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The Secret History of the Future

Journey into the past, and you'll discover the secret history of the future. From the world's first cyberattack in 1834, to 19th-century virtual reality, The Economist's Tom Standage and Slate's Seth Stevenson examine the historical precedents that can transform our understanding of modern technology, predicting how it might evolve and highlighting pitfalls to avoid. Discovering how people reacted to past innovations can also teach us about ourselves.

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S1E3: Fork Fashions and Toilet Trends

It took a long time for the fork to go from weird curiosity to ubiquitous tool. How long will it take for current technologies -- like the Japanese-style bidet toilet, or heads-up displays such as Google Glass -- to go from oddities to everyday necessities? Guests include: Astro Teller, Google’s Captain of Moonshots; Margaret Visser, author of The Rituals of Dinner. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

28mins

19 Sep 2018

Rank #1

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S2E3: Unreliable Evidence

In the early 20th century a new forensic technique—fingerprinting—displaced a cruder form of identification based on body measurements. Hailed as modern, scientific, and infallible, fingerprinting was adopted around the world. But in recent years doubts have been cast on its reliability, and a new technique—DNA profiling—has emerged as the forensic gold standard. In assuming it is infallible, are we making the same mistake again? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

31mins

17 Jul 2019

Rank #2

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S2E7: A Bug In The System

The first ever computer program was written in 1843 by Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who hoped her far-sighted treatise on mechanical computers would lead to a glittering scientific career. Today, as we worry that modern systems suffer from “algorithmic bias” against some groups of people, what can her program tell us about how software, and the people who make it, can go wrong? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

14 Aug 2019

Rank #3

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S2E4: Meat and Potatoes

The potato seemed strange and unappetizing when it first arrived in Europe. But it grew into a wonder food that helped solve the continent’s hunger problems. Can its journey tell us what to expect from current efforts to replace animal meat with societally healthier meat alternatives made from plants, insects, or cells grown in petri dishes? Slate Plus members get bonus segments and ad-free podcast feeds. Sign up now.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

39mins

24 Jul 2019

Rank #4

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S2E6: Dots, Dashes, and Dating Apps

In the 19th century, young people wooed each other over the telegraph. But meeting strangers on the wires could lead to confusion, disappointment, and even fraud. Do modern online dating apps have anything to learn from telegraph romances? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

7 Aug 2019

Rank #5

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S2E2: Second Wind

For thousands of years we sailed our cargo across oceans using zero-emission, 100 percent renewable wind. Then we switched to ships that run on oil, creating a global maritime fleet that pumps greenhouse gases into the sky. Could we go back to wind-powered ships by rediscovering a clever nautical innovation that we abandoned a century ago? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

33mins

10 Jul 2019

Rank #6

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S1E4: The Fault In Our Cars

The first pedestrian killed by a car in the western hemisphere was on New York’s Upper West Side in 1899.  One newspaper warned that “the automobile has tasted blood.” Today, driverless cars present their own mix of technological promise and potential danger. Can the reaction to that 1899 pedestrian tragedy help us navigate current arguments about safety, blame, commerce, and public space? Guests include: Missy Cummings, Navy fighter pilot and head of the Duke Humans and Autonomy Lab. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

33mins

26 Sep 2018

Rank #7

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S1E10: Infinite Scroll

The Renaissance scholars couldn’t keep up with new information (“Have you read the latest Erasmus book?” “I don’t have time!”) and needed a better way to organize it. Thus came the invention of tables of contents, indexes, book reviews, encyclopedias, and other shortcuts. What kinds of technological solutions might help us cope with the information overload we all experience today? Guests include: Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack; Nathan Jurgenson, Snapchat sociologist. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

38mins

7 Nov 2018

Rank #8

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S2E1: A Familiar Tune

The 19th century invention of the phonograph left composers worried they might not be paid for recordings. The 20th century proliferation of digital sampling outmoded old copyright laws. Can these previous tech disruptions of the music business teach us how to handle a 21st century onslaught of computers that can compose their own songs? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

43mins

3 Jul 2019

Rank #9

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S1E5: Human Insecurity

The French telegraph system was hacked in 1834 by a pair of thieves who stole financial market information -- effectively conducting the world’s first cyber attack. What does the incident teach us about network vulnerabilities, human weakness, and modern-day security? Guests include: Bruce Schneier, security expert. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

30mins

3 Oct 2018

Rank #10