Episodes
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.
Published 07/22/21
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.
Published 07/15/21
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.
Published 07/08/21
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?
Published 07/01/21
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.  
Published 06/24/21
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.  
Published 06/17/21
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.
Published 06/10/21
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.
Published 06/03/21
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.
Published 05/27/21
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 past “peak intelligence”? And if so, what can we do to ensure a smarter future?
Published 05/20/21
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.
Published 05/13/21
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.
Published 05/06/21
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? 
Published 04/29/21
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?
Published 04/22/21
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.
Published 04/15/21
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?  
Published 04/08/21
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?
Published 04/04/21
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.
Published 04/01/21
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...
Published 03/28/21
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...
Published 03/25/21
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.
Published 03/21/21
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.
Published 03/19/21
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.
Published 03/14/21
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.
Published 03/11/21
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...
Published 03/07/21