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24
JAN

What happens when the Bitcoin miners leave?

In the summer of 2021 Kazakhstan was the second biggest producer of Bitcoin in the world, but what has happened since the crypto currency crash? Tech reporter Peter Guest is on the show to tell us about his trip to the country and how mega warehouses that once contained the computing power to make crypto millions now stand empty in the country’s rust belt. He tells us the story of the rise and fall of the bitcoin miners in this remote part of the world.

Wearable tech, AI and potential new treatments for rare diseases
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Friedreich's ataxia (FA) are very rare genetic diseases neither of which has a cure. Now scientists and engineers in the UK have used motion sensors to capture the way patients move. They processed this data through new AI medical technology that they say can predict disease progression and significantly increase the efficiency of clinical trials in these conditions. Treatments are desperately needed as both diseases can lead to paralysis and currently there are often not enough patients for clinical trials. Dr. Valeria Ricotti, honorary clinical lecturer at the UCL GOS ICH and lead author of the studies is on the show to tell us more.

Sony’s new game controller for disabled gamers
Our gaming correspondent Chris Berrow reports on Sony’s new “Project Leonardo”, its PlayStation 5 controller for disabled gamers. The company teamed up with accessibility experts and charities to design the modular controller which can be adapted in many different ways to allow as many people as possible to use it. Launched at CES it still doesn’t have a release date or price though.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant
Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

(Image: Huge transformers and high tension cable to power bitcoin mines in Kazakhstan. Credit: peterguest.co)
17
JAN

Self-driving cars could be a massive source of global carbon emissions

MIT researchers have concluded in a new study that computers that power self-driving cars could generate as many greenhouse gas emissions as the total of the world’s data centres do today. We’ve reported many times on the huge carbon footprint of data centres as well as the massive amounts of electricity needed to run them. They currently account for 0.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a similar level to Argentina - according to the International Energy Agency. The models created show that 1 billion autonomous vehicles, driving for one hour a day each, need a computer consuming 840 watts. These would consume enough energy to generate similar emissions as data centres currently do. Lead author Soumya Sudhakar joins us on the show to explain how hardware efficiency will need to advance rapidly to avoid these high levels of emissions.

Brazil’s antisocial media
Following last week’s events in Brasilia we look at the role social media played in the violence by far-right protestors. Angelica Mari, and activist and researcher Bruna Martins dos Santos who specialises in the Politics of Digitalization discuss if President Lula’s new government can reclaim the social media space and curb the spread of far right disinformation.

Getting South Africa connected – a new initiative
Last week we heard from one of our listeners about how he tries to stay online during power shortages in Ukraine following Russian air strikes. Another country that is significantly affected by energy shortages is South Africa. In addition, getting a reliable internet connection is also very hard. The government has announced that it’s going to spend over 160 million dollars over the next three years creating 33,000 community Wi-Fi hotspots as well as investing in improving IT skills across the population. Our reporter Rani Singh has been looking at how this might be achieved…

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari.

Studio Manager: Michael Millham
Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

(Image: Stylised car icon. Credit: Smartboy10/Getty Images)
10
JAN

Getting online in Ukraine’s blackouts

One of our listeners in Ukraine contacted us to tell us how he stays online during power outages following bombing in Ukraine. Volodymyr Bielikov is on the show to explain the issues he’s regularly facing with internet connectivity.

AI avatars undressed and virtual employees
Ghislaine Boddington looks at the alarming story of how a young female reporter created avatars in the AI avatar app Lensa and was shocked to find that out of 100 avatars, 16 were topless and another 14 wore very skimpy clothing and were in provocative poses. Why has this app created astronauts and warrior avatars for her male colleagues and is undressing her avatars? Ghislaine also looks at the rising employment of virtual staff. The tech company Baidu says the number of virtual people projects its working on has doubled in the last year with prices of a virtual employee starting at just under $3k. Why are they becoming popular and what jobs are they being used for? Evelyn Cheng, Senior Correspondent from cnbc.com in Beijing, has been investigating the story.

An AI age verification system
Age verification has long been a topic of discussion, particularly in the online space with regards to young people who often don’t have verifiable ID such as a driver’s licence. Now a promising AI powered age estimation system, called YOTI, which analyses a person’s face is gaining popularity. Shiroma Silva has been testing it out on her colleagues – including Gareth – and reports how some major platforms are using it to keep younger users safe online.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

(Image: Power outage, blackout in Ukraine. Credit: Anton Petrus/Getty Images)
03
JAN

Agritech Special Edition

This week and to start the New Year we take a look at the use of technology in agriculture around the world. Agriculture as an industry is keen to clean up its act on emissions, so what could be better than an electric tractor. But will it be able to manage all that farming throws at it? Gareth puts the questions to Praveen Penmetsa who is co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractors which recently launched a ‘Smart Tractor’.

It’s no use having a tractor smart or not, if your crop has been devastated by insects. Pests destroy up to 40 percent of global crops and cost 220 billion US dollars of losses worldwide annually, according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the FAO. Matej Stefancic the Chief Executive Officer of Trapview a Slovenian company, has developed intelligent insect traps. He explains to Gareth how they monitor bugs in the field, in an effort to cut the need for indiscriminate use of insecticides.

And once you’ve grown your crop you need to harvest it, and in the case of soft fruit it needs careful picking and packing for the market. With a shortage of skilled labour around the world a robot picker capable of matching a human would be ideal. Well, one developed in Britain is currently doing just that on a farm in Portugal, and fruit picked by it could be on sale in supermarkets very soon. The academic founder and Chief Science Officer of Fieldwork Robotics Martin Stoelen is the brains behind this robot and he explains to Gareth the challenges involved in developing it.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.

Studio Manager: Steve Greenwood
Producers: Ania Lichtarowicz and Alun Beach

(Image: Smart Farming graphic
Credit: Jackie Niam/Getty Images)

4 episodes