The Known World Podcast
You think that you understand technology but when you arrive at The Known World, you discover a land where software pirates sail the seven seas, Derek the Rocket Scientist holds a communal barn raising to install his solar roof, and the future of technology policy is perpetually debated by the Society for the Promotion of Goodness and its rival, the Association for the Prevention of Bad Things. These are some of the people and institutions that populate The Known World and help explain the nature of society and technology.

NOTE: This podcast is no longer being updated, but please explore this archive of the valuable content that was published while it was active.

Recent Episodes

By David Alan Grier
The Known World podcast is no longer updated. You can find David Alan Grier at Closer Than You Might Think, his blog about computing technologies.
By David Alan Grier
Although they might bring great utility to the world, innovations always involve fundamental challenges to the way we think.
By David Alan Grier
Information technology has not only expanded the scale and scope of global markets, it has also provided the means for probing the meaning of every give-and-take transaction.
By David Alan Grier
As technology has changed, the fundamental way of extracting meaning from data has also changed.
By David Alan Grier
While it might seem otherwise to most individuals, we live in an age of leisure as much as we live in an age of information or industry or globalization.
By David Alan Grier
As with all engineering problems, we need to balance the twin factors of stability and control and do so in a way that doesn’t damage either of them.
By David Alan Grier
Social networking has neither altered the way that technical knowledge is presented nor has it dislodged computer science from its central place in the technical canon.
By David Alan Grier
The task of building a smart grid requires us to solve two kinds of problems: technical and social.
By David Alan Grier
Crowdsourcing is one of the more intriguing forms of computation that employs markets.
By David Alan Grier
In the Internet’s artificial geography, an organization is identified by what it can do rather than by where it’s located.
By David Alan Grier
In most circumstances, computing has faded into the background of our lives as part of the global infrastructure. However, it still has the ability to remind of us its presence.
By David Alan Grier
The grand ideas that led to the 1991 High-Performance Computing Act shaped the modern Internet only as they sifted through layers of the vertical division of labor.
By David Alan Grier
As we look to the future, we must not only anticipate a year of innovation and progress but also a migration of labor that will remake the field of digital technology.
By David Alan Grier
The task of navigating the information hierarchy is harder than we would like to think and involves more uncertainty than we care to admit.
By David Alan Grier
The idea that an organized team of computer scientists might have created a major worm comes at an uneasy time for engineers.
By David Alan Grier
Activities that attempt to coordinate the contributions of the general public with the Internet have a way of disciplining work and overcoming gross inefficiencies with mass labor.
By David Alan Grier
When we adopt augmentative technologies, we usually find that we have to adjust our ideas, goals, and habits to fit our new tool.
By David Alan Grier
The practices of engineering and computer science are influenced by the same forces that shape manual labor and office work. Occasionally, it’s useful to reassess our skills and question the value of our training.
By David Alan Grier
Games on the internet, Wikipedia, and Diderot, and the structure of knowledge.
By David Alan Grier
In the modern age, identity may not be a name or a number. It’s a story. And the question may be “who owns it?"
By David Alan Grier
The failure of a complex product tells just as much about how the organization operates as it does about the skill of individual workers.
By David Alan Grier
No matter what we may believe, scientific practice often begins with a season when we don’t know what we know.
By David Alan Grier
Invention and discovery are both creative acts, and both require us to place new ideas within a context or infrastructure.
By David Alan Grier
Who stands watch over a software engineering project to ensure that a job is well done and every individual has learned what he or she needs to know?
By David Alan Grier
A good technological design requires substantial effort that shapes both the social and technical sides of an artifact.
By David Alan Grier
David talks about the origins of the podcast and what’s in store for upcoming episodes.
By David Alan Grier
Without a human organization that can sift information and raise the gold from the dust, knowledge will die as rumor and innuendo will overwhelm any truth that may be making the rounds.
By David Alan Grier
Potential customers will be interested in new technology only if it somehow makes their lives better—if it moves them toward a goal they hold for themselves, their family, their company.
By David Alan Grier
Part 4: Like many of the accomplishments of software engineering, connecting the grid to a virtual machine is a way of hiding information, of allowing programmers to focus on the task they want to complete and ignore details beyond that task.
By David Alan Grier
Part 3: Like many of the accomplishments of software engineering, connecting the grid to a virtual machine is a way of hiding information, of allowing programmers to focus on the task they want to complete and ignore details beyond that task.
By David Alan Grier
Part 2: Like many of the accomplishments of software engineering, connecting the grid to a virtual machine is a way of hiding information, of allowing programmers to focus on the task they want to complete and ignore details beyond that task.
By David Alan Grier
Like many of the accomplishments of software engineering, connecting the grid to a virtual machine is a way of hiding information, of allowing programmers to focus on the task they want to complete and ignore details beyond that task.
By David Alan Grier
Part 4: Gunshot detection systems are a form of geographical information system, a technology that has expanded rapidly in the past two decades and has substantially altered how we deal with the physical landscape.
By David Alan Grier
Part 3: Gunshot detection systems are a form of geographical information system, a technology that has expanded rapidly in the past two decades and has substantially altered how we deal with the physical landscape.
By David Alan Grier
Part 2: Gunshot detection systems are a form of geographical information system, a technology that has expanded rapidly in the past two decades and has substantially altered how we deal with the physical landscape.
By David Alan Grier
Gunshot detection systems are a form of geographical information system, a technology that has expanded rapidly in the past two decades and has substantially altered how we deal with the physical landscape.
By David Alan Grier
Becoming a professional means joining the family, with all the rights, responsibilities, and discipline that come with membership.
By David Alan Grier
Becoming a professional means joining the family, with all the rights, responsibilities, and discipline that come with membership.
By David Alan Grier
Becoming a professional means joining the family, with all the rights, responsibilities, and discipline that come with membership.
By David Alan Grier
Becoming a professional means joining the family, with all the rights, responsibilities, and discipline that come with membership.
By David Alan Grier
In computer science education, we tend to emphasize the knowledge that we need to impart to our students and the skills they need to develop, but we generally fail to talk about the emotional and cultural aspects of their growth.
By David Alan Grier
In computer science education, we tend to emphasize the knowledge that we need to impart to our students and the skills they need to develop, but we generally fail to talk about the emotional and cultural aspects of their growth.
By David Alan Grier
In computer science education, we tend to emphasize the knowledge that we need to impart to our students and the skills they need to develop, but we generally fail to talk about the emotional and cultural aspects of their growth.
By David Alan Grier
In computer science education, we tend to emphasize the knowledge that we need to impart to our students and the skills they need to develop, but we generally fail to talk about the emotional and cultural aspects of their growth.
By David Alan Grier
Electronic systems change the flow of work, the habits of thought, the way we perceive our activities. In the case of healthcare, such changes could easily produce a system that is radically different from the one we know.
By David Alan Grier
As Web technology moved from the laboratory to the public sphere, website design moved from being the product of a single individual to become the responsibility of a group.
By David Alan Grier
Step by faltering step, the front page has been vanishing from the American news industry.
By David Alan Grier
Virtual machines are a technology that was invented in one era, overlooked in a second, and rediscovered in a third.
By David Alan Grier
Part 2: In addition to reducing the time it took to pay for purchases, bar codes and scanners provided a system that would track inventory, reduce theft, and provide data to help merchants understand how their goods were purchased.
By David Alan Grier
Building an adaptive power grid requires cooperation, getting a common agreement among a large collection of engineers, investors, policy makers, corporate executives, and voters.
By David Alan Grier
The business community has long embraced the notion that progress is an evolutionary process that comes with markets, competition, and the survival of the fittest.
By David Alan Grier
In just a handful of years, social networking tools have become part of our daily work and conversation.
By David Alan Grier
We are told that we must learn from failure, but agreement with this principle does little to foster its enactment in the face of persistent psychological and organizational barriers.
By David Alan Grier
We are told that we must learn from failure, but agreement with this principle does little to foster its enactment in the face of persistent psychological and organizational barriers.
By David Alan Grier
We are told that we must learn from failure, but agreement with this principle does little to foster its enactment in the face of persistent psychological and organizational barriers.
By David Alan Grier
We are told that we must learn from failure, but agreement with this principle does little to foster its enactment in the face of persistent psychological and organizational barriers.
By David Alan Grier
We are beginning to assess the impact of digital technologies and are starting to devise strategies to handle the changes that computers have wrought upon the environment.
By David Alan Grier
The technologies that we have deployed over the past two decades have given us new ability to manage activities at a distance.
By David Alan Grier
The technologies that we have deployed over the past two decades have given us new ability to manage activities at a distance.
By David Alan Grier
The technologies that we have deployed over the past two decades have given us new ability to manage activities at a distance.
By David Alan Grier
The technologies that we have deployed over the past two decades have given us new ability to manage activities at a distance.
By David Alan Grier
Hacking might occupy a special position—that gray area between the darkness and the light—because it touches not only on ethical issues but also on the very nature of computing itself.
By David Alan Grier
Hacking might occupy a special position—that gray area between the darkness and the light—because it touches not only on ethical issues but also on the very nature of computing itself.
By David Alan Grier
Hacking might occupy a special position—that gray area between the darkness and the light—because it touches not only on ethical issues but also on the very nature of computing itself.
By David Alan Grier
The story that takes India from the electrical infrastructure of 1966 to a modern infrastructure 40 years later is a parable for the free market.
By David Alan Grier
The story that takes India from the electrical infrastructure of 1966 to a modern infrastructure 40 years later is a parable for the free market.
By David Alan Grier
The story that takes India from the electrical infrastructure of 1966 to a modern infrastructure 40 years later is a parable for the free market.
By David Alan Grier
The story that takes India from the electrical infrastructure of 1966 to a modern infrastructure 40 years later is a parable for the free market.
By David Alan Grier
Embracing digital technology has had a profound impact on modern entertainment media, and can centralize the control over films and keep the producers in better touch with the audiences.
By David Alan Grier
Even though a project achieves its goal, it also can have unintended consequences.
By David Alan Grier
Even though a project achieves its goal, it also can have unintended consequences.
By David Alan Grier
In unleashing our treasure ships of software bits and bytes upon the world, we have also opened it up to a new generation of pirates.
By David Alan Grier
Trust is a difficult thing to engineer, as it involves history, character, and an ability to put aside your own goals for the good of the whole.
By David Alan Grier
Computer security shares the methods and goals of computer science as a whole but has a couple of features that set it apart.
By David Alan Grier
Our educational system does little to prepare computer science students for making the transition to the working world.
By David Alan Grier
The music industry’s story is a vivid reminder that entire industries can fail to see shifts in the market.
By David Alan Grier
Our current body politic is looking for a more robust voting mechanism that is secured by technology rather than by the competence and integrity of bean counters.
By David Alan Grier
The development of an information technology industry in the remains of the old Soviet Union brought the discipline of a market economy to the region.
By David Alan Grier
American automakers adopted computer controls to deal with complicated engineering problems only when pushed by forces beyond their control.
By David Alan Grier
More than any other piece of software, the spreadsheet demonstrated that the personal computer could be a useful business tool.
By David Alan Grier
Much of the strategy to fix the Y2K Problem followed the standard cycle of quality engineering.
By David Alan Grier
A story about community, cooperation and the sharing of labor in the world of Information Technology. It begins with the story of an aged lefty, talks about the development of computer users groups and gives a brief history of the Linux operating system.
By David Alan Grier
Linux and open source software represent a force that long predates the computer era: the notion of contributing to the common good.
   About the Author
David Alan Grier is a writer and scholar on computing technologies and was President of the IEEE Computer Society in 2013. He writes for Computer magazine. You can find videos of his writings at video.dagrier.net. He has served as editor in chief of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, as chair of the Magazine Operations Committee and as an editorial board member of Computer. Grier formerly wrote the monthly column "The Known World." He is an associate professor of science and technology policy at George Washington University in Washington, DC, with a particular interest in policy regarding digital technology and professional societies.