Modern tech is accused of interfering with our sleep, keeping us up late anxiously staring at our phone screens. But could a phone app provide the cure?
Roughly one in three people in most developed countries typically tell surveys that the suffer from insomnia. The BBC's Laurence Knight is one of them. He seeks the advice of sleep physician Dr Guy Leschziner of Guy's Hospital in London, who explains how sleep and anxiety can become a vicious circle.
The good news is that there is a new non-drug treatment that is proving remarkably successful - cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia. The bad news is that there are nowhere near enough trained clinicians able to provide treatment. That provides a gap in the market - and one that Yuri Maricich of US medical tech firm Pear Therapeutics hopes to fill with a mobile phone app of all things.
(Picture: Cell phone addict man awake at night in bed using smartphone; Credit: OcusFocus/Getty Images)
Microworkers teaching robots
How the rise of 'microwork' is helping develop artificial intelligence. Ed Butler speaks to New York Times reporter Andy Newman about his experience on Mechanical Turk - the Amazon-owned platform that offers tiny jobs for tiny wages. Microworker Michelle Munoz explains how she makes a good living from online microwork in Venezuela. Ronald Schmelzer, analyst at Cognilytica, an AI market research firm, explains why data-labelling tasks common on microworking sites play a central role in developing artificial intelligence. And researcher and author Mary Gray warns about the impact of microwork on workers' rights.
Producer: Edwin Lane
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
Where has all the good soil gone?
Soil degradation is reducing crop yields and adding to climate change. It's a big headache not just for farmers, but for all of us.
But fear not, as Ed Butler heads to a wheat field in eastern England where farmer Simon Cowell thinks he has a simple, counter-intuitive solution to the problem: Cut back on fertilisers and pesticides, and plough less. He claims it restored his land in two years.
But if it's this simple, why isn't everyone doing it? And what happens if we don't do anything? How quickly will we run out of usable soil, and how much carbon will our soils emit into the atmosphere?
The programme also features interviews with Ronald Vargas of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; professor of soil conservation Jane Rickson of Cranfield University; and geologist David Montgomery of the University of Washington.
Producer: Josh Thorpe
(Picture: Close-up young plant growing in the soil; Credit: Mintr/Getty Images)
The power-hungry internet
Why our growing use of technology is a threat to the planet. Ed Butler speaks to Ian Bitterlin, a visiting professor at the University of Leeds in the UK and an expert in the data centres that underpin the internet and use vast amounts of energy. Ruiqi Ye, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Beijing, explains why data centres are adding to the climate change problem. Halvor Bjerke from Norway's DigiPlex, the Nordic region’s leading data centre supplier, tells us why putting more data centres in colder parts of the world could be part of the solution.
Producer: Josh Thorpe
(Photo: Servers in a data centre in the UK, Credit: Getty Images)
The next big thing
How easy is it to predict where tech will take us in the next decade, and have we hit a plateau in the pace of innovation?
Manuela Saragosa speaks to author and artist Douglas Coupland, who retells how a mind-bending run-in with a Google research team left him convinced that the next huge development hurtling towards us like a meteor is what he calls "talking with yourself".
Science fiction predictions of the future are notoriously wayward - where are the hoverboards and ubiquitous fax machines promised by the Back to the Future films? Nonetheless, forecasting tech developments can be 85% accurate over a 10-year time horizon, according to professional futurologist Dr I D Pearson.
But while tech may continue to take us to new and strange places in the long term, has Silicon Valley run out of earth-shattering new products, at least in the short term? The BBC's Zoe Kleinman reports from a rather subdued CES 2020 tech conference in Las Vegas.
Producer: Laurence Knight
(Picture: Cracked egg containing computer circuitry; Credit: sqback/Getty Images)