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Flash Forward


A show about possible and not so possible futures. From space pirates to conscious robots to the end of antibiotics. Hosted by Rose Eveleth.

A show about possible and not so possible futures. From space pirates to conscious robots to the end of antibiotics. Hosted by Rose Eveleth.
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A show about possible and not so possible futures. From space pirates to conscious robots to the end of antibiotics. Hosted by Rose Eveleth.




Eyes In The Skies

Computers are getting smaller and smaller. But what if we had sensors the size of dust, that could float through the air undetected, talk to one another, gather information, and transmit that information back down to a central place? This is the concept behind smart dust, and it's more plausible than you might think. Guests: Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute Faine Greenwood, journalist and drone expert Stacey Higginbotham, journalist, co-host of...


Money For Nothing

What if we just gave everybody money? It sounds simple, but universal basic income is a trendy idea right now and a lot of you have asked for an episode about a future where everybody gets money from the government no matter what. And it turns out that while it sounds simple, just giving everybody money is way more complicated than you might thing. Guests:Atossa Araxia AbrahamianShaksam Khosla India’s Basic Income: Bedeviled by the Details Aisha NyandoroSpringboard to OpportunityCara Rose...


Fungus Among Us

How much of what you do is actually your choice? What if you were secretly being controlled by a parasite that had infected your brain? What if that infection was spreading? Guests: David Walton, author of The Genius Plague Tade Thompson, author or Rosewater Charissa de Bekker, researcher at the University of Central Florida Sandeep Ravindran, science journalist For additional reading and resources on this episode, visit flashforwardpod.com. Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose...


Spawn of Sponcon

On today’s episode we travel to the near-future of advertising. Welcome to a future in which you can sign up to be a brand ambassador, and get paid for every time you mention a product in conversation. Simply download the app, and your phone will listen to your every word waiting to hear brand names, and pay you some money every time you mention one. Guests: Deborah Dahl, speech technology expert and principal of Conversational Technologies Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the...


Dr. Doolittle

~~~~ TAKE THE SURVEY! (Please) ~~~~ Today we tackle the age-old question: what if animals could talk? Or, more precisely, what if we could actually understand what animals are saying? Guests: Con Slobodchikoff, professor at Northern Arizona University, CEO of Zoolingua, and author of Chasing Dr. Doolittle: Learning the Language of Animals. Irene Pepperberg, professor of psychology Harvard University, author of Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of...


Under The Sea

In the 1960's, the United States spent millions of dollars exploring two different realms: outer space, and the deep oceans. But today, only one of those programs is still around. Why do space colonies seem more likely than underwater cities? And what does it take to build a settlement on the sea floor? Guests: Ben Hellwarth, journalist and author of SEALAB: America's Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor Jim Fourqurean, professor of Marine Science at Florida International...


Portrait Of The Artist As An Algorithm

In today’s episode I welcome you to the Museum of Non-Human Art, a brand new gallery full of art made entirely by machines, computers, algorithms, robots and other non-human entities. I hope your enjoy your visit! To see pictures of any of the artworks we talked about on this show head to the website! Guests: Elizabeth Stephens, Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland Michael Noll, computer...


The Very Big Sick

In 1918, the Spanish flu killed four to five percent of the entire global population. Infectious disease experts all agree that another pandemic is coming. It's when, not if. But are we ready for it? Today's episode explores what happens when a pandemic strikes, what the most likely candidates are, and whether or not the world is ready. Guests: Ed Yong, science writer at The Atlantic Nahid Bhadelia, assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine and the Medical Director of...


The Space Roomba

This episode we take on a future where space junk has gotten so bad, that active spacecraft are constantly having to maneuver around it, which wastes fuel and cuts down on operation time. And humans decide to finally do something about it. But what? Guests: Loren Grush, science reporter at The Verge Lisa Ruth Rand, historian of science technology and the environment. Tiago Soares, systems engineer for ESA’s Clean Space program Andrew Wolahan, systems engineer for ESA’s e.deorbit...


We Are Family

With the rise in consumer DNA tests and online genealogy, people might soon have a pretty good idea where their families came from for generations. But are we putting too much faith in DNA? Can our genetic ancestry really tell us anything about ourselves? And what happens when DNA databases become playgrounds for true crime sleuths? Guests: Carl Zimmer, science journalist and author of She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity Kristen V. Brown,...


Federal Project Two

Guests: Susan Quinn, author of Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times and other books. Monet Noelle Marshall, playwright, consultant, artist, director, founder of JOCOAA. Monica Byrne, novelist, playwright, futurist, activist. Further Reading: Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times by Susan Quinn The New Deal Art Projects, An Anthology of Memoirs by Francis V....


Enter the Exos

This episode we talk exoskeletons: what are they being used for now? What might they be used for in the future? And what happens when they’re everywhere? Guests: Tim Pote, PhD student at Virginia Tech Greg Pote, Tim’s brother Dr. Bill Marras, professor at The Ohio State University & Director of the Spine Research Institute Larry Jasinksi, CEO, Rewalk Ashley Shew, assistant professor at Virginia Tech in technology & disability, and author of Animal Constructions and Technological...


Fitness in a Bottle

Some people love going to the gym. Some people hate it. But what if there was a pill that could replace exercise? Today’s future might actually be closer than you think. Today’s guests: Nicola Twilley, co-host of Gastropod and New Yorker writer David Eveleth, my dad and biotech expert Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, historian and co-host of Past Present Sigmund Loland, philosopher of sports at Norwegian School of Sport Sciences Casey Johnston, editor at The Outline, author of Ask a Swole...


Fire From the Deep

In this episode, a huge submarine volcano erupts, breaks the surface of the ocean, and forms a new island. What happens next? Guests: Tracy Gregg, associate professor of geology at the University at Buffalo Rebecca Carey, senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania Paraskevi V. Nomiku, assistant professor of geological oceanography at the University of Athens Gianpierro Orbasano, Tongan photojournalist and explorer Michael Bates, Prince of Sealand James Grimmelmann, professor of...


The Grey Dawn

We’re back! After a bit of a break, your regularly scheduled Flash Forward episodes will resume starting today. Every other Tuesday you’ll get a future delivered straight to your listening device. I hope you enjoy! On this episode, we’re talking about the future of senior care. Namely: what happens when we outsource care for our aging loved ones to robots, apps and devices? Let’s start by defining the challenge that the technology in today’s episode is trying to solve: in the United...


You’ve Got Brainmail

In our last episode of the season, we take one one of the most requested futures: telepathy! What would it be like to be able to link minds, and communicate brain to brain? And how likely is it that we’ll ever get this kind of technology? We start the episode by talking to Roger Luckhurst, a Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London, who explains where the word telepathy comes from, and how it totally obsessed men of science in the early 1800’s....



This episode we travel to a future where the 2020 census goes haywire. What happens if we don’t get an accurate count of Americans? Who cares? Apparently the constitution does! The 2020 census is currently in the crosshairs — census watchers say that it’s not getting enough funding, and community organizations and local governments are already worrying about what an inaccurate census might mean for their people. To walk us through the current perils facing the census I talked to Hansi...


There’s No Great Future in Plastics

This episode is all about a world without plastic. What would that look like? Is it even possible? Today, plastic is seen as one of our great environmental enemies. But it actually wasn’t always that way. Bradford Harris, a historian of science and the host of a podcast called How It Began: A History of the Modern World, and Susan Freinkel, a journalist and the author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, walk us through how plastic started out as a solution to unsustainable practices. Then we...


Our Father, Who art in Algorithm

In this episode, we travel to a future where a tech mogul feeds a machine learning system all the religious texts he can find, and asks it to generate a “super religion.” Buckle up because this is a long episode! But it’s fun, I promise. For the intro of this episode I worked with Janelle Shane to actually train a machine learning algorithm on a big chunk of religious texts that I assembled, and spit something back out. The specifics of the texts and the machine learning algorithm come...


Deceptible Me

This episode we travel to a future where you can choose to turn off your ability to deceive yourself. Are you now a perfectly clear eyed genius? Or a perpetually depressed misanthrope? Maybe both? This episode was suggested by my mom. It begins with two tales of self deception, one from Jacquelyn Gill, an assistant professor of paleo-ecology at the University of Maine and the host of a podcast about climate change called Warm Regards, and the other from Beth Duckles, a writer, researcher,...