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Pessimists Archive

Author: PessimistsArc

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Want to feel more optimistic about the future? Want to feel more open-minded about new things? Then join us for a trip back to the pessimists of the past. In this show, we explore the wild and surprising ways that people resisted change — and what it can teach us about resiliency today. It's called Pessimists Archive, but it's all about optimism! Hosted by Jason Feifer.

34 Episodes
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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: jasonfeifer.com To get deals from our sponsors: NordVPN: NordVPN.com/pessimists BetterHelp: BetterHelp.com/archive Teamistry podcast: link.chtbl.com/teamistry?sid=podcast.pessimists Believe In People book: warwicks.com, enter code KOCH20 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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! Email: jasonfeifer@gmail.com Web: jasonfeifer.com Instagram: @heyfeifer Thanks to our sponsors: Betterhelp: BetterHelp.com/archive Teamistry podcast: https://link.chtbl.com/teamistry?sid=podcast.pessimists Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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: Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Web: pessimists.co Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarc Thanks to our sponsors: betterhelp.com/archive The podcast Physical Attraction Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarc Instagram: instagram.com/pessimistsarc Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Covid changed many people’s relationship with technology… so what comes next? We explore why technophobia always happens in cycles, how we misuse science in a way that amplifies fear, and what everyone will be concerned about in five to 10 years.  Get in touch: Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Web: www.pessimists.co twitter.com/pessimistsarc  Instagram.com/pessimistsarc  Thanks to our sponsors:  BetterHelp.com/archive  plume.com/pessimists Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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: https://pessimists.co/the-mystery-of-the-shared-earbuds/ Get in touch! Twitter/Instagram: @pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Thanks to our sponsors: Betterhelp.com/archive Plume.com/pessimists Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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? Contact us! Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive.com Thanks to our sponsors: Plume.com/pessimists Betterhelp.com/archive Hullopillow.com/pessimistsarchive Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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! Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Website: pessimists.co Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarc Instagram: Instagram.com/pessimistsarc Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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! Email: jasonfeifer@gmail.com Web: jasonfeifer.com Instagram: @heyfeifer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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! Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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: Twitter: @pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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! Twitter: @pessimistsarc Web: www.pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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! Twitter: twitter.com/pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Roads weren't always for cars. In fact, highways were originally built for bikes! And now, as modern cities freak out over e-scooters, it’s worth looking back at when the roads were full of all kinds of things on wheels. How did early scooters, roller skates, and other new devices shape what we think of as the road today? And is it time to rethink how we design our cities now? Get in touch! Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Twitter and Instagram: @pessimistsarc Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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/pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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: @pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 and Instagram: @pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 and Instagram: @pessimistsarc Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Web: pessimists.co Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Today's internet can be a noisy and complicated place, but humanity has seen it all before. In the 1800s, the telegraph triggered many of the same questions and concerns that social media does today — about privacy, information overload, moral corruption, and more. In this episode, travel back to see the origin of our internet-based fears... and whether those fears ever came true. Contact us: Web: pessimists.co Twitter and Instagram: @pessimistsarc Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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. But in reality, chain stores were innovating the way we shop -- and replacing a very bad kind of local business. Even if you love shopping local, this episode might just change the way you think about business. Get in touch! Email: pessimistsarchive@gmail.com Twitter: @pessimistsarc Web: pessimists.co Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (13)

Darren Dendrite

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

Nov 10th
Reply

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
Reply

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
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Aly Sergie

Best pod I’ve heard in a while!!!!

Apr 8th
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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
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Leta Bishop

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

Feb 7th
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Gringo Grip

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

Jan 30th
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Vitaliy Cherediy - Slider007 production

Very interesting podcasts. Waiting for more episodes!

Nov 25th
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Tearex63

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
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
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