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Episodes of Soonish

What if a technology company becomes so rich, so powerful, so exploitative, and so oblivious that that the harm it's doing begins to outweigh the quality and utility of its products? What if that company happens to run the world's dominant sear
Venture capital is the fuel powering most technology startups. Behind every future Google or Uber or Snapchat is a syndicate of venture firms hoping for outsize financial returns. But the vast majority of venture money goes into Internet, mobil
In this episode of Soonish you'll meet Stanley Crooke, the former CEO of Ionis Pharmaceuticals and the head of a new nonprofit called N-Lorem, which is working to make mutation-correcting "antisense oligonucleotide" drugs available free for lif
The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on education on schools around the world, often rendering in-classroom instruction too dangerous for both students and teachers. But one reason the effects of the pandemic haven’t been even
In honor of the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden—a day of long-awaited endings and new beginnings—I'm republishing my Season 2 opener, "Shadows of August," which I first released a little more than three years ago, during the the fiery early mon
In 1973, there was only one man who believed everyone on Earth would want and need a cell phone. That man was a Motorola engineer named Martin Cooper.“I had a science fiction prediction,” Cooper recounts in his new memoir, Cutting the Cord: The
Soonish's six-month detour into electoral politics finishes where it started, with a conversation with our favorite futurist, Jamais Cascio. We talked late on November 6—when it was already clear that Joseph R. Biden would win the presidential
Welcome to a special two-part series about the looming clash over the future of America. In Part 1, we looked at the tattered state of our democracy and searched for peaceful ways through an election season in which one candidate—Trump—has thre
Welcome to a special two-part series about the looming clash over the future of America. In Part 1, we look at the tattered state of our democracy as the election approaches, and we assess nonviolent ways to respond to the twin threats of polit
Donald Trump will not be president forever. Whether he leaves office in 2021 or 2025; whether he steps down peacefully or not; whether he’s replaced by a Democratic president or a Republican one—he will leave. And then the country will face the
Voters, hold on to your hats. The U.S. election system could face an unprecedented array of challenges in November, from the coronavirus pandemic to the prospect of cyberattacks to the depradations of President Trump himself. And that means the
Futurists—who sometimes prefer to be called scenario planners or foresight thinkers—specialize in helping the rest of us understand the big trends and forces that will shape the world of tomorrow. So here’s what I really wanted to ask one: Is a
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins went to the moon, it’s hard to shake off the afterimage of the Saturn V rocket rising into the sky on a column of flame, and remember that the astronauts' bold adventure was als
The moment in the voting booth when you put your pen to your ballot (or put your finger to the electronic touchscreen, as the case may be) is democracy distilled. It’s the act that makes America a republic. But while the casting your vote is cr
In this short bonus episode, hear the bizarre story of a college student who scaled a New England weather tower on a dare, stole a curious scientific instrument as a trophy, and inadvertently disrupted a series of climate observations going bac
Apple used the opening keynote presentation at its annual World Wide Developers Conference in San Jose in June to roll out the usual array of software updates and new computer hardware. But tucked into middle of the keynote was one the event's
Earlier this year Soonish took on social media in an episode called A Future Without Facebook. In that show I explained my own decision to quit the troubled platform and talked with friends and colleagues about their own reasons for staying or
The adjective “visionary” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s literally true of Chesley Bonestell and Arthur Radebaugh, the two illustrators featured in this week’s episode. Both men used their fertile visual imaginations and their artistic skil
Every technology has its growing pains, but Facebook, at age 15, has matured into a never-ending disaster. Here at Soonish, I'm fed up, and I'm closing my accounts. In this episode, you’ll hear how I reached this point, and how other Facebook u
The Meigs Elevated Railway—one of the world’s first monorail systems—looked like something out of a Jules Verne novel. But it was very real. In this week’s episode, hear how nineteenth-century Bostonians missed their chance to build a steam pun
Can thought-power control the world outside our heads? Thanks to new brain-machine interface technology, the answer is yes. But the real question is whether it can it help us control the world inside our heads. In the Season 3 opener of Soonish
We can’t predict what kind of music people will want to make or hear in the future. But based on the sounds coming out of today's studios and clubs, it's a good bet that the tunes of tomorrow will be heavily mediated by digital technology. This
The way we picture the future is still based, in large measure, on the visions brought to life at the world’s fairs and international expositions that swept the globe between the 1850s and the 1960s—especially the New York World’s Fairs of 1939
The golden era of “hard” science fiction that respects the rules of actual science lasted from the 1940s to the 1960s. In the 1970s, demand for hard sci-fi fell off a cliff, with a big push from the first Star Wars movie in 1977. But for the la
Episode 2.07: What's ubiquitous but invisible, versatile yet temperamental, goopy when it's hot yet brittle when it's cold, as old as civilization yet as new as the screen of your smartphone? The answer is glass. This week on Soonish, we ask wh
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