Future Proofing

Episodes

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01Can Civility Survive?2014091020140913

Mathematician Hannah Fry and guests look at whether civility can survive in the modern age

CAN CIVILITY SURVIVE?

We live in a world that is being globalised by ever-accelerating trade and technology.

And we live in a world that is being tribalised by resurgent group identities.

In such a world, can the complex, delicate codes of civility - the hidden wiring of civilisation - survive?

Future Proofing challenges three people from very different disciplines to find out.

Mathematician Hannah Fry talks to a woman whose mother's railway suicide provoked a storm of online abuse.

And she gathers all tweets sent in the UK in the week before the programme, to test out where and when we Brits are at our most uncivil.

Literary scholar Ian Sansom travels to meet a couple of London police officers who have retired to Cumbria to run a fish and chip shop. Is the countryside really more civil than the city? And what does Geoff Mulgan, one of our leading scholars of the future, make of Ian's findings?

Meanwhile, journalist Saira Shah revisits the terrifying story of her brother's wrongful imprisonment in a Pakistani torture prison - and how her understanding of the codes of civility helped her get him out.

And so, finally, Hannah, Saira and Ian meet to compare notes and try to fathom whether civility has a future - and if so, how it will have to adapt to survive in the 21st century.

Producers: Laurence Grissell and Phil Tinline.

02The Immortality Of The Crab2014091720140920

To be human is to seek immortality. Tom Shakespeare daydreams about everlasting life.

To be human is to seek immortality, whether by freeing the soul or freezing your brain. It's the root of religion, the inspiration of philosophy and the driving force behind music, art and literature. Tom Shakespeare daydreams about everlasting life. A poet with a chisel in his hand struggles for posterity, an archivist fights to keep everything forever and an anaesthetist tiptoes the fine line between unconsciousness and death. And then there are the layered meanings in a phrase of Spanish... what is "the immortality of the crab"?

03The Singularity2014092420140927

What happens if we reach the singularity, the day when machines match human intelligence?

Rohan Silva and Timandra Harkness discover how close we are to The Singularity - the day when machines match human intelligence. And they find out why it's so vital to understand the implications of such a momentous future event right now.

Producer: Jonathan Brunert.

04The Descent Of Man2014100120141004 (R4)

Will men be needed in the future? Writer Michael Smith explores the uncertain future of masculinity.

05No End Of Pleasure2014100820141011 (R4)

How will humans experience pleasure in the near future? What is the shape of things to come?

The novelist AL Kennedy conjures a vision of the future where plugging in for pleasure is as easy as logging on, where your mood can be managed for recreation and productivity, and where technology allows you to interact sexually with your lovers at a distance and possibly from the perspective of a tiger.

People with an active stake in the future test out and investigate the potential of this virtual world.

We meet Anders Sandberg, a man with an extraordinary capacity to experience pleasure and perhaps the best example of what the human of the future might be like if the trans-humanist David Pearce has his way. David believes genetic-hacking and bio-engineering are an essential component of a future he imagines without suffering.

David Levy is an international chess master whose experience of playing games with computers means he anticipates a world where the relationship humans have with machines might develop away from the chess board in ways that bring physical and emotional satisfactions.

Anil Seth shows Eliane Glaser around his substitutional reality machine and proffers a vision of the future where we can all take a trip to the North Pole, or the heart of an orchestra pit, without leaving our rooms.

And how does the future look to a greedy pleasure seeker and a recovering sex-addict? Tim Fountain and Erica Garza consider their future in a world bristling with new kinds of sex tech.

Also, Will Self is on hand to probe the ethical and moral dimensions of a new hedonic playground.

Produced by Colin McNulty and Natalie Steed

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

How will humans experience pleasure in the future? With AL Kennedy and Will Self.