Washington, D.C. (May 10, 2018)—Today The Atlantic premieres Crazy/Genius, the latest addition to its suite of podcast programming. Hosted by senior editor Derek Thompson, the new eight-episode series asks consequential questions and arrives at provocative conclusions about how technology is changing our lives. From blockchain to online dating to space exploration, the series will debate whether technology is moving us forward or setting us back, how we got here, and where we’re headed.
The first season of Crazy/Genius is exclusively sponsored by HBO’s Westworld. It is now available to subscribe to at iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify; new episodes will be released on Thursdays for the next eight weeks.
In the first episode, Thompson asks a question that affects the nearly two billion Facebook users around the world: "Why can’t Facebook tell the truth?" Thompson argues that the social media giant has merely adopted a business model with origins in the 1830s, when newspapers first discovered their own readers were a means of turning a profit. As papers sought to maximize revenue, stories became increasingly sensational to attract readers—and the early days of fake news emerged. Now as Facebook charts a new path in the wake of scandal, Thompson questions whether the company is just a simple newsstand—another place where gossip triumphs over truth. And if this is the case, can it be fixed or should Facebook be broken in exchange for something better?
Thompson’s first guest, Tim Wu, Columbia University professor and author of The Attention Merchants, argues that Facebook is a negative force for democracy because it “breaks down the barrier between what is news and what is rumor.” Wu says that the DNA of Facebook is lacking in ethics, and for that reason, its main goal will be to keep its business profitable—at the expense of facts.
Thompson also speaks with Alexios Mantzarlis, Director of the International Fact Checking Network at Poynter, who is working with Facebook on an effort to cleanse the platform of its falsehoods. While Facebook is famous for sharing data with its advertisers, Mantzarlis tells Thompson that it has yet to share enough data with its own fact-checkers to prove that its efforts are valid.
Thompson has been writing for The Atlantic since 2008, covering economics, business, culture, and media. He is the best-selling author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. The Atlantic recently hired Katherine Wells as the executive producer of its growing audio platform, which also includes the flagship weekly podcast Radio Atlantic, hosted by Jeffrey Goldberg, Matt Thompson, and Alex Wagner, and The Atlantic Interview, a long-form interview show hosted by Goldberg.