Cover art for podcast Flash Forward

Flash Forward

103 EpisodesProduced by Rose EvelethWebsite

Flash Forward is a show about possible (and not so possible) future scenarios. What would the warranty on a sex robot look like? How would diplomacy work if we couldn’t lie? Could there ever be a fecal transplant black market? (Complicated, it wouldn’t, and yes, respectively, in case you’re curious.… read more

19:23

Face Off

Welcome to season two of Flash Forward! We kicked off this season with a pretty unlikely future: the entire world goes face blind. 

 

 In the episode we discuss what causes face blindness — also known as prosopagnosia — and the tricks that people use to remember their friends. We also go through all the things that would be easier (spying, hiding) and harder (police lineups, cocktail parties) in a world where we were all faceblind. 

 

 Today, about two percent of the population has some form of face blindness, or prosopagnosia. Some people with prosopagnosia have a hard time with acquaintances, while others struggle to recognize their own family members, and sometimes even themselves. If after this you’re thinking “hm, I wonder if I’m face blind,” you can take an unofficial online test here. 

 

 To figure out what this world might be like, I called up Dr. Jason Barton, a neurologist at the University of British Columbia who treats and studies people with face blindness. He told me that face blindness can happen for a lot of reasons: some people are born with it, and others acquire the trouble after a stroke, infection, tumor, or other kind of brain injury. You’ll have to listen to the episode to learn how it happens to all of us at once.

 

 I also talked to two people who are face blind, since they have the best sense for what this might be like for the rest of us. Lisa Huang, a science fiction writer, and Jaydeep Bardhan, a mechanical engineering professor at Northeastern University, told me all sorts of really interesting things about how they do, or don’t remember people. Movies and TV shows? Tough for people with face blindness, especially when all the actors look the same. 

 

 We also talked about things like hair and makeup, how people might try to visually distinguish themselves when they can’t rely on their face to do it for them. And Barton suggested a whole other way to recognize people that has nothing to do with faces. 

 

 There’s a great Ted Chiang short story called “Liking What You See: A Documentary” about facial recognition. The story focuses not on face-blindness, but instead, the piece talks about a world in which people can elect to have their perception of beauty turned off. So nobody has an advantage for being prettier than anybody else. But according to Dr. Jason Barton, some people with prosopagnosia also struggle to tell things like age, sex, mood and even beauty of another face in front of them. 

 

 And in case you didn’t think this episode was dark enough, here’s another take on face blindness: a short film in which someone locks eyes with the perpetrator of a horrible crime, but can’t remember his face because he’s face blind. 

 

 What do you think? How might we get around face blindness? Would we just give up? Would we all wear go-pros and google glasses around? Would name tags come back into style?

 

 Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose Eveleth, and is part of the Boing Boing podcast family. The (awesome) art for this episode is by Matt Lubchansky. The intro music is by Asura and the Outtro music is by Broke for Free. The music for your drive time radio host was The Zombie Dandies. The voice of your drive time radio host was Mike Pesca, who is also the host of the not-fictional daily Slate podcast The Gist. The voice of our trusty scientist was Bethany Brookshire, you can follow her on Twitter at @scicurious. And the voice of our lovely public radio reporter was Tamara Krinsky, you can find her at @tamarakrinsky. 

 

 If you want to suggest a future we should take on, send us a note on Twitter, Facebook or by email at info@flashforwardpod.com. We love hearing your ideas! This week's episode was suggested by Charlie Loyd. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Listen to Flash Forward

RadioPublic

A free podcast app for iPhone and Android

  • User-created playlists and collections
  • Download episodes while on WiFi to listen without using mobile data
  • Stream podcast episodes without waiting for a download
  • Queue episodes to create a personal continuous playlist
RadioPublic on iOS and Android
Or by RSS
RSS feed
https://feeds.megaphone.fm/PPY8359579005

Connect with listeners

Podcasters use the RadioPublic listener relationship platform to build lasting connections with fans

Yes, let's begin connecting
Browser window

Find new listeners

  • A dedicated website for your podcast
  • Web embed players designed to convert visitors to listeners in the RadioPublic apps for iPhone and Android
Clicking mouse cursor

Understand your audience

  • Capture listener activity with affinity scores
  • Measure your promotional campaigns and integrate with Google and Facebook analytics
Graph of increasing value

Engage your fanbase

  • Deliver timely Calls To Action, including email acquistion for your mailing list
  • Share exactly the right moment in an episode via text, email, and social media
Icon of cellphone with money

Make money

  • Tip and transfer funds directly to podcastsers
  • Earn money for qualified plays in the RadioPublic apps with Paid Listens