Episode 2.05: The End of Utopia with Erik Davis

The ‘Next Big Thing’ always promises to be the cure for all our ails – but inevitably the high promises tarnish and all our best efforts fall back to earth. For as long as we’ve had technology, we’ve believed in its capacity to craft a perfect world – even though we ourselves are far from perfect.

Author and philosopher Erik Davis has spent twenty years dissecting our attitudes toward technology, utopia and belief – and writes about a future where we ‘wise up’ enough to understand the human value of our imperfections.

Here’s a bit of a taste of our wide-ranging conversation about faith, reason, utopia, and why we seem to make the same mistakes over and over again…

Erik hosts an amazing podcast – Expanding Minds – that you can listen to here. (I did an extended interview with Erik in early 2018, you can listen to that here.)

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Episode 2.04: Five Billion Bankers with Andrew Davis

All the way back in 1994, Bill Gates quipped, “Banking is necessary – banks are not.” For billions of ‘unbanked’ in the developing world, banking happens through a smartphone app – no branches, no tellers, and no ATMs. How does a bank inspire trust – or trust its customers – when it’s all inside a smartphone?

Banking futurist Andrew Davis shares his vision of a future where banks protect privacy as well as your money, a world where everyone, everywhere becomes a banker.

Andrew Davis chats with Mark Pesce (photo: Dee Halwala)

Here’s a clip of Andrew talking about ‘open banking’ – the coming revolution where banking becomes about your data just as much as today it’s about your money:

One of the most interesting innovations in banking involves the analysis of mobile usage to measure the creditworthiness of an individual or business. This article from the World Bank explains how it works.

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Episode 2.03: The Future is Local with Jess Scully

For two and a half thousand years, cities and politicians have grown together. The city gives politicians a platform, a stage – and a demanding public. Always economic powerhouses, our cities also hold the key to an urban future where city-states like Singapore rise in prominence.

We talk to Sydney City Councillor Jess Scully about how best to grow a ‘world city’ like Sydney over the next billion seconds – and what it means to have a political career in a time when every citizen has social media to amplify their voice, their beliefs – and their anger.

The future is here – and it’s local. In this clip, Jess talks about the importance of Sydney to Australia’s economy:

In our interview, Jess mentions the DECODE Project – designed to give people rights over the data collected about them. Read about DECODE here.

The City of Sydney wants to increase the housing supply – and this article explains why that’s more difficult than it might appear. 

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Episode 2.02: Power Tools with Ramez Naam

Solar power cost $100 per kilowatt hour when energy futurist Ramez Naam entered the world. Last year, the UAE signed a 20-year contract for solar power at a four thousandth the cost. For Ramez Naam it’s no longer a question of if renewables, it’s a matter of when: the data proves it. Energy has been mixed with politics from the beginning – so over the next billion seconds, how do we talk ourselves out of our coal culture and into a sustainable future? Ramez Naam makes a convincing case for a future where we profit from the sun.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

There are some amazing things happening in the renewable energy space, as shown in this chart about a typical week of energy generation in South Australia:

Ramez gives a lot of talks about energy futures, here’s a recent one given in South Africa – a nation with some energy problems…

Ramez has also written a series of blog posts on the energy future – the first is linked here

Finally, here’s that infamous photo of Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison, on the day they passed a lump of coal around in Parliament:

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Episode 1.14: Future Stories & Series Finales with John Allsopp, Genevieve Bell and Andy Polaine

We invite three series 1 guests to join Mark in studio for a final featuring a freewheeling conversation about myths, artificial intelligence, slaughterbots (!), and what happens when four billion people suddenly show up online.

Here’s a taste:

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Episode 1.13: Rise of the Robots with Ken Goldberg

Are the robots going to rise up in a “Singularity” that will first threaten our jobs, then our very existence? Dr. Ken Goldberg, Chair of the Robotics program at the University of California, Berkeley, tells us that while things are moving quickly, we’re moving into a world of ‘multiplicity’ – where multiple intelligences grow together to create a uniquely diverse world of human and machine minds.

Here’s a sample:

Ken wrote about the irrational fear of robots for the Wall Street Journal – you can read his piece here: The Robot-Human Alliance – WSJ

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Episode 1.12: The Playful Century Ahead with Eric Zimmerman

While video games have only been around for about 40 years, games themselves are as old as humanity because we learn about the world by playing with it, finding the ‘wiggle room’ in every system – social or mechanical – that we encounter. Indy games pioneer and author Eric Zimmerman understands games and the culture of play so well he can tell us where it’s all going – and how we’ll get there.

Here’s a sample:

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Episode 1.11: Cryptocurrency with Mark Jeffrey

What is Bitcoin? How does it work? And why is the whole world going gaga for ‘magic internet money’? Mark Jeffrey – author of one of the first books on Bitcoin – explains how cryptocurrency happened, and why it’s about to change everything about money forever. Here’s a quick peek:

This one is – by far – our most downloaded episode to date.

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1.10: Original Sin (We Shouldn’t Have Made the Internet Free) with Robert Tercek

The decision to make the World Wide Web a free-to-all source of news had consequences no one expected, leading us down a path of advertising, analytics, targeting and profile auctions that leave us increasingly exposed to big data systems that know us better and better.

Here’s a video that presents an accurate picture of how all that works in practice – and be warned, it’s all a bit scary:

Robert Tercek has watched all of this develop – and, in his early days at MTV, helped it happen. Should we repent our ways? Can we? Here’s a clip:

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Episode 1.07: Smartphones from the start through iPhone 8 and X

The smartphone is quite possibly the most important tool we’ve developed in the last two hundred years – a steam engine for the human mind. We use them to transform commerce, human connection, and play. The latest iPhones – iPhone 8 and iPhone X – point to where we’re going, where the device becomes so essential, and so much a part of ourselves, that they can intimately scan our faces to unlock their secrets.

Here’s a sample:

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Episode 1.06: The First, Last and Next Billion Seconds with Katie Mack

A billion seconds – or 31 and a half years – seems long to us. In the 13.7 billion year history of the universe, it’s not even an eyeblink. But the first billion seconds, those were very special indeed, giving us the foundations of the universe we see today. Astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack joins us to discuss beginnings, endings – and what we hope to discover about the dark parts of our universe over the next billion seconds.

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