to the self-driving car website. You’ll find links to the jokes, all off of the sidebar of that website. The most recent material and the material are categorized into those topic areas.

Awesome. Thank you, Brad. It was so great having you on the show. You’re a cool dude. You’re doing some great things in the world. You’ve done incredible things for humanity over the decades. Thanks for coming on the show.

I appreciate that. 

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Checklist of Actionable Takeaways

?Don’t be afraid to challenge my long-held notions and embrace a rational perspective. Questioning beliefs is essential for my personal growth.

?Educate and empower myself. When I harness the power of critical thinking, I am less likely to fall for manipulation and misinformation.

?Stand against misinformation and manipulation. Contribute to building a digital society where truth prevails and critical thinking thrives.

?Equip myself with the tools to decipher fact from fiction and make informed decisions. Remember, the best defense against misinformation is a well-trained mind.

?Be aware of the origins of certain practices or beliefs and critically examine whether they have a factual basis.

?Utilize the role of my emotion in memory retention. When sharing information or teaching others, I should consider incorporating humor to enhance memory recall.

?Be a critical consumer of media, fact-check information, and be aware of potential biases. Embrace and respect differing viewpoints to foster meaningful conversations and personal growth.

?Embrace advancements in technology while remaining mindful of potential drawbacks. Continuously evaluate and refine technology to strike a balance between convenience and privacy.

?Advocate for initiatives that prioritize individual data rights and privacy. Explore organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that work toward protecting digital rights.

?Dive deeper into Brad Templeton’s ideas on robocars, data rights, and privacy through his websites: and

About Brad Templeton

Brad Templeton is founding faculty for Computing & Networks at Singularity University and Chairman Emeritus and futurist of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation. He is a fellow and former board member of the Foresight Institute He also advised Google’s team in developing self-driving cars and writes about such cars at and He also advises Starship on delivery robots and Quanergy in the LIDAR space, plus companies in the micro-mobility (scooter), mini mobility and e-VTOL (flying car) areas. He founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s first “dot-com” company.) He also created rec.humor.funny and its website,, the world’s longest-running blog.

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