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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.…
 
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 s…
 
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…
 
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.…
 
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 Realit…
 
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 …
 
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 …
 
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…
 
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.…
 
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 t…
 
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 activi…
 
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 intellige…
 
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.…
 
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…
 
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?…
 
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 …
 
As the global aviation industry is slowly coming out of its enforced hibernation, all aspects of the business are up for a rethink - from international routes, to aircraft size, even the design and function of passenger terminals. Some analysts see a unique opportunity to reset the way we travel, and to bring the industry into the 21st century. But…
 
The “catch-up and surpass” trope now dominates discussion about Chinese technology. It’s very black and white - China is rising and the rest (mainly the US and the West) are falling behind. It’s all painted as an inevitability. But the reality is much more complicated. Propaganda isn’t strategy. Chinese technology firms are beginning to lead the wa…
 
It’s estimated illegal fishing now accounts for the capture of one in every five fish worldwide. It’s a massive problem. But the biggest threat to fish stocks comes not from illegal activity, but from mainstream fishing industries. In particular, the large national fishing fleets that traverse our oceans. A major international study of marine speci…
 
Early in 2020 we looked at New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget initiative. That was just as the world was going into COVID lockdown. So how did the initiative handle the economic stresses caused by the pandemic. We get an update from Christoph Schumacher. We also look at some of the attribution problems faced by Wikipedia; and Elisabeth Braw from the Am…
 
Brain-Machine-Interface technology is only in its infancy, but scientists believe it may one day allow the severely disabled to perform everyday tasks using brain signals to power artificial limbs. But some US tech companies have more ambitious interests. They envision a future where BMI will allow them to read people’s thoughts; and where humans w…
 
French President, Emmanuel Macron, activist Greta Thunberg and even the Pope have all given support for the creation of a new crime called “ecocide” - the deliberate, large-scale destruction of the environment. Campaigners argue the new crime should be prosecuted through the International Criminal Court, but there are political and legal hurdles to…
 
What will the global political landscape look like when the world’s dependency on fossil fuels is finally over? Adjustments are already being made, but for so-called “petrostates” like Saudi Arabia and Russia, the prospects look particularly bleak. Experts warn of new inequalities and shifting power dynamics. They also warn of a fall in available e…
 
There’s bipartisan support in the United States for the establishment of a national AI research cloud. So, how would academics benefit and what role would big tech play in its operations? Also, problems with academic inclusivity in the developing world, and could alternative channels of distribution soon rival the primacy of peer-reviewed journals?…
 
The Himalayas are sometime called the earth’s “third pole”. They’re a vital source of water for a large chunk of the world’s population. But the local, national and international systems put in place to protect and manage human development in this vital ecosystem are failing. In this episode, Matt Smith travels to the Himalayas for Future Tense to …
 
When it’s completed the futuristic city of Neom will sit in the Saudi Arabian desert, a US$500 billion dollar metropolis, thirty times larger than New York. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman believes the project will transform his kingdom into the innovation centre of the world, but critics say it risks further widening inequality and dividing the c…
 
Film, television and theatre have long been seen as markers of community and national identity – we speak of American sitcoms, British theatrical traditions and French cinema, for instance. But in an increasingly interconnected digital world do visual arts still play a role as cultural identifiers? Does it make sense anymore to talk of an “Australi…
 
What do ordinary Australians know about artificial intelligence? Are they hopeful or fearful about the way it's being deployed? In this program we hear about the latest public opinion research and find out how other countries are coordinating and prioritising AI development. Also, the mysterious online platform that seemed to defy Beijing’s Great F…
 
Way back in 1942 science fiction writer Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics. They were written into a short story called “Runaround”. Their influence on technological development has been significant and long lasting Now, legal academic and AI expert Frank Pasquale has expanded that list. Building on Asimov’s legacy, Professor Pasquale’…
 
Over the past two decades we’ve become increasingly sensitive to the overuse of plastic and more concerned about its environmental impact – but to what effect? According to the World Wildlife Fund, we’ve actually used more plastic since the year 2000 than in all the decades leading up to that date. And previous estimates for the amount of plastic i…
 
It’s easy to forget that the “gig economy” was once universally referred to as the “sharing economy”. So what went wrong and is it possible to bring back that original promise of flexibility, autonomy and respect?Also, building a genuine cycling culture - the Dutch example. And how to make voice recognition technology better at understanding the vo…
 
Commercial and military interest in space is growing exponentially. More and more countries and companies are keen to make money from space-related activities. They are also keen to protect their interests. There are internationally agreed rules regulating activity in space, but there’s also conjecture and confusion about how and when they should b…
 
Imagine greenhouses that produce food using just sunshine and sea-water. In Australia and Africa they’re already a reality. We talk to one of the pioneers of the concept. Also, the latest research on the so-called “insect apocalypse”. And, the new aviation prize open to any enterprising spirit able to cross the Atlantic in a plane powered entirely …
 
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