What does it take for two different people to find common ground? To answer that, we dig into a nine-year-old mystery. In 2011, two very different guys shared a pair of earbuds on the New York City subway. A photo of them went viral… but who were they, and what were they doing? All is revealed.
Being Told What to Do
People are refusing to wear masks in a pandemic. Why? To understand, we rewind to the “Anti-Mask League” of 1919 and to the opposition to seatbelt laws in the 1990s. Then, we answer the big question: If people won’t listen to mandates, what will they listen to?
Covid-19 has interrupted our world, but it’s also likely to improve it. After all, history shows that massive disruption is followed by massive opportunity. So what’s in store for us now? In this episode, we learn the surprising consequences of past crises, explore the innovations that may come from Covid-19, and try to understand why disasters are so productive.
Refrigerators are unnatural, unhealthy, and probably just a fad — at least, that’s according to the people who once sold ice. But the history of refrigeration raises some very relevant questions: What’s natural? And why do some businesses guarantee their own failure?
Today, people complain about self-obsessed millennials. Yesterday, they complained about children celebrating their birthdays. When the birthday party became popular in the 19th century, people worried that it would corrupt community, spoil children, and contradict the bible.
Faces, Faces, Faces!
For more than a century, people have claimed that new technologies are physically deforming our faces — and we still say it today. On this episode, we explore where this fear comes from, what it means, and what happens when the fear really does come true. Time to put on your podcast face!
Cute and cuddly, or a “horrible monstrosity” that’ll destroy humanity? In 1907, many people feared the worst—that this new toy would ruin young girls’ developing maternal instincts, and lead us to a terrible fate. This is the story of how the teddy bear changed us all… and how we then changed the bear.
Vanity was born when the mirror was discovered. People (and especially women) were condemned for looking in the mirror, and accused of being sinful. In this episode, we explore the history of the mirror, the history of vanity, and what it can teach us about today’s obsession over selfies.
Scooters (and Roller Skates)
As cities freak out over e-scooters today, it’s worth looking back at when these devices were actually new. Why did people love scooters in 1915, what’s different a century later, and what does all of this have to do with roller skates? The answers just might lead us to rethink how our cities are designed.
In the 1950s, America declared war on the comic book. People feared that they’d turn children into hardened criminals, and so opponents burned them in large piles, states banned them, and the U.S. Senate investigated their dangers.
It had a profound effect on the way we organize our cities and ourselves. It was also blamed for a rise in crime, for causing something called brain fever, for destroying civil society, and more. While the elevator may seem like old technology today, it has a big lesson for us about the future of transportation.
Kids these days
Kids! They’re lazy, narcissistic, and disrespectful—or so says the older generation. But when you look back through history, you’ll discover that older generations have been saying a version of the same thing for thousands of years. Our question is: Why? And we found an answer.
We may think of the waltz as classy and performative today, but as it gained popularity in the early 1800s, it was called disgusting, dangerous, an “obscene display … confined to prostitutes and adulteresses”, and worse. Why? In this episode, we explore how the waltz got people so riled up and what the whole sweaty tale can teach us about the future of scandalous dances.
It was humanity’s first taste of mass communications, and immediately triggered the same concerns about information overload, frivolous communications, loss of privacy, and moral corruption that today we blame on the internet. In this episode, we trace today’s concerns back to their origins.
Chain stores were accused of destroying democracy and freedom, of corrupting young people, and of being evil, evil, evil. (Just wait: The word gets used a lot.) States even tried to ban them. In this episode of Pessimists Archive, we investigate why chain stores were so steeply resisted.
The Good ol' Days
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