Today we published the final episode of Flash Forward 1.0. It’s not an ending, but it is an end. It’s a weird thing to try and communicate — a shift, rather than a finale. I’ve gone through a lot of metaphors that don’t really make sense. It’s not closing a door, but repainting it? It’s not putting something to bed, it’s having a different dream? I don’t know.
I’m honestly not quite sure what to say that can adequately sum up how I feel about ending the show in its current form. Flash Forward has been pretty much my whole life for the last seven years, and it’s been an incredible experience. I get to call up the smartest, most interesting people in the world and talk to them about how the future could look. I mean, really, it’s the dream job. Flash Forward has introduced me to incredible people, some of whom I get to call friends now. It’s offered me opportunities all over the world. It allowed me to write a book! My very own book! (Which, by the way, makes a great holiday present if you’re doing some last minute shopping while listening to this. Sorry.)
When I started Flash Forward I didn’t have an ethos about the future. I just thought it would be cool and fun to blend audio fiction and journalism to think about scenarios. And it totally was. But over the years I’ve really come to believe that doing this thing — thinking about the future in weird and creative ways — it really can make the world better. There is psychology research showing this, showing that people who practice imagining the future are happier, less anxious, feel more ready to take on what comes next. But even beyond that, being able to explore possibilities, to think critically about what we want to have happen, to identify the places we can make change, the ways we can push the future in directions we want to go… I think that’s how the world actually does get better. Things are pretty bleak right now — climate change, rising white nationalism, gun violence, the continued pandemic — it can feel like the future is hopeless. But there is real power in combining imagination and action, in thinking about what we want, and then identifying the ways we can go out and get it.
Flash Forward has been a completely independent show for its entire run. For most of the time, the show was made by these two hands typing this message, just me, myself, and an endless string of YouTube videos teaching me how to use ProTools. For the last two years I’ve been so lucky to work with Julia Llinas Goodman on the show. But even a tiny show like ours has a million people to thank for its existence. Annalee Newitz gave this idea a shot way back when at Gizmodo. Ben Riskin found us ads when I realized I was never going to get money from the big names to make it. Amanda McLoughlin saved us when another ad sales partner (no relation to Ben) failed us and didn’t sell a single ad on the entire season. Patrons and Time Travelers supported the show with their hard earned dollars during an economic crisis and a pandemic! Voice actors gamely played pirates and aliens and dogs and everything in between. Experts were willing to talk at length with me about the weirdest things I could think of! Listeners emailed me with ideas and feedback and insights.
The future isn’t made by any single person. It’s a collective effort. And I like to think that one of the big things that Flash Forward has achieved, over the last seven years, is a collective of people who are thinking about the future in ways that are generative and creative and realistic and hopeful.
I sometimes say that my hope with Flash Forward is to give people the tools to imagine the future. But it’s probably more accurate to say that Flash Forward has been a way for me to try and get those tools myself, and then share them with you. In a lot of ways it’s been my lifeline, the way that I try and make sense of the world and push for something better.
And so I hope that over the last seven years, you’ve also felt some solace here in these airwaves, knowing that there are people out there thinking about what tomorrow could be like, and working towards it. Knowing that you can be part of that, in all kinds of ways. Knowing that the future hasn’t happened yet, and that you get to have a say in how it does.
Flash Forward isn’t dead. We’ll be back next year with something completely new, and different. It will still be about the future, and about this idea of imagining what’s possible and how to reach it. I don’t know exactly how, or what it will look like, but that’s the fun part, right?
If you want to keep up with the show and get updates as we work towards the next version, you can sign up for the newsletter.
Until then, I hope you continue on in the Flash Forward spirit, and make better futures.