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?
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?
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 Build For Tomorrow, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, novels are a wholesome alternative to modern vices. But long before television and video games, 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, and of 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 my novel, Mr. Nice Guy!)
“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.
This is a story about when a big industry stops competing, and starts trying to pass laws to protect itself instead.
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.