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Tech

The Secret History of the Future

Slate

+4 FANS
Journey into the past and you'll discover the secret history of the future. From the world's first cyber-attack in 1834, to 19th-century virtual reality, The Economist's Tom Standage and Slate's Seth Stevenson examine the historical precedents that c...Show More
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38:31 | Nov 7th, 2018

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...Show More

42:00 | Sep 4th

Radio was originally a social medium, as early radio sets (each of which could transmit as well as receive) turned cities into giant chatrooms, populated by Morse Code-tapping enthusiasts. But the excitement of this democratic, digital platform did n...Show More
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36:41 | Aug 28th

The first mechanical clocks were made to summon monks to prayer. Ever since, timekeeping technology has often been about control and obligation. But underneath a mountain in Texas, a new kind of clock is being built that’s meant to alter the way we t...Show More

37:06 | Aug 21st

At the dawn of the 20th century, chemists dreamed of extracting nitrogen from the air and turning it into a limitless supply of fertiliser. Sceptics thought they were crazy -- it was possible in theory, but it was unclear if it could be done in pract...Show More

36:21 | Aug 14th

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 “algorith...Show More

36:49 | Aug 7th

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?

38:56 | Jul 31st

Polar exploration was the Victorian equivalent of the space race. Major powers vied to outdo each other, funding expeditions to the most inhospitable parts of the world as demonstrations of their supremacy over nature and each other. Today, the resul...Show More

39:50 | Jul 24th

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 soci...Show More

31:37 | Jul 17th

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 dou...Show More

33:46 | Jul 10th

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-p...Show More

43:56 | Jul 3rd

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...Show More

02:33 | Jun 26th

What can 19th century polar exploration teach us as humans plan missions to Mars? Do modern online dating apps have anything to learn from romances over the telegraph wires? Dig into the past, and you’ll find surprising lessons about what’s next for ...Show More

30:24 | Oct 31st, 2018

Some people thought the laying of the transatlantic cable might bring world peace, because connecting humans could only lead to better understanding and empathy. That wasn’t the outcome, and recent utopian ideas about communication (Facebook might br...Show More

32:01 | Oct 24th, 2018

In the Victorian era, plaster casts became a way to preserve important artifacts in 3-D. Now, virtual reality promises to preserve places and experiences. But who decides what gets preserved? And is the technology an accurate recreation of the experi...Show More

34:57 | Oct 17th, 2018

In 1714, British parliament offered a huge cash prize to anyone who could find a way to determine longitude at sea. And it worked, sort of ... several decades later. Are modern contests (DARPA challenges, the X Prize) offering riches and glory an eff...Show More

37:03 | Oct 10th, 2018

In 1969, an anthropologist introduced photographs and films to people in Papua New Guinea who’d never seen themselves represented in media before. It changed their conception of the world. In modern society, social media floods us with imagery at a p...Show More

30:10 | Oct 3rd, 2018

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 mo...Show More

33:38 | Sep 26th, 2018

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 potentia...Show More

28:58 | Sep 19th, 2018

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 neces...Show More

35:23 | Sep 12th, 2018

We’ve used electricity to treat our brains for thousands of years, from placing electric fish on our heads to cure migraines to using electroconvulsive therapy to alleviate depression. But over time, our focus has shifted from restoring health to aug...Show More

35:27 | Sep 5th, 2018

In the 18th century, a device called the Mechanical Turk convinced Europeans that a robot could play winning chess. But there was a trick. It’s a trick that companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook still pull on us today. Guests include: Jaron Lan...Show More

02:27 | Aug 6th, 2018

Examine the history of tech to uncover stories that help us illuminate the present and predict the future.