The Atlas Project

Conversations That Navigate The Now

About the show

It’s a new world. To navigate it, we need new maps. Each episode, best-selling author Chris Kutarna and Scott Jones soar 50,000 feet above the immediate headlines in politics, economics, science and society. The Atlas Project aims to reveal the big picture of where humanity is headed, and the choices we all need to face.

Episodes and Blog Entries

  • Episode 27: What's Really Real?

    Episode  |  February 20th, 2020  |  41 mins 17 secs

    In this episode we talk about Brexit, the American Presidential election, and what both tell us about political discourse. We wonder what is real to most voters and why, and why it seems like things that can't be quantified or measured are consistently absent from political speech.

  • Episode 26: The King's Two Bodies

    Episode  |  November 21st, 2019  |  51 mins 38 secs

    For this episode we got some inspiration from an essay from Isaac Ariail Reed. In an essay about political mythologies titled "The King's Two Bodies and The Crisis of Liberal Modernity" he describes what happens when we lose powerful symbols that unite the sacred and the secular and our frustrating attempts to replace them, or at least fill in the gaps. If you want to understand Trump's appeal, this stuff is really helpful. Excelsior!

  • Episode 25: The Resurrection of the Truth...?

    Episode  |  November 14th, 2019  |  59 mins 29 secs

    In this episode, inspired by an article in the Hedgehog Review, we talk about the complex relationship between democracy, pluralism, and the idea of shared truth. Many claim we live in a post-truth world, laying the blame at new technologies like social media that we now have to contend with in a digital age. But the problem isn't a new one. It's a tension that has existed at the heart of modern liberal democracy since its inception. If we give up on the truth, in favor of our own "truths", is the liberal democratic project still possible?

  • Episode 24: Truth isn't the problem...It's the the truths!

    Episode  |  September 12th, 2019  |  59 mins 58 secs

    Chris and Scott are back from their summer travels and decide to start September out light. We're talking about the nature of truth. Is there a truth crisis? Is it the media's fault? Fake news? Social media? We think the truth crisis has one source: our truths!

  • Episode 23: Conversion and Social Change

    Episode  |  July 11th, 2019  |  49 mins 5 secs

    A lot of people are talking about things like “systemic change.” People feel an urgent need to “fix things in the world.” But there is a tendency to talk about societal realities that we long to change as if we’re not a part of them. It’s a lot like how people in participatory democracies talk about the need to change the dysfunctional government, failing to realize that they themselves are not completely separate from the governments they are bemoaning. Things like capitalism, the economy, government, societal infrastructure aren’t things “out there.” They are realities we’re embedded in; they exist in an ecosystem of relationships of which we are all a part. Do we need a radical change in thinking and speaking before we understand the things we want to change? Do we need something like a religious conversion before we move forward?

  • Episode 22: Are We Stuck or Liberated?

    Episode  |  July 8th, 2019  |  1 hr 10 mins

    In this episode of the podcast, recorded the day after America's 243rd Anniversary celebration, we consider the nature of freedom, whether it's a static or dynamic thing, and a host of other questions! There's a little something for everyone (and maybe everything for someone?!?) in this episode!

  • Episode 21: Žižek vs Peterson...Our Thoughts on the Debate

    Episode  |  July 8th, 2019  |  51 mins 26 secs

    In this episode we discuss a debate between two controversial public intellectuals: Slavoj Žižek and Jordan Peterson. The debate took place in Toronto on April 19, 2019.

  • Episode 20: The Limits and Possibilities of Storytelling (and some other big questions)

    Episode  |  June 21st, 2019  |  50 mins 6 secs

    This episode is based on a recent piece Chris wrote and sent to the community that usually recieves his "maps." In his own words these field notes are, "Rougher, faster than my carefully crafted 'maps.' Big provocations that I can't see through to the end…but maybe you and I’ll flesh out the map together."

  • Episode 19: What Don't You Know?

    Episode  |  June 14th, 2019  |  1 hr 45 secs

    The real world is complex. It is changing very fast. So the optimal solution probably doesn’t exist. If it does exist, it doesn’t stay the optimal solution for long. To the extent that Artificial Intelligence focuses our choices and behaviors on the optimal solution, we’re in trouble.

  • Episode 18: Trust Me?

    Episode  |  May 13th, 2019  |  53 mins 12 secs

    In this episode we look at the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer numbers. Surprisingly (at least to one of us) China blows the West out of the water when it comes to its citzens trust in public institutions. Why is this? How does an autocratic state engender this kind of trust, the kind that is eluding most liberal democracies in Western Europe and North America? This leads us to a discussion of Alexis de Tocqueville's famous 19th Century work "Democracy In America."

  • Episode 17: The Art of the Possible

    Episode  |  May 6th, 2019  |  53 mins 30 secs

    We're in the golden age of television, with dramas like Game of Thrones capturing the attention of millions. In fact we're increasingly critical of our favorite shows, as the critical reception of a recent Game of Thrones episode, "The Battle of Winterfell" has shown. While our expectations of entertainment continue to increase, our expectations of politics and public life get lower and lower. We consider the relationship between the two trends in this episode.

  • Episode 16: What Do We Do When The Cathedral's Burning?

    Episode  |  April 27th, 2019  |  34 mins 28 secs

    In this episode Chris and Scott talk about the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the reaction to it in the media and in Europe and North America more broadly. We also consider what it means to cherish the past and be open to a future that might stand in tension with it.

  • Episode 15: Through The Looking Glass

    Episode  |  April 5th, 2019  |  1 hr 5 mins

    In this episode we talk the Mueller Report in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. We then talk about the recent horrific shooting in New Zealand (where Chris was at the time). We consider how our filters color the reception of all these events and why it matters.

  • Episode 14: Weird Science?

    Episode  |  March 16th, 2019  |  33 mins 43 secs

    In this episode we talk about science, the transcendent moments it can evoke, and how we integrate those moments in to the rest of our lives.

  • Episode 13: Is Humanity on the Right Track?

    Episode  |  March 6th, 2019  |  1 hr 3 mins

    In this episode we consider the question: Is Humanity on the Right Track? But we do it with a twist. We discuss it as a motion, Oxford debating style. The idea came from a recent talk Chris gave at Oxford, at the great Oxford debating hall. He had the idea to do the talk debating style, debating himself! We had a great time unpacking it!

  • Episode 12: Is the Truth a Lie?

    Episode  |  February 18th, 2019  |  50 mins 53 secs

    It’s time to critique “critical thinking”...“Critical thinking” has become a new panacea—society’s go-to antidote to the spread of fake news, the rise of populism, and the AI-driven atomization of our social media feeds. If no one should control which messages get published and spread (given the priority we place on free speech), then everyone should at least possess the skills to judge the logic and legitimacy of the messages they consume. And how do we develop those critical thinking skills? Education, obviously. Yes, the power of lies to mislead whole sections of society may be a big problem. But education can solve it...That is a comforting thought. But here’s a discomfiting one. What if “critical thinking” isn’t just a discrete skill that can be taught or trained in individuals? What if it’s also an emergent property of society as a whole—the same way that “intelligence” is an emergent property of the brain, or that “niceness” is an emergent property of certain communities, like Minnesota, USA or Gothenburg, Sweden? What if the popular power of obvious lies isn’t due simply to the failure to teach specific skills well enough, fast enough, to consumers of social media? What if the real problem is some sort of systemic failure?