What's next after What Next? We must continue discussion about NZ's future

Presenters John Campbell and Nigel Latta hosted "What Next", a five-part, live and interactive series that explored what ...
TVNZ

Presenters John Campbell and Nigel Latta hosted "What Next", a five-part, live and interactive series that explored what New Zealand could look like in 2037.

OPINION: What's next after What Next?

TV One's What Next?, which explored what society might look like in 2037, concluded on Thursday last week, having aired across five consecutive nights.

It was a welcome experiment by TVNZ: public interest programming in prime time, John Campbell back on our screens, and - most significantly - a serious look at the future beyond the short-term focus of most factual and current affairs media.

What Next? took a look at how New Zealand's future might be in 20 years - but Luke Goode says while the show was a good ...
SUPPLIED

What Next? took a look at how New Zealand's future might be in 20 years - but Luke Goode says while the show was a good starting point, more discussion is needed.

We desperately need informed public debate about potential pathways into the future. Steady-as- she-goes, what the show called "Plan A" is no plan at all. We need bold thought experiments and new ideas about our approach to the economy, the environment and disruptive new technologies.

READ MORE:
What Next? takes on health, retirement and housing
What Next? Bugs are NZ's farming future
What Next? Nigel Latta and John Campbell team up

 

What Next? has been a positive but limited first step.

The show covered a wide range of interesting topics: automation, self-driving cars, insects and synthetic meat as alternative protein sources, extended lifespans, the future of consumerism, and many more besides. Sadly, these came so thick and fast that there was rarely time to explore them in any depth.

What Next? usefully showcased some of the ideas that should be on the agenda for debating the future but in a rather chaotic way that frequently lacked a wider context. It is of limited value to discuss autonomous vehicles, for example, without linking this to transport policy, energy infrastructure and economics: who will be in a position to enjoy this hi-tech future?

A second issue with What Next? is that it focused heavily on the choices facing individual consumers, communities and especially businesses, but very lightly on questions of government policy.

Ad Feedback

The show should be applauded for presenting the future in terms of choices, rather than using its expert panel of futurists to predict our inevitable fate. But while there is an important role to be played by individuals, enterprises and civil society groups in creating a desirable future, we also need to think carefully as citizens about the kinds of governments we elect.

What Next? focused heavily on social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, local resource sharing schemes, individual lifestyle choices and other voluntary initiatives (such as the excellent Free Store project in Wellington that redistributes good food from eateries that would otherwise be wasted).

But these will only take us so far. Policy platforms around infrastructure, transport, housing, taxation, wealth distribution, retirement policy, environmental regulation and so forth are vital components that will shape our future.

These remained mostly off the table in what was perhaps an understandable but misguided attempt to keep the show apolitical: like it or not, the future is political.

Even inequality and poverty were framed largely as problems of attitude rather than policy. The welcome discussion of a Universal Basic Income was a notable exception to this relative neglect of policy.

Finally, we come to the question of public engagement. What Next? made use of live comment feeds, running polls and after-show online discussion as part of a well-intentioned effort to make us feel involved.

But poorly framed questions, scattergun topics and a disconnect between studio discussion and audience feedback made it seem more like interactivity for its own sake than a platform for serious public debate.

In order to engage the public in serious debate about the future, it's also important to excite, inspire and motivate.

Sadly, What Next? fell short on this front.

There is no need to sensationalise or to deviate from the facts as we know them.

But, to a substantial degree, thinking about the future will always be an exercise in imagination and speculation. What's needed are visions that can move us: visions of the future that are inspiring enough to fight for them, and visions that are repellent enough that they motivate us to avoid them.

What Next? devoted an episode to the environment, for example, but barely articulated the seriousness of the consequences we face if we don't find new ways to manage our economy, nor the urgency of the challenge.

 

And while the futuristic vignettes were an interesting device, they would have benefited from more drama: for example, they could have depicted some very different futures side-by- side, depending on the choices we make in the present.

Perhaps it's unreasonable to expect a single TV show to be oriented towards practical policy on the one hand and be dramatic or exciting on the other.

Despite the best efforts of the hosts (especially Nigel Latta's enthusiasm, assisted, it transpires, by a genetic disposition towards optimism and sprinting), it managed to be both a little dry and light on practical and policy implications. For example, seeing politicians from the main parties grilled in one episode about the future implications of their policies would have been both beneficial and a welcome variation in what became a rather repetitive format.

Despite these limitations, TVNZ should be applauded for the worthy ideals behind What Next? We need more conversations about the future. And we need better ones. Let's see What Next? as first steps and keep talking about the future.

Luke Goode is Associate Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Auckland. The University was a sponsor of What Next? However, Luke was not involved in this initiative. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect those of the University of Auckland.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

From courier driver to millionaire video

Miguel Menezes owns 14 houses, four cars and two motorcycles.

Miguel Menezes took less than six years to become a millionaire after he began investing in Auckland property.

Former Black Cap to coach south Auckland school

Former New Zealand cricket player Dipak Patel brings with him almost 40 years of experience.

Former Black Cap, Dipak Patel will now coach the cricket team at King's College.

Beeram hits the streets video

Beeram says he feels compelled to help people having difficulties.

Carmel Sepuloni would be wise to look over her shoulder, as Bala Beeram is putting in a lot of effort.

Who is Helen White?

Labour's candidate for Auckland central, Helen White, says housing affordability is a major issue on Waiheke.

Has National's candidate for Auckland central, Nikki Kaye, met her match in Labour's Helen White?

Wellington

Disability support a 'black hole'

Nicola Parsons waited a year to get early intervention services for Sam. The Ministry of Education's target is to have ...

Preschoolers and their families waiting months for first appointment with early intervention services.

Fatal scooter crash

The scene of the fatal collision between a car and a 91 year old man on a mobility scooter on Waerenga Rd, Otaki, near ...

A 91-year-old man was getting fish and chips when his mobility scooter and a car crashed.

Champagne, a meal, then 'rape'

The accused told the jury the night had started with what he felt was a romantic date.

Woman allegedly raped did not want to be treated like a one-night stand.

How to raise $10 million

Lesley Slieker says a community effort is needed to raise funds to rebuild hospice.

A concerted community effort is needed to raise money to rebuild Te Omanga Hospice.

Canterbury

Gangster jailed for a decade

Enoka, the former president of the Christchurch chapter of the Rebels gang, has been jailed for 10 years for his offending.

A former Rebels gang president was "paranoid and certainly irrational" when he broke into a home while armed and high on meth.

Truck crash closes SH1

A truck has jackknifed on the Rakaia River bridge (SH1), closing the road for several hours on Wednesday.

Access to Rakaia River bridge blocked after truck crashes into rail overbridge.

Kids win playground poo war

Tarras School pupils celebrate the new public toilet that is up and running outside the school. Children petitioned the ...

Poosistance has paid off for a school that's grounds were being used as a toilet by tourists.

Ratepayers won't pay shortfall video

Christchurch's proposed multi-use arena could have a steel roof and a retractable turf.

City council won't ask ratepayers for more money or sell assets to fund new multi-use stadium, mayor says.

Waikato

Mother warns of stranger danger

Blake Crossan, 10 was selling raffle tickets at the Hillcrest shops on Sunday when a taxi driver approached him and told ...

Mother warns parents after taxi driver's reportedly odd behaviour.

Fatal crash near Waihi

Athenree Gorge runs between Waihi Beach and Waihi township, north of Tauranga.

One dead and State Highway 2 closed after collision between car and petrol tanker in Bay of Plenty.

Highway man link to fatal fire

The scene of the fatal house fire.

Man seen standing on the side of the highway near scene sparks police appeal.

Holiday death shocks family

Michelle Robertson, left, photographed with her siblings Shannon, Paul and Kerryn at Paul's wedding.

Waikato's Michelle Robertson died of kidney failure while on a holiday in Rarotonga.

Taranaki

Review: Hamlet: The Video Game

Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show) is a part of the Taranaki Arts Festival 2017.

With an audience of a mixed age, the young learnt of Hamlet while the older learnt about video games.

Saving the penguins

A little blue penguins enjoys its time in the water. (file photo)

They're small, smelly and can't defend themselves - which attracts predators.

Wanted man arrested

A man accused of being involved in a violent assault is due to re-appear in the Hawera District Court on August 29.

Last offender wanted in connection with brutal assault picked up by police.

'Your last chance' - Judge

A Stratford man has been convicted of driving drunk six times.

A man convicted six times of driving drunk 'knows it's time to make changes', his lawyer says.

Manawatu

Block to road upgrade cleared

22082017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF	
James Line, Kelvin Grove, Palmerston North

Palmerston North's James Line has been cleared for an urban makeover.

More homes for city

Jacinda Adern announces more state houses for Palmerston North. On her right is Labour's Rangitikei candidate Heather ...

Political parties go into battle over housing in Palmerston North.

Live: Labour on tax

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and deputy leader Grant Robertson talk about their tax plan.

Labour says now is not the time for tax cuts, but rules out an income tax or GST hike.

Pond house problems

Jillian Sinclair is struggling to find a house suitable for her special needs children, and fears she'll have to leave ...

She won a Tenancy Tribunal case against property manager, but still lives there.

Nelson

Takahe reintroduction on hold

Wild takahe will be released in the Gouland Downs next year.

Bad weather and early breeeding have delayed the release of takahe to the Kahurangi.

Rough sleeping banned

People like Peter Wilkie, left,  will no longer be able to sleep rough overnight in the Nelson CBD.

Nelson City Council bylaw puts in place ban on rough sleeping in city centre.

Salisbury School gets extension

Education Minister Nikki Kaye has given Salisbury School more breathing room.

Richmond school heartened by new talks with Ministry of Education about its future.

'Northern link' raises flags

The proposed 56-kilometre road would cut through Kahurangi National Park, pictured in the background.

Road linking West Coast and Tasman could cost $900m and wouldn't save much time.

Marlborough

Cone and the Marlburian video

Mr Whippy franchise owner Len Shaw has sold a lot of ice cream in Marlborough.

Marlborough's Mr Whippy creams the competition, scoops national award.

Crash on SH6

Accident on SH6 near Rai Valley

A woman in her 20s has been hurt in a serious crash in Marlborough

Sawmill fire could have spread

The Kaikoura Volunteer Fire Brigade put out a sawmill fire on Wednesday.

Sparks from a welding winch have set fire to sawdust at a Kaikoura sawmill.

Duck hunter's maimai meltdown

Hunters use maimais during duck shooting season. (File photo)

Enraged man caught illegally hunting tells female ranger she should be at home looking after the children.

South Canterbury

Rare kaki released into wild video

51 kaki were released in the Mackenzie Basin on Tuesday.

Fifty one of the world's rarest wading birds have been released in the Mackenzie Basin.

Truck rolls on Evans St

A police spokewoman said it was understood the driver of this truck swerved to avoid another motorist before rolling on ...

SH1 is closed after a truck rolled as it swerved to avoid a aother vehicle in Timaru.

Disease at third farm

Cows on an a farm near Oamaru look likely to have been infected with the Mycoplasma bovis disease from a Van Leeuwen ...

Cow disease Mycoplasma bovis spreads to a third farm, this one in Oamaru.

Keeping skiers safe on roads

Inspector Dave Gaskin said police would be focusing resources on truck routes through the Mackenzie Country, such as ...

A police campaign to keep drivers safe on alpine roads gets underway on Thursday.

Otago

Rams co-captain enjoying new role

Southland Rams rugby league co-captain Shaun Tamariki-Todd carries the ball against the West Coast earlier this season.

The Southland Rams take on new South Island premier rugby league team, the Aoraki Eels, on Saturday in Invercargill.

Proposed job cuts a 'shame' video

About 182 jobs are on the line.

Hundreds of people made their voices heard over proposed job cuts at the University of Otago.

Faddes breaks another hand

Matt Faddes attempts to break the tackle of North Harbour wing Matt Duffie in last year's championship final in Dunedin.

He'd never broken a bone in his body before this year, now Highlander Matt Faddes has broken both hands within three months.

Young guns in latest cycling intake

The 2017 Cycling NZ Southern Performance Hub squad at the indoor velodrome in Invercargill.

The latest intake of 17 promising cyclists will be put through their paces as part of the 2017 Southern Performance Hub in Invercargill.

Southland

Polyfest hits new heights video

Members of the Otatara Kindy on stage at Polyfest 2017

''They like the sense of whanau, they feel like they are a part of something."

Hospitality at the heart of the south

Ronald McDonald Family Room supervisor Helen Walker and volunteer Susan Stenton at the Ronald McDonald House ...

Southland's inaugural Purple Work Shirt Day is raising funds for Ronald McDonald House.

'Stubbornness' gets Grieve home

Dwight Grieve from Fiordland leads Jack McNaughton and Buddy Small in the early stages of the Southland championships in ...

Stubbornness and a want to succeed have helped Dwight Grieve claim the Southland Road Championship title in Te Anau on Saturday.

Quick thinking prevents injury

Fire crews attend a house fire on Dipton street, Invercargill, on Sunday afternoon.

An Invercargill family had a close shave following a house fire in Kingswell.

Ad Feedback