Episode 3.05 Brave New Wars with John Robb

Social media has been weaponised and is now used against nations as a tool of war – invisible, subtle, and dangerously destabilising. John Robb has spent over a decade studying how these new networks represent the new powers – and the new engines of war.

Some of John’s best writing goes to his Patreon supporters

John writes the amazing Global Guerrillas blog – you should check it out.

John’s book Brave New War is quite good, too.

Mark and John, December 2018. (photo credit: Dan Lynch)

THE NEXT BILLION CARS Episode 4: The Next Billion Kilometers

Transformations in autonomy & electrification give automobile designers a new palette of possibilities – does our experience of driving change?

Drew Smith talks to BMW design legend Chris Bangle about what it took to design the REDSPACE urban car for the Chinese market. And here’s a video where he’s talking at the Art Center College for Design in Pasadena (Chris’s alma mater, and the school that graduates most of the world’s top car designers):

Mark and Sally sat down at the North American International Auto Show for a long interview with recently-retired Ford design legend Elizabeth Baron, about what it took to combine the real and virtual design processes into a seamless whole.

Elizabeth Baron, in the podcast suite at the Detroit Foundation Hotel, January 2019

Finally, Sally learns about the design possibilities created by autonomous vehicles from Luciano Nakamura, one of the founders of Australian startup AEV Robotics.

AEV Robotics rethinks design around urban use cases…

Episode 3.04: Hyperpolitics with Micah Sifry

Social media created a new openness in political discourse – for a brief moment. How can governments, social media and democracy co-exist?

These are hard questions – ones that Micah Sifry has spent years working to answer. As co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, he’s gathered together the best minds (and best politicians) working across the intersection of politics and social technologies to help map and shape the future of the civic sphere.

The First Million Downloads are the Hardest

After I received my monthly report from PodcastOne Australia, I did a bit of math and realised – sometime over the last 24 hours – I’d cross the one million download mark for THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS.

I can’t begin to express how chuffed (and shocked) I am by this.

THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS has always been a team effort – back in 2011, when it was just a book, Paul Bridgestock gave me excellent editing suggestions, and kept me encouraged.

In 2017, when my agent Phill McMartin approached me to pitch the newly franchised PodcastOne Australia, I had both something to refer to, and something to launch off from.

That’s when I got to meet Grant Tothill – who runs PodcastOne Australia – and started to work with my fantastic producer Alex Mitchell.

It took some time to figure out exactly what I was on about. I had energy, but very little direction in the first series. It was all over the map, precisely because there was so much territory to cover, so much of the future to explore.

In series two we settled down a bit, and dived into some of the deeper issues surrounding modern connected culture. It wasn’t as optimistic as I might like – and a few listeners did tell me that at times it was very rough going. Lesson learned: it’s not about hiding from the future, but neither is it about drowning in it.

The transition from show to channel includes many shows on future themes…

Last year I realised that I had the opportunity to turn a single program into a channel of programming: CRYPTONOMICS, THE NEXT BILLION GADGETS and THE NEXT BILLION CARS are the first examples of a ‘broadening’ of the kinds of shows you’ll find under the banner of THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS. Each are concerned with the future, but each also sees that future through its own filter.

There’s much more of that still to come.

It seems a bit surprising now that I had to pitch hard to get everyone onside for “1968: When the World Began”, the miniseries I got to create with my great friend Dr. Genevieve Bell. But they trusted us – and already that series sits very comfortably among the most downloaded episodes of THE NEXT BILLION SECONDS.

We’ve noted your interest – and there’ll be more where that came from.

Right now I’m learning how to coordinate and ‘show-run’ a podcast created on three different continents. THE NEXT BILLION CARS co-host Sally Dominguez lives in California, while special correspondent Drew Smith lives in Sweden. It takes a bit of coordinating (and FaceTime and clever mixing by Alex Mitchell) but somehow we’re managing to pull off a truly global view of the future of transportation.

And it feels as though all of this is just getting started. Podcasting is taking off, and the ability to create and share great stories at scale is growing with it.

That’s all because of you – because you keep listening and sharing and responding. Thank you for that.  

A million times thank you.

Mark Pesce
18 March 2019

THE NEXT BILLION CARS Episode 3: The Next Billion Volts

Tesla drove electric vehicles from impractical to inevitable. Powertrains will soon feature a mix of hydrocarbons, hydrogen – and batteries.

Co-host Sally Dominguez toured China in a hydrogen-fueled Mercedes:

Sally felt as though she might have been driving a small hydrogen bomb around rural China…
But at least it wasn’t one of these clown cars! (Well, ok, so it is…)

The history of the automobile isn’t exactly the history of petrol – even if that’s what Carl Benz used in his internal combustion engine, there have always been lots of alternatives, including the Stanley ‘Steamer’:

1912 Stanley ‘Steamer’ (photo credit: Stephen Foskett)

The London Electrobus Company pioneered electric public transport over a hundred years ago – promoting itself as the cleaner alternative on London’s dirty streets:

London Electrobus (circa 1908)

Automobiles can even run on compressed air, as in the TATA/MDI OneCat:

(Photo credit: Deepak Gupta)

Special correspondent Drew Smith talks to automotive design legend Mate Rimac about what it takes to design electric automobiles.

(Photo credit: El Monty)


Episode 3.03: Entertaining the Future with StartVR & LegionM

One hundred years ago, cinema became the vehicle of our cultural imagination. It’s happening again with virtual reality — and new studio owners are leading the way with new audiences.

StartVR’s amazing VR episodic film Awake took me to places – and emotions – I’d never experienced before in any medium. With a lyrical, looping, dreamlike quality, Awake stretches the imagination – and redefines the possibilities for entertainment across the next billion seconds.

Mark Pesce and David Baxter
Mark catches up with LegionM’s David Baxter (who really is _that_ tall)

LegionM has a business model different from any other Hollywood Studio – one that leverages ‘crowd equity investing’, where tens of thousands of co-owners both fund and promote projects that get ‘greenlit’ by the studio. We talk to Development head David Baxter about what this means for the future of entertainment – and audiences.

THE NEXT BILLION CARS Episode 2: The Next Billion Robots

How long until we have self-driving cars? That’s the biggest question confronting the entire transportation sector. Autonomy unlocks a lot of amazing possibilities – but what is it, really, and how far away?

In this second episode of THE NEXT BILLION CARS, Special Correspondent Drew Smith details the five levels of autonomy, Mark goes for a LIDAR ride with Nick Langdale-Smith of Sydney startup Baraja, and Sally learns about a software back-seat driver from Intel’s Jack Weast – one that may help us be better human drivers, as well.

Mark got taken for a ride in Baraja’s demo vehicle –
note the LIDAR scanners mounted in the four cardinal directions atop the van.

Here’s a great backgrounder on Toyota’s ‘Guardian’ system – software that helps both humans and autonomous vehicles be better drivers.

Episode 3.02: Three Billion Seconds with Alexandros Corey

In ‘cooversation’ with a newborn, we explore the year 2100: climate change, intelligent computers, editable biology, new tools — and new trials.

Nothing focuses the mind on the future like a newborn. With a bit of luck, today’s newborns will live until the year 2100 – and possibly well beyond.

Six-day-old Alexandros Corey provided the perfect opportunity for an exploration of the ‘deep’ future – a world three billion seconds away, when we’re facing the full consequences of anthropogenic climate change, we’ve built superintelligent computers, can modify almost any biological process using CRISPR, and manage all of it with an advanced generation of augmented reality tools.

Alexandros did well in his first interview.

THE NEXT BILLION CARS Episode 1: The Next Billion Problems

CES portrays a futuristic auto industry. Detroit holds onto past glories. Everything automotive is changing: can problems become opportunities?

Meet the experts joining Mark Pesce for THE NEXT BILLION CARS…

Sally Dominguez is a multi-award-winning product designer and architect of the Adventurous Thinking innovation strategy which she has implemented at organisations including NASA, Stanford and Breville. Sally was a judge on ABC TV’s  The New Inventors,  is a co-host on Foxtel’s upcoming Great Aussie Inventions, host of a yet-to-be-named Foxtel Innovation Challenge, and judges design and innovation internationally.  She has over ten years of Car of the Year judging experience with Wheels magazine and Drive and is passionate about innovation in materials, sustainability and transportation strategies.

With a background in automotive design and design research, and a role as a lead strategist at one of the industry’s most exciting brands, Drew Smith is the consummate industry insider. Indeed, he’s helped shape the future for the likes of Lexus, Jaguar Land Rover and Audi. He’s not without critical faculties however, and has long held the industry to a higher standard when it comes to designing for a environmental and commercial sustainability. He is a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art, advising automotive design Masters and PhD students, and founded the Automobility Group, a global community of people exploring the future of urbanism, design and mobility. He is also the co-founder of Rising Minds, a global lecture series that explores the intersection of technology, business and culture.