A Video Letter to New Podcasters

This summer my friend Rachel Kremen got in touch to say that she's been hired to teach an introductory science journalism class at Rutgers University. She asked if I'd be willing to record a short video for her students talking about Soonish, how I make the show, and what it's like to be a podcaster. I said I'd be happy to do that.

VIDEO: Meet Three of the Twelve Tomorrows Authors

The MIT Press Bookstore hosted a standing-room-only crowd for a special June 5 event featuring three of the authors who contributed to the 2018 edition of Twelve Tomorrows: Elizabeth Bear, Lisa Huang, and Ken Liu. (They're also featured in Soonish 2.08: Sci-Fi That Takes Science Seriously.)

Twelve Tomorrows is an anthology of original hard science fiction stories commissioned by MIT Technology Review, edited by me, and published by the MIT Press. This full video from the event includes readings from the book by Huang ("The Woman Who Destroyed Us"), Liu ("Byzantine Empathy"), and Bear ("Okay, Glory"). It also includes a panel discussion about the contrasts between hard science fiction and other forms of science fiction, and Q&A with the audience.

Many thanks to my guests and to the staff of the MIT Press Bookstore, including John Jenkins and Jeremy Solomons. Thanks also to videographer Joseph Fridman.


TWO SPECIAL OFFERS FOR SOONISH LISTENERS: This June and July only, if you sign up to support Soonish on Patreon at the $5 per episode level or above, I’ll send you a free, autographed copy of Twelve Tomorrows. To claim your bonus reward please go to patreon.com/soonish.

But you don’t have to be a Soonish patron to get a great deal on the book! Through July 31, you can get a 30% discount on Twelve Tomorrows when ordering directly from the MIT Press. Call 1-800-405-1619 or write to orders@triliteral.org and use the code SOONISH30.

Announcing Twelve Tomorrows—A "Hard SF" Anthology Offering Fictional Forays into the Future

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of Twelve Tomorrows, the science fiction anthology I edited for MIT Technology Review and The MIT Press.

With help from assistant editor Mark Pontin, I recruited famous and up-and-coming voices in science fiction to write "hard SF" stories that offer deep, provocative, funny, frightening perspectives on how present-day technologies could evolve. The book includes 10 original short stories and a 20-page, full-color graphic novella.

Live! A Soonish Story On Stage at Story Collider, April 15 2018

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I'm thrilled (and a little intimidated) to be part of the lineup of storytellers bringing you tales of science, medicine, and technology as part of the Story Collider performance during the Cambridge Science Festival. The event will be at 8:00 pm on April 15 at the Oberon Theater in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

Info about the show is here. You'll hear stories from pediatrician-in-training and youth development expert Dr. Elorm Avakame, clinical psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Monica O'Neal, filmmaker and NOVA science editor Caitlin Saks, celebrity chef Dan Souza, and me.

Tickets for Story Collider events almost always sell out, so get yours now!

I'll be performing a story about the space shuttle that I developed last year for a storytelling masterclass led by Aaron Wolfe at the PRX Podcast Garage. I'd love to see lots of Soonish fans in the audience!

In other news: Now you can listen to Soonish on Spotify, if that's your thing!

[SCRIPT] Episode 2.05: The Future Is Clear

Soonish Episode 2.05: The Future Is Clear

February 17, 2018

Full show notes here.

[Sound of Corning NY steam whistle]

That… is the sound of the past. And the future. It’s the old steam whistle that still goes off four times a day in the town of Corning in upstate New York, home to Corning Incorporated.

Decades ago the company invented famous brands of glass that you probably have in your own kitchen, like Pyrex and Corningware. And then it reinvented itself as a maker of glass for displays and automobiles and fiber optic cable. And it went on to create the Gorilla Glass that makes the screen of your smartphone virtually unscratchable and really hard to break.

Just Can't Get Enough of Soonish and the Future? Here Are Some Other Great Podcasts About Technology & Innovation


I'm able to put out a new episode of Soonish every three to six weeks. For folks who love to think about the future, that's a long time to wait!

To help tide you over, I've made a list of other podcasts and radio shows about science, technology, innovation, and the future that you might like.

I aim to keep adding to this list. If you have a favorite future-oriented show that's not shown here, let me know!

Exponent, from Ben Thompson (of Stratechery) and James Allworth

Flash Forward, from Rose Eveleth

For Future Reference, from the Institute for the Future

FutureProofing, from BBC Radio 4

Future Tense, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Future Thinkers, from Mike Gilliland and Euvie Ivanova

Ideo Futures, from the design and consulting firm Ideo

If Then, from Slate

Innovation Hub, from WGBH

Note to Self, from WNYC Studios

The Pulse, from WHYY

Radiolab, from WNYC

Review the Future, from Ted Kupper and Jon Perry

Science Vs., from Gimlet Media

Transistor, from PRX


One Year of Soonish, Organized by Mood

Emoticons by Freepik

Soonish went public one year ago today, at a big party at the PRX Podcast Garage.

It was only 12 months ago, but it feels like it was a different era. Barack Obama was president! No one had heard the term "alternative facts"! You could browse Twitter without fear of nuclear conflagration!

But as we barrel into an unknown future, buffeted every day by news that gets stranger and stranger, I've managed to stay sane in part by just doing the work and making the show. We need to think clearly about the future, now more than ever. Having the freedom to focus on where technology is going, one episode at a time, has been a huge joy and privilege. I'm so thankful to everyone who has listened to the show over the past 12 months and to everyone who has pitched in to make it possible, especially my Future Force supporters on Patreon.

To celebrate the milestone, I've made a little list of all the episodes to date, organized not by title or date but by mood. Click below to hear or re-hear an episode that matches up with how you're feeling.

I'm in a cosmic mood, ready to be wowed by astronomical events.

I'm feeling loving and charitable toward all my fellow beings.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

I've always wondered how modern art got so strange.

I need some comic relief. Make me laugh!

I love that song from The Simpsons about the monorail.

I'm disappointed that we don't have flying cars and moon bases.

I'm frustrated with all my gadgets and apps; they aren't making my life better.

I'm wondering when Silicon Valley is going to start making cool things again.

I don't understand all the fuss about virtual reality.

I'm looking for great new podcasts to listen to.

I'm alarmed by our decaying infrastructure. Why can't we build new stuff?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.

I'm wondering who this guy Wade is, anyway?

I'm bored at museums. I'd rather hang out on Instagram.

I'm worried that I'm going to lose my job to a robot.

* * *

Have fun, and buckle your seat belt—I have a feeling it's going to be a wild 2018.

Emoticon image from Freepik.


Now You Can Find & Follow Soonish on NPR One

We're thrilled to announce that Soonish is now part of the library of high-quality podcasts at NPR One. It's NPR's mobile listening app, featuring a customized blend of radio programs and podcasts from NPR, member stations, and independent partners.

You can download NPR One for iOS and Android.

Find Soonish inside the app by clicking the Search (magnifying glass) icon in the upper right of the screen and typing in "Soonish." From there you can listen to any episode.

We also recommending hitting the + (plus sign) button, which gives you the option to follow Soonish within the app, so that you'll never miss an episode.

And please tell us you love Soonish by hitting the Interesting button on your screen!

You can also find the other Hub & Spoke shows on NPR One, including Hi-Phi Nation and Ministry of Ideas.

Looking Back to Soonish's First Year, and Forward to the Future

Dear Friends,

Before we all turn off the computers, put away the smartphones, and settle in for a long week of holiday relaxation, I wanted to reach out to all Soonish mail list subscribers, Patreon supporters, Facebook followers, and blog readers and thank you for helping to make this an amazing first year for the podcast.

I launched the show on January 13, 2017, at the beginning of a year that has brimmed with political tumult and natural and human-made disasters. But with your help and encouragement, I've been able to stay focused on making the show, which reached a series of big milestones.

—I produced 10 episodes in the show’s first season and five (so far) in the second season. With each episode, the show’s audience has grown bigger. I’m in a great position to reach lots of new listeners in 2018.

—I’ve been able to test and refine the basic ideas driving the show, zeroing in on a motto that, I think, expresses its essence: “The future is shaped by technology, but technology is shaped by us.”

—I was lucky enough to find a few other independent audio makers who believe in the power of ideas and high-quality storytelling. Together we formed the new podcast collective Hub & Spoke. Through cross-promotion and mutual support, we’re building up the audience for all of the great shows in the network—including Soonish, The Lonely Palette, Ministry of Ideas, and the newest addition, Hi-Phi Nation.

—I’ve learned a huge amount along the way from all of my new friends and colleagues at Hub & Spoke; the Sonic Soirée, Boston’s monthly potluck of the edible and audible; and of course the PRX Podcast Garage. The Garage is far more than a recording studio—it’s a community. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the great talks, workshops, and professional support they’ve offered this year.

—I've had lots of fun exploring diverse topics for the show. The first season ended with my admittedly quirky episode investigating what Apollo 13 can teach us about the Trump administration. For the second season, I made it to Illinois to see the great American solar eclipse in August, and I scored exciting interviews with book authors Tim O’Reilly and Kelly and Zach Weinersmith.

—I was thrilled to be able to attend the Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago, where I met radio and podcasting idols from shows like Radiolab, 99% Invisible, and Outside/In.

—I've performed live versions of Soonish episodes for audiences around Massachusetts, including groups in Boston, Brookline, Cohasset, Sudbury, and Winchester. And I produced a short version of the Soonish pilot episode—the one that asked why 2001: A Space Odyssey got the future so wrongfor WHYY's The Pulse, a terrific broadcast/podcast about science and health.

—Thanks to the generosity of my supporters on Patreon, I’ve raised close to $2,000 in donations in 2017, which helped cover the show’s basic hosting and equipment costs and a couple of reporting trips. Thank you so much!

(If you haven’t donated to the show, that’s totally okay. I make it out of my love for audio and stories about the future, not for the money! But if you do want to give and you just haven’t gotten around to it, there’s still time to help meet my goal of hitting 30 supporters on Patreon by December 31. Right now I’m just five people away! For more info head over to patreon.com/soonish.)

I’ve been paying the rent here in Cambridge mostly through freelance and consulting jobs, including a fun gig editing Twelve Tomorrows, a science fiction anthology coming from MIT Technology Review and the MIT Press in May (more news on that later).

But my big resolution for 2018 is to spend less time on freelance work and more time on the show—both on the production side, so that I can get onto a more regular publication schedule, and on the not-so-fun but utterly necessary marketing and promotions side.

I’m incredibly grateful that so many listeners have discovered the show and helped to spread the word about it. I’m going to be counting on even more of that kind of support, not to mention listener feedback, in the new year. So, please be in touch—you can always reach me at wade@soonishpodcast.org. Thanks again, and stick around. There’s some great stuff coming...soonish!


P.S. Oh, by the way, I got a puppy! That's him in the picture below. (Thank you to Graham Ramsay for taking the photo.) His name is Gryphon, he's an Australian Shepherd, and he's just shy of 12 weeks old. But he is not shy in any other way. I'm sure you'll hear him on the podcast at some point.


VIDEO: Why "Office Space" Still Speaks To Us Today

Do you like science? Do you like movies? Then what could be better than a night at the movies with Science On Screen, the series created by the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA, that pairs current, classic, cult, and documentary films with talks by notable figures from the world of science, technology, and medicine.

I'm not sure I count as "notable," but at the Coolidge's invitation I gave a Science On Screen talk last week keyed to the classic 1999 comedy OFFICE SPACE from writer/director Mike Judge. The video of the talk was just posted online. Check it out:

My basic point was that like Peter Gibbons and the other characters in the movie, each of has the ability to take control of the systems and technologies we use to organize our work. I drew the ideas and the audio clips in the talk from Soonish Episode 1.08, Hacking Time. So, if you're interested, go listen to that too!

Announcing Hub & Spoke, a New Collective of Independent, Idea-Driven Podcasts

Huge news! Yesterday I joined up with my fellow podcasters Tamar Avishai of The Lonely Palette and Zachary Davis and Nick Andersen of Ministry of Ideas to unveil Hub & Spoke, a new audio collective designed to help each show grow through mutual support and cross-promotion. Here's the official press release!

Boston, Mass. — October 5, 2017 — To bolster the Boston-area podcasting ecosystem and ensure that great independent shows made here reach a wider audience, local audio producers joined today to launch Hub & Spoke (hubspokeaudio.org), a Boston-centric collective of podcasts produced outside the traditional public media system.

Taking inspiration from existing podcast collectives such as Radiotopia and The Heard, Hub & Spoke provides a community where producers share mutual support and advice. Member producers also work to grow the listening audience for all of the Hub & Spoke shows through “on-air” mentions and other forms of cross-promotion.

Join Me on November 6 for a "Science On Screen" Presentation of Mike Judge's "Office Space"

In Episode 1.08, Hacking Time, I argued that we’re not well served by the technology tools that promise to keep us productive and efficient at work. I’ve been searching for a long time, and I’ve never found the idea e-mail manager, the ideal calendar, or the ideal to-do list app. (Or the ideal robot-who-will-just-do-my-job-for-me.)

All I really want is a tool that can help me manage all the information coming at me and meet my commitments in a stress-free way. But it turns out that technology can abet the problem rather than aiding with it.  So I’ve hacked together a combination of digital and analog methods as best I can. And I think lot of people still struggle to survive in workplaces where the constant stream of tasks and meetings and memos can be deadening.

The up side to this truth is that it's the fuel for a lot of great office-comedy movies and TV shows—and Mike Judge’s Office Space (1999) is the granddaddy of them all.

At 7:00 pm on November 6, 2017, the historic Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Massachusetts, will present Office Space as part of its longstanding Science On Screen series. I’ll be giving a short talk before the movie about the paradox of productivity: how, sometimes, it feels like the more technology we bring into our lives, the less we actually get done.

WHYY's 'The Pulse' Features a Space Segment Adapted from Soonish

The Pulse, the weekly WHYY health and science show hosted by Maiken Scott, published a space-themed episode on July 21 called "Leap of Space."

The second segment of the show, '2001' Came and Went, But the Movie's Ideas Still Resonate, might sound familiar to Soonish listeners. It's a condensed version of Episode 1.01, How '2001' Got the Future So Wrong.

Staffers at The Pulse approached me about adapting the episode after they decided to do a space show and heard the Soonish episodes about 2001 and Astropreneurs. I said yes right away, of course. And working with them was a blast.

ScoutSomerville Digs Soonish and the Sonic Soirée

It was fun to learn this week that Soonish was mentioned alongside other Cambridge- and Somerville-based podcasts and radio productions in a magazine feature about the Sonic Soirée, the monthly potluck and critique session for Boston-area audio makers. The piece is in the July-August issue of ScoutSomerville, the free bi-monthly.

I've been going to Sonic Soirées for a couple of years now, and I was at the May gathering when Scout freelancer Adrianne Mathiowetz showed up to do research for her story.

The real star of the story was my friend and colleague Tamar Avishai, maker of the awesome art history podcast The Lonely Palette (and one guest in Soonish Ep. 1.03, Can Technology Save Museums?).

Talking Robots and Jobs with Google's Hal Varian, Wharton's Lynn Wu, and WPI's Mike Gennert

From 2014 to 2016 I volunteered for the MIT Alumni Association as the founding host of a program called Faculty Forum Online — Alumni Edition. It was a series of live video conversations meant to illustrate the diverse jobs and challenges that MIT alumni are tackling around the world. The forums were multicast on Google Hangouts, and my guests responded to chat questions coming in from audience members watching remotely.

This Monday, May 22, I reprised the moderator role for a special "FFO/AE" conducted with a live audience at Newbury Court, a beautiful retirement community in Concord, MA. The topic was "Robots & Your Job," an area I touched on in Soonish Ep. 1.04, Future Factories, With Workers Built In.

The Full Stever Robbins Interview

As a special bonus for all the productivity geeks out there, here's the full recording of my interview with Stever Robbins.

I spoke with Stever back on April 25, 2017, and I used a bunch of tape from this interview in Episode 1.08 of Soonish, Hacking Time.

I first met Stever probably eight or nine years ago after seeing him give a talk at a conference, and I've always been a big fan of his podcast, The Get It Done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More.

In addition to being a podcaster, Stever is an entrepreneur and a career coach, an author, a fellow MIT alumnus, and simply one of the smartest people I know around the big questions about productivity. Like, how to stay motivated in your work or your creative projects; how to stay organized around those projects; and how much technology is enough for staying organized, and how much is too much.