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 change the way the world operates in the near future. But they feel powerless, as if all of this progress were happening outside their control.
I 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 as that idea settles into daily life, it’s shaped and guided by thousands of big and small choices made by individuals like you and me.
So it’s important to understand where technology really comes from, and how we decide to start using it or stop using it. 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.
Are You a Reviewer, Journalist, or Advertiser?
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 how innovation works, and how we decide to adopt or abandon new technologies, the smarter we can be as citizens and consumers.
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 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.
The second season included 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."
why it's time to start thinking about virtual reality literacy
why glass is such a unique and important material for the future
how Star Wars killed serious science fiction, and what we can do to bring it back
how software is transforming the way music gets made, for better or worse.
And the third season, launched October 1, 2018, kicked off with a show about brain-machine interfaces and how we can use them to control the worlds outside—and inside—our heads.
How to Support the Show
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, RadioPublic, Google Play Music, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify, or listen on TuneIn. (If you have an Amazon Echo, try saying: “Alexa, play the podcast Soonish on TuneIn.”) You can also find Soonish on the NPR One app. If you follow or subscribe to the show on any of these platforms, you’ll 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, and prospective fans decide whether to listen based on the number of reviews and the average show ratings. So rating the show is absolutely 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, Facebook, and Instagram, 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 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
Our favorite episodes: “A Tale of Two Bridges” and “Looking Virtual Reality in the Eye." Another Boston-area podcast, Soonish takes its listeners “places where the future is crossing into the present,” investigating how emerging technologies and trends are impacting our lives today — very up our alley. Our two fave episodes show the diversity of topics that the host, tech writer Wade Roush, covers. The first tackles the tensions between the past and present by way of two major Boston landmarks — the Longfellow and Zakim bridges. The second takes a hard look at the future of virtual reality, from its use as an “empathy machine” to a potential tool of propaganda.—HUBweek
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
Big money is flowing into podcasting. Here’s what that could mean for Boston, The Boston Globe, March 8, 2019. Tech reporter Andy Rosen quotes me on the looming corporatization of podcasting: “Netflix is great, but thank God we also have Showtime, and AMC, and HBO, and the TV networks, because no one should have a lock on creativity. It would be horrifying if one single company became the arbiter of all podcasting.”
HUBweek Recommends: Podcasts. "Our 8 favorite art, science, and tech podcasts for your morning commute. Happy listening!"—HUBweek, July 27, 2018
Meet Wade Roush of Soonish in Cambridge—BostonVoyager, July 3, 2018
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.
‘2001’ Came and Went, But the Movie’s Ideas Still Resonate—for this segment of WHYY’s health and science show The Pulse, I adapted the pilot episode of Soonish, How 2001 Got the Future So Wrong.
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!
Hub & Spoke
Together with Culture Hustlers, Hi-Phi Nation, Iconography, The Lonely Palette, and Ministry of Ideas, 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.
The Future Force Hall of Fame
Soonish is a listener-supported show. We have sponsors, but mostly we pay for the show out-of-pocket—and those pockets aren't deep. So we encourage all of our listeners to think of themselves as subscribers, and to contribute what they can to help keep the show going.
If you'd like to show your support for Soonish you can do it at Patreon, the service that lets fans support podcasters and other creators with a per-episode (or per-song, per-comic, or per-whatever) donation.
The fine folks listed here helped us to reach our initial Patreon fundraising goal of $250 per episode, and are therefore the Pioneer Members of the Soonish Future Force Hall of Fame. We could not be more grateful for their early and faithful support!
Paul and Patricia Roush
Victor and Ruth McElheny
Now we're moving on to our next goal of $500 per episode. At that level, donors will be covering the basic technology costs of the show: Web and audio hosting, recording equipment, transcription services, editing software, and the like. Pledge now and add your name to the next group of supporters here at the Hall of Fame!
Other Great Podcasts
I've been inspired and amazed by dozens of great shows from other podcasters, including many relating to technology, culture, science, healthcare, and the future. Here’s just part of my podcast superhero gallery: