The future is shaped by technology. But technology is shaped by us.
When people find out I’m a technology journalist, they always ask me: what’s up with self-driving cars? Or drones, or AI, or augmented reality, or the new iPhone, or whatever. They’ve read the news, and they know that these new technologies could really change the way the world operates in the near future. But they feel powerless, like all of this progress is happening outside their control.
And I just don’t believe that’s true. Technological change isn’t something that happens to us. It’s like every other kind of historical change. When you look closely, you see that it often starts with a disruptive idea from a scientist or an inventor or a company, but then it’s guided by thousands of big and small choices made by individuals like you and me.
So it’s important to understand where technology ideas really come from, and how we decide to start using them, or stop using them. Once we grasp that, we can see that we each have some choice in the matter. And then we can be a little more intentional about the kind of future we’re building together.
And that’s what the show is about. Most of the time, anyway!
In each episode of Soonish, I venture to places where the future is crossing into the present, and I talk with experts who can help us understand how technological advances are changing our lives in tangible ways. I try to make the show both entertaining and useful. The more we understand about where technology ideas really come from, and how we decide to adopt them (or abandon them), the smarter we can be as citizens and consumers.
The second season opens with a post-Charlottesville "road trip" episode looking at conversations about race in America, and how our failure to represent the past fairly is keeping us from coming together to think about the future. The episode climaxes with the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017—one of those rare natural events that can help unify us, if only briefly.
The first season featured shows about
- what happens when movie directors try to get the future right, but fail
- why monorails are a neglected but still promising form of urban transit
- how technology can improve the museum-going experience
- how entrepreneurs are working to create skilled factory jobs in an age of automation
- who's working to develop and market tasty meat substitutes
- why the next phase of space exploration is being led by private companies
- how productivity tools can and can't help us manage our personal futures
- why it can be hard for cities like Boston with lots of history to plan for tomorrow
- how a lesson from the Apollo 13 moon mission helps us understand Donald Trump.
And the second season includes shows about
- my road trip to see the Great American Solar Eclipse of August 2017
- the debut of our new collective of independent, story-driven podcasts, Hub & Spoke
- why tech guru and investor Tim O'Reilly thinks Silicon Valley could flub the future
- how authors Kelly and Zach Weinersmith use humor to explore the future in their book "Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything."
how to Be part of it
The most direct way to help Soonish grow is to set up a per-episode pledge at Patreon. Every dollar pledged at Patreon gets me one step closer to making Soonish my full-time job!
If you're not into supporting the show via Patreon, that's okay! You can also send Soonish a one-time or repeating donation through PayPal.
At the Future Force Hall of Fame you can check out the list of supporters who helped me reach my initial goal of $250 in Patreon pledges per episode. I couldn't be more grateful to this stellar group. Now, on to $500 per episode!
You can subscribe to the show on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, or Stitcher, listen on TuneIn or SoundCloud, or follow the show on RadioPublic. You can also find Soonish on the NPR One app, where you can also Follow the show to make sure you never miss an episode.
If you like the show, please rate and review it at Apple Podcasts. Apple ranks shows based partly on user ratings and reviews, so this is one of the most important things you can do to help us reach more listeners. Here's a helpful article on how to post a podcast review.
You can follow posts from Soonish on Twitter and Facebook, and we can always use your help spreading the word about the show on social media—or just by telling a friend. Word of mouth is always the most powerful form of audience-building!
You can also sign up for the Soonish e-mail newsletter, which goes out twice a month and includes news about the show and reminders about new episodes.
Your comments on past shows and suggestions for new ones are always welcome! Please get in touch.
What people are saying about Soonish
I began your glass episode on my bike ride in to work this morning, and was immediately transfixed. By the time I reached my first large intersection I had actually exclaimed "this is awesome!" into the wind. Your introduction, your music, the mixing—all very compelling. But it was the content that really got me going: a focus on materials engineering in an ostensibly uninteresting area that actually touches billions of us every day. Beyond this, a historical focus that gives the topic context and establishes its gravity...It's a staple for me!—Matt Beane, Technology Management Program, UC Santa Barbara
It's like This American Life, except I'm not depressed at the end of it. —Chris Revill, @letschatpodcast
More than a week later and I'm still thinking about this podcast :) Great communication, I don't usually make it through any podcast. Yours kept my attention and I'm still thinking about the VR exhibit you exposed me to without me even experiencing it. Thanks! —@SteveAtTheMac
Soonish é um podcast de tecnologia que é extremamenta poético. Ouçam! (Soonish is a podast about technology that's extremely poetic. Listen!)—Júlia Rosa aka @ihateonionrings
I really love your show. Like any good thing, it scratches an itch I didn’t even realize I’ve had and I’m excited for the next season.—Evan Blanch
Wade’s storytelling is so precise and thoughtful that you can just tell the guy has a PhD from MIT. I love his ambitious approach to the show, which is remarkably produced by a team of one. It truly feels like he’s on an epic quest to discover the future and I’m along for the ride. You will literally be smarter just by listening!—Alex Braunstein, Community Manager, PRX Podcast Garage, Five Local Podcasts To Try for #Trypod
I listened to all your episodes so far over the past few days and I just finished "Meat Without the Moo." I'm so impressed! The stories you're telling are fascinating, production quality is super high and I find the optimistic tone extremely refreshing.—Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, founder and CEO, Tiny Farms
Soonish explores important, provocative issues in an accessible, layman-friendly style. The production is first-rate and Wade's host persona is warm and likable and most of all credible...Underlying it all is his optimistic view of the future, the notion that life can and will be improved.—Steve Marantz
Wade Roush is on to something really big in this podcast. The juxtaposition of what we imagine the future to be and the reality makes for a wide-reaching, limitlessly fascinating kind of storytelling. It's intelligent, well-produced, and a quirky blend of intellect and pop culture that lends itself of a really diverse audience.—Faceupandsing, a reviewer at the Apple iTunes Store
Awesome podcast about tech and the soonish future—@TechCompassion
Discover Soonish—a transporting podcast program about the future, created by @MITPSTS alum @wroush—@MIT_SHASS
Soonish is a terrific combination of great science knowledge, well edited interviews with engaging subjects, and great sound design. Not at all surprising given Wade's journalism background but all the more delightful because of his obvious passion for the subject and the medium.—Badger08
@soonishpodcast Love your work - so looking forward to new episodes. A great recommendation from @RadioPublic!—@bmason
What's better, the joy of conversation with @wroush, or being a part of this great episode? Why not both?—@thelonelypalette
Fascinating episode on advanced manufacturing, jobs, and America's place in the world.—@gthuang
Ordinarily, shows about the future of factories involve drone delivery services and a spike in unemployment. This episode addresses the positive potentials of reimagining manufacturing—a world in which skilled workers create customized products using high-tech tools that are increasingly available to the average individual. In short, robotizing the assembly line could actually be a good thing.—Bello Collective #28, February 27, 2017
Soonish in the Media
In January 2018 Soonish was a featured podcast on the NPR One app.
Stride & Saunter—I was the guest on "The Great American Eclipse," Episode 163 of Kip Clark's fine podcast about humanity, our world, and how we think about both.
"Public Works Projects Can Get Done Without Drama and Paralysis. Who Knew?"—This Boston Globe essay by columnist Dante Ramos sent readers to Soonish Episode 1.09, "A Tale of Two Bridges," for the tale behind the cost overruns on the project to restore Boston's historic Longfellow Bridge.
Let's Chat with Chris Revill and Friends—I was the guest on the April 4, 2017 edition of this talk show hosted by Providence, RI-based podcaster Chris Revill. The conversation stretched from space to AI to the business of podcasting and newspaper journalism.
What's Gimlet co-founder Matt Lieber listening to?—My own future-themed podcast playlist, News from the Future, was one of five lists featured by RadioPublic, makers of a great app for finding and following podcasts. More details here.
Lowenstein's Lens on Wireless—Mark Lowenstein of the consulting firm Mobile Ecosystem plugged Soonish in a February 2017 issue of his newsletter. He called me "one of the foremost science/tech journalists, and a true thought leader." Geez, thanks Mark!
For more info
If you'd like to write about the show or help spread the word, check out the Soonish Swipe File. It's a public document on Google Drive containing relevant links, logos, social media handles, and some pre-written copy that you are welcome to adapt and share.
Hub & Spoke
Together with The Lonely Palette, Ministry of Ideas, and Hi-Phi Nation, Soonish is a proud member of Hub & Spoke, a collective of high-quality, independent, idea-driven podcasts. The group's mission is to help each member show grow faster through cross-promotion and mutual support, and to find and promote great work by independent podcasters. To learn more visit hubspokeaudio.org.
Other Great Podcasts
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