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Pessimists Archive Podcast
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Pessimists Archive Podcast

Author: PessimistsArc

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Why do people keep resisting new things? That’s the question Pessimists Archive tries to answer. In each episode, we travel back in time to the moment that a new technology or innovation was introduced—something that today we think of as totally commonplace!—and we explore why everyone was freaking out about it. Our hope is this: By seeing how repetitive and often silly yesterday's fears were, we can begin to defang today’s fears as well.

Pessimists Archive is hosted by Jason Feifer. Follow us on Twitter at @pessimistsarc, which is run by Louis Anslow. Our email is pessimistsarchive@gmail.com, and website is pessimists.co.
21 Episodes
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As cities freak out over e-scooters today, it’s worth looking back at when these devices were actually new. Why did people love motorized scooters in 1915, what’s different a century later, and what does all of this have to do with roller skates? They’re big questions. And the answers just might lead us to rethink how our cities are designed.
Comic Books

Comic Books

2019-07-2500:48:023

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. The man leading the charge was a psychologist named Fredric Wertham, whose research fueled people’s fears. In this episode, we take a close look at Wertham to ask: How does someone come to yield so much cultural influence? And how should the rest of us react?Get in touch:Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarcWeb: pessimists.coEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com
Elevator

Elevator

2019-06-2000:41:542

The elevator has had a lot of ups and downs. (Sorry, sorry.) As the innovation gained popularity in the late 1800s, 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.On this episode of Pessimists Archive, we look at how the elevator shaped our world, why not everyone loved that, and what it has to teach us about the next big change. Because while the elevator may seem like old technology today, it has a big lesson for us about the future of transportation.Contact us:Twitter: @pessimistsarcWeb: pessimists.coEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com
Kids These Days

Kids These Days

2019-05-1500:45:213

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.Get in touch:Twitter: @pessimistsarcWeb: pessimists.coEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com
The Waltz

The Waltz

2019-04-2200:39:161

Why are new dances always so scandalous? Grinding, freak dancing, swing dancing, rock-n-roll -- each had their opponents. But at the beginning of it all was the waltz. We may think of the waltz as classy and performative today, but as it gained popularity in the early 1800s, the dance 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, how everyone finally got over it, and what the whole sweaty tale can teach us about the future of scandalous dances.Reach out!Twitter: @pessimistsarcEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.comWeb: pessimists.co
Telegraph

Telegraph

2019-03-0700:45:22

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” And he was hardly a lone voice that questioned, feared, or outright opposed the telegraph after it was introduced in the mid-1800s. 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.Contact us:Web: pessimists.coTwitter: @pessimistsarcEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com
Chain Stores

Chain Stores

2019-02-0800:39:081

When a frothy American congressman wanted to make his case against chain stores, he reached for the greatest comparison of evil he could think of: “Let’s keep Hitler’s methods of government and business in Europe,” he said. And that pretty well sums up the attitude towards chain stores in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, we have a complex but largely peaceful relationship with these companies. We may blame them for closing down local mom-and-pop shops, but we largely use them without complaint, and sometimes even love them. But when chain stores were new, the reaction against them was fierce. Chain stores were accused of destroying democracy, of limiting 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 -- a fight that may just change the way you think about business.Get in touch!Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.comTwitter: @pessimistsarcWeb: pessimists.co
The Novel

The Novel

2018-10-1500:39:192

Novels are to entertainment what orange juice is to Coca Cola -- a wholesome alternative to modern vices. Or at least, that's how we think of them now. But long before television and videogames, or before comic books and D&D, novels were the new and scary form of entertainment. They were accused of corrupting the youth, of planting dangerous ideas into the heads of housewives, of and distracting everyone from more serious, important books. In this episode, we explore the roots of anti-novel hysteria, and explore what impact it really did have on us.(And if you're looking for a good novel, check out host Jason Feifer's new novel, Mr. Nice Guy!)Get in touch:Twitter: @pessimistsarcWeb: pessimists.coEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.comThanks to our sponsor, Element AI, and its podcast The AI Element.
The Subway

The Subway

2018-08-0600:26:221

“A big humbug” -- that’s how one critic described America’s first subway system. Other opponents were more extreme. It would release dangerous underground air, some said. It would disturb the dead, others said. A religious leader in Boston declared it a project of Lucifer himself. Why were people so opposed to this new form of transportation? To understand it, we have to rewind centuries -- to a time when people thought that Earth was hollow, and that hell was directly under their feet.Contact us!Twitter: @pessimistsarcEmail: pessimistsarchive@gmail.comWeb: pessimists.co
Margarine

Margarine

2018-06-1800:41:223

Whatever you think you know of margarine, put that aside. When the spread was first invented in the mid-1800s, it was made very differently -- and solved very real problems for the nutrient-starved people of the time. That sent the dairy industry into a full-blown panic, leading to margarine’s demonization (and then taxation and strange discoloration). In this episode, we explore how the dairy industry got politicians all riled up, what it says about industries’ ability to halt innovation, and why it took more than a century for butter and margarine to finally square off in the most fair fight of them all: a true food fight.
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Comments (5)

Tearex63

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

Jun 20th
Reply (1)

Ryan 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
Reply

tarun sri harsha

awesome podcast

May 2nd
Reply

Anthony Roach

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

Feb 4th
Reply
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