Future Tense

Future Tense

www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense
A critical look at new technologies, new approaches and new ways of thinking, from politics to media to environmental sustainability.


Whatever happened to the idea of geoengineering the planet?
Aug 8 • 29 min
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…
“Reengineering Humanity” and the Arctic Code Vault
Aug 1 • 29 min
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.…
Just-In-Time or Just-In-Case economy?
Jul 25 • 29 min
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…
Building greater efficiency into construction
Jul 18 • 29 min
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…
Military spending rises as disarmament treaties falter
Jul 11 • 29 min
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…
Artificial cities - from futuristic urban dreams to ghost towns
Jul 4 • 29 min
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…
Is the future of live music an illusion?
Jun 27 • 29 min
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…
Attention and distraction
Jun 20 • 29 min
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 13 • 29 min
“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…
The creeping militarisation of our police
Jun 6 • 29 min
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…
“Lie Machines” in the age of Coronavirus
May 30 • 29 min
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…
Saturated trees and carbon rationing
May 23 • 29 min
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,…
Locking down nature in order to liberate it
May 16 • 29 min
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…
Insurance, resilience, risk
May 9 • 29 min
The ongoing negative effects of climate change are putting stress on the global insurance market.
Are governance issues failing the Himalayas?
May 2 • 29 min
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…
Can we have economic growth without increased resource consumption?
Apr 25 • 29 min
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…
The ongoing fight to save public broadcasting
Apr 18 • 29 min
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.…
Poetry in motion
Apr 11 • 29 min
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 4 • 29 min
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,…
How far are we from a nuclear fusion future?
Mar 28 • 29 min
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…
Blockchain Democracy, business advocacy and the return of human curation
Mar 21 • 29 min
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:…
Technology-intensive campaigning and computational propaganda
Mar 14 • 29 min
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…
Shopping centres & the future for spending
Mar 7 • 29 min
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…
The Digital Welfare State
Feb 29 • 29 min
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…
Water banking, rain farming and other ways to safeguard against future drought
Feb 22 • 28 min
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…
Will the wars of the future really be fought over water?
Feb 15 • 29 min
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 8 • 29 min
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…
Can the United Nations be reformed?
Feb 1 • 29 min
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…
Is the Liberal International Order in terminal decline?
Jan 25 • 29 min
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…
Counterculture, consumerism and the far right
Jan 18 • 29 min
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…
Pencil towers and issues around urban inequality and density
Jan 11 • 29 min
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 4 • 29 min
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…
Prescient Predictions: 1984; Brave New World; and Network
Dec 28, 2019 • 29 min
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 • 29 min
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 • 29 min
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 7, 2019 • 29 min
What needs to change in order to restore the alliance as an effective military force?
Modern Monetary Theory and its challenge to Neoliberalism
Nov 30, 2019 • 29 min
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…
Digital Technology and the lonely
Nov 23, 2019 • 29 min
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 • 29 min
What is the relationship between depression and digital technology?
Artificial intelligence, ethics and education
Nov 9, 2019 • 29 min
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…
Controlled Environmental Agriculture
Nov 2, 2019 • 29 min
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 • 29 min
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 • 29 min
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…
Great Green Walls – holding back the deserts
Oct 12, 2019 • 29 min
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…
Offshore architecture and marine urban sprawl
Oct 5, 2019 • 29 min
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…
The Psychology of Silicon Valley
Sep 28, 2019 • 29 min
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 21, 2019 • 29 min
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…
The creeping militarisation of our police
Sep 14, 2019 • 29 min
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…
Strengthening public interest journalism while defending media freedom
Sep 7, 2019 • 29 min
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…
Google’s future city; the space-wide web; and how the ancients strategized for the future
Aug 31, 2019 • 29 min
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…