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 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.

  • Episode 5: The Live From The Toronto Basecamp Edition

    Episode  |  December 11th, 2018  |  1 hr 10 mins

    We recorded this episode of the podcast in Toronto, where we were there for Basecamp Toronto, a remarkable gathering which Chris Kutarna conceived and convened.

  • Episode 4: The Unstoppable Forces Versus The Indomitable Will

    Episode  |  November 4th, 2018  |  50 mins 32 secs

    In this episode of the podcast we consider a number of hot button words thrown around in public discourse today: nationalism, tribalism, globalism, identity, populism...the list goes on. Inspired by a recent podcast discussion one of us heard recently, we wonder if the whole tribalism versus universalism, nationalism versus globalism is really an age old clash between the unstoppable force of technological and economic development and the indomitable human spirit that balks at feeling like more of an object than a subject.

  • Episode 3: The Power of Doubt

    Episode  |  November 3rd, 2018  |  39 mins 20 secs

    When too many people believe they have found truth, democracy breaks down. Once truth has been found, the common project of discovery is complete. There is no more sense in sharing power with those who don’t realize it…To rescue the possibility of groping toward Paradise democratically, we need to inject our own group discourses with doubt.
    In this podcast episiode we dicuss the power of doubt, something we all might need to learn for the sake of human flourishing in our life together.

  • Episode 2: Finding The Real In A Post-Truth World

    Episode  |  November 2nd, 2018  |  30 mins 44 secs

    Enterprising minds have spotted our discontent with disintegration and turned reintegration into an industry. Grocery delivery services here in London emphasize, variously, ‘fresh’, ‘simple’, ‘organic’ or ‘mindful’. Meditation apps are booming. Yoga makes you balanced. Electric cars make you clean. To restore lost relationships — with our food, ourselves, our community, our environment, with the truth — has become one of the most compelling stories reshaping consumer behavior. In this episode we talk about the disintergation we all feel and look to the ancient past to help us find our way to a more integrated future.

  • Episode 1: Has China Got It All Figured Out?

    Episode  |  November 1st, 2018  |  36 mins 48 secs

    These days, the commentariat is talking a lot about China and what China’s rising confidence means for the world—and for the democratic world in particular. In almost all these conversations, at some point someone will mention Francis Fukuyama and his 1992 book, The End of History. Published in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa and waves of democratization across Latin America, it was a triumphant cry of victory. Democracy had won. Democracy had answered, definitively, the ages-old question that had driven human history for millennia, namely: What ideas should govern society?