The History of the Future: the new podcast confronting the challenges of tomorrow

Posted on: 15 February 2023

Why are we so bad at predicting the future? How do we navigate the age of information overload? How do we find the right kind of fear? Do our fractured online identities mean the end of community? How do you solve a problem like freedom of speech? Can we be better digital citizens?

These are the central questions examined in "The History of the Future", the new podcast series from the Schuler Democracy Forum at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Each episode brings together leading arts and humanities researchers and media innovators to discuss the critical themes at the interface of media, democracy, and technology. The podcast is co-hosted by , entrepreneur, and Schuler Democracy Forum Media Fellow, Mark Little, and Dr Ellie Payne, Coordinator of the Schuler Democracy Forum. ​​

"The History of the Future" was officially launched by the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Linda Doyle, at an in-person event in the Trinity Long Room Hub on 8 February, 2023. Mark Little and Ellie Payne explained their motivation and journey in co-creating the series and were joined by Dr Jennifer Edmond, Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Trinity and Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director, Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University, who feature in episode one and episode three respectively.

The podcast features archival clips from the last four decades of the twentieth century. Two of these clips were shown at the launch; one from a 1995 interview between David Letterman and Bill Gates, and the other from a 1999 BBC interview with David Bowie. In his interview with Letterman, Gates was chided about the ability to watch and listen to content on the internet. Speaking about the capability to listen to a sports broadcast on the internet, Letterman joked, "Does radio ring a bell?"

Responding to a sceptical reporter, in the second video clip Bowie spoke about how he believed the internet to be more than just a tool or delivery system, "I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable", he said. Mark and Ellie explained how these perspectives on the future and the role the Arts and Humanities can play in societal development were key motivations for them in making the podcast.


“When I think about the role of the humanities, I always think that the people over the years that have allowed us to imagine the future have been the writers, they've been the movie makers, and for me, they've been the singers", Mark said.


Ellie described how the podcast had been guided by the need to "prepare a democracy for an uncertain and uncomfortable future ... to find resilience, agency, and optimism." Reflecting on the speed of change, Mark described how the key question became, "how do we become human in an age when the technology itself is almost superhuman?"


The panel discussed how the Arts and Humanities can intersect with fields like technology and journalism to help us better understand what's happening and what will happen next.


"I think we get it wrong because we want the answers when instead we need to deal with 'okay, this has happened, and we don't know how the story is going to end'", Bruce Shapiro replied when asked why journalists can be so bad at predicting the future.


"We need better mechanisms by which to take the ambition and the knowledge and the reflections of the humanities and bring them out, and I think this podcast is a great example of exactly that kind of initiative", Jennifer Edmond said.


The first episode of "The History of the Future" was released on 8 February 2023. In the episode, Mark and Ellie talk to Jennifer about our failure to understand the future, the pros and cons of technology, and why imagination is the key to a better tomorrow.


New episodes will be released every Wednesday for the next five weeks, addressing truth, fear, identity, freedom, and agency. You can listen and follow "The History of the Future" here:  


The History of the Future podcast was co-created and co-hosted by Mark Little and Ellie Payne and produced by Patrick Haughey of Audiobrand. The podcast is an initiative of the Schuler Democracy Forum in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Trinity College Dublin. The Schuler Democracy Forum is generously supported by Dr Beate Schuler. For more information, see: