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What are the big ideas shaping our world now?

The Big Idea BBC

    • Utbildning

What are the big ideas shaping our world now?

    The Afterlife

    The Afterlife

    Suppose you knew that after your natural death the human race would die out – perhaps, for some reason, humans had become infertile. How would that alter how you live your life? How would it change your attitude to the ideas and projects to which you are currently committed? This thought experiment is posed by American philosopher Samuel Scheffler. He believes that in this scenario, most of what currently gives our life significance would come to feel meaningless. This leads him to conclude that we care deeply about the survival of our species. We need the human race to survive for our lives to seem valuable.

    Presenter David Edmonds
    Producer Ben Cooper

    • 9 min
    Why Are Some Nations Rich?

    Why Are Some Nations Rich?

    Some countries, like Norway, are rich. Other countries, like Niger, are poor. Why? Why do some countries succeed whilst others fail? There are various possible theories. Some say that certain countries have geographical or resource advantages. Others claim that the real explanation is cultural – in some cultures, it’s said, there’s a stronger work ethic than in others. But the distinguished economist James Robinson, co-author of Why Nations Fail, proposes an alternative answer. He says it’s all to do with how a nation is governed and the strength of its institutions.



    Presenter: David Edmonds

    Producer: Ben Cooper



    Image: Interior of City Hall in Oslo, pictured during the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

    • 9 min
    How does language work?

    How does language work?

    Humans are a unique species in many ways, but an important one is that we communicate with sophisticated language, using words and grammar. So how does language work? Is there a single mechanism in the brain, or multiple mechanisms? Is it useful to learn a second language – what are the cognitive advantages to being bilingual? Cathy Price is a neuroscientist and a leading expert in language.



    Presenter David Edmonds

    Producer Ben Cooper



    Image: A man delivering a speech (Credit: BBC)

    • 10 min
    A Future Without Doctors?

    A Future Without Doctors?

    Can you imagine a future without doctors? We’re in the midst of a robotics and Artificial Intelligence revolution. Many jobs humans currently do will in future be carried out by machine? But what about those in the medical profession? AI will be of assistance, but surely we’ll always need surgeons, doctors, and nurses? Well, the Oxford University economist Daniel Susskind is not so sure. He believes that many of the tasks currently carried out by doctors will soon be performed by machine. So can doctors survive by reinventing themselves?



    Presenter David Edmonds

    Producer Ben Cooper



    (Image: Operating Theatre, Credit: Getty)

    • 8 min
    The Intelligent Tree

    The Intelligent Tree

    Are trees intelligent? We think of humans as intelligent – maybe animals too. But vegetation? Well, one of the world’s leading tree researchers, Suzanne Simard, insists that trees should be seen as intelligent. They communicate with each other. They help each other. They are even able to distinguish between their offspring and stranger trees. She calls the network of tree communication the wood wide web. And she believes that her discoveries should alter our relationship to trees, woods and forests.



    Presenter: David Edmonds

    Producer: Ben Cooper



    (Photo: US-Fall_Shenandoah, Credit: Getty Images)

    • 9 min
    Consciousness: A Strange Theory

    Consciousness: A Strange Theory

    Is consciousness everywhere? Human consciousness - our subjective experience - remains a mystery. How is it that we can smell coffee and feel the touch of a flower? How does the brain produce consciousness? Well, one of the world’s top philosophers, David Chalmers, has a suggestion. Perhaps consciousness exists everywhere, in some form; perhaps it exists in every subatomic particle – the particles that make up not just humans, but tables and chairs. It sounds completely wacky, but Professor Chalmers explains why it’s a theory worth taking seriously.



    Presenter David Edmonds



    Producer Ben Cooper



    (Image: Glittering Particles Credit: Shutterstock)

    • 10 min

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