Listened Forgetting, not memory, moves us forward from ABC Radio National

Forgetting is the only safe response to the world’s problems, from a geopolitical perspective, according to author and journalist David Rieff. And forgetting is also a good thing in your personal life, say scientists. It moves us forward.

Antony Funnell explores the importance of forgetting when it comes to memory. This includes finding balance between the mechanism of memory with forgetting. For example, PTSD is caused when emotional forgetting does not occur. In such situations, we have too many memories we need to let go of. One of the issues is One of the challenges is that fearful/bad memories are often prioritised. “Whiteness does not show up on the page” With this in mind, Alzheimer’s may actually be a lifestyle disease caused when our life is reduced to a small amount of choices where everything is forgotten. In this situation, rather than remembering things, the answer maybe adding more to life that can be forgotten.

Forgetting is also important on a communal level. Amnesty derives from the word to forget.

Borrowed from Latin amnēstia, borrowed from Greek amnēstía “forgetfulness, oblivion, deliberate overlooking of past offenses”

There are times when we all need to forget, rather than rubbing raw historical wounds. Communal forgetting is public silence on aspects that different people may not agree about. This is something explored by David Rieff.

David Rieff, an independent writer who has reported on bloody conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia, insists that things are not so simple. He poses hard questions about whether remembrance ever truly has, or indeed ever could, “inoculate” the present against repeating the crimes of the past. He argues that rubbing raw historical wounds—whether self-inflicted or imposed by outside forces—neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation. If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option—sometimes called for, sometimes not. Collective remembrance can be toxic. Sometimes, Rieff concludes, it may be more moral to forget.

What was interesting was the discussion of importance of having social links to aid with forgetting when it comes to cases of PTSD. This is one of the issues with COVID and lockdowns.

This discussion also had me thinking about wider discussions associated with memory and remembering. In particular, the place of technology and social media and the right to be forgotten. When it comes to big data, the focus is on remembering everything. What is the place for forgetting in this situation?

Listened The power of storytelling – a cautionary tale from ABC Radio National

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?


Dr Maria Tumarkin – writer and cultural historian

Dr Nick Morgan – President, Public Words Inc

Daniel Stanley – Creative Director, Cohere Partners. Also founder of the Future Narrative Lab

Bob Lalasz – Founder and CEO, Science+Story

Antony Funnell speaks with Frank Pasquale about his new book New Laws of Robotics. Pasquale builds on the work of Isaac Asimov to propose a more human first orientation to the development of artificial intelligence.

Pasquale says we must push much further, arguing that the old laws should be expanded to include four new ones:

  1. Digital technologies ought to “complement professionals, not replace them.”
  2. A.I. and robotic systems “should not counterfeit humanity.”
  3. A.I. should be prevented from intensifying “zero-sum arms races.”
  4. Robotic and A.I. systems need to be forced to “indicate the identity of their creators(s), controller(s), and owners(s).”

In a follow-up, Funnell speaks with Michael Evans about public opinion in regards to AI and government strategy. He also discusses the report AI for Social Good with Neil Selwyn.

Listened Reinventing research – Part One: future scenarios and moving away from the publish or perish mantra from ABC Radio National

The research community is facing a “crisis of reproducibility”, according to the head of the Center for Open Science, Professor Brian Nosek. He says many of the traditional practices designed to make research robust, actually distort and diminish its effectiveness. In this episode, he details his ideas for reform. We also explore three plausible scenarios for how the academic sector could look in 2030.

This two part investigation (one and two) looks at the people trying to make changes to research. This includes discussion of preregistration of project claims, making research data open, use of machine learning to ascertain validity and diversifying how we measure contribution beyond published papers.

This reminds me of Ian O’Byrne’s investigation technological futures of digital scholarship.

Listened Waste management: ingenuity, mindset and working with nature from ABC Radio National

Human civilization has a waste problem, and it’s likely to get worse as population levels grow and a consumerist mentality becomes the global norm. But there are many clever, practical ways to deal with waste, including bioremediation – a nature-inspired approach.

Antony Funnell leads an investigation into the way in which nature is being used to clean up the environment. Whether it be vegetation designed to clean up gases from rubbish tips to clams used to clean up the water in Hong Kong. This reminds me of permaculture, Natural Sequence Farming and reclaiming drought-ridden land.
Listened Machine-enhanced decision making; and clapping, flapping drones from RN Future Tense

Artificial Intelligence and other advanced technologies are now being used to make decisions about everything from family law to sporting team selection. So, what works and what still needs refinement?

Also, they’re very small, very light and very agile – they clap as they flap their wings. Biologically-inspired drones are now a reality, but how and when will they be used?

I am left wondering about the implications of such developments in machine-learning. What it enhances, reverses, retrieves and makes obsolete? I am reminded of the work being done in regards to monitoring mental health using mobile phones.

To Neguine Rezaii, it’s natural that modern psychiatrists should want to use smartphones and other available technology. Discussions about ethics and privacy are important, she says, but so is an awareness that tech firms already harvest information on our behavior and use it—without our consent—for less noble purposes, such as deciding who will pay more for identical taxi rides or wait longer to be picked up.

“We live in a digital world. Things can always be abused,” she says. “Once an algorithm is out there, then people can take it and use it on others. There’s no way to prevent that. At least in the medical world we ask for consent.”

Maybe the inclusion of a personal devise changes the debate, however I am intrigued by the open declaration of data to a third-party entity. Although such solutions bring a certain sense of ease and efficiency, I imagine they also involve handing over a lot of personal information. I wonder what checks and balances have been put in place?

Listened Just-In-Time or Just-In-Case economy? from

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 globe

But a growing number of economists and business management experts believe the Just-In-Time philosophy has reduced the resilience of industry and influenced the casualisation of employment. And in a time of coronavirus, they argue, it now threatens our future economic and social wellbeing.

Antony Funnell leads a conversation into fragility of just-in-time supply chains. This feels like it touches on the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Listened Military spending rises as disarmament treaties falter from

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 breakdown of traditional arms reduction and containment treaties. The biggest of them NewSTART is due for renewal early next year, but there are concerns a second term for President Trump could derail the agreement.


Dr Nan Tian – Senior Researcher, Arms Control and Expenditure Programme, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Associate Professor Marianne Hanson – Specialist in arms control and disarmament, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland

Professor Toby Walsh – Artificial Intelligence researcher and spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Associate Professor Sarah Percy – Deputy Head, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland

I am not sure how to make sense of the sort of funds associated with the military, especially in light of Mark Humphries’ Heat Seeker program. Also, a little disconcerting to think about the idea of an unmanned nuclear submarine cruising around.
Listened Artificial cities – from futuristic urban dreams to ghost towns from

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 innovation centre of the world, but critics say it risks further widening inequality and dividing the country in two.

Also, what’s to become of China’s “ghost cities”? Built for future expansion, they now haunt the urban landscape. 


Anne Stevenson-Yang – Co-Founder, Research Director, J Capital Research 

Bill Bostock – Journalist Business Insider

Sarah Leah Whitson – Former executive director of Human Rights Watch’s MENA Division 

Listened Is the future of live music an illusion? from ABC Radio National

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 rapid pace, pushed along by the demand for content and even giving rise to the reality that not all live musicians have to be living.

But what does this mean for the future of live music? Can the digital and physical industries co-exist?

And what does the future hold for musicians, how they’ll be paid and immortalised in digital technology?

Edwina Stott takes a soundcheck.


John Wardle – Live Music Office of Australia

Professor Aaron Corn – Director of the National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies at the University of Adelaide

Dr Diana Tolmie – Senior Lecturer at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University and she teaches professional practice

Jeff Pezzuti – CEO and Founder of Eyellusion

Oisin Lunny – Forbes Senior Contributor, Professor of UX Driven Business, Barcelona Technology School and Host of the AudioMatters podcast

Edwina Stott leads an investigation into some of the areas of opportunity and innovation when it comes to live music. Two examples she discusses are Travis Scott’s virtual performance in Fortnite as well as the use of holograms to stand in for artists who are no longer able to perform. It will be interesting to see how this space changes and what the take-up will be.
Listened Toddlers and teens – better understanding their digital needs from ABC Radio National

“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 teenagers called Digital Compass. It’s been co-designed with Australian school students to help them as they navigate the challenges and ambiguities of our digital evolution.


Professor Susan Edwards – Research Director, Early Childhood Futures, Australian Catholic University

Daniel Donahoo – Senior Advisor, Innovation and Development, Alannah & Madeline Foundation

Professor Susan Danby – Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, Queensland University of Technology

Sheridan Hartley – Program Director, Behavioural Insight Team

In this episode of RN Future Tense, Antony Funnell dives into a range of initiatives currently being developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation to help children make better use of the digital world.

The first program is Playing It Safe. Dan Donahoo explains how the online portal was developed to help parents and care-givers to start the conversation about digital technologies and online safety at an early age. This was designed in response to Early Childhood Australia’s Statement on young children and digital technologies.

The ECA Statement on young children and digital technologies was developed in response to an identified need for guidance for early childhood professionals on the role and optimal use of digital technologies with, by and for young children in early childhood education and care settings. This need has grown as children are increasingly growing up in digital contexts.

The intent of Playing It Safe is to explore the key concepts of relationships, well-being, citizenship and play and learning at their age of development. One of the activities within Playing It Safe is the creation of an explicit family technology plan.

The second program is Digital Compass. It is an application that has been designed to help teens to identify what they can do, rather than what they can’t do. It has been designed to be platform agnostic and focuses on building ethical prosocial activities.

Coming at the problem from the perspective of research, Susan Edward and Susan Danby talk about longitudinal studies they are a part of to take the conversation beyond discussions ‘screentime‘ and ‘digital natives‘ and capture a deeper appreciation of digital literacies within family life.

Listened “Lie Machines” in the age of Coronavirus from ABC Radio National

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 problem with junk news and political misinformation Also, we hear about new legislation that human rights groups say could expose Australian citizens to silent data requests from US authorities.

Antony Funnell speaks with Philip Howard about his new book Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives. Howard unpacks the various changes to English speaking news and the playbook associated with right-wing governments to influence audiences.
Listened Saturated trees and carbon rationing from ABC Radio National

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, the Finish experiment where citizens are being given individual carbon allocations. It’s all about making carbon trading a very personal affair.

This was an interesting episode of Future Tense, exploring the part played by trees with global warming, as well as Finish experiments with carbon rationing through the use of data. Although positive in that it can help individuals make a difference, is also reminds me of James Bridle’s discussion of the use of data and technology to counter the impact of data and technology in New Dark Age:

Computation is both a victim of and contributor to climate change. Page 69

Listened Can we have economic growth without increased resource consumption? from ABC Radio National

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 may need to adapt our understanding of the way it all works.  We also hear from Annmaree O’Keeffe, from the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program, about the value of Australia’s international public broadcasting effort now that the Pacific is once again an Australian geopolitical focus.

With all this talk of automation, modern monetary theory and the challenge to neo-liberalism, it just makes me realise how much I do not know and understand.
Listened Water banking, rain farming and other ways to safeguard against future drought from ABC Radio National

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 the ideas we explore in the second instalment of our two-part series on water conflict and management – the politics, the problems and the potential solutions.

It would seem that each of these ‘solutions’ goes beyond the individual or even the corperation. They require a new operating system which focuses on the greater of for all.
Listened Will the wars of the future really be fought over water? from ABC Radio National

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.

In this, the first of a two-part series on water, we look at the political and cultural dimensions of our relationship with this vital resource, examining the possibilities for conflict, corruption and hopefully cooperation.

I was intrigued by the way in which China has dammed so much of the water and the implication that this has downstream.
Listened The competition delusion; and a call to nationalise big data from ABC Radio National

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 democracy. And if big data is made collectively, would nationalising it help to ensure the benefits are widely distributed?

Listened NATO’s nadir and how best to move forward from ABC Radio National

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, has seen better days. Historian and military analyst, Andrew Bacevich, once described it as an organisation that privileges “nostalgia over self-awareness”.

But most critics, Bacevich included, want NATO refocused and retooled. So what needs to change in order to restore the alliance as an effective military force?

What role should the United States play in such a reshaping? And how can NATO be strengthened without increasing tensions with Russia?

Listened Modern Monetary Theory and its challenge to Neoliberalism from Radio National

After more than four decades of dominance, free-market capitalism is facing a challenge.

It’s 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 against the “surplus fetish” that many economists now blame for declining public services and growing inequality.

This episode of Future Tense explores Modern Monetary Theory as an alternative to neoliberalism. Antony Funnell leads a discussion of the promises and problems associated with the idea.