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Future Tense podcast

Future Tense

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  ABC Radio  

A critical look at new technologies, new approaches and new ways of thinking, from politics to media to environmental sustainability.

A critical look at new technologies, new approaches and new ways of thinking, from politics to media to environmental sustainability.

 

#50

Disappearing cookies and a shortage of chips

Google has affirmed its decision to ban all third-party cookies from its popular Chrome browser by the end of 2023. Cookies have long under-pinned the business model for online marketing. Some analysts are predicting a “cookiepocalypse”.  But others say that’s hard to swallow. Also, the world is currently facing a global shortage of computer chips. We examine why that’s occurred and when the blockage is likely to shift. ... Read more

17 Oct 2021

29 MINS

29:06

17 Oct 2021


#49

Planning for a problematic future

We all know the value of planning, but in a complex, complicated and often confounding world it can be difficult knowing how to start. Scenario Planning is planning tool for uncertain situations - find out what it entails and how it might benefit organisations and businesses. ... Read more

10 Oct 2021

29 MINS

29:08

10 Oct 2021


#48

The atomisation of religious belief

The big traditional religions of the world are losing followers, but not just, as is commonly thought, to atheism and secularism. Religion as such won't die any time soon because human beings are “hard-wired” to believe in the religious and the supernatural. Some analysts say the world is experiencing a shift toward individualistic spiritual expression, including a return to paganism. ... Read more

03 Oct 2021

29 MINS

29:07

03 Oct 2021


#47

Should we really aim for sustainable development?

The terms “sustainability” and “sustainable development” are now so commonplace as to be meaningless – according to the sceptics. Worse still, a focus on sustainability, they say, can actually mask the very real problems we have in dealing with climate change and managing the world’s diminishing resources. ... Read more

26 Sep 2021

29 MINS

29:06

26 Sep 2021


#46

The Metaverse – turning life into one big online experience

Facebook’s CEO has spoken about changing the social media platform into a “metaverse” company and he’s pledged billions to the cause. The metaverse is a term Silicon Valley uses for the next stage of the internet: a world in which all activities are conducted in an immersive Virtual Reality environment. But would Zoom-weary humans want to live in such a world? And is it really just a cover for surveillance capitalism? ... Read more

19 Sep 2021

29 MINS

29:07

19 Sep 2021


#45

Big tech’s big challenge

New legislation aimed at curbing the power and influence of the big technology companies has been drawn up in both the United States and Europe. While in China, the government has already implemented sweeping changes to the way Chinese technology companies can operate in the PRC and beyond. So, have we now entered a new age of tech regulation? ... Read more

12 Sep 2021

29 MINS

29:06

12 Sep 2021


#44

Our long-term battle with short-term thinking

Is our inability to think long-term influenced by the sheer number of threats we face? In times of crisis, it seems, human beings find it harder to think beyond their immediate difficulties. We investigate. Also, new research on why threats of punishment often fail to deter bad behaviour; and we get an update on Seabed2030, the global initiative to map the ocean floor. ... Read more

05 Sep 2021

29 MINS

29:08

05 Sep 2021


#43

Link rot, pay walls and the perils of preservation

The cliché is that once something goes online, it’s up there forever. But the truth is that the Internet has a memory problem and some of what we’re losing – or could potentially lose – has significance and value. While archivists struggle with the challenge of preserving our digital record, the rise of pay walls present a particular problem. ... Read more

29 Aug 2021

29 MINS

29:06

29 Aug 2021


#42

AI inventors; “Affectivism” and the problem with Virtual Reality

An Australian court has given inventor status to a piece of Artificial Intelligence. It’s big news in the tech sector, but does it have real world significance? Also, a new research discipline called "Affectivism" – what is it and how will it influence our understanding of human behaviour? And why one New York researcher has labelled Virtual Reality the “rich white kid with famous parents” who “never stops failing upward”. ... Read more

22 Aug 2021

29 MINS

29:06

22 Aug 2021


#41

Bitcoin: silly speculation or the future of finance?

Almost every week, Bitcoin makes the headlines. Rollercoaster prices, environmental concerns and even the latest scams regularly make the news. But the sheer proliferation of stories surrounding Bitcoin has made it hard to understand what’s happening, let alone the technology itself. This week, Edwina Stott unpicks some of the biggest headlines in Bitcoin to get to the bottom of what’s really going on and what it means for the future. ... Read more

15 Aug 2021

29 MINS

29:06

15 Aug 2021


#40

A new alliance of democracies

President Joe Bidden wants to establish a new alliance of democracies to counter the rise of authoritarianism. He’s planning a global summit for later this year. But is such an alliance achievable in a 21st century marked by heightened geo-economic interdependency? Or is it simply a nostalgic yearning for the past? And if such an alliance could be formed, is the United States really up to the job of leading it?  ... Read more

08 Aug 2021

29 MINS

29:06

08 Aug 2021


#39

Outsourcing, automation and the messiness of global labour

Automation and outsourcing are dirty words for many people in Western countries worried about their future employment prospects. Developing countries are seen to be the major beneficiaries of off-shore labour, with multinationals hoovering up increased profits. But the reality is a lot more complex and even messy. Now, even developing countries are starting to feel the pain. ... Read more

01 Aug 2021

29 MINS

29:06

01 Aug 2021


#38

The trouble with Tech-driven farming

New technologies are transforming agriculture, but getting farmers to experiment with different tech combinations remains an issue. A technologically-infused approach can bring benefits, but it also carries risks. In the developing world it can sometimes undermine traditional farming practices and increase inequality. ... Read more

25 Jul 2021

29 MINS

29:07

25 Jul 2021


#37

Ransomware – a very 21st century crime

The rush to go digital during Covid-19 has coincided with a marked rise in ransomware attacks. Some have a political dimension, some are merely opportunistic, but all make sound business sense from a criminal perspective. We discuss the ins and outs of ransomware operations and meet a man whose job is to negotiate with the criminals. ... Read more

18 Jul 2021

29 MINS

29:07

18 Jul 2021


#36

A non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels

It’s time to attack the “supply side” of fossil fuels, activists argue. And the best way to do that is by establishing a fuel non-proliferation treaty similar to the one used for nuclear weapons. But what would it entail and could it ever work? Also, the sticky relationship between online personalisation and consent; and a call for CEOs to become the next target of automation. ... Read more

11 Jul 2021

29 MINS

29:06

11 Jul 2021


#35

Litigating our way out of climate change

Responses to climate change are often marked by frustration as much as fear. Those seeking to end our fossil-fuel dependency are increasingly turning to litigation to force the hands of companies and governments - often on human rights grounds. But do the courts have a legitimate role to play in leading the way? Or is this a form of judicial activism? ... Read more

04 Jul 2021

29 MINS

29:06

04 Jul 2021


#34

Some foresight about the future of foresight

Trying to predict the future is a timeless and time-consuming pursuit. Artificial Intelligence is increasingly being enlisted to the cause, but so too are “super-forecasters” – a new coterie of individuals with remarkable predictive powers. But what are their limits and what does their rise say about the still popular notion of collective intelligence – the wisdom of the crowd? Future Tense looks at the changing role of humans in forecasting.   ... Read more

27 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:06

27 Jun 2021


#33

What role will hydrogen play in our future?

Hydrogen is the energy du jour. It’s seen as a clean, smart alternative to fossil fuels, and major investments in its future are being made around the globe.   ... Read more

20 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:07

20 Jun 2021


#32

Rewilding: part two

In this edition we examine the natural forces at play in Europe where abandoned farmland is increasingly being reclaimed by wildlife. We also hear about Rewilding in an urban context. ... Read more

13 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:06

13 Jun 2021


#31

Rewilding to safeguard biodiversity

Rewilding is a conservation approach based on the reintroduction of lost animal species to their natural habitats. Its original manifestation was controversial because it centred on apex predators like wolves. But the approach has matured and advocates believe it now has a crucial role to play in securing future biodiversity levels. ... Read more

06 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:06

06 Jun 2021


#30

Is the process of ageing inevitable?

Some animals, like sea sponges, can live for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. They also never get cancer. Understanding why that’s the case has led scientists to question conventional notions of ageing. The idea that future humans may never grow old now seems theoretically possible. ... Read more

30 May 2021

29 MINS

29:07

30 May 2021


#29

Is dumbness our destiny?

Most of us are healthier, wealthier and better educated than ever before. We have greater access to knowledge and expertise than any previous generation. So, why do humans keep doing stupid things? And why is the world awash with conspiracy? Have we already passed “peak intelligence”? And if so, what can we do to ensure a smarter future? ... Read more

23 May 2021

29 MINS

29:06

23 May 2021


#28

When satellites collide…

There’s been a huge increase in the number of satellites orbiting Earth with private companies and governments planning to launch hundreds more. Near-Earth orbit is already crowded, and the risks posed by space junk are increasing. The consequences could be catastrophic. ... Read more

16 May 2021

29 MINS

29:06

16 May 2021


#27

Teaching AI to fly like a bee

Scientists in the UK have developed a form of artificial intelligence that mimics the brain functions of a honeybee. The results promise to make drones and other flying craft far more manoeuvrable and crash-proof. Also, the dream of a “female internet”; and why mathematician, Hannah Fry, thinks all technologists should take a Hippocratic oath. ... Read more

09 May 2021

29 MINS

29:06

09 May 2021


#26

The power of storytelling – a cautionary tale

Stories like opinions have become a necessity of modern life.  Everybody is encouraged to have an opinion and everybody – in the vernacular of countless motivation speakers – is encouraged to be the “hero of their own story”. But are we in danger of making too much of them? If the story becomes the central device for much of our communication, do we risk losing our sense of objective reality?  ... Read more

02 May 2021

29 MINS

29:06

02 May 2021


#25

Are Sovereign Wealth Funds the best way of safeguarding the future?

Sovereign Wealth Funds come in all shapes and sizes. They act as government-backed investment vehicles. They’re used to fund specific social projects and to act as a nest-egg for future generations. There are currently around 150 in the world with global assets worth in excess of $USD 9 trillion. But are they worth the investment? ... Read more

25 Apr 2021

29 MINS

29:06

25 Apr 2021


#24

Enterprising ways to make and shift electricity

Imagine if you could use your own body heat to recharge your smart phone? That’s just one of the ways scientists are trying to decentralise energy production. They also have an eye on new means of power distribution, including using laser beams instead of lines and poles. ... Read more

18 Apr 2021

29 MINS

29:06

18 Apr 2021


#23

Locking down nature in order to liberate it

There’s a serious campaign underway to have 30 per cent of the Earth designated as a giant conservation zone. The target date is 2030. The eventual aim is to lock down half the planet. It’s about protecting habitats and biodiversity. But, in so doing, what are the risks for indigenous communities and the poor?   ... Read more

11 Apr 2021

29 MINS

29:05

11 Apr 2021


#22

The Privacy Paradox

How many private details are you revealing online – and how valuable is that information? And more importantly what steps can you take to protect your data? ... Read more

04 Apr 2021

29 MINS

29:06

04 Apr 2021


#21

The strange case of the trees that grow metal and how to harvest them

Agromining is a new process for extracting large quantities of metals such as cobalt and nickel from the sap and leaves of rare plants known as hyperaccumulators. Australian scientists have already established a test farm in Malaysia and it’s hoped the technology will one day provide poor communities with a new source of income, while also helping to rehabilitate former mining sites. Also, why do some people get sick after using Virtual Reality and is that holding back the technology? And a new approach to data storage and processing called Edge Computing. ... Read more

28 Mar 2021

29 MINS

29:06

28 Mar 2021