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 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?

  • Episode 11: To Redistribute or not to Redistribute?...That Seems to be the Question!

    Episode  |  January 31st, 2019  |  1 hr 4 mins

    In this episode we talk about income inequality and the impact it's having on today's political conversations. We also consider whether or not income inequality stifles upward mobility. And we talk a little Max Weber.

  • Episode 10: An Empty Space?

    Episode  |  January 29th, 2019  |  57 mins 20 secs

    In this episode we talk about social media and its effects on public discourse and communal life. We also take some time to look at some of the week's headlines, offering our own less than expert but always interesting insights and analysis.

  • Episode 9: It's All About The Currency Baby!

    Episode  |  January 18th, 2019  |  57 mins 47 secs

    In our first episode of the new year we try to figure out which country's government looks more dysfunctional right now: The United State's or the UK's? We found ourselves talking about democratic values and norms as things comparable to currency. Their value is dependent on people choosing to value them, like the dollar or the euro.

  • Episode 8: Does Democracy Need Religion?

    Episode  |  December 20th, 2018  |  52 mins 39 secs

    In this our Christmas episode, inspired by Andrew Sullivan (and a few others), we think about the soul of democracy and the relationship of democracy and religion. Faith in the democratic project seems to be waning in many places in the West. Is politics becoming a new form of religion today? Is this a good thing?

  • Episode 7: Broken Societies—And The Post-Truth Reconstruction

    Episode  |  December 17th, 2018  |  46 mins 34 secs

    Social media, and the fake news that spread across it, no doubt played a role in delivering the “Brexiteers” their surprise victory in the UK’s May 2016 referendum on EU membership. If the benefit of letting social media run amok is that doing so lays bare some chronic and unrevealed ills in democratic society, then we had best cherish those insights and act upon them. Because they come at a very high cost, opening cracks so wide, mere patches no longer suffice.

  • Episode 6: Leadership Then And Now

    Episode  |  December 14th, 2018  |  50 mins 59 secs

    In this episode, recorded shortly after the death of America's 41st President George H.W. Bush, we talk about his legacy, and what leadership, politics and service meant to his generation and what they mean now. We also talk about the possibilities of reforming liberal democratic systems, the protests in Paris, and a conference on the future of work that Chris went to in Australia.