Radio documentary on RAND Corporation

Randddddd Last year, UK journalist and fringe explorer Ken Hollings produced a fascinating radio documentary on the history of the RAND Corporation, the prototypical think tank that began sixty years ago essentially as a research arm for the US military. RAND has counted an amazing array of big thinkers as affiliates over the last 60 years, including John von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Kenneth Arrow, and Paul Baran, who invented packet switching. In 1968, Baran and other researchers wanted to take their future forecasting methodologies out of the classified realm and so formed Institute for the Future, the non-profit thinktank where I'm fortunate enough to work as a researcher. Hollings's book, Welcome To Mars: Science and the American Century, 1947-1959, is forthcoming from Strange Attractor Press.

RAND: All Your Tomorrows Today (, thanks Mark Pilkington!)


  1. If this is as good as his Welcome To Mars podcast-rebroadcast, then it is sure to be a treat. It may even be an abridged version of the same content, as WtM talked quite a bit about the Rand Corp.

    More infos here…

    “Welcome to Mars


    Ken Hollings presents a live twelve-part series of unscripted reflections on the fantasy of science in the early years of the American Century

    With electronic sound production by Simon James

    Between 1947 and 1959, the future was written about, discussed and analysed with such confidence that it became a tangible presence. This is a story of weird science, strange events and even stranger beliefs, set in an age when the possibilities for human development seemed almost limitless.”

    And its worth listening to just for the sounds…

  2. as a kid I always associated Rand with cold war bomb shelters, love of everything nuclear, and Dr. Strangelove scenarios.
    “we must not allow a big thinkers gap!”

  3. Eh, I listened to a good chunk of it yesterday. I’m unimpressed.

    Basically the story doesn’t get past the “wow!” factor — wow, they joke about 10’s of millions of deaths! wow, they ‘game’ on soviet vs. us world war! wow, they talk about… all sorts of extreme things.

    Then the trivial moral polarization — yes, we know they were sometimes terrible people thinking terrible thoughts, and sometimes decent people thinking terrible thoughts. We KNOW that.

    Instead of the moral superiority tone that pervades — yeah yeah we all agree RANDs worldview is toxic — gives us some news, connections to the past and present that aren’t dripping with that trivial sort of ‘wow’ that anyone who’s read any of this sort of exposition — and there’s a lot of it, beleive me — might gain at least one new crumb of insight.

    I know BB has a policy of some sort on URLs in comments but this one of mine is directly related to RAND and it’s position in culture:

    Sigh, it got all woozy on stuff like ‘but [some RAND researcher] joked as he discussed 10’s of millions of deaths’. So?

    I get the ideological critique; I’m a cold war researcher and artist myself (see various at Of course they joked about mass-death scenarios; in itself that means nothing. It’

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