Podcast

Future Tense

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

Episodes

  • Emotional Intelligence and the promise of a better workplace

    Jul 10 2022

    It’s not enough to be smart. If you’re to avoid being automated out of a job in future, you’ll need to develop your Emotional Intelligence. New research suggests more and more companies see an organisational benefit in promoting such skills. But is the rhetoric being backed up with training? Also, a reality check on the “great resignation” - has the pandemic really spawned a new era of job mobility?

  • Algorithmic audiencing, bioluminescent lighting and the virtues of a circular city

    Jul 03 2022

    We examine the role algorithms play in limiting free-speech; we hear about the development of bacteria-driven lighting in France; we explore how the shape of our cities can influence weather patterns; and we learn about new research that applies a chemical approach to the simulation of touch.

  • A non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels

    Jun 26 2022

    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.

  • Reembracing the spirit of public service

    Jun 19 2022

    The Future is Public is a global campaign aimed at creating a new narrative around public service. It’s about curbing the dominance of Neoliberalism in public policy. While in Australia, there are expectations the new government in Canberra will decrease the use of external consultants and make changes to the way government departments and agencies operate.

  • Cities – the hot beds of evolution

    Jun 12 2022

    Urban life has not only reshaped what it means to be human, cities are also changing animals. Rats in different parts of New York are evolving separately. Ecologist Rob Dunn describes cities as accelerators of evolution. Also in this episode, how city administrators compete for dominance using the same approach as social media influencers. And why house-flipping has gone algorithmic.

  • Disinformation and propaganda in a time of conflict

    Jun 05 2022

    The crisis in Ukraine, like all wars, is a testing ground for new tactics and weapons. It’s also a conflict fought off the battlefield – on people’s computers, televisions and smartphones So, what have we learnt about the power of propaganda and disinformation during the current conflict? Also, the urge to shut-down – why governments of varying persuasions keep pulling the plug on their own internet services.

  • The Earth BioGenome Project; the church of women; and what do we really think about facial recognition technology?

    May 29 2022

    In this program we explore an ambitious science project aimed at to documenting the genomes of all known creatures; we'll hear why the future of the Anglican church is female; and explore the latest research into public perceptions of facial recognition technology.

  • The population conundrum

    May 22 2022

    Concerns that we'll soon have too many people on the Earth sit alongside apprehension that we are facing a looming demographic crisis. So how do we address both issues without further damaging the planet?

  • Does data science need a Hippocratic oath?

    May 15 2022

    The use and misuse of our data can have enormous personal and societal consequences, so what ethical constraints are there on data scientists?

  • Cliodynamics, the Hinge of History and why all history is revisionist

    May 08 2022

    The idea that history is circular is called Cliodynamics and it’s currently in vogue with many commentators on international affairs. But do such theories help or hinder our understanding of history and its predictive powers?

  • Big data and farming – the promise and the fear

    May 01 2022

    Boosting your productivity by up to 25% - what industry wouldn't want to do that? That’s the future big tech promises for agriculture – one where extensive data is gathered on every aspect of the supply chain. But farmers are worried about privacy. And there are also questions about environmental impacts of big ag getting into big data.

  • A slow move towards a plastic free future

    Apr 24 2022

    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? Feel-good campaigns aside, the signs for the future are far from promising.

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

    Apr 17 2022

    There are currently around 150 of these funds in the world worth in excess of $USD 9 trillion.

  • Space-based Solar – energy above the clouds

    Apr 10 2022

    Scientists are busy testing ways to build a giant solar farm in space. Also, what to do about the increasing levels of space junk finding its way into our oceans?

  • The future of satire is no laughing matter

    Apr 03 2022

    Satire has been around for thousands of years, but is its power dwindling?

  • Forgetting, not memory, moves us forward

    Mar 27 2022

    Forgetting is the only safe response to the world's problems, from a geopolitical perspective, according to author and journalist David Rieff. And forgetting is also a good thing in your personal life, say scientists. It moves us forward.

  • When development aid goes wrong - propping up bad regimes

    Mar 20 2022

    For many people, the provision of overseas aid is a democratic imperative and a universal good.   But what if the situation is more complicated than that?

  • The fall of cash & the rise of central bank digital currencies

    Mar 13 2022

    Physical cash still plays an important role in the financial system, but could it be replaced by a digital alternative? Governments around the world are looking to Central Bank Digital Currencies, but there are concerns around privacy and loss of financial freedom.

  • Drones, witnessing and the view from above

    Mar 06 2022

    Advocates claim drones make war safer for civilians and soldiers by making it more technical and precise. But drones are also being used as a “witness” of conflict by activists keen to tell different stories about warfare and the heavy price often paid by civilians.

  • Banning books and floating suburbs

    Feb 27 2022

    Banning books belongs in the dark ages and is anathema to modern liberal democracy, but in the United States there’s a widespread campaign underway to censor what students can read. Also, why is the UN involved in a project to build a floating neighbourhood on the South Korean coast?

  • Fashion’s fast future

    Feb 20 2022

    Fashion is getting even faster, but there are also efforts underway to rein-in the waste and make fabrics from more environmentally-friendly materials.

  • Space pollution, stunted high-rise and the joy of missing out

    Feb 13 2022

    As Earth’s upper atmosphere becomes more congested, it’s also becoming more polluted, and the impact could be dire. Also, why doing without could make for a fuller future; and what’s behind China’s ban on really tall buildings?

  • The opportunity costs of global pollution

    Feb 06 2022

    Pollution has long been seen as a health problem, but increasingly its being redefined as an opportunity cost to both individuals and society -  and as a burden on future generations.

  • Rare Earths and the difficulties of supply

    Jan 30 2022

    Rare Earths are essential to modern life, but their extraction comes at a price. So, how do we clean-up mining efforts & build a diverse network of suppliers without destroying the environment?

  • Is dumbness our destiny?

    Jan 23 2022

    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?

  • Litigating our way out of climate change

    Jan 16 2022

    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?

  • The power of storytelling – a cautionary tale

    Jan 09 2022

    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?

  • Is the process of ageing inevitable?

    Jan 02 2022

    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.

  • Rewilding to safeguard biodiversity

    Dec 26 2021

    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.

  • Social media: harm and transformative justice

    Dec 19 2021

    Despite increased safety features, policies and content moderation practices, social media platforms continue to be sites where people perpetrate and experience harm. A new approach to platform governance called Transformative and Restorative Justice could help address the underlying causes of harmful behaviour and promote safer and more inclusive digital communities.

  • Coming to terms with noise

    Dec 12 2021

    When the global pandemic struck the world’s major cities were plunged into silence. But were they? New research casts doubt on just how quiet it really got when people were suddenly forced from the streets. It adds to our complex understanding of noise and sound and how both will shape our future.

  • Geopolitics in a post fossil-fuel world

    Dec 05 2021

    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 energy levels as nations transition to renewables.

  • Our adolescent future and reassessing human rights

    Nov 28 2021

    Paul Howe has a novel theory that could help explain the current state of humanity. Adolescence, he says, isn’t so much a time of life as a state of mind – and it’s transforming our adult world. Also, why an emphasis on human rights has failed to reduce global inequality; and redefining minimalism as “intentional living”.

  • The new globalisation

    Nov 21 2021

    Historian and economist, Marc Levinson, argues we’ve entered the fourth age of globalisation. An era, he says, that will be driven by the movement of “bits and bytes, not goods”. Also, should fintech companies be marketing their wares to children as young as six? And why is NASA planning to open fire on a pair of asteroids?

  • Technology: Questions of ethics and fairness

    Nov 14 2021

    The technology sector has a long history of designing devices to lock in customers and accelerate consumption. But “planned obsolescence” as it’s called is facing a push-back. We also speak with Margaret Mitchell, who helped set up the AI ethics group at Google, only to find she was shown the door when the company’s bosses didn’t like what she had to tell them.

  • An international approach to regulating AI

    Nov 07 2021

    Simon Chesterman argues for a new global agency to regulate the development of artificial intelligence. One that would also ensure an equitable distribution of its benefits. Professor Chesterman, the Dean of the Law at the National University of Singapore, says discussion around AI has been dominated by the US, Europe and China, but smaller Asian nations also want a seat at the table.

  • An update on nuclear energy

    Oct 31 2021

    If you think coal is controversial, spare a thought for nuclear energy. It may not be everybody’s choice as a replacement for fossil fuels, but the technology is evolving, new reactors are being built and researchers are working on making them smaller and mobile. In this episode we give an overview on the size and scale of the nuclear energy sector - and the changes and challenges it faces.

  • The positive side of monitoring

    Oct 24 2021

    Surveillance has become mainstream in the 21st century. It’s now so ubiquitous that many of us no longer notice its intrusion in our personal lives. But not all forms of monitoring are designed to exploit and/or contain. In this episode we look at several interesting monitoring technologies designed to assist and heal.

  • Disappearing cookies and a shortage of chips

    Oct 17 2021

    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.

  • Planning for a problematic future

    Oct 10 2021

    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.

  • The atomisation of religious belief

    Oct 03 2021

    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.

  • Should we really aim for sustainable development?

    Sep 26 2021

    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.

  • The Metaverse – turning life into one big online experience

    Sep 19 2021

    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?

  • Big tech’s big challenge

    Sep 12 2021

    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?

  • Our long-term battle with short-term thinking

    Sep 05 2021

    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.

  • Link rot, pay walls and the perils of preservation

    Aug 29 2021

    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.

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

    Aug 22 2021

    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”.

  • Bitcoin: silly speculation or the future of finance?

    Aug 15 2021

    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.

  • A new alliance of democracies

    Aug 08 2021

    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?

  • Outsourcing, automation and the messiness of global labour

    Aug 01 2021

    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.

  • The trouble with Tech-driven farming

    Jul 25 2021

    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.

  • Ransomware – a very 21st century crime

    Jul 18 2021

    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.

  • A non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels

    Jul 11 2021

    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.

  • Litigating our way out of climate change

    Jul 04 2021

    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?

  • Some foresight about the future of foresight

    Jun 27 2021

    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.

  • What role will hydrogen play in our future?

    Jun 20 2021

    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.

  • Rewilding: part two

    Jun 13 2021

    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.

  • Rewilding to safeguard biodiversity

    Jun 06 2021

    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.

  • Is the process of ageing inevitable?

    May 30 2021

    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.

  • Is dumbness our destiny?

    May 23 2021

    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?

  • When satellites collide…

    May 16 2021

    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.

  • Teaching AI to fly like a bee

    May 09 2021

    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.

  • The power of storytelling – a cautionary tale

    May 02 2021

    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?

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

    Apr 25 2021

    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?

  • Enterprising ways to make and shift electricity

    Apr 18 2021

    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.

  • Locking down nature in order to liberate it

    Apr 11 2021

    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?

  • The Privacy Paradox

    Apr 04 2021

    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?

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

    Mar 28 2021

    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 ...more

  • How much change can we expect as airlines once again take to the skies?

    Mar 21 2021

    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 there are strong headwinds to navigate.

  • Chinese technology is advancing, but it’s a long way from global domination

    Mar 14 2021

    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 way in certain social media areas, but they’re also coming up against cultural and manufacturing limits more broadly.

  • Emptying the oceans

    Mar 07 2021

    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 species has found over 33 per cent of fish species are being over-exploited. 60 per cent are being fished to their maximum level. So, can we bring over-fis...more

  • Wellbeing and COVID; the problem with Wikipedia; and the future of policing

    Feb 28 2021

    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 American Enterprise Institute explains why she thinks the future of policing lies in following a model laid down by Napoleon.

  • Brain-Machine-Interfaces - brain manipulation or brain control?

    Feb 21 2021

    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 will use mind power to interact with their digital devices. It’s an exciting field, but one fraught with ethical concerns.

  • Hype versus reality – getting some perspective on the future of cars

    Feb 14 2021

    From ridesharing to electric cars to self-driving vehicles the line between application, potential and promise is often very blurry. In this episode we take a reality check on the future direction of the automotive industry.

  • Ecocide: making environmental damage an international crime

    Feb 07 2021

    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 jump. Also, design expert, Craig Bremner, on how the pandemic has liberated design from the shackles of consumer capitalism.

  • Geopolitics in a post fossil-fuel world

    Jan 31 2021

    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 energy levels as nations transition to renewables.

  • Reinventing research – Impact, outputs, and the US National Research Cloud

    Jan 23 2021

    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?

  • Are governance issues failing the Himalayas?

    Jan 16 2021

    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 gauge the size of the problem and possible solutions for safeguarding its future.

  • Artificial cities - from futuristic urban dreams to ghost towns

    Jan 09 2021

    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 country in two. Also, what’s to become of China’s “ghost cities”? Built for future expansion, they now haunt the urban landscape.

  • Designing technology to increase inclusion for the disabled

    Jan 02 2021

    Inclusive design isn’t just about meeting the needs of the disabled, it’s about opening-up the possibility of creating better products and services for everyone.

  • Reflections on the smart phone

    Dec 26 2020

    Smart phones have become an essential part of our lives. But are they so familiar, we sometimes underestimate their importance? The role they’ve played in helping to shape our interests and interactions?

  • How globalisation and technology are changing the nature of storytelling

    Dec 19 2020

    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 “Australian” film or even a “Hollywood” blockbuster? And if not, is the notion of telling “our stories” a thing of the past?

  • Our understanding of AI and the value of a national plan

    Dec 12 2020

    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 Firewall and then vanished almost as quickly as it had appeared.

  • The New Laws of Robotics and what they might mean for AI

    Dec 05 2020

    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’s four new laws of robotics are designed to ensure that the future development of artificial intelligence is done in the interest of humanity.

  • Plastic past, plastic present, plastic future

    Nov 28 2020

    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 in our oceans now appear far too conservative. Feel-good campaigns aside, the signs for the future are far from promising. As part of Radio National's ...more

  • Cycling into the future; and turning the gig economy back into a sharing economy

    Nov 21 2020

    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 voices of children.

  • Urban pandemic – isolation and inequality

    Nov 14 2020

    Speculation about the future of the city centre started as soon as the world began locking down for COVID-19. Much of it has been focussed on the economics of “working from home”, but what have we learnt about urban isolation and inequality from this time of pandemic?

  • The elusive edge of Innovation

    Nov 07 2020

    Are entrepreneurs the great innovators we’re told they are? What if the ideal of the lone genius is simply a myth? Innovation is a buzz term that’s become so over-used as to be almost meaningless. It’s time to be more innovative in our understanding of innovation.

  • Bringing greater clarity to the laws of space

    Oct 31 2020

    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 be applied. In this episode we look at efforts to better map what is, and is not, permissible in the world above our sky.

  • Wave energy and artificial photosynthesis: the tech that takes time

    Oct 24 2020

    Australia has long been at the forefront of wave-energy development, but the industry has struggled to find its place in the world of renewables. Can it ever hope to compete with solar Also, Cambridge University’s Erwin Reisner on global efforts to replicate the energy producing power of plants.

  • Seawater greenhouses; the “insect apocalypse”; and zero carbon flight

    Oct 17 2020

    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 by renewable energy.

  • Waste management: ingenuity, mindset and working with nature

    Oct 10 2020

    Human civilization has a waste problem, and it’s likely to get worse as population levels grow and a consumerist mentality becomes the global norm. But there are many clever, practical ways to deal with waste, including bioremediation - a nature-inspired approach.

  • Cryonics: Dilemmas of the frozen dead

    Oct 03 2020

    Around the world a growing number of people are choosing cryonics. They opt to be frozen when they die on the speculative hope that one day advancing science will allow them to be ‘reanimated’ and brought back to life. The rising popularity of this new death ritual has led to the creation of a cryonics facility in regional Australia, and a handful of Australians have already signed up. Currently there is no existing science to prove that it will work, but even as an idea cryonics raises some imp...more

  • Reinventing research – Part Two: Impact, outputs, and the US National Research Cloud

    Sep 27 2020

    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?

  • Reinventing research – Part One: future scenarios and moving away from the publish or perish mantra

    Sep 20 2020

    The research community is facing a “crisis of reproducibility”, according to the head of the Center for Open Science, Professor Brian Nosek. He says many of the traditional practices designed to make research robust, actually distort and diminish its effectiveness. In this episode, he details his ideas for reform. We also explore three plausible scenarios for how the academic sector could look in 2030.

  • Controlled Environmental Agriculture

    Sep 13 2020

    Controlled Environmental Agriculture promises to be cleaner and greener. It’s focussed on technology and it’s essentially about bringing food production closer to the point of consumption. We examine the potential and the pitfalls.

  • One big game of Monopoly

    Sep 06 2020

    Economists are predicting a further concentration of industries and sectors coming out of the COVID-19 crisis. What that will mean long-term remains uncertain. Meanwhile, in the tech sector, the giants of Silicon Valley are facing increased scrutiny. There are renewed calls in the US for tougher anti-trust regulation, but some doubt the effectiveness of such measures and argue instead for a wholesale rethinking of what we mean by competition.

  • Machine-enhanced decision making; and clapping, flapping drones

    Aug 30 2020

    Artificial Intelligence and other advanced technologies are now being used to make decisions about everything from family law to sporting team selection. So, what works and what still needs refinement? Also, they’re very small, very light and very agile - they clap as they flap their wings. Biologically-inspired drones are now a reality, but how and when will they be used?

  • The truth about carbon pricing and how to capture CO2

    Aug 23 2020

    Does carbon pricing work? It’s long been a contentious issue, but Australian researchers have crunched the data from 142 countries and now have what they reckon is the definitive answer. Also, are group purchasing plans the way to fund future renewable energy needs? And, the California research that could give new life to carbon, capture and storage.

  • Offshore architecture and marine urban sprawl

    Aug 16 2020

    There’s a new emphasis on land reclamation and building floating structures for everything from accommodation to marine farming to energy generation. Re-defining the use of the ocean is part of the emerging “blue economy” – one that can be both economically beneficial and environmentally responsible. How well can these often contradictory goals be reconciled?

  • Whatever happened to the idea of geoengineering the planet?

    Aug 09 2020

    Geoengineering is the deliberate manipulation of nature to lessen or reverse the impacts of global warming. Even its supporters concede it’s risky. A decade ago, the controversial technology was talked about as a “necessary evil” in the fight against climate change – a matter of when, not if. However, despite the continued heating of the planet, no large scale testing has yet been attempted. In this program we ask why? And where to from here?

  • “Reengineering Humanity” and the Arctic Code Vault

    Aug 02 2020

    The late Stephen Hawking famously warned that Artificial Intelligence might someday become so clever as to supersede humans. But academic and author, Brett Frischmann, has a different fear. He argues that human beings are starting to act like machines. That they’re being groomed to become more robotic in their behaviour and interactions. Also, why is the software development company GitHub interested in an old abandoned mineshaft in the very north of Scandinavia?

  • Just-In-Time or Just-In-Case economy?

    Jul 26 2020

    A little known management theory called Just-In-Time was originally devised to make supply chains in the Japanese car industry more efficient. In the second decade of the 21st century it underpins all economic and organisational activity right across the globe But a growing number of economists and business management experts believe the Just-In-Time philosophy has reduced the resilience of industry and influenced the casualisation of employment. And in a time of coronavirus, they argue, it now...more

  • Building greater efficiency into construction

    Jul 19 2020

    The global cement industry accounts for somewhere between five to eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s vital for construction, but can it be made less harmful to the environment? In this program we explore a series of material innovations and building techniques designed to make the construction industry part of the solution to global warming, not just one of its causes.

  • Military spending rises as disarmament treaties falter

    Jul 12 2020

    Australia’s decision to increase defence spending is hardly unique. Global military expenditure in 2019 reached a new high at US$1.9 trillion. Experts warn of an increased risk of military miscalculation. Just as concerning, they say, has been the breakdown of traditional arms reduction and containment treaties. The biggest of them NewSTART is due for renewal early next year, but there are concerns a second term for President Trump could derail the agreement.

  • Artificial cities - from futuristic urban dreams to ghost towns

    Jul 05 2020

    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 country in two. Also, what’s to become of China’s “ghost cities”? Built for future expansion, they now haunt the urban landscape.

  • Is the future of live music an illusion?

    Jun 28 2020

    As Australia’s live music industry has been left decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented damage to venues from bushfires, we’re attending more online concerts, virtual gigs and streamed festivals than ever before. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, pushed along by the demand for content and even giving rise to the reality that not all live musicians have to be living. But what does this mean for the future of live music? Can the digital and physical industries co-exist? And ...more

  • Attention and distraction

    Jun 21 2020

    How do we embrace the benefits of a world run on the power of attention/distraction without sending ourselves crazy or constantly diminishing our ability to get jobs done?

  • Toddlers and teens – better understanding their digital needs

    Jun 14 2020

    “Playing IT Safe” is a new resource to help pre-school children better understand the workings of the digital world. It also gives parents a way to structure the conversations they need to have around cyber safety. We also examine a pilot program for teenagers called Digital Compass. It’s been co-designed with Australian school students to help them as they navigate the challenges and ambiguities of our digital evolution.

  • The creeping militarisation of our police

    Jun 07 2020

    Police officers in many  western countries now dress like paramilitaries. Special police units are being trained and organised along military lines and issued with military-grade weapons. Is this creeping “militarisation” justified and what are the future implications for the effectiveness of policing in democratic societies?

  • “Lie Machines” in the age of Coronavirus

    May 31 2020

    Covid-19 is being weaponised in a new propaganda war against Western democracy, according to Oxford University’s Philip Howard. His new book shows that misinformation extends far beyond a few bad actors - there's a global industry behind the world’s problem with junk news and political misinformation. Also, we hear about new legislation that human rights groups say could expose Australian citizens to silent data requests from US authorities.

  • Saturated trees and carbon rationing

    May 24 2020

    New Australian research suggests trees may not be the carbon sponges we think they are. The findings compliment a larger international study that suggests the world’s major forests are saturated and will soon begin emitting, not absorbing carbon. Also, the Finish experiment where citizens are being given individual carbon allocations. It’s all about making carbon trading a very personal affair.

  • Locking down nature in order to liberate it

    May 17 2020

    There’s a serious campaign underway to have 30 per cent of the Earth designated as a giant conservation area. The target date is 2030. But that’s just the start. The scientists and environmentalists involved in the plan want to eventually lock down half the planet. It’s about protecting habitats and biodiversity. Cost and logistics are primary considerations. But they aren’t the only ones. Other issues at stake include increasing poverty and indigenous rights.

  • Insurance, resilience, risk

    May 10 2020

    The ongoing negative effects of climate change are putting stress on the global  insurance market.

  • Are governance issues failing the Himalayas?

    May 03 2020

    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 gauge the size of the problem and possible solutions for safeguarding its future.

  • Can we have economic growth without increased resource consumption?

    Apr 26 2020

    MIT research scientist, Andrew McAfee, argues we need to rethink our assumptions about capitalism and the environment.   Economic growth, he says, has been gradually decoupling from resource consumption. So, if capitalism survives this current crisis, we may need to adapt our understanding of the way it all works.  We also hear from Annmaree O’Keeffe, from the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program, about the value of Australia’s international public broadcasting effort now that the Pacific ...more

  • The ongoing fight to save public broadcasting

    Apr 19 2020

    There’s arguably never been a more important time for public broadcasting. Amid the rise of disinformation, low public trust and diminishing newsrooms, independent journalism has a vital role to play in informing democracy and providing a check on power. But right across the world, public broadcasting is under attack as budgets are being stripped back. In this episode, we question why?

  • Poetry in motion

    Apr 12 2020

    In which ways is poetry being used in the modern world? And can the very human quality of poetry survive the development of non-human poets?

  • The politics of happiness and wellbeing

    Apr 05 2020

    Many Australians are dissatisfied with the narrow economic focus of politics, research by the University of Melbourne’s ANDI Project confirms. They want the progress of their society to be measured by a much broader range of factors, like health, environmental standards and youth wellbeing. They’re not alone. Across the globe there’s a growing movement to move “beyond GDP”, to start planning for the future based on wider models of societal progress.

  • How far are we from a nuclear fusion future?

    Mar 28 2020

    The hope of nuclear fusion is the dream of a fossil-fuel free future - of limitless baseload power. Enthusiasts say fusion offers all the benefits of nuclear energy without the dangers. In theory and in practice fusion energy is already a reality, but getting the economics right is proving much more difficult than imagined.

  • Blockchain Democracy, business advocacy and the return of human curation

    Mar 21 2020

    Blockchain is a much-hyped technology that underpins the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.  Enthusiasts believe its potential to transform other areas of business is huge. But what if Blockchain is really just a solution in search of a problem? Also in this episode: are businesses becoming political advocates? And why are we seeing a return from algorithmic to human curation?

  • Technology-intensive campaigning and computational propaganda

    Mar 14 2020

    Political campaigning is fast changing in the digital era.  Elections are now being contested with data and algorithms.  Parties see it as a great opportunity. Others see it as a threat to democracy.  And the changes are now playing out in real time in the United States. Barack Obama was often referred to as the first Internet president, but Donald Trump is fast becoming the king of social media.

  • Shopping centres & the future for spending

    Mar 07 2020

    Australia is home to over 1,600 shopping centres, covering more than 26.5 million square metres. We are a nation that love to shop, but times are tough for these aging centres. Online retailers, limited millennial attention spans and old fashioned infrastructure are all putting the squeeze on the mall's market. This doesn't necessarily mean it's the end though, in fact shopping centres are evolving for the future - pulling out all the tricks, enticements and tech they can to ensure you keep sp...more

  • The Digital Welfare State

    Feb 29 2020

    A growing number of human rights academics and activists are worried that our notions of welfare in the democratic west are changing – and not for the better. They’re concerned that the tools of the digital era are being used to create a new form of welfare state directed against the poor and the disadvantaged, not in their interests.

  • Water banking, rain farming and other ways to safeguard against future drought

    Feb 22 2020

    Water banking involves the deliberate injection of surplus water into known aquifers. The idea is to repurpose the world’s many artesian basins as giant sustainable storage tanks - ones that can readily be drawn upon in times of drought. It’s just one of the ideas we explore in the second instalment of our two-part series on water conflict and management – the politics, the problems and the potential solutions.

  • Will the wars of the future really be fought over water?

    Feb 15 2020

    It’s a scarce resource and likely to get even more so. But is it causing an increase in political friction? The answer is yes… and no.

  • The competition delusion; and a call to nationalise big data

    Feb 08 2020

    Competition is often seen almost as a universal good. But economist Nicholas Gruen says a slavish adherence to making everything a competition is damaging our trust in public institutions. Also, the Belgian community trialling an ancient form of democracy. And if big data is made collectively, would nationalising it help to ensure the benefits are widely distributed?

  • Can the United Nations be reformed?

    Feb 01 2020

    The United Nations Secretariat is now one-year into a significant reform program aimed at making the organisation fit for purpose in the 21st Century. It’s being driven by Secretary General Antonio Guterres. In this program we look at what that package entails and what it might achieve. And we also examine the powerful role of the UN Security Council. Many believe it no longer reflects the realities of world power. So, can it be reformed?

  • Is the Liberal International Order in terminal decline?

    Jan 25 2020

    UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has issued a dire warning about the state of international cooperation. The long-standing international order, he says, is dividing and that threatens future global stability. So, are his concerns valid? How is the international order likely to change over coming decades? And what practical steps can be taken to reinforce the global rule of law?

  • Counterculture, consumerism and the far right

    Jan 18 2020

    Countercultural movements, like Occupy Wall Street, are meant to be future-focussed — revolutionary even. So why do they often fade into commercialism? Are they simply a function of consumer capitalism? If so, what future do they have? And must they always be progressive?

  • Pencil towers and issues around urban inequality and density

    Jan 11 2020

    Critics say that the proliferation of modern, wafer-thin skyscrapers are symbols of rising urban inequality. Also: Are levels of density in our cities making us ill? And what's the impact of short-term letting on urban affordability?

  • Future doom and the rose-coloured past

    Jan 04 2020

    Why do we see the past through rose-coloured glasses, but not the future? Psychologists tell us that human beings have a tendency to be fearful and pessimistic about the future, while simultaneously romanticising the past. If the theory is true, it might help explain the difficulties we often have in making informed decisions and effectively planning for the future.

  • Prescient Predictions: 1984; Brave New World; and Network

    Dec 28 2019

    The dystopian best-seller 1984 was published exactly seventy years ago. Its influence has been profound. But does it really speak to today’s politico-cultural environment?

  • Street art – the next space race?

    Dec 21 2019

    Street artists are busy commandeering as many city surfaces as their paints will allow, authorities are trying to neutralise the threat, while advertising agencies are keen to clone the potency of hand painted art.

  • Our changing media environment and a call to “decomputerise”

    Dec 14 2019

    In this episode, we look ahead to the news and broader media environment in 2020 and pressing issues for local content in a globalised world. We also hear about the need to “decomputerise” in order to decarbonise.

  • NATO’s nadir and how best to move forward

    Dec 07 2019

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, has seen better days. Historian and military analyst, Andrew Bacevich, once described it as an organisation that privileges “nostalgia over self-awareness”. But most critics, Bacevich included, want NATO refocused and retooled. So what needs to change in order to restore the alliance as an effective military force? What role should the United States play in such a reshaping? And how can NATO be strengthened without increasing tensions with Russia?

  • Modern Monetary Theory and its challenge to Neoliberalism

    Nov 30 2019

    After more than four decades of dominance, free-market capitalism is facing a challenge. Its rival, the rather blandly named Modern Monetary Theory, promises to return economic planning to a less ideological footing. It’s also keen to strike a blow against the “surplus fetish” that many economists now blame for declining public services and growing inequality.

  • Digital Technology and the lonely

    Nov 23 2019

    Digital technology is a new tool to mitigate loneliness amount older people. And find out about the risk associated with data "re-identification".

  • Depression, anxiety and social media

    Nov 16 2019

    What is the relationship between depression and digital technology?

  • Artificial intelligence, ethics and education

    Nov 09 2019

    AI holds enormous potential for transforming the way we teach, but first we need to define what kind of education system we want. Also, the head of the UK’s new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation warns democratic governments that they urgently need an ethics and governance framework for emerging technologies.

  • Controlled Environmental Agriculture

    Nov 02 2019

    Controlled Environmental Agriculture promises to be cleaner and greener. It’s focussed on technology and it’s essentially about bringing food production closer to the point of consumption. We examine the potential and the pitfalls.

  • The Privacy Paradox

    Oct 26 2019

    Future Tense a look at how we might be revealing more private details online than we think and the value in the information that’s being mined - and you’ll hear how you could protect your data by actually revealing more than you already are.

  • Planning for a problematic future

    Oct 19 2019

    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.

  • Great Green Walls – holding back the deserts

    Oct 12 2019

    Desertification and land degradation affect the lives of around three billion people, according to UN estimates. Two ambitious projects aim at halting desertification and returning soil to productivity: the Great Green Wall project in northern Africa; and the Green Great Wall initiative in China.

  • Offshore architecture and marine urban sprawl

    Oct 05 2019

    There’s a new emphasis on land reclamation and building floating structures for everything from accommodation to marine farming to energy generation. Re-defining the use of the ocean is part of the emerging “blue economy” – one that can be both economically beneficial and environmentally responsible. How well can these often contradictory goals be reconciled?

  • The Psychology of Silicon Valley

    Sep 29 2019

    To understand new technology we need to comprehend the social, cultural and economic influences of the developers. Also, making direct comparisons between the human mind and Artificial Intelligence is counterproductive.

  • 3D printing and the “plateau of productivity”

    Sep 22 2019

    When the hype around 3D printing was at its peak, it was confidently predicted that every household would soon have a personal printer. That’s not the way it turned out. But 3D printing is coming back and it’s slowly making its way toward the verdant “plateau of productivity”.

  • The creeping militarisation of our police

    Sep 15 2019

    Police officers in many  western countries now dress like paramilitaries. Special police units are being trained and organised along military lines and issued with military-grade weapons. Is this creeping “militarisation” justified and what are the future implications for the effectiveness of policing in democratic societies?

  • Strengthening public interest journalism while defending media freedom

    Sep 08 2019

    A tale of two media environments: in the US, journalistic freedom is increasingly under threat from demonising rhetoric and the violent personal targeting of reporters; while in Ethiopia, the country’s new leader has opened the gate to press freedom. What can we learn from both experiences?

  • Google’s future city; the space-wide web; and how the ancients strategized for the future

    Sep 01 2019

    Get an update on Google’s controversial proposal to take over the construction and regulation of a section of Toronto; learn about how the ancient Athenians used Tragedy to guide their future decision-making and follow the rush to develop low-orbit satellites to secure the future of the Internet.

  • Future doom and the rose-coloured past

    Aug 25 2019

    Why do we see the past through rose-coloured glasses, but not the future? Psychologists tell us that human beings have a tendency to be fearful and pessimistic about the future, while simultaneously romanticising the past. If the theory is true, it might help explain the difficulties we often have in making informed decisions and effectively planning for the future.

  • With nature against climate change

    Aug 18 2019

    Nature Based Solutions is an environmental approach that seeks to counter the negative effects of climate change by working with nature.

  • Netflix's decline and why stricter regulation could strengthen the tech giants

    Aug 11 2019

    Netflix dominates online TV streaming, but for how long? Also, Cory Doctorow on how more government regulation could inadvertently make the tech giants even stronger.

  • Ensuring a classical future

    Aug 04 2019

    The world of classical music is changing. Some are predicting the demise of orchestral events. Others see opportunity in social media and a new sense of engagement between the audience and musicians.

  • Counterculture, consumerism and the far right

    Jul 28 2019

    Countercultural movements, like Occupy Wall Street, are meant to be future-focussed — revolutionary even. So why do they often fade into commercialism? Are they simply a function of consumer capitalism? If so, what future do they have? And must they always be progressive?

  • Western spies face a difficult future

    Jul 21 2019

    The CIA’s former counterintelligence chief warns Western spy agencies are being “overwhelmed” by their adversaries. And new surveillance technologies could spell the death of the traditional agent-in-the-field. The future of espionage looks problematic indeed.

  • Outsourcing, automation and the messiness of global labour

    Jul 14 2019

    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.

  • Prescient Predictions: 1984; Brave New World; and Network

    Jul 07 2019

    The dystopian best-seller 1984 was published exactly seventy years ago. Its influence has been profound. But does it really speak to today’s politico-cultural environment?

  • How to ensure free speech; and the EU's new copyright directive

    Jun 30 2019

    Many Western governments continue to struggle with free speech. It’s not that they’re necessarily against it, it’s just that they don’t know how to effectively regulate out the offensive stuff.

  • Emotions, relationships & technology

    Jun 23 2019

    Our emotions are being manipulated, hacked and shared like never before. So what does this mean for their future, our relationships and the technology that's reading them?

  • The elusive edge of Innovation

    Jun 16 2019

    Are entrepreneurs the great innovators we’re told they are? What if the ideal of the lone genius is simply a myth? Innovation is a buzz term that’s become so over-used as to be almost meaningless. It’s time to be more innovative in our understanding of innovation.

  • Corruption: stealing the future

    Jun 09 2019

    Corruption exists in every country in the world. It’s estimated that around $US2 trillion is lost each year to bribes globally. It not only corrodes societies, it also steals their future potential. Yet we struggle to understand its nature and how to combat it.

  • Capitalism without profit

    Jun 02 2019

    Some of the world’s largest and most influential companies make no profit. They are monopolistic in intent and very future focussed - they favour growth over profitability. So, do they represent a new stage of capitalism, or a dangerous aberration?

  • Turning aircon into a climate fighter; Open-source seeds; Otlet; and the truth about tiny houses

    May 26 2019

    Hear about a plan to turn the air-conditioners of the world into a network of carbon-sucking fuel producers. Learn about a new licencing system for open-source seeds. Get the low down on who really lives in “tiny houses” and why.

  • Robots in the classroom and news on Wikipedia

    May 19 2019

    Artificial intelligence is now even entering the classroom - where does this take us? Also, Wikipedia’s role in the dissemination of news – a robust platform for fact? Or an invitation to constant revisionism?

  • As the Internet divides

    May 12 2019

    Analysts say that many countries and companies will soon be forced to make a decision between the Chinese version of the Internet and the liberal, Western model - both models have a very different underlaying philosophy and understanding of governance.

  • Have we stopped evolution?

    May 05 2019

    Advances in technology and medicine have been so great in recent decades that some scientists now believe we’ve altered the nature of evolution for plants and animals. Some even claim that it’s effectively stopped in humans.

  • Noise - does it have a future?

    Apr 28 2019

    Exponential urbanisation and automation look like making the future an increasingly rowdy place. We explore our changing attitudes to noise.

  • How to trick AI, plus the online platform centred on encouragement

    Apr 21 2019

    A lot of time and money is being spent trying to ensure the security of Artificial Intelligence systems, but what if you’re interested in tricking the system, not hacking it?

  • Ancestry, DNA and the Project of the Self

    Apr 14 2019

    Commercial DNA research is booming. People are motivated not just to check for disease indicators but to search out unknown relatives and lost ancestors.

  • The refugee hackathon

    Apr 07 2019

    Once the preserve of tech companies and government agencies, hackathons are now being employed in the community sector to quickly develop and test blue-sky ideas and create innovation in the social welfare world.

  • Med tech – simulation and immersion

    Mar 30 2019

    Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service has been taken over by dummies (mannequins to be precise). It’s all part of the development of an immersive training facility to counter the tyrannies of distance.

  • Pencil towers and issues around urban inequality and density

    Mar 23 2019

    Critics say that the proliferation of modern, wafer-thin skyscrapers are symbols of rising urban inequality. Also: Are levels of density in our cities making us ill? And what's the impact of short-term letting on urban affordability?

  • The news on smart speakers; the podcast push; and bringing flying cars down to Earth

    Mar 16 2019

    Voice-activated speakers are mostly being used to listen to music and check the weather. The Reuters Institute’s, Nic Newman, thinks that’s about to change. Also, have we just entered the “golden age” of podcasts?

  • Can free public transport save our cities?

    Mar 09 2019

    Luxembourg is just about to make its public transport free. The first country (albeit a small one) to do so. But do the promises of a cleaner, less congested urban environment really stack-up?

  • Does the Meritocratic ideal have merit?

    Mar 02 2019

    An emphasis on merit is often seen as the answer to inequality. Some argue merit should be used to guide all forms of political, economic and social progress. But who determines what is meritorious? And is it possible to build a genuinely meritocratic state?

  • All at sea - mapping, mining and Arctic shipping

    Feb 23 2019

    Only about nine per cent of the ocean floor has been mapped using high-definition technology. But a new global initiative aims to change that. It’s called the Seabed 2030 Project. Also, how viable is seabed mining? And will climate change see the Arctic turned into a major shipping route?

  • Goodbye Google+, the end of privacy, and once were warriors

    Feb 16 2019

    Google+ will soon be shut down. So why did the social network fail? And what does its demise tell us about social platforms in general? Also, understanding the real history of our current data privacy dilemma; and why the tech titans of today look a lot like the railway barons of old.

  • Street art – the next space race?

    Feb 09 2019

    Street artists are busy commandeering as many city surfaces as their paints will allow, authorities are trying to neutralise the threat, while advertising agencies are keen to clone the potency of hand painted art.

  • Future warfare

    Feb 02 2019

    Autonomous weapons are on the march. Response speeds are everything. But in the heat of battle, ultrafast algorithmic decision-making can prove a curse, not a blessing.

  • What future Antarctica?

    Jan 26 2019

    It’s a golden time for Antarctic research, with more and more countries taking a direct interest in the great southern continent. But suspicions abound as to the real motivations of key Antarctic players.

  • Who would want to be a diplomat?

    Jan 19 2019

    The future of diplomacy: Backroom manoeuvrings are giving way to public forums. And carefully laid plans can come unstuck with a single tweet.

  • A not so diplomatic future

    Jan 12 2019

    Diplomacy is often viewed as a way of smoothing the friction points between states, but international relations are becoming increasingly assertive and highly personal.

  • Faked reality

    Jan 05 2019

    Are the systems we’ve developed to enhance our lives now impairing our ability to distinguish between reality and falsity? Can teaching of ethics and critical thinking help lead us out of the shadowlands?

  • Are rituals still needed in a world mediated through digital devices?

    Dec 29 2018

    Are rituals still needed in a world mediated through digital devices? Rituals exist in our everyday life, as a way of helping us to make sense of the world.

  • The GIF as an increasingly important communication tool

    Dec 22 2018

    The GIF, this little looped video, is often misunderstood as a component of modern communication. It has an important role to play in making modern digital discussion smoother.

  • Data trust, Computational Law and a “Google city” update

    Dec 15 2018

    We hear about the EU-funded project Counting as a Human Being in the Era of Computational Law. We get up-to-date on a new data trust mark for Australian researchers. And we take you back to the Quayside 'Google' project in Toronto.

  • Making water out of thin air

    Dec 08 2018

    More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, but only around 2.5 percent is drinkable. In this episode we talk to various scientists engaged in making water out of thin air.

  • Trams, bots and solar roads

    Dec 01 2018

    A cross between a bus and light rail promises better transport; humans are sounding more like bots online; and solar panels on roads might deliver more hype than energy.

  • Populism and its relationship with social media

    Nov 24 2018

    What role has social media played in the rise of populist politics? Also, what responsibility should technology companies have in preventing the misuse of social media by political extremists?

  • Designing technology to increase inclusion for the disabled

    Nov 17 2018

    Inclusive design isn’t just about meeting the needs of the disabled, it’s about opening-up the possibility of creating better products and services for everyone.

  • Reflections on the smart phone

    Nov 10 2018

    Smart phones have become an essential part of our lives. But are they so familiar, we sometimes underestimate their importance? The role they’ve played in helping to shape our interests and interactions?

  • Transitioning to a new economy

    Nov 03 2018

    Parts of Australia were built on mining and coal-fired power-generation. Then they lost those industries. Future Tense looks as innovative ways to move forward.

  • The rapid growth of e-sports

    Oct 27 2018

    E-sports – competitive video gaming – is set to leave traditional performance sport in its wake. Whether to recognise e-sports as a real sport is not the main issue any more; the main challenge is to create working governance structures.

  • Future of reading

    Oct 20 2018

    How do you read? And how will you be reading in the future? Writers, journalists and publishers discuss the changing digital and literary world and how it could look in the years to come.

  • Listening and responding

    Oct 13 2018

    Future Tense looks at the seemingly lost art of listening - listening, not just hearing! And what being responsive can mean in the modern world.

  • Getting serious about drones

    Oct 06 2018

    It is time to put aside the novelty aspect of unmanned aerial vehicles and start designing domestic drones that are fit for purpose. But how do you regulate a technology that has so many different uses and such varying capacities?

  • Ensuring a classical future

    Sep 30 2018

    The world of classical music is changing. Some are predicting the demise of orchestral events. Others see opportunity in social media and a new sense of engagement between the audience and musicians.

  • Europe’s time machine; solar geo-engineering; and how to build a better bridge

    Sep 23 2018

    A massive data project is underway in Europe. It aims to create a kind of “Google map of the past” – making the minutia of history as accessible as today's social media. Also, the results of a study  into geo-engineering and agriculture; and a new construction method for building bridges.

  • Food, ageing and the future

    Sep 16 2018

    Across the western world populations are ageing. And that means what we eat needs to change in order to give us the best possible future.

  • We need to talk about Facebook

    Sep 09 2018

    Three perspectives on the power of Facebook and content platforms. Was Facebook’s current form inevitable? Can it be “constitutionalised”? And, understanding content moderation.

  • AI, populism and the threat to Human Rights

    Sep 02 2018

    Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used for decision making, and there are now fears about how that might impact on human rights.

  • Tall timber tales

    Aug 26 2018

    Cross-laminated timber is becoming a construction staple and the towers of tomorrow may soon be predominantly built of wood. It's cheaper and faster.

  • Space Force, space assets

    Aug 19 2018

    Many countries now see great economic potential in space activity. Competition is increasing. Are we moving away from the notion that space is for all humankind? And is conflict in space inevitable?

  • The role of humans in the technological age

    Aug 12 2018

    Forget the humans versus machine dichotomy. Our relationship with technology is far more complicated than that. To understand AI, first we need to appreciate the role humans play in shaping it.

  • Augmented eternity and the potential of prediction

    Aug 05 2018

    With big data and algorithms you could extend your 'virtual self' beyond the grave. And could meeting your future self help change your current behaviour?

  • Health data risks; the extended mind; and the Synthetic Age

    Jul 29 2018

    US research says e-health data is particularly vulnerable to attack. The theory of the Extended Mind – should our tools be classified as a part of cognition. And forget the Anthropocene, we’re entering the Synthetic Age.

  • Who would want to be a diplomat?

    Jul 22 2018

    The future of diplomacy: Backroom manoeuvrings are giving way to public forums. And carefully laid plans can come unstuck with a single tweet.

  • A not so diplomatic future

    Jul 15 2018

    Diplomacy is often viewed as a way of smoothing the friction points between states, but international relations are becoming increasingly assertive and highly personal.

  • Banning plastic may not be good for the future

    Jul 08 2018

    Even those who campaign against the overuse of plastic, argue for a more nuanced understanding of its role in our lives. Future Tense looks at these nuances.

  • The implications of going cashless

    Jul 01 2018

    The advantages of going cashless are many and well known. But in the race to a completely cashless future, what do we put at risk and who benefits most?

  • Alternative forms of body disposal

    Jun 24 2018

    Interesting alternatives to current burial practices include freeze-drying and shattering a corpse; and dissolving bodies in purpose-built alkaline washing-machines.

  • The virtue of sharing

    Jun 17 2018

    Let's look at the virtue of sharing: How could sharing shape our future, and what do we stand to lose if we refuse to share?

  • The Tyranny of Metrics; and the Dark Web

    Jun 10 2018

    Could a fixation with metrics distract and divert us from the real work at hand? And how bad is the Dark Web - really?

  • Good enough, the EU’s data protection regulation and what CryptoKitties can tell us about the future of art

    Jun 03 2018

    "Good enough" solutions are damaging our ability to solve the major global problems of the world. And blockchain is revolutionising digital art.

  • Putting the theory of big data into practice – on a massive scale!

    May 27 2018

    In Canada, Google is set to re-develop and manage a large area of downtown Toronto. In China, the Communist Party government has been running trials on a personal rating scheme for all Chinese citizens.

  • Forging influence – the Chinese Government's attack on democracy

    May 20 2018

    Clive Hamilton says that the Communist Party leadership in Beijing has begun to subtly, and not so subtly, influence the political and social affairs of democratic nations.

  • Activism that’s less aggressive and far more persuasive and persistent

    May 13 2018

    Many believe that the future of activism relies on quiet persistence, targeted political involvement and an attitude that refuses to “look away”.

  • With nature against climate change

    May 06 2018

    Nature Based Solutions is an environmental approach that seeks to counter the negative effects of climate change by working with nature.

  • The value of rituals in a digital world

    Apr 29 2018

    Are rituals still needed in a world mediated through digital devices?

  • What happened to the “future of aviation”?

    Apr 22 2018

    We look at the political manoeuvrings of the major manufacturers, emerging competition from new players, and efforts to make the industry climate friendly.

  • Have we lost our sense of reality?

    Apr 15 2018

    Are the systems we’ve developed to enhance our lives now impairing our ability to distinguish between reality and falsity?

  • New insights about what happened at Pompeii

    Apr 08 2018

    How do you correctly interpret a site that was initially unearthed so long ago? Modern archaeology provides new tools to chip away at the secret.

  • Warm data, innovative electric transport and “fossil free steel”

    Apr 01 2018

    Green innovation comes in many forms. And promising project don't have to be big, they only have to make a start.

  • Facebook’s about-face and what it means for the future of news

    Mar 24 2018

    News organisations are struggling to engage with online readers and even “digital first” darlings, like Vice and Buzzfeed, are now losing profit and shedding staff.

  • Catching up with the Jetsons: cities in 2050

    Mar 17 2018

    What will future cities look like? How will they function and—importantly—how do we keep them focussed on human need?

  • NATO’s nadir and how best to move forward

    Mar 10 2018

    What needs to change in order to restore the alliance as an effective military force?

  • Disrupting the disruptors

    Mar 03 2018

    Has our contemporary embrace of disruption become a problem rather than a solution?

  • Can the UN Sustainable Development Goals work?

    Feb 24 2018

    And how will Australian aid shape the future of the Pacific?

  • A new player and the effectiveness of overseas aid

    Feb 17 2018

    Future Tense looks at the rise of China as a mega-donor and efforts to improve global aid transparency and effectiveness.

  • At work with digital media

    Feb 10 2018

    In the race to take advantage of new technological possibilities in the workplace, is a focus on rights and responsibilities being neglected?

  • The GIF as an increasingly important visual communication tool

    Feb 03 2018

    The GIF, this little looped video, is often misunderstood as a component of modern communication.

  • Three Great Potentials – China’s growing international role

    Jan 27 2018

    We take a look at three sectors in which China is beginning to dominate: trade, artificial intelligence and energy.

  • How to problem solve - the ultimate problem

    Jan 20 2018

    Neuroscientist Robert Burton reckons our brains simply aren’t up to tackling the problems of the complexity of modern life. Could collective intelligence help?

  • What future democracy?

    Jan 13 2018

    Is democracy as we know it doomed? And could there be alternative forms of political representation?

  • Chatting with heretics

    Jan 06 2018

    Moving forward isn’t just about denouncing fake news and ignorance, it’s also about rethinking some of the assumptions we have around the ways in which we communicate and debate.

  • Is happiness vastly overrated?

    Dec 30 2017

    The ‘cult’ of happiness could be damaging to business performance and the sanity of employees. And research suggests that maintaining a level of pessimism in the workplace is actually beneficial to maintaining a corporate edge.

  • Animals and technology

    Dec 23 2017

    Digital technology is opening up new relationships between humans and animals – instead of alienating us from nature as in the past.

  • AI, algorithmic decision making, ethics and the under-representation of women in tech

    Dec 16 2017

    Ethical principles for algorithmic decision making; more women in the tech industry; inclusion in AI and design - these of all issues of increasing significance in the future.

  • How to tell the good mental health apps from the bad

    Dec 09 2017

    There are more than 10,000 mental health apps on the market, but only a fraction have been scientifically evaluated.

  • Depression, anxiety and social media

    Dec 02 2017

    What is the relationship between depression and digital technology?

  • The future of war and reassessing the digital strategy of ISIS

    Nov 25 2017

    Are old expectations and strategies prolonging our military conflicts? And is ISIS winning the cyber war?

  • Cryptocurrencies and blockchain

    Nov 18 2017

    Cryptocurrencies enable us to transfer money with no fees and no bank, instantly. This is just the beginning of what digital currencies and blockchain technology can do.

  • The need for cyber insurance; identifying and tracking drones; and building tiny houses for refugees

    Nov 11 2017

    Are cyber insurance policies too complicated? Could identification technology prevent drones from flying into areas they shouldn't? And could private gardens help solve the refugee housing crisis in Europe?

  • Designing technology to increase inclusion for the disabled

    Nov 04 2017

    Inclusive design isn’t just about meeting the needs of the disabled, it’s about opening-up the possibility of creating better products and services for everyone.

  • Have universities lost their way in the rush to appear corporate?

    Oct 28 2017

    Public universities increasingly look and sound like corporations. But is it time to refocus on teaching priorities?

  • Activism that’s less aggressive and far more persuasive and persistent

    Oct 21 2017

    Many believe that the future of activism relies on quiet persistence, targeted political involvement and an attitude that refuses to “look away”.

  • Muslim start-ups, time crystals and a second chance for online comments

    Oct 14 2017

    Islam-focussed start-ups often find it difficult to attract venture capital. We’ll explore the reasons why and the potential for development.

  • Perspectives on Privacy

    Oct 07 2017

    It’s a “wicked” problem: how to safeguard individual privacy in a world that now runs on the trade of personal data.

  • Conformity as a product, not just a process

    Sep 30 2017

    The franchise model is on the rise and it’s moving beyond fast food and coffee outlets. We ask why? Is there more to it than a simple secret love of conformity?