Posted by: trailerpilot | 09:10::2011

“We need Russians.”

So I’m an armchair tech geek and, when I can, listen to the This is my next podcast at the end of each week. Most of the interim site’s team—they’re soon launching its replacement, The Verge, in partnership with SB Nation—defected in April from tech blog Engadget. (Read David Carr’s rundown for The New York Times here.)

Last week, toward the end of episode 22, Paul Miller, Vlad Savov, Joanna Stern and Joshua Topolsky found themselves here after talking about wireless carriers (I don’t have any comments or responses, it just struck me as a super-Zeitgeisty exchange worth sharing):

VS: We want the benefits of a monopoly, one network spread across the entire country, but we don’t want one company to be in charge of it. If it’s not going to be one company, one carrier, it basically has to be the government. There’s no other option, [no other] choice.

JT: What about a supercompany? Like a really, really big company.

VS: You [American] guys are all really afraid of your government and at the same time, you’ve all benefited from government initiatives to a great degree, which you don’t really appreciate. One quick example being the lunar landing, right?

JS: Oh, God.

PM: You can’t…we cannot go down this…

JT: No, I like it. Vlad, I’d like to hear your perspective as a sophisticated and advanced European. I love it.

VS: Seriously: The lunar landing was the result of vast amounts of government investment, and it was to compete with the Russians.

JT: You know what we need? We need Russians.

PM: The Russians were doing that with their government, too. The Russians weren’t, like, “Let’s let private enterprise figure out this going-to-space thing.”

VS: Yeah—the Russians made it into space, you guys made it into space, onto the moon, on the back of government initiative.

JT: Here’s what we need. Look, we’ve been fighting this war on terrorism. It’s very scattered, it’s messy—

PM: The pioneers didn’t need a government initiative to load up their wagons and go West. They just needed cheap, unspoiled land to buy.

VS: Oh, they bought the land? They bought the land, Paul? [Laughs]

JT: Yeah, they didn’t exactly buy it. I wouldn’t go that far. I think that there was “a lot of land to get.” But let’s be honest—

JS: But they bought it on contract.

JT: What we really need is a really sophisticated enemy [that] is beating us. Listen, this is something that Americans would really respond to. If you found out that we were under threat because of our wireless network[s, because they weren’t] advanced enough, you would see, like, massive defense spending to get the most awesome wireless network in the world.

VS: Absolutely. That’s it.

JT: People in the Ustream [live chat] are saying, “Aliens?” and that’s right. If we found out that aliens were gonna—

PM: That’s such a good sci-fi plot: We find another advanced civilization and we just start ramping up our technology to respond. Instead of scrappily flying fighter jets into the heart of the spaceship, we build our own [competing] technology.

JT: What would be amazing is if they just had a force field that could withstand anything, could withstand all wireless signals, could withstand all missiles, and then maybe they weren’t doing anything yet but they were threatening to do something, and we’d have to really scramble to develop all of our technology [to be] better than theirs, then, I am telling you, then we would have a great wireless network in America.

PM: Here’s what it’s called: Cold War 2.0. Cold War with the aliens.

VS: You guys are talking about it facetiously but there is an economic competition. South Korea is covered from head to toe in wireless spectrum and wireless connectivity and their internet and broadband internet is just ridiculously fast.

PM: You need to stop talking about this topic seriously so that we can discuss Cold War 2.0.

JT: Yeah, I want to talk about Cold War 2.0 as well. I think we can tighten up the title a little bit.

VS: We seriously need to make megabit broadband a human right, and [yet] all of these initiatives are happening and if all that you guys are going to do is just squabble [over] these stupid takeovers, AT&T and T-Mobile, which will never happen, I mean, hopefully it doesn’t—

JT: Oh, it’s gonna happen.

VS: —then you’re falling behind, man. You’re falling behind. You’re turning into Nokia, your whole country, your massive country—I’m generalizing horribly, but you’re turning into Nokia.

PM: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

JT: No, no—he’s right. Let the man preach.

VS: All you’re doing is being cocky. All you’re saying is, “We’ve got market share! We’ve got market share!” And then, all of a sudden, HP disappears from the consumer market—

JT: Yeah but, hey, hey, you know what, dude? Who invented the iPad, my man? Huh? Was that somebody from Europe?

JS: That’s right. We’ve got Apple.

JT: Did a Russian guy create the iPad?

JS: I love that this is—

VS: Well, actually, a UK guy created it, probably. Jony Ive.

JT: Come on. He designed the exterior.

VS: Oh but wait, wait—what does Apple do, exactly? It designs. It does nothing else.

JS: That’s not true. Software.

JT: Software’s made in the USA, baby. Love it or leave it.

JS: Innovation.

JT: Drill baby drill!

PM: Can we please, please…

JT: Okay, let’s stop. We’re done. We’re finished, okay?

JS: Can we please eat dinner? Can we please eat dinner after the Cold War talk?

PM: It’s 2:40 in the morning over here [in Berlin, at IFA 2011].

JS: I fell asleep.



  1. Well, THAT was interesting. makes me want to flush my smart phone now and get it over with.

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