Are you really addicted to your phone?

3 minutes

Sabine Hossenfelder: searching for beauty in mathematics

9 minutes

A small antelope horn

2 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Conor and Kobe

6 minutes

How Big Tech betrayed us

4 minutes

Is ‘tech addiction’ really akin to drug addiction? Here’s what the research says

Over the past two decades or so, industries have sprung up to treat ‘addictions’ to everything from excessive eating or sex to video games. And colloquially, use of the word ‘addictive’ seems to have reached a peak, used in headlines and casual conversations to describe everything from Nutella to the latest streaming series. In this short video from BBC Ideas, Andrew Przybylski, a professor of experimental psychology at the Oxford Internet Institute, examines the phrase ‘technology addiction’, offering a brief history of the term, and ultimately arguing that, unlike research on addictions to gambling, drugs or alcohol, the research on technology addictions is inconclusive. For Przybylski, it’s more than a matter of semantics: given the lack of conclusive research, new ‘addiction’ treatment markets have become fertile ground for opportunists looking to make a quick buck. Also, like conflating sadness with clinical depression, pairing ‘tech addiction’ with medically proven conditions risks minimising very serious brain disorders.

Video by BBC Ideas

Animator: Cheng-Hsu Chung

Against ‘beauty’ in science – how striving for elegance stifles progress

That there is an inherent ‘beauty’ and ‘elegance’ to the laws of nature is a view that permeates the field of physics. But, according to the German theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, the notion that the further you peer into reality, the easier the equation gets, has no basis in reality. Indeed, since the mid-20th-century, the maths of physics has become increasingly knotty, even as many physicists have continued to search for a path back to simplicity. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, Hossenfelder makes the case that this fixation on beauty isn’t just misguided – it’s stifling scientific progress.

Video by Closer to Truth

Sitting by the fire with a nomadic tribe, a physicist ponders the many shapes of wisdom

The Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli is a pioneer in the field of quantum gravity, and often thought of as one of the world’s foremost scientific thinkers. In this brief animation by James Siewert, which features narration from the Swazi-English actor Richard E Grant, Rovelli recalls communing with members of the Hadza tribe of northern Tanzania – one of the last hunter-gatherer societies on Earth. Sitting by the fire, thoughts of the peculiar trajectory of Homo sapiens and the many shapes of human wisdom flicker in his head, as he ponders the gaps, large and small, between his world and theirs.

Video by rubberband.

Animator: James Siewert

Website: Alexander

Grieving Kobe Bryant, Conor wonders: why do untimely celebrity deaths hit so hard?

‘It’s weird, like – I’m tearing up for someone I didn’t even know…’

Kobe Bryant’s death on 26 January 2020 in a helicopter crash, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, was met with public displays of mourning in the hours, weeks and months that followed. One of the most beloved basketball stars from a league with a global fanbase, the tragedy prompted innumerable tributes to the NBA legend, scrawled everywhere from the sidewalks of Los Angeles to the Chinese social media platform Weibo – alongside plenty of discussions and think-pieces about his complicated legacy, on and off the court.

This short documentary from the US filmmaker Derek Knowles is constructed from phone conversations between Knowles, his brother Conor and the siblings’ parents in the wake of Bryant’s death. Conor, the family’s biggest Bryant fan, meets the news with a distinct combination of shock, sadness and confusion over how the death of someone he never truly knew could affect him so powerfully. The result is a poignant and intricate reflection on celebrity, mourning and death, crafted from just a few intimate words between family members.

Director: Derek Knowles

Tech companies shroud their algorithms in secrecy. It’s time to pry open the black box

The so-called father of capitalism, Adam Smith, would frown upon the ‘free markets’ of the 21st century, argues the US economics writer Rana Foroohar. For Smith, a functioning market required transparency, a mutual understanding of exchanges and a shared moral framework. And, as Foroohar puts it in this brief animation for the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), surveillance capitalism – pioneered by Google, and now, to varying degrees, ubiquitous worldwide – comes up short on all three fronts. Featuring excerpts from a presentation given by Foroohar at the RSA House in London in 2019, this brief animation lays out the many ways in which surveillance capitalism continues to encroach unchecked, and one potential plan for course correction.

Video by the RSA

Director and Animator: Thomas Kilburn

Producer: Phoebe Williams

Is ‘tech addiction’ really akin to drug addiction? Here’s what the research says

Over the past two decades or so, industries have sprung up to treat ‘addictions’ to everything from excessive eating or sex to video games. And colloquially, use of the word ‘addictive’ seems to have reached a peak, used in headlines and casual conversations to describe everything from Nutella to the latest streaming series. In this short video from BBC Ideas, Andrew Przybylski, a professor of experimental psychology at the Oxford Internet Institute, examines the phrase ‘technology addiction’, offering a brief history of the term, and ultimately arguing that, unlike research on addictions to gambling, drugs or alcohol, the research on technology addictions is inconclusive. For Przybylski, it’s more than a matter of semantics: given the lack of conclusive research, new ‘addiction’ treatment markets have become fertile ground for opportunists looking to make a quick buck. Also, like conflating sadness with clinical depression, pairing ‘tech addiction’ with medically proven conditions risks minimising very serious brain disorders.

Video by BBC Ideas

Animator: Cheng-Hsu Chung

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A monument to the glories of Soviet-era military aviation. Tiraspol, Transdniester, 2004. Photo by Jonas Bendikson/Magnum

Essay/
Future of technology
How vulnerable is the world?

Sooner or later a technology capable of wiping out human civilisation might be invented. How far would we go to stop it?

Nick Bostrom & Matthew van der Merwe