Future fit?

17 Apr 2009 09:16:00.000

PA 107/09

The answer to climate change might actually be further human expansion, but at the cost of individual freedom: that’s according to a new television documentary produced and directed by an expert at The University of Nottingham

Dr Christopher Barnatt, an Associate Professor of Computing and Organisations in the Nottingham University Business School, gets to grips with some incredibly difficult questions in the three part series, which explores various future scenarios, based on current global concerns, like the environment, the economic crisis and technological advances.

Challenging Reality is based on Dr Barnatt’s book of the same name: “The idea was to try and look at momentous change across history, and to try and say to people; look what’s happened between the past and the present, as a sort of guide to reminding us that the world’s nowhere near as fixed as we think it may be and therefore could change quite drastically from the present to the future.”


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Among these changes are self-replicating nano-robots that could — sooner rather than later, perhaps —enter our bodies to carry out surgeries and clean up pollutants and diseases.

Dr Barnatt said: “This may remind us that these things that might seem fantastical for the future are a lot more possible than they could have been.”

Dr Barnatt is an experienced animator and has worked for the BBC under the late artist and presenter Tony Hart. For Challenging Reality, he devised and produced the computer generated images and graphics.

The series draws in experts from across the University with expertise in nanotechnologies, the Internet, cultural influence and how human progression impacts on the individual.

“The series is really trying to say we need to start thinking about the future differently. That’s why I used the historical perspective. Because if you go to people and say the world could be completely different in twenty years, they’d normally think you’re a bit of an idiot.”

Dr Barnatt though believes that on reflection, anything’s possible: “In the Twentieth Century, we went from literally steam trains and horse drawn carriages to people landing on the moon and developing Television and the Internet in a very short time.

“So it’s really trying to say that the world we live in, the world we’re constrained by, is largely in our heads and really that’s the principle of the programme.”

For more information and full transcripts of the programme from April 18 go to http://www.explainingthefuture.com/reality/index.html

The series will be broadcast by Edge Media TV’s Controversial TV on Sky channel 200 in the UK (and across Europe on Eurobird 28.3E – 11.222Ghz H, symbol rate 27.5, FEC 2/3) on Saturdays at 17:00 throughout April and May.

Episode 1: From the Pyramids to the Digital Age — Saturday 18 April 2009
The first programme charts the history and future of great human achievements, focusing on the Pyramids, the moon-landings, genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

Episode 2: Our Island Earth — Saturday 25 April 2009
The evolution of travel and communications is the focus of this instalment. It uses the second law of thermodynamics to explore the paradox of our constant need to expand in the face of dwindling resources.

Episode 3: The power of one — Saturday 2 May 2009
This programme assesses the impact of technological development on human beings past, present and future and how the responses to global problems may soon reduce individual rights and freedoms.

— Ends —

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

Story credits

More information is available from, Dr Christopher Barnatt , on +44 (0)115 951 5263 , christopher.barnatt@nottingham.ac.uk ;

Andrew Burden

Andrew Burden - Digital Communications Manager

Email: andrew.burden@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8313 Location: University Park

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