Spark on CBC Radio One Nora Young helps you navigate your digital life by connecting you to fresh ideas in surprising ways.
491: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Three: Nostalgia
Throughout the pandemic we've seen a resurgence of retro hobbies like bread making, tie-dyeing clothes, and going to the drive-in. Why is nostalgia our natural response in times of crisis? And, fasten those jetpacks! A look at the surprising nostalgic pleasures of our past visions of the future.
Escape can offer a reprieve from daily COVID life. But if you can't physically go anywhere, immersing yourself in fictional worlds - like the ones of online games - can help with the social isolation of the pandemic. We talk to University of Saskatchewan professor Regan Mandryk about how videogames can help us relieve stress and connect with others during the pandemic and beyond. Plus, Spark producer Olsy Sorokina talks about the appeal of Animal Crossing.
And, while fictional worlds can seem like escapism, fiction often offers us insight into truth that daily reality denies us. Stephanie Lepp uses deepfake video tech to create fictional epiphanies and moments of personal transformation by public figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Alex Jones. As use of the technology extends beyond political disinformation campaigns, what are the ethics of using deepfakes to enlighten rather than deceive?
Repeat: Truth decay
(This episode first aired in February 2020, and has been updated to reflect all that's happened in the world since.) How do we know what we know? In a digital landscape where social media dominates, and most people don't trust mainstream reporting, how can we be sure what we're seeing is actually real?
It's a question technology journalist and Atlantic magazine staff writer Alexis Madrigal has contemplated a lot, and he's finding a lot of noise among the signals of truth.
So what does this mean, more broadly? Social psychologist Arie Kruglanski says that humans need a shared concept of "truth" in order to have societal cohesion. And when that shared concept dissolves, bad things happen. Arie explains the collective risks of our unshared realities.
For all the good they give us, our personal tech has also become a major time suck. We lose hours of our waking lives to online experiences, especially in the past year, when our worlds became almost as tiny as the screens in our hands. Between work from home and doom-scrolling through social media, are we wasting time, or is this the "new normal" for spending it? And if we are going to be spending this much time online, can we improve online public spaces with better design?
In her new book, Time Smart, behavioral scientist Ashley Whillans argues that if you improve your "time affluence," you'll lead a happier life. She offers some practical tips on how we can use the pandemic disruption to improve our relationship with time. Deb Roy, Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Laboratory for Social Machines, discusses how we can improve existing digital spaces. And Spark Senior Producer Michelle Parise shares her experience with what she calls "Nightly Doomscroll Avoidance."
488: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Two: Ventilation
Past pandemics have been a huge influence on the way we design our cities and our homes. So what can the history of this relationship between public health and public spaces teach us during the COVID-19 pandemic? Sara Jensen Carr explores these lessons in an upcoming book, The Topography of Wellness: Health and the American Urban Landscape. We also talk to architect Terrell Wong about how we can return some of the fresh air back into our homes and offices without decreasing energy efficiency or increasing hydro bills. And materials scientist Aaswath Raman explains how to use ancient natural cooling technology for more efficient thermal regulation.
487: We love robots
Humans have long been fascinated by the idea of automatons. But increasingly, robots are also just reality, as more work is automated - especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to accommodate physical distancing. This week: a look at the new rules we need to prepare for a world of automation.
During COVID-19, robots deliver groceries and medicine and disinfect public spaces. And sure, automation is great for routine, repetitive tasks - but what about things that require more nuance and social context, like caring for a sick patient? Roboticist Julie Carpenter discusses the social impact of rapid robot deployment during COVID-19 on humans.
When it comes to robotics and AI, the dominant narrative is that automation will replace any jobs that can be made routine. Frank Pasquale, lawyer and author of New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI, argues for a different future. He thinks the future of work involves collaboration between AI and human skill, in ways that can lead to better work outcomes, as well as greater general prosperity.
Customer ReviewsSee All
However highly Nora Young is rated as a journalist, she’s under-rated. Smart, smooth, funny, way ahead of the pack in her exploration of social issues—what a set of gifts! And, time after time, the areas of investigation MATTER! Thanks so much, Nora! (But...I do feel nostalgic about DNTO!)
Listening for years and love the show!
Like the podcast, host Nora Young is outstanding, incomparable, unbeatable, superb. This is a vastly interesting and informative state-of-the-art programme. Nora rocks!
A Weekly Fan, since 2009.