The First Million Downloads are the Hardest

After I received my monthly report from PodcastOne Australia, I did a bit of math and realised – sometime over the last 24 hours – I’d cross the one million download mark for THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS.

I can’t begin to express how chuffed (and shocked) I am by this.

THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS has always been a team effort – back in 2011, when it was just a book, Paul Bridgestock gave me excellent editing suggestions, and kept me encouraged.

In 2017, when my agent Phill McMartin approached me to pitch the newly franchised PodcastOne Australia, I had both something to refer to, and something to launch off from.

That’s when I got to meet Grant Tothill – who runs PodcastOne Australia – and started to work with my fantastic producer Alex Mitchell.

It took some time to figure out exactly what I was on about. I had energy, but very little direction in the first series. It was all over the map, precisely because there was so much territory to cover, so much of the future to explore.

In series two we settled down a bit, and dived into some of the deeper issues surrounding modern connected culture. It wasn’t as optimistic as I might like – and a few listeners did tell me that at times it was very rough going. Lesson learned: it’s not about hiding from the future, but neither is it about drowning in it.

The transition from show to channel includes many shows on future themes…

Last year I realised that I had the opportunity to turn a single program into a channel of programming: CRYPTONOMICS, THE NEXT BILLION GADGETS and THE NEXT BILLION CARS are the first examples of a ‘broadening’ of the kinds of shows you’ll find under the banner of THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS. Each are concerned with the future, but each also sees that future through its own filter.

There’s much more of that still to come.

It seems a bit surprising now that I had to pitch hard to get everyone onside for “1968: When the World Began”, the miniseries I got to create with my great friend Dr. Genevieve Bell. But they trusted us – and already that series sits very comfortably among the most downloaded episodes of THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS.

We’ve noted your interest – and there’ll be more where that came from.

Right now I’m learning how to coordinate and ‘show-run’ a podcast created on three different continents. THE NEXT BILLION CARS co-host Sally Dominguez lives in California, while special correspondent Drew Smith lives in Sweden. It takes a bit of coordinating (and FaceTime and clever mixing by Alex Mitchell) but somehow we’re managing to pull off a truly global view of the future of transportation.

And it feels as though all of this is just getting started. Podcasting is taking off, and the ability to create and share great stories at scale is growing with it.

That’s all because of you – because you keep listening and sharing and responding. Thank you for that.  

A million times thank you.

Mark Pesce
18 March 2019

1968: When the World Began – THE MOTHER OF ALL DEMOS

9 December 1968.

Modern computing begins with a ‘Big Bang’ — visionary Douglas Engelbart’s demo of a system designed to make everyone smarter.



Read Vannevar Bush’s article “As We May Think” on the Atlantic Monthly’s website.

Read Douglas Engelbart’s mind-bending 1962 research proposal, “Augmenting Human Intellect”.  Augmenting Human Intellect PDF

Here, in its full hundred-minute glory, is THE MOTHER OF ALL DEMOS:

1968: When the World Began – SWORD OF DAMOCLES

Ivan Sutherland – the Albert Einstein of interactivity – created SKETCHPAD, the first application that let users ‘draw’ onto a computer display. Five years later he followed that up with his ‘ultimate display’ – inventing virtual and augmented reality with a device nicknamed the SWORD OF DAMOCLES.

JCR Licklider‘s 1960 paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis” touched off a new wave of thinking of the computer as aid and amplifier of human capacity.
Read the PDF:  Licklider – Man-Computer Symbiosis

A video from Lincoln Labs, demonstrating some of the features of Ivan Sutherland’s SKETCHPAD, the first program that allowed you to draw to a computer display of an interactive computer, the TX-2:

And here’s the PDF of his 1965 paper: Sutherland – The Ultimate Display

By 1968, Sutherland was ready to show his ultimate display at the Fall Joint Computing Conference in San Francisco. Here’s what his ‘Sword of Damocles’ looked like in operation:

The proceedings for the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference paint the picture of computing at its pivot from arcane to mainstream, growing into greater interactivity. Here’s the stellar list of papers – featuring two by Sutherland, both foundational to VR and 3D graphics: FJCC Proceedings

1968: When the World Began – Part One: THE PIVOT

In ‘Cybernetic Serendipity’, the first exhibition of computer art, curator Jasia Reichardt presented a world where computers create with us.

Jasia introducing works in the Cybernetic Serendipity show:

Jasia’s 2014 retrospective of Cybernetic Serendipity:

In 2018, Jasia gave an hour-long public lecture on the 50th anniversary of Cybernetic Serendipity:

The book accompanying the Cybernetic Serendipity was recently republished to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the exhibition – read all about it (and maybe buy yourself a copy) here.

What can you say about Norbert Wiener?  Norbert invented whole branches of mathematics and computer science – and gave us the prefix ‘cyber-‘.

Rowland Emett‘s Forget-Me-Not with Peripheral Pachyderm

John Whitney‘s Permutations is among the very first computer animations:

Running Cola is Africa is one of the pieces from the IBM Computer Technics Group in Tokyo – and a very early piece of computer art:

Both Genevieve and I have a real soft spot for another work, Return to a Square:

In 1962, IBM taught a computer to sing ‘Daisy’ — which became the core scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  


Announcing “1968: When the World Began”

Mark Pesce & Dr. Genevieve Bell have co-written a four episode podcast series – “1968: When the World Began” – exploring transformations that completely rewrote the relationship between ourselves and our machines. 

On the 9th of December in 1968, Douglas Engelbart gave the ‘Mother of All Demos‘ – the most important hour in the history of computing, one that drew back the curtain on the world we all live in today.

Engelbart’s demo was the culmination of a wave of change that crested in 1968.

“1968: When the World Began” looks at the confluence of art, interactivity and intelligence augmentation that played out against the most chaotic year of the 20th century.

Episode One: THE PIVOT drops on Friday!

Episode 2.08 The Last Days of Reality (Part Two)

Back in July 2016, Pokémon Go opened the doors to the brave new world of augmented reality – an overnight success fifty years in the making. With companies like Magic Leap and Facebook working hard to create augmented reality ‘spectacles’, the next billion seconds will see us put our smartphones down — instead placing the screen over our eyes. We’ll like what we see in our new, “improved” reality – but who’s creating and controlling that reality? That’s a question confronting all of us at the dawn of “The Last Days of Reality”.

Here’s a taste:

Listen on iTunes

Or listen to the whole episode here:

(May not work outside of Australia and New Zealand)

Here’s all of the media and links mentioned in the episode:

First, video of Pokémon Go players in Ryde – as the situation was tipping out of control:

The article from the Sydney Morning Herald about Niantic removing the ‘Pokestops’ from Ryde in a game update – pleasing the local residents.

Here’s some early footage of the ‘Sword of Damocles’ – the very first augmented reality system:

Sega’s VirtuaVR system – which I helped design:

Which led to the Magic Leap One AR spectacles – being released in September 2018. Here’s an video about that:

Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 keynote at Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference, where he talks about how important augmented reality is to the future of Facebook:

Here’s that 2014 article from The Guardian about that infamous experiment where Facebook manipulated the emotions of 689,000 of its users – without telling them.

Finally, here’s HYPER-REALITY. You really want to watch all six minutes. It’s gold.

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.