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Tech solutionism, mutual aid and cooperatives: Finding tech fixes to complex societal issues

Big Tech aims to solve large social issues, from housing to urban transportation. There are also peer-to-peer solutions that aim to address precarity and inequality. How far can either of these approaches go, and where does government policy fit? And: with massive layoffs happening all over Silicon Valley, and the sale of Twitter throwing social media into chaos, is it time to rekindle the cooperatives movement in tech? With guests Paris Marx, Nathan Schneider and Greg Lindsay.

Social tech can be a lifeline and challenge to friendship, says researcher

The evolutionary biology of friendship and how digital tech has shaped our fundamental sense of togetherness.

Understanding the economic power and hype around AI

This week, we demystify artificial intelligence: what this technology can do, what we think it can do, and the implications of our understanding of this tech on how we apply it. And: is generative AI worth the hype?

Digital data has an environmental cost. Calling it 'the cloud' conceals that, researcher says

Routine online activities like sharing photos to social media, uploading files to shared drives, or streaming TV shows produce a lot of digital data. And as that data production soars, so does the energy demand for storing and processing it. 

Rethinking energy storage technology as our need for battery power grows

Rechargeable batteries have revolutionized modern technology, powering up everything from smartphones to cars to snow blowers. So how can we meet the increased demand for the materials needed to build batteries, while keeping the environmental and human costs of resource extraction low?

How technology can help us better understand the natural world

From tiny robots that help lead honeybees to nectar sources, to bioacoustic tools that help ships avoid collisions with whales, digital technology is helping humans gain a deeper understanding of animals and plants. This week on Spark, we explore the tech that helps us understand the language of plants and animals, and how it may hold the key to protecting biodiversity.

Tech alone can't solve the housing crisis, says researcher

A new crop of digital platforms aim to address housing equity, from improving mortgage terms to providing homelessness resources. But do technical answers work for social questions?

Decentralized web movement imagines 'a web with many winners' that puts community first

Mai Ishikawa Sutton and Alicia Urquidi Díaz discuss the vision behind the movement known as DWeb, and how the decentralized web combines the community aspect of the '90s online experience with today's equity and accessibility principles.

Forget oil: Microchips are today's most valuable resource, says author

Nearly every powered device we use these days depends on microchips, from cars to electric guitars. The first episode of Spark's special series, The Butterfly Effect, revisits the origin of the integrated circuit, its rapid development, and the way this technology has changed the world's geopolitical and economic landscape.

How this teacher uses TikTok to educate and entertain students

Teachers using TikTok videos exploded during the pandemic as educators searched for new — and remote — ways to educate and entertain their students.

Drone surveillance and crowdfunded ransom: How tech is changing borders and those who cross them

Millions of people are on the move today, in the biggest forced displacement since the Second World War. And unlike in decades past, new technologies are changing the narratives of their movement — both by reinforcing and extending borders, and acting as a lifeline for those trying to cross them. 

Start treating 'intimate data' collection as a civil rights issue, says researcher

We all know tech companies collect a lot of data about us, and sell it to third parties. So is there a tipping point when it comes to how much intimate data – about our health, conversations, dating habits – tech ought to be able to access? Danielle Citron makes the case for treating data protection as a civil rights issue, and Sandra Wachter discusses the risks of algorithmic groups and discrimination.

The Next Big Thing

In this summer series, Spark looks thirty years into the future to imagine what the next big thing could be in various areas of technology and design.

How malls and freeways helped segregate America

Freeways, suburbanization and malls were concepts sold as part of the American dream when they were introduced in the 1950s. Some architects and design critics say these innovations were actually vehicles of segregation that destroyed communities of colour and further separated them from white America.

From affordable childcare to school in the metaverse: What will childhood look like in 30 years?

Children no longer make a distinction between the virtual and the 'real' worlds, experts say. But that doesn't mean they still won't play with Lego in 2050.

Web3 reimagines the future of the internet

Web3 promises to give users more power over their data and digital identity. But what does it look like in practice, and can it succeed in democratizing our online lives?

In the future, will you own your digital self? This futurist thinks so

How nascent digital tech and companies threaten to take away our ability to control our identity.

Virtual you is just as real as physical you, says philosopher

In his new book, David Chalmers, a philosophy professor at New York University, explores the idea that virtual experiences are real experiences, and what that might mean for how we think about consciousness and our sense of self.

The way we eat is changing. Here's what you need to know about the future of food

The food on our plate might look —and taste— different thirty years from now, but new approaches promise to equitably and sustainably feed everyone on the planet.

Jeanette Winterson envisions a post-material future in latest book of essays

The celebrated writer shares her vision of possible AI futures.

Canada's laws need updating to protect against abuse from surveillance tech, watchdog says

A look at the far future and nitty gritty present of artificial intelligence and what it might mean for how we relate to one another and the non-human entities that will —and increasingly do— surround us.

Thanks to machines, humans are trained to change the way we speak

On today's social media platforms, people speak in code to elude algorithmic censors, an example of how improvisation reshapes language.

With advances in medicine, could 80 become the new 40?

We all age. But the process of aging may be different in the year 2050 thanks to advances in medical tech.

How tech can help build a more sustainable fashion future

Our digital tech both facilitates and mitigates waste in the garment industry. But can the technology that ramped up global fashion production also help us build a more sustainable fashion future?

6 creative approaches to the climate crisis and a sustainable tech future

A retrospective look at Spark's long history of covering stories about creative solutions to the climate crisis.