Podcasts


Laurie Segall, Silicon Valley’s go-to reporter and former CNN Senior Tech Correspondent, hosts First Contact – a weekly podcast series that explores the people and technology that are changing what it means to be human.

From engaging one-on-one interviews with billionaire tech founders to entrepreneurs innovating on the edges, First Contact goes beyond the tech-lash and 24-hour news cycle. The series introduces listeners to the people behind the tech changing how we will live in the future – exploring technology through the most important lens: the human one.


‘People Ahead of Profit:’ Jerry Colonna on Leading in Uncertain Times

Jerry Colonna is fondly known as the CEO whisperer. He coaches some of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs – like the former CEO of Etsy and the folks who started Gimlet Media. He helps business leaders navigate uncertainty and chaos. At a time when the coronavirus crisis is devastating the economy, and millions of people’s lives have been changed forever, the future is nothing but uncertain. Jerry’s whole ethos is centered around the concept: better humans make better leaders. And there’s never been a more critical time for humanity or leadership. Jerry is the expert. His message is simple: Show up.

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It’s “Boss Level Mode” Time: Remote Work Pioneer Matt Mullenweg’s Tips For Staying Productive

Workouts between calls. Meditation apps. A desk candle to boost productivity. Work-from-home hacks for all of us, as we self-isolate and practice social distancing to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress and Automattic, was an early evangelist of remote work. Back in the early 2000s, many of his first hires at WordPress were people he had never met in person. Today, Automattic has nearly 1,200 employees spread across 75 countries around the globe.

With the pandemic now forcing many companies to unexpectedly adopt similar policies, Matt gives Laurie advice on transitioning to this new lifestyle and answers listener questions on the best ways for employees and employers to stay productive.

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How a “Troll Farm Field Trip” Helped Russians Pose As Americans Online

Who are the people who spread online disinformation? The so-called trolls you hear about in the news whose jobs are to distort facts and create chaos? Camille Francois knows them well. She’s the chief innovation officer at Graphika – a social media analytics firm hired by major companies to identify and fight online disinformation. Her team was a big part of uncovering the extent of Russian influence during the 2016 election. She spends her time in the darkest corners of the Internet taking on one of the most extraordinary digital threats of our time… But it might just be her humanity that gives her an edge.

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“Empathy, today, is a critical component of cybersecurity”

Who are the people who spread online disinformation? The so-called trolls you hear about in the news whose jobs are to distort facts and create chaos? Camille Francois knows them well. She’s the chief innovation officer at Graphika – a social media analytics firm hired by major companies to identify and fight online disinformation. Her team was a big part of uncovering the extent of Russian influence during the 2016 election. She spends her time in the darkest corners of the Internet taking on one of the most extraordinary digital threats of our time… But it might just be her humanity that gives her an edge.

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Are Troll Farms Backing U.S. Political Candidates?

Who are the people who spread online disinformation? The so-called trolls you hear about in the news whose jobs are to distort facts and create chaos? Camille Francois knows them well. She’s the chief innovation officer at Graphika – a social media analytics firm hired by major companies to identify and fight online disinformation. Her team was a big part of uncovering the extent of Russian influence during the 2016 election. She spends her time in the darkest corners of the Internet taking on one of the most extraordinary digital threats of our time… But it might just be her humanity that gives her an edge.

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Inside the Minds of Trolls

Who are the people who spread online disinformation? The so-called trolls you hear about in the news whose jobs are to distort facts and create chaos? Camille Francois knows them well. She’s the chief innovation officer at Graphika – a social media analytics firm hired by major companies to identify and fight online disinformation. Her team was a big part of uncovering the extent of Russian influence during the 2016 election. She spends her time in the darkest corners of the Internet taking on one of the most extraordinary digital threats of our time… But it might just be her humanity that gives her an edge.

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Why 9/11 Inspired Trae Stephens to Work on the Future of Defense Tech

Should Artificial Intelligence be able to make the decision to take a human life? And if it does, who will be liable if — or when — it goes wrong? When it comes to the future of war and technology, the ethics are murky.

Tech is creating a new arms race. Will the U.S. be able to keep up with the likes of China and Russia? And what ethical lines will we draw, or cross, to maintain our national defenses?

Let’s rewind to Orange County circa 2017: A handful of entrepreneurs — eating Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell — sat around a table exploring the idea that what the United States needs is a real-life version of Stark Industries. Yes… from Iron Man. That brainstorming session led to Anduril — a defense technology firm that’s since become a billion dollar company at the center of the debate around the future of war.

Laurie Segall sat down with Anduril’s co-founder, Trae Stephens, who spends a lot of time thinking about the philosophy of war and how technology is transforming it. In this episode of First Contact, we explore a framework for redefining war — where the front lines of futuristic battlefields are blurred, and technology is leading the charge. Expect rigorous debate. Unpopular viewpoints. And uncomfortable scenarios.

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AI: To Kill or Not to Kill?

Should Artificial Intelligence be able to make the decision to take a human life? And if it does, who will be liable if — or when — it goes wrong? When it comes to the future of war and technology, the ethics are murky.

Tech is creating a new arms race. Will the U.S. be able to keep up with the likes of China and Russia? And what ethical lines will we draw, or cross, to maintain our national defenses?

Let’s rewind to Orange County circa 2017: A handful of entrepreneurs — eating Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell — sat around a table exploring the idea that what the United States needs is a real-life version of Stark Industries. Yes… from Iron Man. That brainstorming session led to Anduril — a defense technology firm that’s since become a billion dollar company at the center of the debate around the future of war.

Laurie Segall sat down with Anduril’s co-founder, Trae Stephens, who spends a lot of time thinking about the philosophy of war and how technology is transforming it. In this episode of First Contact, we explore a framework for redefining war — where the front lines of futuristic battlefields are blurred, and technology is leading the charge. Expect rigorous debate. Unpopular viewpoints. And uncomfortable scenarios.

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Stark Industries and Lightsabers: The Sci-fi That Inspired a Billion Dollar Defense Company

Should Artificial Intelligence be able to make the decision to take a human life? And if it does, who will be liable if — or when — it goes wrong? When it comes to the future of war and technology, the ethics are murky.

Tech is creating a new arms race. Will the U.S. be able to keep up with the likes of China and Russia? And what ethical lines will we draw, or cross, to maintain our national defenses?

Let’s rewind to Orange County circa 2017: A handful of entrepreneurs — eating Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell — sat around a table exploring the idea that what the United States needs is a real-life version of Stark Industries. Yes… from Iron Man. That brainstorming session led to Anduril — a defense technology firm that’s since become a billion dollar company at the center of the debate around the future of war.

Laurie Segall sat down with Anduril’s co-founder, Trae Stephens, who spends a lot of time thinking about the philosophy of war and how technology is transforming it. In this episode of First Contact, we explore a framework for redefining war — where the front lines of futuristic battlefields are blurred, and technology is leading the charge. Expect rigorous debate. Unpopular viewpoints. And uncomfortable scenarios.

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“Let’s not break into jail”: Why Alex Stamos Says Facebook Was Afraid to Create Controversy

When the lights went out in his home, and his children asked if it was “Russia,” Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos knew he was bringing his work home. In a candid interview, Stamos opens up about what it was like when his team discovered Facebook had been compromised by Russia, and the personal implications of being at the center of one of the most significant attacks on technology… and democracy. Plus, hear what Alex had to say when asked whether he uncovered spies within Facebook during his time there and why he worries foreign spies have infiltrated every major US tech company.

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What Kept Alex Stamos Up at Night as Facebook’s Security Chief

When the lights went out in his home, and his children asked if it was “Russia,” Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos knew he was bringing his work home. In a candid interview, Stamos opens up about what it was like when his team discovered Facebook had been compromised by Russia, and the personal implications of being at the center of one of the most significant attacks on technology… and democracy. Plus, hear what Alex had to say when asked whether he uncovered spies within Facebook during his time there and why he worries foreign spies have infiltrated every major US tech company.

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Ex-Facebook Security Chief Believes Foreign Spies Are in Every Major US Tech Company

When the lights went out in his home, and his children asked if it was “Russia,” Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos knew he was bringing his work home. In a candid interview, Stamos opens up about what it was like when his team discovered Facebook had been compromised by Russia, and the personal implications of being at the center of one of the most significant attacks on technology… and democracy. Plus, hear what Alex had to say when asked whether he uncovered spies within Facebook during his time there and why he worries foreign spies have infiltrated every major US tech company.

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Former CIA Analyst: Facebook is Playing ‘Whack-A-Mole’

Yael Eisenstat is trained to analyze an argument from all sides. During her career at the CIA and State Department, she had tea with suspected extremists and sat at tables with people who were programmed to hate her. But the biggest challenge of her career didn’t come from a covert operation… it came when she stepped into Facebook Headquarters to head up their election integrity efforts. This is her story.

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Yael Eisenstat: There Was No Way I Was Going to Let Facebook Silence My Voice

Yael Eisenstat is trained to analyze an argument from all sides. During her career at the CIA and State Department, she had tea with suspected extremists and sat at tables with people who were programmed to hate her. But the biggest challenge of her career didn’t come from a covert operation… it came when she stepped into Facebook Headquarters to head up their election integrity efforts. This is her story.

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Sam Altman: The Tech Revolution Was Just a ‘Warm Up’ For What’s Next

According to investor and entrepreneur Sam Altman, the last decade of tech was the warm up… and Silicon Valley didn’t exactly get it right. The main event is even more pressing. Now the stakes are higher.

First Contact’s Laurie Segall met Sam ten years ago. Back then, he had a startup called Loopt. It was a location-based social networking app for your phone. Since then, Sam became a fixture in the tech world. Loopt didn’t take off, but he went on to run Y Combinator — one of the most valuable incubators in Silicon Valley. And his next act is OpenAI — an initiative he started with Elon Musk.

Sam is someone who’s driven by an inability to stay in the lines. He isn’t afraid to stand up and say things that might get him into trouble and has a history of taking a stand under bright lights and a podium.

In this episode of First Contact, Sam opens up about what is was like to come out as gay in a St. Louis high school in the early 2000s, the possibility of human/AI hybrids, and why the next ten years in tech will be more disruptive than the last.

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Are Human/AI Hybrids the Future Of Humanity?

According to investor and entrepreneur Sam Altman, the last decade of tech was the warm up… and Silicon Valley didn’t exactly get it right. The main event is even more pressing. Now the stakes are higher.

First Contact’s Laurie Segall met Sam ten years ago. Back then, he had a startup called Loopt. It was a location-based social networking app for your phone. Since then, Sam became a fixture in the tech world. Loopt didn’t take off, but he went on to run Y Combinator — one of the most valuable incubators in Silicon Valley. And his next act is OpenAI — an initiative he started with Elon Musk.

Sam is someone who’s driven by an inability to stay in the lines. He isn’t afraid to stand up and say things that might get him into trouble and has a history of taking a stand under bright lights and a podium.

In this episode of First Contact, Sam opens up about what is was like to come out as gay in a St. Louis high school in the early 2000s, the possibility of human/AI hybrids, and why the next ten years in tech will be more disruptive than the last.

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How Silicon Valley’s Wunderkind Came Out in a Midwest High School

According to investor and entrepreneur Sam Altman, the last decade of tech was the warm up… and Silicon Valley didn’t exactly get it right. The main event is even more pressing. Now the stakes are higher.

First Contact’s Laurie Segall met Sam ten years ago. Back then, he had a startup called Loopt. It was a location-based social networking app for your phone. Since then, Sam became a fixture in the tech world. Loopt didn’t take off, but he went on to run Y Combinator — one of the most valuable incubators in Silicon Valley. And his next act is OpenAI — an initiative he started with Elon Musk.

Sam is someone who’s driven by an inability to stay in the lines. He isn’t afraid to stand up and say things that might get him into trouble and has a history of taking a stand under bright lights and a podium.

In this episode of First Contact, Sam opens up about what is was like to come out as gay in a St. Louis high school in the early 2000s, the possibility of human/AI hybrids, and why the next ten years in tech will be more disruptive than the last.

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He Popularized Crowdfunding, Now He Wants to Reimagine Capitalism

Have you ever left something that was so tied to your identity, you worried, “Who am I without it?” A job? Maybe a relationship? Although terrifying, sometimes shedding an identity is where the magic happens. Who you are and what you actually stand for becomes a little clearer. At least that was the case for Yancey Strickler.

He co-founded Kickstarter and spent five years as CEO. Now Yancey is in the midst of stepping into his own identity without the backbone of the company he created. In his new book, This Could Be Our Future, he asks us to look “beyond money and toward maximizing the values that make life worth living.” Yancey tells the story of his journey from growing up on a farm, to punk rocker, to building a tech company that transformed creative communities around the world.

Startup life is messy. It comes with a lot of highs and lows. And leaving a job that defines your identity can be paralyzing. So is staying at one when it’s clearly time to go. We are in a similar moment in tech. We’re trying to figure out our identity in what Yancey calls a “dark forest where the loudest and most extreme voices are amplified.” You could argue it’s a pretty important time to understand our own values, and what we value as a society as a whole. In this episode of First Contact, we explore what it’s like to rediscover your identity and stay true to yourself through life’s most challenging moments.

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How Kickstarter Survived Rejection Before It Found Success

Have you ever left something that was so tied to your identity, you worried, “Who am I without it?” A job? Maybe a relationship? Although terrifying, sometimes shedding an identity is where the magic happens. Who you are and what you actually stand for becomes a little clearer. At least that was the case for Yancey Strickler.

He co-founded Kickstarter and spent five years as CEO. Now Yancey is in the midst of stepping into his own identity without the backbone of the company he created. In his new book, This Could Be Our Future, he asks us to look “beyond money and toward maximizing the values that make life worth living.” Yancey tells the story of his journey from growing up on a farm, to punk rocker, to building a tech company that transformed creative communities around the world.

Startup life is messy. It comes with a lot of highs and lows. And leaving a job that defines your identity can be paralyzing. So is staying at one when it’s clearly time to go. We are in a similar moment in tech. We’re trying to figure out our identity in what Yancey calls a “dark forest where the loudest and most extreme voices are amplified.” You could argue it’s a pretty important time to understand our own values, and what we value as a society as a whole. In this episode of First Contact, we explore what it’s like to rediscover your identity and stay true to yourself through life’s most challenging moments.

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When Kickstarter’s Co-founder Knew It Was Time To Go

Have you ever left something that was so tied to your identity, you worried, “Who am I without it?” A job? Maybe a relationship? Although terrifying, sometimes shedding an identity is where the magic happens. Who you are and what you actually stand for becomes a little clearer. At least that was the case for Yancey Strickler.

He co-founded Kickstarter and spent five years as CEO. Now Yancey is in the midst of stepping into his own identity without the backbone of the company he created. In his new book, This Could Be Our Future, he asks us to look “beyond money and toward maximizing the values that make life worth living.” Yancey tells the story of his journey from growing up on a farm, to punk rocker, to building a tech company that transformed creative communities around the world.

Startup life is messy. It comes with a lot of highs and lows. And leaving a job that defines your identity can be paralyzing. So is staying at one when it’s clearly time to go. We are in a similar moment in tech. We’re trying to figure out our identity in what Yancey calls a “dark forest where the loudest and most extreme voices are amplified.” You could argue it’s a pretty important time to understand our own values, and what we value as a society as a whole. In this episode of First Contact, we explore what it’s like to rediscover your identity and stay true to yourself through life’s most challenging moments.

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This AI Could Spot Depression Before Friends and Family… And Act On It

Imagine an A.I. Assistant that reads all of your text messages… and turns them into a pile of data points. A human psychology report.

And then it guides you. The assistant can say — “hey, the person you’re talking to is introverted. You may want to be a bit delicate when you message them.”

The assistant will tell you the likelihood — down to the percentage — that the person you’re texting likes you… in a romantic way.

But you’re going to have to give over a lot of your data in exchange. It’s a classic privacy dilemma.

The tech exists. It was created by an entrepreneur named Es Lee and built into an app called Mei. Could AI detect our mood and guide us to communicate better? And what are the ethical issues that come along with tech so personal?

In this episode of First Contact, Laurie and Es talk about what happens when you mix artificial intelligence with raw human emotion.

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Reading The ‘Body Language’ of Your Text Messages

Imagine an A.I. Assistant that reads all of your text messages… and turns them into a pile of data points. A human psychology report.

And then it guides you. The assistant can say — “hey, the person you’re talking to is introverted. You may want to be a bit delicate when you message them.”

The assistant will tell you the likelihood — down to the percentage — that the person you’re texting likes you… in a romantic way.

But you’re going to have to give over a lot of your data in exchange. It’s a classic privacy dilemma.

The tech exists. It was created by an entrepreneur named Es Lee and built into an app called Mei. Could AI detect our mood and guide us to communicate better? And what are the ethical issues that come along with tech so personal?

In this episode of First Contact, Laurie and Es talk about what happens when you mix artificial intelligence with raw human emotion.

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Questions Your Brain Could Answer After You Die

What if we could order up custom dreams? Could our thoughts become hackable? Will neurolink technology make some of us superhuman? And if so, would that create a superior species? Is death really the final step? Or could our brains answer vital questions once our bodies are gone? These are topics we explore with Moran Cerf, a professor of neuroscience at the Kellogg School of Management. He’s a brain hacker. But really — he’s a student of humanity. He likes to push the boundaries and challenge us to anticipate what’s coming next — even the worst-case scenario. Moran goes beyond disinformation and manipulation in this era of tech. He focuses on the brain and your sense of self — and how that sense of self is increasingly hackable in the modern era. Just talking to him feels like living in an experiment. Spend enough time with Moran and you begin to question everything. And maybe that’s the point — to not just question the big tech companies and the lines of code we see in front of us, but to question ourselves and our own thoughts. In an era where the lines between true and false, and real and fake have blurred, First Contact explores how our own minds are our first line of defense for what’s coming next.

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Moran Cerf

Ordering Dreams On Demand

What if we could order up custom dreams? Could our thoughts become hackable? Will neurolink technology make some of us superhuman? And if so, would that create a superior species? Is death really the final step? Or could our brains answer vital questions once our bodies are gone? These are topics we explore with Moran Cerf, a professor of neuroscience at the Kellogg School of Management. He’s a brain hacker. But really — he’s a student of humanity. He likes to push the boundaries and challenge us to anticipate what’s coming next — even the worst-case scenario. Moran goes beyond disinformation and manipulation in this era of tech. He focuses on the brain and your sense of self — and how that sense of self is increasingly hackable in the modern era. Just talking to him feels like living in an experiment. Spend enough time with Moran and you begin to question everything. And maybe that’s the point — to not just question the big tech companies and the lines of code we see in front of us, but to question ourselves and our own thoughts. In an era where the lines between true and false, and real and fake have blurred, First Contact explores how our own minds are our first line of defense for what’s coming next.

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What Does Our ‘Shadow Data’ Say About Us?

Jasmine Takanikos helps big brands hone in on their unique identity. She’s known for asking creative people the right questions, and says that when it comes to identity and figuring out who we are, it can be more powerful to celebrate who we’re not.

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Could Bots Make You a Better Human?

Conversational AI is moving beyond commercial uses like customer service bots and into people’s daily lives for personal use. These artificial intelligence “bots” are becoming a substitution for human connection – an anecdote for loneliness, or even depression. Laurie Segall speaks with an entrepreneur named Eugenia Kuyda. She built a company called Replika that has 7 million users who are using the service to find companionship through conversational AI.

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WhatsApp Cofounder on Calls to Break up Big Tech

In an exclusive interview, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton opens up about walking away from more than $850 million dollars at Facebook, and why with all the money in the world he’s betting on privacy. In this candid interview, Brian says he hopes his work at privacy non-profit Signal Foundation will help usher in a new era of free expression. Acton speaks openly about how users should navigate privacy in a tech era where trust has been tarnished, and responds to calls to break up big tech. The notoriously private founder also speaks about his upbringing – from “shoveling shit” far from the Silicon Valley promised land, Acton explains how growing up doing the “non sexy’ jobs led him to success, and why time is his most valued asset. First Contact explores the complicated dynamics of money and happiness, privacy and protection, and the pursuit of free expression in a world where our data has become currency.

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WhatsApp Cofounder on Why Privacy is the Future of Tech

In an exclusive interview, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton opens up about walking away from more than $850 million dollars at Facebook, and why with all the money in the world he’s betting on privacy. In this candid interview, Brian says he hopes his work at privacy non-profit Signal Foundation will help usher in a new era of free expression. Acton speaks openly about how users should navigate privacy in a tech era where trust has been tarnished, and responds to calls to break up big tech. The notoriously private founder also speaks about his upbringing – from “shoveling shit” far from the Silicon Valley promised land, Acton explains how growing up doing the “non sexy’ jobs led him to success, and why time is his most valued asset. First Contact explores the complicated dynamics of money and happiness, privacy and protection, and the pursuit of free expression in a world where our data has become currency.

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WhatsApp Cofounder Responds to Sen. Warren’s Calls to Break up Facebook

In an exclusive interview, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton opens up about walking away from more than $850 million dollars at Facebook, and why with all the money in the world he’s betting on privacy. In this candid interview, Brian says he hopes his work at privacy non-profit Signal Foundation will help usher in a new era of free expression. Acton speaks openly about how users should navigate privacy in a tech era where trust has been tarnished, and responds to calls to break up big tech. The notoriously private founder also speaks about his upbringing – from “shoveling shit” far from the Silicon Valley promised land, Acton explains how growing up doing the “non sexy’ jobs led him to success, and why time is his most valued asset. First Contact explores the complicated dynamics of money and happiness, privacy and protection, and the pursuit of free expression in a world where our data has become currency.

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Brian Acton

WhatsApp Cofounder Felt ‘Numb’ Walking Away from $850M at Facebook

In an exclusive interview, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton opens up about walking away from more than $850 million dollars at Facebook, and why with all the money in the world he’s betting on privacy. In this candid interview, Brian says he hopes his work at privacy non-profit Signal Foundation will help usher in a new era of free expression. Acton speaks openly about how users should navigate privacy in a tech era where trust has been tarnished, and responds to calls to break up big tech. The notoriously private founder also speaks about his upbringing – from “shoveling shit” far from the Silicon Valley promised land, Acton explains how growing up doing the “non sexy’ jobs led him to success, and why time is his most valued asset. First Contact explores the complicated dynamics of money and happiness, privacy and protection, and the pursuit of free expression in a world where our data has become currency.

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