Listen to a selection of podcasts reporting on the latest science and technology developments, looking into the impact they will have on our lives and capturing their policy implications.
What if we sequenced all human genomes?
The rapid growth of genetic databases worldwide, coupled with fast-decreasing costs and increased technological speed, has raised the possibility of every human genome on Earth being sequenced within this century. This brings to the forefront ethical and legal questions on data privacy and ownership. While a world genomic database would revolutionise preventive medicine and research, new forms of surveillance, discrimination and power imbalances could emerge. The global interplay between the individual, the state and private individuals could shift, requiring modern and flexible legislation to protect the rights of the individual.
What if we built cities on water?
Rising sea levels place coastal cities under constant threat. An estimated 250 million people currently live on land below projected annual flood levels, often in coastal cities such as London, Lagos, Mumbai or Shanghai; and this number may rise to 630 million by the end of the century. An additional 318 million people have been displaced since 2018, due to climate disasters. Could it be that, instead of humankind fleeing from water, building on it could serve as a better long-term solution? What would the creation of entire water cities entail for societies, economies and the environment? What if populations could live on water instead of facing displacement and migration?
What if AI regulation promoted innovation?
'Innovation' is often used as a shorthand for improved technical, economic and social processes. However, any specific innovation involves the redistribution of costs and benefits, creating winners and losers. For some, regulation of technology should be avoided in case it hinders innovation, while, for others, regulation is an essential measure to mitigate risks. However, regulation and innovation are not a zero-sum game. Debates about regulatory (in)action and its impact on innovation would benefit from greater specificity about which innovation paths are considered desirable, for whom, and how policy choices would help to achieve them.
What if machines made fairer decisions than humans?
Automated decision-making by systems that use machine learning to dynamically improve performance are still seen as lacking the 'human perspective' and flexibility to adapt to the particular nuances of specific cases. But perhaps, as they lack the 'cunning' to hide their biases, automated systems actually make fairer decisions than do humans, when these decisions are based on data that have been properly curated.
What if we killed all microorganisms in our bodies?
While killing all microorganisms in our bodies may seem tempting to some germaphobes, scientific evidence indicates that beneficial microorganisms (that live in nearly ubiquitous communities called microbiota) are an essential component of human health, and could form a new frontier for personalised medicine to fight non-communicable diseases and improve human health. In this podcast, we'll look at the microorganisms that live in our bodies and the incredible role they play in assuring our health.
What if xenotransplantation made up for the shortage of organ donation?
Following the first successful organ transplant in 1954, this procedure has become increasingly prevalent as it has revolutionised the treatment of end-stage organ failure. Nevertheless, organ shortage remains a critical problem which could potentially be overcome with xenotransplantation, regarded a promising alternative approach. In this podcast, we'll talk about the transplantation of animal derived organs and cells into humans. A medical procedure known as xenotransplantation that could open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.