On ‘Hard Fork,’ a Hard Look at the Future of Technology

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After recording about 90 episodes of “Hard Fork,” a weekly New York Times podcast about technology and business, life is much the same for its hosts, Kevin Roose and Casey Newton. That is, except for the occasional encounter with a fan, which is a new and sometimes startling experience for them.

“Just last night, I was having dinner with two friends visiting from out of town,” Mr. Newton said. “As I was coming back from the bathroom, a man stopped me. At first, I thought I had met him before because I basically have face blindness. But then it emerged that he recognized me from our YouTube channel.”

Since the podcast’s first episode in October 2022, Mr. Roose and Mr. Newton have discussed and debated topics including the looming TikTok ban by U.S. lawmakers, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter and the pros and cons of digital companionship. They’ve interviewed guests such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Sam Altman, a co-founder of OpenAI.

Along the way, Mr. Roose and Mr. Newton have tinkered with the podcast’s format, inviting listeners to send in their questions, for example. But their mission has remained the same: to inform and entertain.

In an interview, Mr. Newton and Mr. Roose shared their goals for the future of the podcast and their dream guests. These are edited excerpts.

How did you two first meet?

CASEY NEWTON My memory of first meeting Kevin was that I had been invited to a party for his book “Young Money” at the home of Evelyn Rusli, who is a former Times reporter. I remember walking in and being so annoyed that he was younger than me and already on his second book. I don’t even really remember the encounter. I’m sure I said hi. I would just continually run into Kevin over the years, and we developed a friendship.

KEVIN ROOSE I was a subscriber and big fan of Casey’s newsletter, Platformer, which is a must-read out here in Silicon Valley. Platformer is very good and also quite serious, covering topics like content moderation and tech legislation. I also knew Casey had this other side to him. I knew that he had done improv comedy. I knew that he was very funny, sharp and fast-thinking, and that he was just a lot of fun to talk about this stuff with. So I wondered, “Could the person who writes this very important, very serious newsletter also be my podcast co-host?”

“Hard Fork” is almost two years old. What has been listeners’ feedback so far?

NEWTON The typical email says that we use the word “like” too much, there’s too many “ums,” too much vocal fry. They ask why we talk about artificial intelligence so much.

ROOSE Casey is sandbagging. We get the best feedback of any project I’ve ever worked on in my career as a journalist. We hear from a lot of people who have really good and smart ideas. It is very humbling to work on a show in which your listeners are smarter than you and have Ph.D.s in molecular biology or are A.I. researchers.

What’s the greatest challenge of making the podcast?

NEWTON Besides Kevin’s personality? The hardest thing is that sometimes there aren’t three things I want to talk about in an episode. There are a lot of tech shows out there with this consensus by committee, like, “These are the three most important stories of the week and we are going to talk about them no matter what, even if we don’t feel like we have a strong point of view.” Kevin and I really try not to do that. We try to lead the podcast where our own curiosities go and only talk about stuff where we have something to say.

What are your goals for the future of “Hard Fork”?

NEWTON I want to make sure that the show continues to feel surprising and inventive. One of my original thoughts for “Hard Fork” was that it should feel like “The Price Is Right” in terms of games and segments. You never know which segments or games are going to appear in a given week. Right now, we’re kicking around ideas on other kinds of segments that belong in the show and would feel at home with what we do and also let us explore more creatively. We want to grow the audience. We want to be the biggest tech show in the world.

ROOSE I want to be the biggest show in the world, not just a tech show. I want Joe Rogan to kneel before us. That’s my goal.

Who is your dream guest?

NEWTON It’s interesting because so many of the big names wind up not being amazing interviews. But I will say that Sarah Jessica Parker responded to me on Threads and said that she was a fan of the show. If we could get her to come on the show, that would be a dream.

ROOSE When we started the show, we actually we had a big list of dream guests. I looked at it the other day and we have interviewed a lot of them, so I feel very happy with that. I would love to be invited on a ketamine bender with Elon Musk and interview him under the influence.

What’s your favorite thing about working together?

NEWTON Kevin was truly the only person I wanted to do a podcast with. There’s something about the way that he talks that is so aligned with me. Kevin and I see eye to eye on a staggering number of things. Even though our points of view are sometimes different on issues, we see the world in the same way. So there’s comfort about stepping into the studio with him.

ROOSE That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.

NEWTONOK, don’t use any of that.

ROOSE Casey is a wonderful journalist and a good friend. He is the funniest person I know, and he has an unusually strong moral compass. It has been really impressive to me how Casey has not abandoned his ethical core in the pursuit of journalistic excellence. He is still really driven by principle. I’m not going to say that’s rare, because a lot of journalists are, but I feel like he’s an especially strong example of that.

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