A MOVIEGOER’S MICRO-PODCAST GUIDE TO RESPONSIBLE INNOVATION
How do you squeeze a 110,000 word book about emerging technologies, responsible innovation and sci-fi movies into a series of “micro” podcasts that are just a few minutes long?
The answer, of course, is that you can’t. But what you can do — and what I’ve done here — is provide glimpses into some of the challenges and opportunities surrounding emerging technologies through short snippets from such a book.
This is exactly what the sixteen micro-podcast episodes below do. Drawing on my book Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies, they provide short, sharp insights into emerging scientific and technological capabilities, and the challenges we collectively face in developing them in socially responsible and ethical ways.
These clips are inspired by the movies they’re connected to, but don’t necessarily feature the films themselves. And they are short–probably frustratingly short for some listeners! Yet hopefully they’re intriguing enough to make you want to know more about just how important it is that we take responsible and ethical innovation seriously, lest the risks that are the narrative lifeblood of many of these movies become reality!
If you’re interested in knowing more about socially responsible innovation, there are various resources at the end of this page.
This website also has a wealth of additional information on emerging technologies and their potential social implications — check out the menus above for more information. And there’s always the book 😊
Plus, if you’re an undergraduate at ASU, there’s even a course–appropriately named The Moviegoer’s Guide to the Future!
And of course, if you are interested in more information on anything here, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EPISODE 1: BEGINNINGS
Everything needs to begin somewhere, and this micro-podcast series — just as in the book — begins with the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey. Rather than dive straight into big questions around responsible innovation, this reading from the very beginning of Films from the Future sets the scene for the rest of the series by starting with a personal reminiscence.
EPISODE 2: RESPONSIBLE INNOVATION
Of course, before diving into exploring how science fiction movies provide insights into responsible innovation, you should have at least some idea of what responsible innovation is! This reading is also from chapter 1 of Films from the Future, and queues things up for when we hit our first big blockbuster in chapter 2, and the next episode!
EPISODE 3: CAN WE, SHOULD WE?
Chapter 2 of Films from the Future is inspired by the 1993 Steven Spielberg classic Jurassic Park. And what better quote to run with than Dr. Ian Malcolm’s “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” — especially when it comes to the very real science of “de-extinction!”
EPISODE 4: VISIONS OF POWER
Sticking with chapter 2 and Jurassic Park, the sticky issue of who holds and wields power in technology innovation comes up–and who gets to say who does what! There are echoes of the real world here as powerful entrepreneurs set the pace for technology innovation without always considering the consequences to others as they follow their dreams and desires.
EPISODE 5: CLONING
Moving on to chapter 3, we get to the heart-wrenchingly sad 2010 movie Never Let Me Go, based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s book of the same name. A the heart of this movie is human cloning, and the slippery ethical slope of turning a blind eye to atrocities in the name of a perceived greater social good.
EPISODE 6: PREDICTING BAD BEHAVIOR
Chapter 4 of Films from the Future is inspired by the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minority Report, and how it informs our thinking about the use and abuse of apparently predictive technologies. In this excerpt, the dangers of using technology to predict “bad” behavior is explored.
EPISODE 7 ACADEMICS ON SMART DRUGS
If you could clear brain-fog and get ahead academically by simply popping a pill, would you? Not only are smart drugs at the center of the 2011 movie Limitless, they’re also a very real topic in circles where people depend on their brains for what they do. And the ethics of whether they should be used or not are complicated to say the least! From chapter 5 of Films from the Future
EPISODE 8: BIOPRINTING OUR FUTURE
The 2013 movie Elysium (chapter 6 in Films from the Future) is a film about technology innovation and social injustice. But it also highlights, in a roundabout way, a technology that is closer than you might think to becoming a reality: 3D printed replacement organs!
EPISODE 9: BODY HACKING
The 1996 anime movie Ghost in the Shell (chapter 7 in Films from the Future) is can be a challenging film to watch if you’re not familiar with the genre. But it’s worth persevering, as it’s a beautifully made movie that explores what defines us as individuals, even when we begin to replace more of ourselves with technology. It’s also a movie that opens up particularly interesting questions around the issues that arise as we continue to incorporate more and more tech into our bodies.
EPISODE 10: SUPERINTELLIGENCE
Could we create an artificial intelligence that’s so smart, it leaves our very human intelligence standing in the dust? And if we can, what are the risks that this “superintelligence” might present us with? Chapter 8 of Films from the Future draws on the 2014 movie Ex Machina to consider the dangers of super-intelligent machines, and the challenges of developing responsible and ethical AI.
EPISODE 11: ENTER THE NEOLUDDITES
You often hear the term”Luddite” hurled — rather unfairly as it turns out — at people who are skeptical about unquestioningly embracing the latest trends in tech innovation. But the term Luddite originally comes from a movement that put jobs and sense of worth above others making a tech-driven profit at their expense. In this excerpt from chapter 9 of Films from the Future (inspired by the 2014 Jonny Depp movie Transcendence), the Luddite legacy is explored.
EPISODE 12: NANOTECHNOLOGY
The 1951 movie The Man in the White Suit (chapter 10 of Films from the Future) may seem a little long in the tooth these days. But with it’s depiction of one scientists dream of creating wear-proof and stain-proof pants (because he couldn’t imagine why anyone would willingly want to vary what they wear!), it’s the perfect backdrop to exploring the pros and cons of a more up to date version of a similar tech: nanotechnology.
EPISODE 13: THE HONEST BROKER
What, you may ask, is the 2016 Dan Brown movie Inferno doing in a podcast series about responsible innovation? As it turns out, the technology in the movie — gain of function genetic modification of a virus, accompanied by a brilliant and mega-wealthy but seriously messed up scientist — is a great jumping off point to talk about a whole bunch of stuff around what not to do with science and technology! It also paves the way for asking how scientists can be part of responsibly informed decision making, which is a topic that chapter 11 of Films from the Future grapples with in some depth.
EPISODE 14: A PLANETARY MICROBIOME
EPISODE 15: OCCAM'S RAZOR
As a scientist, I have a particular soft spot for Carl Sagan’s 1997 movie Contact, and so I was determined to get it into Films from the Future somewhere. It ended up being the last of the twelve big movies that the book is built around (chapter 13), and it gave me an excuse to talk about the nature of science, discovery, and belief. In this excerpt, the incredibly important topic of making sense of evidence comes up in the for of Occam’s Razor.
EPISODE 16: DON'T PANIC
The original working title for Films from the Future was The Moviegoer’s Guide to the Future, and it was heavily influenced by Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Future. Sadly, the working title ended up being dropped, but I still squeezed Adams’ guide into the final chapter as I wrapped things up!