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Ethereum 101
Nov 30, 2021
Episode 568

Ethereum 101

It's way more than a cryptocurrency.

It’s time to talk about bitcoin’s digital cousin: ethereum. This is a type of blockchain operating system that allows you to trade the cryptocurrency called ether. But it does much more, including things called smart contracts that are changing the way people do business.

“What it really does is allows for the possibility that the middleman gets eliminated from the equation … if you have a good idea in blockchain and in ethereum, you can kind of go directly to users or investors to raise the money you want to start your business,” said Matt Leising, co-founder of DeCential Media, which covers the world of crypto, decentralized finance and the blockchain.

On the show today, we’ll get a lesson in how ethereum works, the advantages and disadvantages and why supporters believe it’s not going away. So regulators should catch up quick!

In the News Fix, we’ll hear positive news about boosters for teens and hear a warning about how omicron may mess with inflation. Plus, regulators are cracking down on Facebook, but they’re not the ones you’re thinking about.

Then, listeners say farewell to Molly and a bananas answer to the Make Me Smart question.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Finally, it’s Giving Tuesday. Give now to help us reach $100,000 in donations and unlock another $100,000 from the Investors Challenge Fund. To donate, go to Marketplace.org/givesmart. And thank you for your generosity.

Make Me Smart November 30, 2021 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Molly Wood: Hey everyone, I’m Molly Wood. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, the show where none of us is as smart as all of us. Thanks for joining us. Sorry, I sound like this. I’m just gonna say it early and often. I wish I didn’t. 

Kai Ryssdal: Just got to lean in.

Molly Wood: Just got to own it.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal. Tuesday today, time for our weekly deep dive into a single topic. Today, ethereum, ethereum. What it is, the difference between ethereum and ether, what it can do for you, all of that stuff. I personally am really excited about this because I’m gonna learn so much on this podcast today.

Molly Wood: Yeah, the reason that we have chosen to talk about ethereum specifically is that it is more than a cryptocurrency. It’s the one that is almost like an operating system, like a software layer. And you can create all kinds of applications on it that you can’t necessarily on Bitcoin. In fact, this was made evident recently when a group called constitution DOA tried to buy the, a copy of the Constitution, was raising money in ether. There’s all this sort of smart contract stuff, it’s, if we have already lost you, I’m gonna stop talking now because we’re gonna try to have a very 101-level conversation about all this and what it means for business in the future with Matt Leising, formerly of Bloomberg News, co-founder of Decential, which rhymes with essential, Decential Media, which covers the world of crypto, defi, and the blockchain. He also wrote a book called Out of the Ether: The Amazing Story of Ethereum and the $55 Million Heist that Almost Destroyed it all, which I will also want to know about. Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt Leising: Thank you very much for having me.

Molly Wood: What did we get right and what did we get wrong there in the beginning?

Matt Leising: That was spot on. I’m impressed. Yeah, we’re off to a great start. Yeah.

Molly Wood: Okay, great. Um, I guess, yeah, let’s start with the basics. Can you explain ethereum and where it came from as sort of a, you know, an alternative to Bitcoin?

Matt Leising: The way I like to do this is first just a little bit about Bitcoin. And then we’ll get onto ethereum. So the great thing about Bitcoin was that for the first time in human history, we had basically a global payments system where you could send value between two people anywhere in the world and no one could stop you, no government, no bank, and no bank was necessary to do this. So that was the Bitcoin revolution. And while it’s really good at that, it’s very limited. So basically, that’s the only thing you can do on the Bitcoin network is send value from point A to point B. So the inventor of ethereum is named Vitalik Buterin. And he’s a Russian-Canadian boy genius, basically. He was 19 when he created ethereum. And he did that because he loved Bitcoin. And he, that’s what got him into the crypto world. But he grew frustrated that there weren’t other things you could do with it. So after kicking the tires on Bitcoin for a while, he decided that he had to kind of make his own new paradigm. And that’s where ethereum comes from. So what it is, is, it’s a global, distributed platform, very much like Bitcoin. But instead of just being able to send value from person A to person B, Vitalik built it so that you could put basically computer programs on top of that blockchain that you can interact with, where it almost becomes the sky is the limit for what your imagination can come up with. And then you can write that in code and put it out into the blockchain on some, in something called a smart contract. So that’s sort of the genesis of it. And it’s been going since 2015. And I’ll stop there if you have any questions.

Kai Ryssdal: Well, so just for, to keep it 101, right, could you tell us the difference between ethereum and ether? Because until an embarrassingly short time ago, I got confused about the two.

Matt Leising: Ethereum is the blockchain network, and so that’s where all the contracts live. And that’s what you run on your computer. But if you think about it as a global computer, and you want a big like, you want to make transactions within this global computer, there has to be a cost to do that, right? Otherwise, people would spam the computer, it would just get overrun. So the breakthrough that Vitalik had was that there has to be some mechanism for paying for these transactions. And that’s what ether is. So ether is called gas, and you have to pay an amount of ether anytime you want to interact with the ethereum blockchain.

Molly Wood: And by interact you mean create some kind of a like, application or interact at all, like buy something from someone who has created a product, they can’t be separated?

Matt Leising: They’re really not, they’re not separable, yeah. So if you want to deploy a smart contract on ethereum, you have to pay gas to have it taken and accepted by the network. If you want to interact with that smart contract, you have to pay ether to have that transaction accepted by miners and then processed and validated by the mining network.

Molly Wood: So ethereum is the razor and then ether is the blades.

Matt Leising: Yeah, yeah. That’s the way to think about it.

Kai Ryssdal: Okay, so smart contracts. This seems to be the differentiator, right? And so, again, doing ethereum 101, smart contracts, what are they, how do they work?

Matt Leising: So as the name implies, it’s a contract, it’s a, it’s a piece of code where you–so basically, anything you could make into a contract is something that you could potentially put on ethereum. So maybe it’s a bond deal where you are going to sell some debt and then you’re going to pay interest on that debt and then the principal is going to come back to you. All of those variables would be encoded in the smart contract. It can be a piece of art, like we’ve seen with non fungible tokens, or NFTs. Those are, those are digital files. But when you introduce a blockchain to a digital file, it’s now a scarce item and can be traded. And because the ownership record is known by the blockchain, now it’s not like an image that you can just right click and save, you can actually prove ownership of this piece of art. So we’ve seen some crazy prices in the millions of dollars for NFT art. It’s also something in the physical world, like my book, I created a special edition of Out of the Ether. There are only 1000 of them that are printed, and they can also be converted into an NFT on the blockchain. So there’s a lot of things that we’re still very early in this technology. And there’s a lot of things that people are doing, you know, it’s, it moves very fast. And so it’s, it’s a fascinating technology. And what Vitalik really unlocked was, he kind of gave the world a canvas and said, here, go paint on it, do whatever you want. And that’s where we are today.

Molly Wood: Which I think is partly what makes it so hard to understand, in some ways, right? It’s like, anytime somebody says, yeah, you can do anything on this thing, the sky’s the limit. It’s like, okay? But is that a real thing? So let’s drill down on smart contracts a little bit more, because that is one really specific example that people can understand. We just talked about them in the context of NFTs. But if you think about them as, you know, an electronic, no intermediary kind of way to create a contract that is executed based on some automatic, you know, completion of tasks, like explain to us why that’s so much more efficient than the way contracts work in the real world.

Matt Leising: What it really does is allow for the possibility that the middleman gets eliminated from the equation. So a good example is, you know, startups need to raise money to create their company and to hire people to develop their product. In the traditional world, you’d either go to a bank and ask for a loan, or maybe if your startup is further along the process, you might go through an initial public offering, right, an IPO in the stock market to raise a lot of money. Those are both very intense processes. And, you know, the bank can say no to you. And if you go through the IPO process, you have to go through all the SEC rules about disclosures and there’s a lot of regulation involved. When you introduce ethereum and smart contracts, startups can now go to investors directly and say, I’ve got a coin that I’m going to sell to raise money to create my startup. Do you want to buy it directly from me? And as we’ve seen over the past several years, you can raise millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in this way within minutes or hours. There’s no bank involved. There’s no, there’s no government regulation at this point. So that, to me, is a great example of how this technology is reshaping something that is very common in the financial world. That’s where do you get capital to start your business? Of course, you know, you can’t break the law. And there have been a lot of cases that the SEC is bringing about this because, you know, that might be seen as a security offering. So the regulation is still being figured out. But the technology is there and the technology has now made it so that you don’t really need to go to a bank anymore or to a venture capital fund. If you have a good idea in blockchain and in ethereum, you can kind of directly to users or investors to, to raise the money you want to start your business. 

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, but so Matt, look, man, I mean, we have to make an entry into the what can possibly go wrong file on this one, right? And, and you have to look no farther than the Constitution DOA which made it up on the fly, people bought in in newly activated wallets without really knowing what was going on, they now are facing obstacles getting their money back. So, so let’s put a pin in that one for a second. And let me also point out that in addition to regulators and banks when you do a regular IPO, the other people sitting at the table are lawyers. And you can’t tell me that, that the legal establishment is gonna say, oh, yeah, this is a cool tech thing, ethereum smart contracts, we’re just going to sit by and let this happen.

Matt Leising: Yeah, I don’t mean to give that impression, but they need to get on the ball a little bit here. Because the technology is already, you know, it’s already capable. And, and the regulatory world has been very slow to respond. And it’s, it’s, I know it’s a frustration in this space that people want to play by the rules, but they don’t know what the rules are. And when the SEC is making regulations on this by enforcement cases, you know, that’s not a great way to foster trust and innovation. I think the legal world is a little bit further ahead. But it’s also, it’s, this is a tough, this is a tough world. Because if you’re dealing with contract, smart contract, which is a bunch of code, who’s, who’s the liable party there? Is it the developer who wrote that code? That’s, that’s not something that I think the developing, the developer, the coding community wants to hear. So there’s a lot of things that need to be worked out. And I think, you know, what’s fascinating and scary at the same time, and I admit this, is that the tech is just going forward, you know, people are not stopping. And so I think the regulatory side of it, the legal side of it, the, the public policy side of it all needs to realize that this is moving fast, and we need to keep pace with it.

Molly Wood: What might some of those regulations look like? Or what is at least a starting point?

Matt Leising: I think that’s a great question. I would imagine that, first and foremost, the SEC does not want to sell an unregistered security to the public. So that’s kind of their bally lick, right, they’re, the Securities and Exchange Commission. So if you are trying to raise money in this world, and you think that, you know, your offering might trigger that securities designation, you need to have lawyers, and you need to be talking to the SEC, and you need to make sure that, you know, you’re not going to raise your money and then they come after you in two years saying that, you know, you have to give it all back because that was an unregistered securities offering. I think that’s just a baseline. I think next is that there are new organizations that are made possible by this technology that are, are complicated and fascinating at the same time. And we haven’t really gotten into that yet. But Constitution DOA is an example. So a DOA is a decentralized, autonomous organization. So that’s a big scary word, or a group of words. But what it means is, it’s just a new way of people organizing that ,that sort of a flat structure where everybody can kind of pitch in with either like, they want to make something or they want to contribute money, like in Constitution DOA’s case. So if that’s this, the case, then regulators need to wrestle with like, okay, who’s, who’s liable for anything that goes wrong there if everybody’s sort of like, crowdfunding in a sense? And I don’t think we’re, we’re there yet, in terms of figuring out how these new paradigms fit in with the rules and regulations that we have today.

Kai Ryssdal: This is gonna sound like a stupid thing to say, but do you suppose the technology ought to take a pause until we figure out what the rules are because people are going to lose boatloads of money.

Matt Leising: No, I don’t–

Kai Ryssdal: I realized that you can no more stop technology than you can hold back the ocean. I get that. But, but they’re in some peril in technology racing so far ahead of the regulations.

Matt Leising: And I think that’s on the, it’s on the regulators, in my opinion, and it’s on Congress to do something. The, the SEC, for example, is using Howey Act to decide a lot of these cases. 

Kai Ryssdal: What’s that? 

Matt Leising: That dates back to the–yeah, that’s, that dates back to the 1930s and is used–

Molly Wood: Oh, good. That seems relevant.

Matt Leising: Yeah, exactly. Right? We’re using a 1933 law to determine if these, you know, smart contract offerings, are, you know, securities or not? I don’t, I don’t think that’s, I don’t think that’s right. I think that the Congress needs to get involved and I think the industry needs to get involved and they need to work together to come up with new standards because technology has moved so far ahead of that, that it’s just to me, it’s it’s obvious that there needs to be a new set of sort of digital age regulations and rules to, to make sure that that people don’t get ripped off and to make sure that there are protections as much as possible for when things go wrong.

Molly Wood: Yeah, I wonder. I mean, it’s, ironically, it seems like there needs to be an intermediary layer, there needs to be an ethereum for diplomatic relations between the crypto community and, you know, Congress and regulators, right? Because on the one hand, you have this industry that was born from a desire to decentralize, to take away power from gatekeepers to, you know, return value in this democratic way to the people. Now, it’s a massive investment class, and it’s disrupting these gatekeepers very quickly. But it seems like these two sides are sort of in opposition, as opposed to somebody trying to figure out alright, what, what does this future look like? Is that a fair characterization?

Matt Leising: I think so. I think there’s, there’s definitely some opposition. I think that, for the most part, the people who are creating ethereum and, you know, the developers and everyone who’s involved, they don’t want to shoot themselves in the foot, they’ve, they’re putting their life’s work into this. And, you know, they’re all in, so I think they want to work with regulators and political figures to, to make sure that, that the guardrails are known. And I think in the terms of the public, I think there just needs to be more education about this to people and that the risks are known. So that when you want to get into this, you understand there is no FDIC insurance here, you know, you can lose everything you put in. And you know, you need to be very careful with how you manage the, your accounts here. Because if, you know, the user experience is still very difficult. If you make mistakes with your wallet or other transactions, you can inadvertently send things to the wrong place or lose, lose your money. So it, you know, it’s a decentralized world. And so it is a bit rough and scary out there for retail users and individuals to learn how to navigate it. At the same time, I think some of the things that we’re seeing and the possibilities that have emerged in just a few years are really rather breathtaking.

Kai Ryssdal: Sorry, one, one thing that comes to mind based on Molly’s question is that this is, you know, ethereum is globally applicable, right, and ether as a cryptocurrency is globally useful. You’re gonna need global regulators to agree on a global standard. How do you suppose that’s gonna go?

Matt Leising: I think, I think it’s, it’s a possibility. I think that, obviously, in today’s world, markets are global. You know, you do have the American market, but then, you know, obviously, we follow Europe, and then Asia follows the United States. And for a very large part of that, the securities laws and regulatory framework is in line. And so I think different agencies around the world have practiced at this, they have experience with, you know, making sure that the stock market rules in Japan aren’t, you know, completely different than the New York Stock Exchange, because, you know, that would cause problems. So, I think, again, it’s just, it’s a question of regulators getting up to speed and coordinating on this. I know the World Economic Forum has a blockchain group. And I think the IMF is working on this. So this is, you know, it’s more than 10 years now that Bitcoin has been in the public realm. And so in my opinion, it’s not going away, it’s only going to get bigger, and it’s only going to get more interesting. So I think that regulators, you know, have woken up to it, and they need to make sure to try to help this industry grow.

Molly Wood: Yeah, let’s just, let’s put a finer point on that before we let you go, which is, you know, the need to sort of learn about this is related to the staying power of Bitcoin and crypto and ethereum. And I think people have probably put it off for a while thinking, oh, this is maybe gonna go away, or it doesn’t seem that real or is it all for fraud, but, you know, lay out for us a little bit the reasons why even though Ethereum was almost brought down once, this alternative financial system is, is really, truly gonna stick around.

Matt Leising: I think it’s pretty simple. It’s because people want this alternative. I think a lot of people are disillusioned with how the traditional financial markets work. A lot of people are disillusioned with central banks and private banks being able to print money to get their way out of trouble. I think people are a little fed up with having middlemen who, you know, they might, they might have a purpose there, but if there’s an alternative, say, to Uber, that doesn’t take 30% out of every transaction, you know, wouldn’t you want to do that? And that’s, that’s the possibility that we’re talking about here. And then you can apply that to something like Airbnb or eBay. You know, a lot of, a lot of companies that are out in the web 2, is what we call it, sit there in the middle and sort of take that fat chunk of the transaction. And, and I think people are like, you know, we can wring some efficiency out of that. And that’s where this, this ethereum and smart contract world really gets people excited.

Molly Wood: Matt Leising, formerly of Bloomberg News, is now co-founder of Desential Media, covering the world of crypto, defi and the blockchain. Matt, thanks so much for the time. 

Matt Leising: Thank you guys. It was a pleasure. 

Kai Ryssdal: Thanks a bunch.

Molly Wood: Take good care.

Kai Ryssdal: As I said, I learned some stuff. So there we go. 

Molly Wood: I know, me too. I also like that right at the end there, that idea of the idea that all of these companies were created, you know, they were–pardon the name redundancy–but referred to as marketplace companies, like you could just raise billions of dollars by being like, I sit in between this and this and I connect them. And now the blockchains like, no, I connect them. For free!

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, man.

Molly Wood: Alright, if we did not make you entirely smart, or we did or you now understand something or have something to contribute that will make everybody else smarter let us know, our phone number is 508-827-6278, also known as 508-82-SMART. You can also leave us a voice memo at makemesmart@marketplace.org.

Molly Wood: And now for the news.

Kai Ryssdal: What even was that?

Molly Wood: I don’t know. But it was really fun. Why have I not been doing that?

Kai Ryssdal: I don’t know, she’s on her last freaking day, second to last day. She’s like, I’m going to change things up. 

Molly Wood: I’m like, oh, this is fun. What I meant was the news fix. Do you know what the little history of the news fix is, dear listeners? Those of you who may have recently joined us. It’s that really, all along, all Kai and I ever wanted to do was just show up every day and talk about news stories that we liked. And then just–

Kai Ryssdal: And then producers got involved and there had to be a theme and you had to close the loop and oh, god.

Molly Wood: Oh, the show. My son has been rewatching Seinfeld so I keep thinking a lot about a show about nothing. I’m like, that’s all we ever wanted, a show about the news, though. Anyway, then somehow it was like oh, just make it the thing you’re fixated on. And it became the news fix and that’s why we call it that. There you go, history.

Kai Ryssdal: Okay. So super quick just because they’re, they’re not huge items, but they’re of note. I thought it was interesting, this morning, I read that Pfizer is going to seek approval for boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds. I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s a positive, that’s a plus. So there’s that. Number two is that Jay Powell and Janet Yellen went up to Capitol Hill today for some COVID legislation required testimony, and Powell said, and a bunch of other, in addition to a bunch of other things, he said, look, the virus is still in charge of this economy. But he also said, inflation is real. It’s not transitory anymore. And we might have to start pulling back our support for the economy, the Fed might, that big bond buying program, sooner than anybody thought. And that is empirically a good thing because they’ve been propping up this economy for a long while. But also the stock market went cray cray and said, oh, no, Jay, what are you doing to us? Right, exactly. But that’s kind of the news of the day, right? It’s, you know, good virus news with the boosters. And oh, look out, Jay Powell is going to pull back his support for the economy. So those are my two.

Molly Wood: Yeah. How does pulling back support for the economy affect, in theory, inflation, given that we now have many, many, many reasons for why we’re seeing inflation? 

Kai Ryssdal: So yeah, the root thing is that the Federal Reserve has been buying $120 billion worth of securities, either straight up treasuries, or mortgage backed securities since last March, right. So 120 billion times 18 months is technically a boatload of money. And that money is in circulation in this economy, it lowers interest rates, it puts more funds out there for more people to spend more things on, and that is one element of a traditional inflationary environment. The catch, of course, is that this is not, as you said, a traditional inflationary environment. Because there’s all this pent up demand, there’s supply chain backlogs, it’s just one thing. And it happens to be the thing the Fed controls. And what Powell is really saying here in his testimony this morning, and he’s gonna repeat it again tomorrow for the house, is that you know what, maybe the Fed blew it, maybe we put too much money into the economy, and we’re gonna start pulling back. That’s what he’s saying. There you go.

Molly Wood: Which is, it’s interesting because the tying it to inflation part assumes that that money, pardon the phrase, trickled down to consumers.

Kai Ryssdal: Well, I mean–

Molly Wood: A little bit, right? Like, if companies had tons of money, presumably they would be able to lower prices.

Kai Ryssdal: Companies do have tons of money. 

Molly Wood: Right, companies have tons of money. What have they used that money on so far? 

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, well, like the CEO of Dollar General makes $10 million a year. So there’s that. 

Molly Wood: Yeah, exactly. 

Kai Ryssdal: You know, I mean, so, so there’s all of those things. But, but writ large, the Fed has made money in this economy cheaper. So that on the margins, right, because quantitative easing, which is what this is called, is not the Fed’s main monetary policy tool, right? It’s main monetary policy tool is raising and lowering the federal funds rate. But at the margins, as we saw in 2008, it needed some extra oomph. So it started doing this quantitative easing program, and that goes some way toward making money cheaper, so that your car loan’s a little bit cheaper, your mortgage can be a little bit cheaper, right? Those kinds of things. That’s where consumers would benefit not as much as the big, ginormous companies benefit, for sure.

Molly Wood: Yeah, totally. Alright. I probably have a million more questions, but I’m gonna stop. Um, I mean, it’s kind of my last chance. So like, I feel like I should just grill you. Two other things related to the new variant, which evidently everyone else is going to call Omicron.

Kai Ryssdal: Too bad. I don’t care. 

Molly Wood: Fine. It did lead to such a great title yesterday, though, OMG Omicron. Very funny. Good job, Marissa and team. There is, of course, now starting to be the, the inevitable but empirical declarations that nobody can say they weren’t warned here, right, the vaccine inequality, even as we’re talking about approving more boosters in the US for people of different ages, which, great, you also have the Moderna CEO sort of simultaneously saying, I’m not sure this vaccine is going to be as effective on Omicron, which was a huge earthquake of a thing to say today. Nevertheless, like improved vaccination rates keep variants down, and I have yet to hear whether the US has announced its plan to ship hundreds of millions of doses to Africa and other countries where variants are almost certainly incubating. But that would be great anytime now. It seems like that’d be a good idea. And then just in other kind of like, harbingers that I thought were very interesting, I believe for the first time, but I could be wrong, but the UK has directed what used to be known as Facebook, Meta platforms, to sell giffy, the, you know, the little like GIF creation service that it bought for $315 million. I shouldn’t call it the little. Bought in May 2020, and I remember at the time everybody being like wow, so really anti-trust does not exist, it’s not a thing. Now obviously, Facebook, Meta will likely approve, can approve, says it disagrees with the decision, but I thought it was very notable and possibly one of many such steps to come that regulator has quite specifically said, you need to sell this thing that you bought because that purchase was anti-competitive.

Kai Ryssdal: Notably, that regulator was not in the United States of America. 

Molly Wood: No. Notably, that regular will almost certainly never be in the United States. But still worth watching.

Kai Ryssdal: There you go. Alright, so a little bit of housekeeping before we move on. Today is, as I think we’ve said, Molly’s last deep dive with Make Me Smart. She’s back tomorrow, I have to be off so she’s gonna wrap it up with Kimberly, but there is a chance should you be so in the mood to give back for all that Molly and everybody else behind Make Me Smart have brought into your lives these past–god, what’s it been, almost five years, right. Today’s Giving Tuesday. And your donation, added together with others, is gonna help us meet a key challenge. If we raise $100,000, we unlock another $100 grand from the investors challenge fund. And that would really hook us up.

Molly Wood: I’m really trying to take every public radio opportunity right now to say that this is a dollar for dollar challenge. Your dollar will be matched directly by the investors challenge fund, which is literally a group of investors who were like, hey, if you can raise 100 grand, we’ll give you another 100 grand, which is remarkable. And I know that this audience has, is driven to have a positive impact and it’s giving Tuesday. We’re all giving. I love, by the way, this thing where we get like simultaneous pressure to spend all our money on consumer crap and also donate a bunch of money. Like I’m just going to pick one and that thing is going to be donating. Marketplace.org/givesmart, you can also tap the link in the show notes and tomorrow on my last day with Marketplace I would love to be able to say that we met this challenge. As of the show taping, we’re about a third of the way there, so if we, if we call this a three day challenge, I’m pretty sure we got it. Dollar for dollar match. There we go. Time for the mail bag. 

Kai Ryssdal: Ah Molly.

Molly Wood: Oh, jeez.

Kai Ryssdal: Roll the tape.

This is a goodbye voicemail for Molly. I am all the way empty about your departure. But all the way full of good wishes for your future plans.

Your humor, your nerdy insight on all things tech, your passion for things like climate change, pay equity.

To your real talk tequila Fridays. You have made every day of Make Me Smart memorable. 

I love the chunky bear segment and always the sign off.

Molly, would you, could you talk some tech? Would you, could you what the heck? Molly, would you, could you make me smile? Would you, could you fix the last mile? 

I have laughed, smiled, been enraged with you and cried with you. 

But I guess going off to save the planet is a valid reason for leaving. 

Remember, there’s all these people out there that are wearing banana pants because of you.

As my dog would say, awww, Molly.

We know that you’re going to do great in your future endeavor and we love Costco too. 

We will miss you. Good luck.


Kai Ryssdal: Says Jennifer, Linda and Audrey out of California, Michael and Marcus from Maryland, Ricardo in Illinois, Damien in Connecticut, Patrick in North Carolina, Ellie and Andrea in Hawaii. Just a couple of the people who wrote in with goodbye messages for Ms. Wood. And there are more, Molly, and I guess Bridget and the gang are gonna send them to you after the show so you can cry in private about that.

Molly Wood: All my friends. I will. Just know we’re all crying together. A lot of people talk to us about how this is the show that got them through the pandemic and–okay–I sort of feel like now, even though Omicron is looming, I get it, like, I feel like you got this, guys. You’re gonna be okay. You don’t need me anymore, you can do it. Also I’ll come back every week if you need me to, it’s like, you know, it’s all technology. Alright, now time for the answer to the make me smart question, which is what is something you thought you knew that you later found out you were wrong about?

Hi, this is Tabatha from Tennessee. One thing that I thought I know but later found out that I was wrong about was that artificial banana flavor is actually based on real bananas. Unlike other artificial flavors like cherry and grape that don’t actually taste anything like the fruit, and now the variety of bananas that is popular and most common to Cavendish doesn’t taste the same as artificial banana flavor because it’s a different variety of banana. I just thought you’d like to know that. Thank you for making me smart and I hope you enjoy.

Kai Ryssdal: The whole banana variety, thing by the way, that’s like, that’s like a PhD thesis worthy of a show thing, but how perfect of an ender is that for Molly?

Molly Wood: That’s so perfect! So wait, banana flavor is what real bananas used to taste like? 

Kai Ryssdal: I don’t know, I guess. I guess.

Molly Wood: You guys are ncredible. You guys are incredible. 

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, we’re done. Stick it out. 

Molly Wood: Go to the show page. There will be apparently another festive goodbye from listeners Tyler and Hope, which is worth a listen, but we cannot, we can no longer torture ourselves, it’s too much. It is too much. However, that’s it for us, that’s it for me in Kai right now. I’ll be back for what do you want to know Wednesday tomorrow with Kimberly Adams for my last Make Me Smart episode. I feel pretty grateful that I get to have the one two punch on the way out the door, so I’ll see you then. 

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, man, we should have gotten Daniel and Ben. Make Me Smart is directed and produced, not produced and directed but directed and produced, by Marissa Cabrera. Marque Greene also helps out. Our intern is Grace Rubin. Tony Wagner writes our newsletters. 

Molly Wood: Today’s program was engineered by Liana Squillace with mixing by Charlton Thorpe. Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. The senior producer is Bridget Bodnar. Donna Tam is the director of on demand. Marketplace’s vice president and general manager is Neil Scarborough. God, damn it. I was so close.

Kai Ryssdal: You almost made it. You almost made it. 

Molly Wood: It’s the new guy, it makes me tear up every time. Thanks, team.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer