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Build For Tomorrow

Author: Jason Feifer

Subscribed: 2,962Played: 36,130


This is a show about the unexpected things that shape us, and how we can shape the future. We tell funny, surprising stories about why people once feared the things we love (like the teddy bears and coffee!), and the myths we keep telling ourselves (like how new tech is harming us!), and walk away with lessons that can help turn fear and uncertainty into a path of opportunity. Welcome to Build for Tomorrow, hosted by Jason Feifer. (This show was previously called Pessimists Archive.)

41 Episodes
Are smartphones and social media addictive? Tech critics say yes. But actual addiction researchers say something else — and they point to ways in which our broad use of the word “addiction” can cause real harm. In this episode, we look at the history of supposedly “addictive” technologies, understand the surprisingly odd science behind today’s scariest claims, and discover who really has the power to break these supposed “addictions.” (Hint: It’s you.) Get in touch! Web: Sponsors: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
What was once only available to kings and queens, but that you can do today? The answer: Shocking stuff you've never even thought of. If you ever worry that our world is in decline, this episode can help put that in perspective. We also look at some amazing predictions from 1921 about 2021, and see how we’re living in the world they only fantasized about. Get in touch! Web: Instagram: @heyfeifer Twitter: @heyfeifer Sponsors: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
You’ve heard the story: Young people got “participation trophies” as kids, and it taught them to be entitled, lazy workers. But here’s what you haven’t heard: Participation trophies are 100 years old, and for most of that time, they were considered a good thing. Here’s the real story of how these trophies became villainized… and what their actual impact is.   Get in touch!  Instagram: @heyfeifer Web:   Sponsors: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
You can learn a lot from a simple margarita… because when you take one home from a restaurant in America, you’re participating in a change that was hundreds of years in the making. In this episode, we dig deep into how cocktails-to-go became suddenly legal (and why they were once illegal in the first place). It’s a surprisingly complex story that reveals our weird history with alcohol, and how the smallest shifts can lead to unexpectedly massive changes. Get in touch! Instagram: @heyfeifer Twitter: @heyfeifer Web: (Click “Free Training” at the top for my course on how to become more adaptable!) Sponsor: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We like to say that things were better before. But... what year was that, exactly? Join me on a trip through history, as we return to every supposed "golden age" to find out just how golden it was. Then we answer the big question: Is nostalgia useful or harmful, and how do we make people more excited for tomorrow? This is a full remake of our classic 2016 episode, now with lots more insights and history! Get in touch! Web: Newsletter signup Instagram: @heyfeifer Twitter: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
This podcast was called Pessimists Archive. Now it's called Build For Tomorrow. Why? Because this show is optimistic — and it needed a name that reflected that. It's the same show you love, now with a name that loves you back. Ready to help spread optimism? Here are some things you can do: 1. Sign up for my newsletter about how to find opportunity in change! 2. Tell friends about the show! Need my help? DM me on Instagram or Twitter. I'm happy to send a note to your friend. 3. Stay tuned. Because there's lots more fun stuff to come. By the way, the Pessimists Archive social media feeds are NOT changing their name. Thank you! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We once knew how to do important things... until new technology made us weaker, lazier, and dumber. That’s a story we’ve told ourselves for centuries. But is it true? Get in touch! Newsletter: Instagram: @heyfeifer Twitter: @heyfeifer Our sponsors: to wave the sign-up fee to get 10% off your first month Special Holiday deal! Go to and use code PESSIMISTS to get 68% off a 2 year plan plus 4 additional months free. It’s risk free with Nord’s 30 day money-back guarantee! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
These feel like historic times… so how can we share our wisdom and experiences with future generations? Turns out, it’s really hard! This episode explores why time capsules fail, why almost nothing lasts for thousands of years, why the future may not care about us after all—and why all of that is just fine. Get in touch! Instagram: @heyfeifer Twitter: @heyfeifer Newsletter: To get deals from our sponsors: NordVPN: BetterHelp: Teamistry podcast: Believe In People book:, enter code KOCH20 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
If you’ve ever voted in an election, watched the Bachelor, or worried about the end of days, then you’ve probably fallen for a specific rhetorical trick. In this episode, we explore the history of the phrase “the most important election of our lifetime,” and why the human brain is so UNIQUELY, INSANELY, OUTRAGEOUSLY(!!!) susceptible to hyperbole. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Thanks to our sponsors: Betterhelp: Teamistry podcast: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We have a clear narrative about the 2016 and 2020 election hacking: It’s social media’s fault. But Russia has used the same strategy against America for 100 years (and that’s just the start). If we treat this like it’s only a Facebook problem, then we’ll never truly protect our elections. This is the history of election hacking in America, and the repercussions of calling something “unprecedented” when it’s not. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Thanks to our sponsors: The podcast Physical Attraction Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The fork isn’t just a tool for eating. It’s also one of the greatest symbols of individualism — a utensil that people opposed for thousands of years, and that only gained acceptance once we started thinking differently about ourselves. This is the story of how the fork shaped us. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
People said radio was too addictive... then TV was too addictive... and now smartphones are too addictive! Why does every generation say the same things about its new technology (and why do our fears rarely come true?) In this episode, we dive into the fascinating research that explains our cycles of panic — and explain how to finally end it. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Thanks to our sponsors: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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 multiple times … but who were they, and what were they really doing? All is revealed. See the photo: Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Thanks to our sponsors: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
People are refusing to wear masks during 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? Thanks to our sponsors: Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
People love natural foods and natural products... but what is "natural," really? In this episode, we explore that question by going back to one of the very first times anyone claimed a natural product was better than a man-made one: It's the great war between the "natural" ice industry and the brand-new refrigerator industry. And it can teach us a lot about the decisions we make today. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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. But the truth -- about why we celebrate our birthdays and ourselves -- is far more complicated. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Do you suffer from automobile face? What about airplane face? Or moving-picture face? These are just some examples from a strange historical pattern: For more than a century, people have claimed that new technologies are physically deforming our faces -- and we still say it today. (No, you don't have "tech neck"!) 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! Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The teddy bear: Is it 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. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Vanity was born when the mirror was discovered. That’s what the Chicago Record wrote in 1895, around the time when mirrors became a household item. People (and especially women) were condemned for looking in the mirror, and accused of being sinful. But then the mirror altered the way we think about vanity altogether — and forever changed the way we look at ourselves. 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. Get in touch! Web: Email. Twitter / Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (16)

Eric Mayo

Seems like Jason is desperately trying to substantiate participation trophies. Not surprising.

Mar 25th

Robin Michelle Goldblum

Great show, but once again, not one mention of Generation X.

Feb 17th

muffen jr

holy cow I can see what the human looks like!

Jan 29th

Darren Dendrite

new subscriber here. I came to this podcast via Lex Friedman recommend it . Good stuff.

Nov 10th

Winds of the Magnetar

The argument that fast information is a relative concept is evolutionarily ignorant. The infinite regress of referring to previous technologies and their automatically assumed lack of consequences isn't a principled argument, is circular in logic, and is pre-loaded with an ideology. The ideology that progress is automatically good and mostly free of consequences. Human brains, emotions, and attention evolved for hundreds of thousands of years in a very specific primitive context. Technology, at an increasing pace, is engineered to high-jack those evolved primitive systems. These companys, social media being the focus, spend billions in R&D to find out exactly how to high-jack the attention, interests, and wealth of every single identifiable individual and definable group. To suggest this has no unique implications that are overtly negative if not destructive, is hopelessly utopian in outlook. One could destroy a home with just a hammer, one could also destroy a home with an atomic weapon. To suggest based purely on technical function these are just "new tools for old tricks" is a dangerous dismissal. Consider each new invention a ball pulled blindly from a container; some are good, some are neutral, some are unforseeably destructive. You don't known which type you have until you suffer the outcome of its application. This all is not to say I disagree with the overall thesis of the episode (it's compelling), but that particular objection seems deeply flawed. Please consider the work of Nick Bostrom, Bret Weinstein, anyone with a fuller grasp of human cognition, technology, and philosophy.

Sep 27th

Liz Radtke

I really liked this until I started noticing some... suspicious ads and statements. sounds like this is propaganda for the Koch brothers to get you to be more supportive of problematic technologies, big business, and expresses a very get with the program attitude towards businesses and people who are hurt. Don't get me wrong I love progress and technology and am absolutely not a chicken little, industries need to adapt or die for sure, but there's some real "let big business do what it wants" ideals being expressed here that are not ok.

Jun 28th

Aly Sergie

Best pod I’ve heard in a while!!!!

Apr 8th

Peter Main

My father, born 1925, told me of when he was a lad he'd get shipped off to his uncle's farm for the summer. In those days rural Ontario didn't have electricity (but my father grew up with it, in Toronto). In those days you needed to get 6 houses in an area to agree to be electrified to get the power company to run the lines. So, one evening my great uncle headed out to visit the neighbors, with my father in tow, to persuade them to sign up. My father recalls one old lady they spoke to, sitting in a wooden barn milking her cow, with a coal oil lantern sitting on the straw, saying "oh, I don't know, having that electricity stuff running up and down the walls ... sounds pretty dangerous to me". My father rolled his eyes in amusement.

Feb 12th

Leta Bishop

Love this podcast! Great history lesson told in an entertaining manner. Hope you keep making more episodes!!

Feb 7th

Gringo Grip

Thank you for the interesting history and common sense look at human tendency! Great podcast, highly recommend.

Jan 30th

Vitaliy Cherediy - Slider007 production

Very interesting podcasts. Waiting for more episodes!

Nov 25th


If the archive belongs to pessimists, shouldn't it be the pessimists' archive?

Jun 20th
Reply (1)

R. Wagoner

Great premise for a podcast and very entertaining while enhancing the listeners mind of history and controversial views. How was that Jason? Trying to match those early English pessimist. But I meant it. Keep up the great show.

Mar 7th

tarun sri harsha

awesome podcast

May 2nd

Anthony Roach

Great work Jason! this podcast has some interesting stories that are well explained in an entertaining manner. fantastic work!

Feb 4th
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