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Future Tense

Author: ABC Radio

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A critical look at new technologies, new approaches and new ways of thinking, from politics to media to environmental sustainability.
400 Episodes
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?
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 threatens our future economic and social wellbeing.
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.
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.
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.
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 what does the future hold for musicians, how they’ll be paid and immortalised in digital technology?
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?
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
The ongoing negative effects of climate change are putting stress on the global  insurance market.
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.
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 is once again an Australian geopolitical focus.
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

Poetry in motion


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?
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.
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 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?
Comments (4)

Mac Ka

Great episode.

May 24th

Vernon Shoemaker

"... competition is often highly problematic when the competition is about the rules of the game rather than the competition taking place in the game itself."

Feb 12th

Donald Hunt


Dec 22nd

Averil Muehlenberg

Your "free speech expert" has set up a straw man in saying of Israel Folau "what he meant by that" instead of adhering to what he actually did say. Christian repentance is never about saying there's no place on earth for you, it's that there's no place in HEAVEN for you unless you repent. Get her to read the dictionary instead of attributing meanings that were not what was written.

Jun 29th
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