Tag: climate

Accepting and trying to deal with climate as an overriding priority

I need to dig into this BBC R&D report, but it looks fascinating at first glance. I recognise the names of some of the people who were interviewed in the process of creating it, and what’s interesting to me is that they found that instead of the ‘next big thing’ in terms of technology, they found “a complex set of factors that we believe will enable and catalyse one another, sometimes in surprising and unpredictable ways”.

The most important of these, of course, was “accepting and trying to deal with climate as an overriding priority” but also identifying two types of complexity. The first is “a sense that in order to simply go about your day as a person, it’s necessary to interact with, and understand, many complex sources of information”. The second is “a sense that the overarching systems of the world like politics, finance, economics, and healthcare, are becoming more complex and difficult to understand”.

Late in 2022, we began a straightforward-sounding research project: compile a list of technologies that we should be paying attention to in BBC Research & Development over the next few years and make some recommendations about their adoption to the wider BBC. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, things didn’t turn out quite so straightforward.

By the end of the project, we’d interviewed twenty-two people from the fields of science, economics, education, technology, design, business leadership, research, activism, journalism, and many points between. We spoke to people from both inside and outside the BBC and around the world. All of these people have a unique view on the future, and our report teases out the common themes from the interviews and compiles their ideas about how things might come to be in the near future.

We grouped the themes we identified into five sections. The first, A complex world, outlines sources of complexity and uncertainty our interviewees see in their worlds. Climate change is by far the largest and most significant of these. The next section, A divided world, also covers big-picture context and outlines some of the social and economic drivers our interviewees see playing out over the next few years. The AI boom and New interactions go into detail on specific technologies and use cases our interviewees think will be significant. Finally, The case for hope bundles up some of the reasons our interviewees see to be hopeful about the future — provided we are willing to act to bring about the changes we’d like to see in the world

Source: Projections: Things are not normal | BBC R&D

Nesta’s predictions for 2022

Nesta shares its ‘Future Signals’ for 2022, some predictions about how things might shake out this year. I’d draw your attention in particular to climate inactivism coupled with quantifying carbon, as well as health inequalities around the quality of sleep.

Under the microscope this year we look at topics that range from sleep as a new dimension of health inequality to where our food will be grown in future. We ask complicated questions too. Is carbon counting really a tool for behaviour change? How will Covid-related service closures impact families? Our Nesta authors don’t offer up easy answers, but this collection should help you to distinguish the signal from the noise in 2022 and beyond.

Source: Future Signals – what we’re watching for in 2022 | Nesta

The cost of a thing is the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for it

This article in The Atlantic by Alan Lightman points out how biophilic we have been historically as a species, and how that’s changed only recently.

None of this, of course, helps with the climate emergency and the concomitant biodiversity collapse. I read the WEF Global Risks Report for 2022 and, well, I’ve read more hopeful documents.

Distorted image of nature (by Nico Krijno

Most of the minutes and hours of each day we spend in temperature-controlled structures of wood, concrete, and steel. With all of its success, our technology has greatly diminished our direct experience with nature. We live mediated lives. We have created a natureless world.

It was not always this way. For more than 99 percent of our history as humans, we lived close to nature. We lived in the open. The first house with a roof appeared only 5,000 years ago. Television less than a century ago. Internet-connected phones only about 30 years ago. Over the large majority of our 2-million-year evolutionary history, Darwinian forces molded our brains to find kinship with nature, what the biologist E. O. Wilson called “biophilia.” That kinship had survival benefit. Habitat selection, foraging for food, reading the signs of upcoming storms all would have favored a deep affinity with nature. Social psychologists have documented that such sensitivities are still present in our psyches today. Further psychological and physiological studies have shown that more time spent in nature increases happiness and well-being; less time increases stress and anxiety. Thus, there is a profound disconnect between the natureless environment we have created and the “natural” affections of our minds. In effect, we live in two worlds: a world in close contact with nature, buried deep in our ancestral brains, and a natureless world of the digital screen and constructed environment, fashioned from our technology and intellectual achievements. We are at war with our ancestral selves. The cost of this war is only now becoming apparent.


I am not so naive as to think that the careening technologization of the modern world will stop or even slow down. But I do think that we need to be more mindful of what this technology has cost us and the vital importance of direct experiences with nature. And by “cost,” I mean what Henry David Thoreau meant in Walden: “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” The new technology in Thoreau’s day was the railroad, which he feared was overtaking life. Thoreau’s concern was updated by the literary critic and historian of technology Leo Marx in his 1964 book, The Machine in the Garden. That book describes the way in which pastoral life in America was interrupted by the technology and industrialization of the 19th and 20th centuries. Marx could not have imagined the internet and the smartphone, which arrived only a few decades later. And now I worry about the promise of an all-encompassing virtual world called the “metaverse,” and the Silicon Valley arms race to build it.  Again, it is not the technology itself that should concern us. It is how we use that technology, in balance with the rest of our lives.

Source: This Is No Way to Be Human – The Atlantic