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BBC World Service - Digital Planet

Digital Planet

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Digital Planet

  • Why do we vote with paper in the age of the smart phone?
    Despite a pandemic, nearly everyone voting in the upcoming US election will do so with a tick in a box on a piece of paper. They may post their ballot, or go in person to a voting station, but the process is still physical. Why? Presenter Gareth Mitchell will be asking election voting advisor Susan Greenhalgh. Despite the prevalence of paper, there are some voting machines in the USA, Beatrice Atobatele tells us why she bought one online and how hacking into it could help to make the coming US election more secure. Also on the programme, data is central to nearly everything in computing today. It presents issues, but imagine if you could train your machines on clean, orderly, high quality data? Well a new technique to generate clean data artificially has been released, open source, by MIT. We explore what this could mean with Nicolai Baldin, the CEO of the London company ‘Synthesized’. (Image: Getty Images) Presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert comment from Bill Thompson Produced by Rory Galloway Studio Manager: Giles Aspen

  • Go Viral! online game
    Go Viral! is a browser based game where you have a go at being a spreader of misinformation. Along the way, you learn the tactics of the trolls and you come out the other end, better able to differentiate the facts from the alternative facts online. Gareth discusses why these games can change peoples’ minds with one of the game’s co-developers, Jon Roozenbeek of the Department of Psychology at Cambridge University in England. Human rights lawyer Flynn Coleman has just published a book called A Human Algorithm – how artificial intelligence is redefining who we are. She explains to Gareth why she’s concerned about the small group of individuals who are in charge of the digital world and what should be done to change that. In the pandemic choreographer Alexander Whitley has had to postpone his live shows. Hannah Fisher reports on how he’s moved his dance project online and invited others to collaborate. The music is ‘Memory Arc’ by Rival Consoles. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington (Image: Cambridge University) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz Studio Producer: Deborah Cohen Studio Manager: Nigel Dix

  • Predicting US elections results every hour
    Can political forecasting be quicker? That’s a question posed by Thomas Miller from Northwestern University, who has created a model that simulates a million hypothetical US presidential election results every hour. The model does not use traditional data sources like polling surveys but betting data. Recycling Solar lamps in Zambia We hear from SolarAid who have started a repair, refurbishment and recycling project for their solar lights in Zambia. Some electronics built to serve the world’s poorest, are also built to be incredibly challenging to repair, which adds to an increasing amount of e-waste generated - a record of 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2019. SolarAid have developed a manual, an app, are training technicians and opening workshops to encourage people to have their lamps repaired. The Rising Sea Symphony How do you create a new music masterpiece during a pandemic – using technology in ways not used before. A new BBC Radio 3 commission (due to be broadcast on Sunday 18th October), entitled The Rising Sea Symphony, by composer Kieran Brunt, has been recorded by BBC Philharmonic players in isolation, individually, and then “painfully” pasted together to create the full orchestral sound over the last few months. The piece is inspired by the increasing dangers of the climate change crisis and mixes orchestral parts, vocals, electronics, and spoken contributions from inhabitants of different parts of the world which are being affected by sea level rising. We speak to the composer and to Studio Manager Donald MacDonald who faced the challenge of mixing the piece. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. (Image: Getty Images) Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Can AI predict criminal behaviour?
    For at least two decades now police forces have been using crime data tech to analyse crime patterns and therefore reduce crime rates, but they have not been able to predict who may have carried out a crime. Now the Sheriff’s office in Pasco County, Florida is using what it calls ‘intelligence led policing’ to do just that. Could AI algorithms really identify offenders? Not according to Kathleen McGrory, Deputy Investigations Editor at the Tampa Bay Times who has been researching this mysterious tech that the local law enforcement agency has been using. Similar schemes have been scrapped in LA and Chicago but continue in Pasco County. We asked for an interview with the Pasco County Police Sheriff and one of the engineers behind the tech – but did not receive a response. The rise of the Honjok lifestyle in South Korea Honjok is the term used by those Koreans who decide to live, eat, drink, and undergo most activities on their own, and are happy when they are alone with themselves. This movement started in the first half of the 2010’s and has been growing in parallel with South Korea's rate of smartphone ownership and the emergence of on-demand shopping and social media. It would seem that tech adoption is one of the main factors that helped elevate Honjok into a national movement. Reporter Silvia Lazzaris has been delving into the online world of Honjok. Could data unions give you some control and gain from your personal data? Would you like to make money from your Google search history? A new platform to democratize our data by tech start up Streamr will allow individuals to take control of their personal data and even gain financially from it. Until now, most of the data we generate browsing the web and using smart devices is controlled by a few giant corporations. It’s also sold without us receiving any share of its value. The Streamr platform enables developers to create their own data unions (such as Swash, which has a growing user base, and allows people to earn money as they browse) to decentralize control of data away from big tech and back to the individual. These data unions can also significantly improve the quality and security of data sets. Shiv Malik, Head of Growth at Streamr, is on the programme to explain how data unions work. The programme was presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. (Image: Getty Images) Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Mapping Covid-19 to your phone
    Google maps has a new feature - COVID19 maps. You can now filter onto your chosen area the current Covid-19 case rates. Launched in more than 200 countries the mapping feature could help people decide if they feel it is safe to travel to new areas – but as is often the case with new tech when it is launched it is not as informative as you may have hoped…yet. Charlotte Jee, MIT Technology review reporter, gives us a rundown of what’s good and what’s not so good about the new feature. The ethics of digital communication Can you remember the early days of the internet – how it was going to improve freedom of expression because of this amazing fast connectivity that we had never had before? Well obviously things haven’t quite panned out that way, says Prof (Baroness) Onora O’Neill form Cambridge Uni. In fact it’s done the opp as well as damaged our right to privacy. She speaks to Gareth about what can be done to reverse some of this damage. Hack a Sat Florian Blor reports from the first ever satellite hacking competition at DEF CON - the world's largest, longest continuously run underground hacking conference. The idea was to hack into a satellite, change it’s orientation in orbit and point it at the moon and take a photo. It wasn’t a real satellite in space but an earthbound stand in and part of hackasat – a cybersecurity completion aimed at ultimately protecting satellites from a cyberattack. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. (Image: Getty images) Studio Manager: Sarah Hockley Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz