Anatomy of Next

By Founders Fund

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In the second season of Anatomy of Next, explore every aspect of going to Mars, transforming it into a habitable world, and building a new branch of human civilization. How do we bring a cold, dead planet back to life? Can we build an atmosphere on Mars, thaw the frozen plains, and build an ocean? How do we seed a barren land with life, and make a red Mars green? Then, it’s everything from politics and education to money, music, and architecture. What does it mean to be human on an alien world?

Episode Date
ASYLUM #3 — Trivial Pursuit
In San Francisco, how does government work? Who is in charge, what can they do — structurally, what are they actually capable of? — and most importantly: what are they focused on? A look at our Board of Supervisors, its apparent war on growth (and possibly tech), and an argument for moving forward (spoiler alert: you just have to vote (sorry)) Featuring: Trisha Thadani (San Francisco Chronicle), Teddy Schleifer (Recode)
Oct 14, 2020
Daniela Perdomo // A New Signal
There's almost nothing more terrifying than losing communication in the heat of a blazing wildfire. In recent months, California has been brought to its knees by natural disaster. Now more than ever we need the help of our firefighters, and to keep them safe. An entirely centralized communication infrastructure is a single point of failure we just can't risk. Daniela Perdomo is the founder and CEO of goTenna, the future of decentralized communication. Today, her work, inspired by the communication blackouts of Hurricane Sandy and a passion for fixing this critical problem, keeps everyone from soldiers and FEMA operators to wildland firefighters in communication while they work to save lives. And beyond disaster? There are no shortage of applications for this technology. Daniela and I talked about decentralized communication, the origins of her work, communication infrastructure and public infrastructure more broadly, and what exactly does a city fully reconceived for the 21st Century look like?
Sep 10, 2020
Fnnch // Brand New Paint Job
Who owns our streets? Our bus and train stops? Our public walls and public parks? If public property truly belongs to the public, can members of the public (which is to say: us) do with our property whatever we want? And on the absolute ground floor, can we not just... make it all look a little bit nicer? Fnnch is an artist based in San Francisco, and the man behind the famous honey bear, which locals have seen... pretty much everywhere. Here, the bear is more than a cute apparition, it's a symbol of a 21st century philosophy of art, and a controversial way of thinking about public space. Among many things, Fnnch talked with host Mike Solana about art, the nature of art, celebrity, modernity, the tragedy of the commons, Burning Man (an actual city of art), and the nature of public property.
Aug 27, 2020
Matthew Putman // Nano City
Consider the computer mouse. It takes a massive, sprawling, global system, and thousands of parts and people from all over the world, many months, or even years after conceptualization, and design, to get that product to your desk. But what if you could do it all in a "factory" the size of your one-bedroom apartment… in a building down the street? I sat down with Matthew Putnam and talked about the future of manufacturing. In the first place, everything is getting smaller. We talked about his company’s journey from the microscope, his grand ambition with the work, the future of nanotechnology, the factory that lives inside your bedroom, and what this all means for the future of our city. It’s distributed, decentralized manufacturing. Welcome to the nano-factory.
Aug 04, 2020
Alexis Rivas // House Factory
Separate from our government's anti-housing policies, a big piece of our crisis in affordability comes down to the way we think about new homes. In Japan, for example, where housing is significantly more affordable, newer homes are far more popular than older homes, and this has galvanized both construction and prefabrication. At scale, this reduces cost. I interviewed Alexis Rivas about his company, Cover, and the prefabrication market in our own country. We talked about what exactly prefab homes are, the history of prefabs in America, how technology is improving the prefab process, and how this kind of thing could dramatically reduce housing costs in the United States.
Jul 28, 2020
ASYLUM #2 — Legalize Housing
The housing crisis is the root of almost every serious challenge San Francisco faces. From property to construction to regulation, when it’s possible to build at all it’s too expensive to meaningfully increase supply. Because it’s too expensive to build here, most people can’t afford to live here. So let’s get into it: why does the housing crisis exist, in what ways is it unique to the Bay Area, and how do we fix this? How do we finally start building again? Featuring: Keith Rabois (Founders Fund), Trisha Thadani (San Francisco Chronicle), River Davis (Wall Street Journal), and Kim-Mai Cutler (Initialized Capital)
Jun 29, 2020
Andrew Farah // Density
Almost every infrastructural challenge our cities face begins with the question of density. How many people are actually in the city? Where are they spending their time? Which trains are overcrowded? What about parks? Sidewalk traffic? San Francisco has one of the worst housing crises in history. Which of our buildings are being used at capacity? Without an answer to these questions it's impossible to effectively build. So how do we measure these things? I talked with Andrew Farah, CEO of Density, about the work his company has done in the space, and the now essential work they're doing to help our businesses and cities fight back against the pandemic.
Jun 17, 2020
Ryan Delk // School is Not a Place
Ryan Delk is the founder and CEO of Primer, a company rethinking the way we educate our children, beginning with tools to help out homeschoolers. If we started over today, with today's technology, with today's educational research, and with everything we’ve learned about learning this past century — if you could start our approach to education over, from scratch — what would you build?
May 27, 2020
Joshua Browder // An Army of Robotic Lawyers
Overcomplicated bureaucracy has been a plague on human productivity, with a disproportionately adverse affect on the poor and poorly connected, for hundreds of years, and with each year that passes it gets worse. Enter: your personal army of robotic lawyers. I sat down with Joshua Browder to talk about his company DoNotPay, and his mission to empower everyday citizens caught in some manner of bureaucratic nightmare with no friends in local politics to help them out of it. How do we fight back against a thoughtless system? Why is our legal framework so confusing that we need a lawyer in the first place? And how do we build something that makes sense?
May 12, 2020
Delian Asparouhov // Machines That Drive
As we continue our conversation on the city, we turn to traffic and begin with the big related tech story — what happened to self-driving cars? In this episode, my colleague Delian provides a lay of the land for the space, and we talk about a world of perfect self-driving cars. What does that look like? Would it have any impact on traffic? If not, what? Why is this important? We also talk about tech risk broadly, shortening the feedback loops of human decision making, collecting data for self-driving cars, different approaches to this, and artificial intelligence, why it seems like all of this has gone a little slower, frankly, than folks were hoping a few years ago, and how it’s shaping up today.
May 01, 2020
Ryan Petersen // Global Trade and Civilization
How do we get our stuff? Ryan Petersen is the founder and CEO of Flexport, a freight forwarding and customs brokerage company. We sat down to talk about the nature of trade, a literally ancient system that has been the lifeblood of global commerce, and by extension human civilization, since the dawn of time. How is technology changing that system? How *should* that system change? And how do we apply some of the logistical lessons we've learned from our success in modernizing ancient trade to the improvement of our cities?
Apr 21, 2020
ASYLUM #1 — Boomtown, USA
This season on Anatomy of Next we return to Earth, and we take a look around the neighborhood. How do our cities work, where do they need work, and what do we build next? We open in our hometown. San Francisco should be the greatest city in the world. What went wrong, and how do we fix it?
Apr 13, 2020
NEW WORLD #11 — Interstellar
SEASON TWO FINALE: and we enter the galaxy. From an atmosphere and an ocean to genetically-modified flora, new AR construction paradigms, and the directed evolution of our second branch of human civilization, we’ve created a new world on Mars. But what comes next for humanity? Let’s take a look at the mechanics of interstellar travel in antimatter propulsion, hibernation technology, and time dilation. Then, why are we doing this? In our concluding episode we talk about the shape of the universe, we push back against the heat death of reality, and let’s just go ahead and ask the question: what is the meaning of life?
Feb 22, 2019
Kai-Fu Lee // China
This season we've talked a lot about different ways of doing things. Now let's talk about a country that IS doing things differently — at least... differently than the United States. We sat down with Kai-Fu Lee, author of AI Superpowers, to talk about artificial intelligence, China, and what the Chinese technology strategy means for America and Europe.
Feb 18, 2019
NEW WORLD #10 — Sex in Space, Part One
Sex, reproduction, and marriage have been linked for most of human history, but today that paradigm is evolving. This season of Anatomy of Next we've looked at every aspect of turning Mars into a habitable world. Now what about the changes in biology that are going to alter the way we populate our world? From artificial gametes derived from skin cells and genetically-modified embryos to babies in bags, polyamory, and the heteroflexible astronaut – let's talk about sex.
Feb 12, 2019
NEW WORLD #10 — Sex in Space, Part Two
In our last episode, we looked at the technologies that are fundamentally changing biological reproduction. Now, we conclude that conversation with a look at the human relationship. What is a healthy relationship on Earth, and what might it look like in space? Or Mars? We explore the problems we're currently facing in love, and we imagine a healthy path forward: new paradigms for navigating conflict, an exploration of monogamy in the context of polyamory, and let's go ahead and talk about the heteroflexible astronaut. This is the future of sex.
Feb 12, 2019
NEW WORLD # 9 — Multiplanar Humanity
Augmented and virtual realities are introducing a digital layering to the human experience that will dramatically impact every city of the future. In “Multiplanar Humanity” we explore the complications and potential of a multi-layered world, starting with one of the more practical applications of augmented reality technology — construction, and a look at how the first city on Mars will be built. Then, we complicate the story, and take a peak inside that next, totally virtual layer of human civilization. From communication and leisure to education and love, this is the future of reality.
Feb 04, 2019
Christina Lomasney // Material Advance, Part Two
In our second episode on materials science, we take a look at metal. Christina Lomasney is the CEO of Modumetal, a company nanoscopically-engineering alloys. In a wide-ranging conversation, we talked about her work at Modumetal, the Martian applications of her work, the decentralized city, and the democratization of engineering.
Feb 02, 2019
Dan Widmaier // Material Advance, Part One
Dan Widmaier is the founder and CEO of Bolt Threads. They make materials from nature that are high performance, but hard to extract, and develop technology that makes the scaling of production on these materials possible. Today, they're making spider silk affordable to the average consumer. We're designing a new world, and to build our new world we'll necessarily be developing new materials. But before we start inventing, let’s take a close look at what already exists in nature, and develop technologies capable of making the most of these resources.
Jan 31, 2019
Paul Dabrowski // Biological Factory
What if you could plant a seed, and grow a building? A few episodes ago we talked to Paul Dabrowski, CEO of Synthego, a company building tools that help biologists. Paul's hope for the field of synthetic biology is a path to curing all disease. But in a world of further biological understanding, there are few limits to what we can grow. Let’s talk about the biological factory.
Jan 30, 2019
Adrian Aoun // Martian Sick Day
As we plan the shape of our future Martian capital, we continue our conversation with Adrian Aoun, founder of Forward, a company changing the way we think about the doctor. In our last episode we spoke broadly about the world — the way policy and design affect our lives today, and some of the ways they could or should change in the 21st Century. Today, we speak a little more specifically: how do we improve healthcare?
Jan 26, 2019
NEW WORLD #8 — City in the Stars
What will the first city on Mars look like? From a brief history of urban planning and utopianism on Earth, to selecting the site for our first colony on Mars, and laying down a new philosophy of city planning with an expert at the intersection of technology and civilization, we're laying our foundation. We've built a new world, now how will we be living on that world?
Jan 24, 2019
Palmer Luckey // A New Defense
Technology has changed the nature of the threats our society is facing, but the defense industry is still mostly approaching these questions with a twentieth century mindset. Before we can make meaningful progress, we have to change our approach to the question. We sat down with Palmer Luckey to talk about his new company, Anduril, and the application of innovative thinking native to the technology industry to the problem of securing human civilization.
Jan 21, 2019
Technology and Defense at Founders Fund HQ
Founders Fund recently hosted a panel on defense: a conversation at the intersection of the U.S. government and the technology industry, or D.C. vs. Silicon Valley. Moderated by Dan Primack, and featuring Chris Lynch, Heather Podesta, and Trae Stephens. Technology has changed the nature of the threats our society is facing, but the defense industry is still generally approaching these questions with a twentieth century mindset. Before we can make meaningful progress in the space, we need to reconceptualize our approach to the question. But before we dig any further into the specifics of the technology, and developments we’re starting to see on that front, it’s worth talking about the government — our current relationship, and how we might improve the way we work together.
Jan 16, 2019
NEW WORLD # 7 — Make Man Martian
What if instead of changing the Martian environment to better suit human life... we changed the human being — genetically? In conversation with Josiah Zayner, George Church, and Paul Dabrowski, we take a look at redesigning the human being into a species capable of thriving on an alien world. Then, what are the ethical concerns of biological self-determination, and why are people so afraid of genetic engineering?
Jan 15, 2019
Lewis Dartnell // The Knowledge
What if we had to rebuild human civilization from scratch — on Earth? Could you build a power plant with your own hands and some raw material? Let's start smaller: what about the printing press? We sat down with Lewis Dartnell, author of the Knowledge, to talk about our world of cascading, interrelated invention, how one might go about rebuilding it in a worst case scenario, and how to keep ours safe.
Jan 15, 2019
Gabriel Licina // Biohackers
In this supplemental episode we sit back down with biologist Gabriel Licina, founder of Sci-House, a small nonprofit running community education, outreach, and research in synthetic biology. Gabriel unpacks the term "biohacker," and expands on both his work and some of the applications in synthetic biology we'll be using on Mars.
Jan 09, 2019
NEW WORLD #6 — Alien Ecology
Anatomy of Next returns, and we design the Martian forests and fields. We've built an atmosphere on Mars, warmed the planet, and jumpstarted it's hydrologic cycle — from a frozen, irradiated desert to thunderstorms on a warm equator. Now, what about life? How do you grow crops on sterile, toxic soil with limited carbon and nitrogen? We talk to experts in microbiology and genetic engineering, and we start our work on ecohacking the once red — now blue — Planet Mars.
Jan 04, 2019
Jamie Hyneman // Eureka deconstructed
Invention proceeds from ideation, but where do ideas come from? Jamie Hyneman is best known for his work on the Discovery Channel TV show Mythbusters, which he hosted for 14 and a half years. Prior to that he ran a special effects shop in San Francisco for decades, inventing work on over 800 commercials and dozens of feature films. He’s made a career of building new things. We talked about how.
Oct 21, 2018
Maisie Williams // Art, identity, and this is your brain on Twitter
Separate from the question of how to build a world is the question of what makes a world worth living in. Let’s talk about art. Maisie Williams is an actor most commonly known for her performance in Game of Thrones, and cofounder of a new startup called Daisie. She wants to help artists find each other and build careers. We talked about the changing nature of artistic collaboration, social media, fame, and identity.
Oct 02, 2018
Dan Kaminsky // Security
In an age of digital identity, how do we protect ourselves in an increasingly insecure world? In 2008, Dan Kaminsky identified a critical flaw in the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) and led the largest synchronized fix to the internet’s infrastructure of all time. Today, he’s Chief Scientist and cofounder of White Ops. Topics include: the great cities of the world that were proven vulnerable, and burned to the ground, computer worms, why it’s easier than ever to hit the WHOLE world with an attack, crypto’s role in proliferating these attacks, evil hacking as a kind of mind control!, how – in the context of Mars – to start over and get security right, and building an elite team of security hackers dedicated to fighting crime and fixing bugs around the world.
Aug 29, 2018
Barbara Moreau // Raising astronauts
Nothing can be achieved without some convincing that it’s possible – we need to be inspired. Barbara Moreau was my third grade teacher, and one of the most decorated leaders of the Young Astronaut Council, a United States education initiative focused on fostering interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Mrs. Moreau contextualized my early space traveling dreams in reality, and taught all of her students that the exploration and colonization of new worlds was not only possible but necessary. More than twenty years later, we talked about the program that changed my life, how teachers might inspire children toward great pursuits today, and what it was like watching the first moon landing.
Aug 13, 2018
Nick Bostrom // Superbrains and simulated worlds
What happens when the most intelligent being on earth is smarter than the average human by an order of magnitude? Dr. Nick Bostrom is Director of the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. We talked about the dramatic amplification of human, or machine intelligence – what that hypothetical superintelligence would look like, how we might build it, and what it could mean for the human race.
Jul 29, 2018
George Church // Genetically modified everything
Dr. George Church leads Synthetic Biology at Harvard’s Wyss Institute. Author of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, he is one of the foremost thinkers in biological self-determination. Could we take control of our genome, and direct its evolution? Should we? In our conversation we explored genetic engineering broadly, as “the nanotechnology that works,” the morality of this technology, and the future of the field.
Jul 16, 2018
Stuart Armstrong // Dyson swarms and death rays
Dr. Stuart Armstrong researches the potential for intelligent life across the universe. In this work, he’s speculated on the kinds of engineering we should expect from an advanced civilization, most commonly the Dyson structure. In our conversation we explored how a civilization might theoretically capture the entire energy output of a star, how we might build something like this ourselves, and how that energy might be used to warm – or vaporize – planetary objects in our solar system.
Jul 02, 2018
bonus: what's coming up
The AON team tells you what's up next for the podcast.
Jun 17, 2018
Chris McKay // What if there’s life on Mars?
Let’s talk about the ethics of terraforming. Dr. Chris McKay is a Senior Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center’s Planetary Systems Branch and is actively involved in the planning of future Mars missions. If we encounter alien life on another world, what is our moral responsibility to that life, and how do we balance this responsibility with exploration and colonization?
Jun 17, 2018
NEW WORLD #5 — Let's Build an Ocean
Mars is a frozen, irradiated desert world with almost no hope for life…but it doesn’t have to be. In this episode, we explore the mechanics of building a Martian atmosphere, warming the planet, thawing the ice caps, jump-starting a new hydrologic cycle, and bringing back the Martian oceans.
Jun 10, 2018
NEW WORLD #4 — How to Die in Outer Space
Martian colonization is one of the most dangerous goals humanity has ever undertaken, and there are no shortage of ways to die in space. From radiation exposure to literally going crazy, let’s troubleshoot a couple of our greatest risks, and work out a heuristic for tackling the rest.
Jun 03, 2018
NEW WORLD #3 — Strange Rockets
In Episode 2.3, we look at “strange” rockets: nuclear, antimatter, and ion thrust. The tremendous amount of time it takes to move through space has isolated humanity from the cosmos. But burning rocket fuel is not the only way to travel the stars.
May 28, 2018
NEW WORLD #2 — Malthus was Wrong
Why is Mars important? In Episode 2.2, we explore the philosophies that dominate our thinking on the subject of Mars — humanism and anti-humanism. Then, how do you build something with a time horizon of 100 years? Optimism is useful, but determinate thinking is essential.
May 19, 2018
NEW WORLD #1 — New World
Before we can approach the task of building humanity’s second home on Mars, we need to get there. In Episode 2.1, we explore the most likely shape of our first mission to the Red Planet.
May 11, 2018
TEASER: Fermi's Paradox
If it’s probable intelligent alien life exists, where’s the evidence? In our season two teaser – Episode 2.0 – we discuss Fermi’s paradox. This episode also introduces the topic of our second season: humanity building its first new world on Mars.
Aug 21, 2017
[Archive: UTOPIA #5]
In Episode 1.5, we explore virtual, augmented, and simulated worlds. What is the nature of reality?
Jul 12, 2016
[Archive: UTOPIA #4]
In Episode 1.4, we conclude our look at robotics, and we challenge commonly held fears regarding machine intelligence. The “angry god” AI of The Terminator is an over-hyped myth. Here’s why.
Jul 05, 2016
[Archive: UTOPIA #3]
In Episode 1.3, our first week on robotics, we look at the automation of labor. We explore how humans are currently living and working with machines, and how this might change in the near future.
Jun 28, 2016
[Archive: UTOPIA #2]
In Episode 1.2, we explore the fear and potential of biotechnology. We speak with experts from the FBI as well as scientists and engineers working in the industry, and we challenge our culture’s Jurassic Park hysteria.
Jun 06, 2016
[Archive: UTOPIA #1]
In Episode 1.1, we investigate and debunk popular fears surrounding nuclear technology, and highlight promising innovations in the field.
May 26, 2016