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Backlight: The Age of Mankind

The destructive influence of mankind caused Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen to introduce a new geological era: the Anthropocene, or the age of man.

Backlight: Eurotopia

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The European Union is morally and culturally bankrupt, according to German philosopher and historian Ulrike Guérot. Time to carry the EU project to its grave. Guérot envisions a European republic that consists of 50 regions around clusters of big cities, with a recognizable identity and shared economic and cultural interest. A decisive Europe that reinvents itself.

Backlight: Black Lives Matter

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In 2013 in Sanford, Florida, vigilante George Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin. As a result, the struggle against police violence flared up under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and turned into one of the biggest grassroots movements in the United States.

Backlight: Still Berning

Bernie Sanders lost the primaries to nominate a US presidential candidate for the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton. But it was a glorious loss. And it has become a beginning, not an end. The end of the Bernie Sanders campaign marks the start of a political movement. What are the next steps for this movement and what role will it play in future elections? What is its staying power? And how can a new political generation bring democracy back into the hands of the people and make it truly representative?

Backlight: Justice for all

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Access to justice: for four billion out of the just over seven billion people on earth this is too expensive, too complicated, blocked by corruption, or simply not available. Lawyers working for the Dutch government devote themselves to the digital innovation of the legal industry. Surprisingly enough, Kenya is a trendsetter in this respect. Under the inspiring guidance of Supreme Court Judge Willy Mutunga, and with the aid of text messaging, smartphones and Twitter, a countrywide network of apps and legal volunteers is built. Injustice is combatted with cell phones instead of law degrees.

Backlight: Invasion of the Drones

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They fly in swarms, deliver packages and can be as small as insects. Drones are much more than the weapons used by the US Army against terrorists. We see them fly more often and they pop up everywhere in our lives. In the USA, over one million drones were found as toys underneath the Christmas trees.

Backlight: Offline is the New Luxury

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To be online all the time and everywhere. It sounds great, but it has its drawbacks. As digital networks are closing in, there are fewer places to be really on your own. Being offline is becoming a luxury. Where can you be offline? For those who, from time to time, wish to escape smartphone and Wi-Fi signals, VPRO introduces the international White Spots App http://white-spots.net/ (only downloadable in the Netherlands).

Backlight: The Breakthrough in Renewable Energy

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You won’t read about it in the papers, but a silent worldwide revolution is taking place: renewable energy is becoming cheaper than energy from fossil fuels. More and more, opting for wind and solar energy is no longer an ethical choice but an economic one. This will speed up the transfer to renewable energy.

Backlight: Branding Europe

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The extent to which the IS caliphate seems to appeal to young Muslims, the strong Kremlin propaganda machine, and the unstoppable flow of migrants at the gates: Europe can feel the threat of it all breathing down its neck. There is an increasing urgency for Europe to restate its raison d’être. A clear and emotional story about what we are and what that is worth to us.

Backlight: Money for Free


Around the globe, experiments are conducted with alternatives for the existing social security system that has become stuck. People no longer believe in centrally organised long-term planning and advocates are experimenting with handing out free money using every method thinkable. In this episode, VPRO Backlight talks about the need for social security experiments to give people the opportunity to make the most of their own talents and qualities.
Featuring: Guy Standing (economist, UK), Matthias Gijsbertsen (alderman for Social Affairs, Groningen), Albert Wenger (venture investor, New York) and Michael Bohmeyer (IT entrepreneur, Germany).

 

Backlight: The Human Robot


When asked the question how they think of robots western people are rather reluctant, even a little scared. In Japan it’s completely the opposite, the Japanese love robots. In Japan, all objects – robots as well – have a ‘soul’. This means that in Japan intelligent robots will be accepted much easier than in the West. In this VPRO Backlight story director Rob van Hattum investigates the frameworks that determine the boundaries of how we see smart and social robots.

Backlight: E-stonia- a start-up country

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In the very north-east of Europe, on the border of Russia, lies the small country of Estonia. Per capita, Estonia has the most start-ups; internet access is considered a human right and all Estonians have free wifi. Whatever is new in the field of digital society has been tried out and used here first. The first e-residents have given their fingerprints for a virtual residence permit. The eyes of cosmopolitans, entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley venture capitalists are on it.

Backlight: Digital Food

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Modern food production is largely dependent on fossil fuels. Now that we are beginning to reach the end of them, the main question remains: How will we feed a global population of 9 billion people in 2050? In the Netherlands, Belgium and Silicon Valley, numerous startups have sprung up that use smart technology, big data and new distribution systems to find solutions for this issue.

Backlight: Access to Africa

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The urge of technological giants to connect everyone and everything literally has no limits. Google wants to use balloons to form a shield around the planet and Facebook is experimenting with drones and a free Facebook app for mobile phones. At the moment, Africa is the continent with the most ‘white spots’ on the map: places without internet or mobile phone signal. There, however, developments have accelerated. Africa is joining the traffic on the digital highway.

Backlight: Mobile Gold

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Our waste is worth money. Recovering it has started up a new global industry worth billions. It is called Urban Mining and it appears to be the solution for many of our environmental problems and our energy needs. A ton of broken mobile phones, computers or other electronic waste contains sixty times the amount of gold a ton of gold ore has.

Backlight: The new Wisdom of Ricardo Semler

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We are smarter than ever, but have we also grown wiser? According to Ricardo Semler, the Brazilian top entrepreneur and philosopher who became immensely rich by making his employees happy, our economy has gone completely off the rails and capitalism has failed to create equality anywhere, ever.

Backlight: Changemakers

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French economist Thomas Piketty and Canadian activist Naomi Klein are intellectual super stars who conquer the world with their ideas. They inspire and mobilize millions of people all over the globe. 

Backlight: Arctic Promises


In the North, people are happy that climate change is a fact now: If we continue this way, the Arctic ice will have melted by 2040! We will see glaciers disappear and entire species of fish migrate.

Backlight: Who owns Football


Large football clubs are bought by foreign businessmen, who are only in it for the money and have no emotional tie to football history whatsoever. The biggest European sport is facing an identity crisis.

Backlight: Zero Days

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There is new gold to be found on the internet, and possibly in your own computer. Secret backdoors, that do not have a digital lock yet, are being traded at astronomical amounts. In the cyber world trade, where there are no rules, you are in luck with “white-hat” hackers, who guard your online security. But their opponents, the “black-hat” hackers, have an interest in an unsecure internet, and sell security leaks to the highest bidder. They are the preferred suppliers of security services and cyber defence. Who are these black and white wizards, who fight for the holy grail of hackers: zero days?

Backlight: Making the Future


Decreasing costs of materials and tools, and the availability of all kinds of information mean everyone can become a maker, developer or entrepreneur. Is this mass-production in reverse and the start of a new industrial revolution?

Backlight: Regreening the Planet


It is really possible! Turning deserts back into fertile agricultural land and, so, together, restoring the planet, the environment, and the economy. And it’s urgently needed, too, for biodiversity is being lost on a large scale. Erosion causes heavy flooding and exhaustion destroys agricultural land.

Backlight: Power to the City


While national governments are mired in party politics and their own bureaucracy, the cities are bursting with energy, optimism and a sense of resolve. Where national governments fail, on a city level many problems – in the fields of the environment, poverty, food production and care – are solved more quickly and together in collaboration with citizens.

Backlight: Digital Amnesia


Digital data is vulnerable. Yet entire libraries are shredded and lost to budget cuts, because we assume everything can be found online. But is that really true? For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save our entire past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke. Will we suffer from collective amnesia?

Backlight: Fake for Real


What is real and what is fake these days? This question presents itself more and more frequently, whether it’s in regard to newspaper photos, designer bags or the human body.

Backlight: The Greedy Brain


In  science fiction films the minds of scientists are downloaded into computers and criminal brains are connected with the Internet. Interesting, but how does it work in real life……?

Backlight: Youtopia


Shortly before the local elections and inspired by the TV reality show Utopia, Backlight, together with newly-minted professor of community development Justus Uitermark, looks at how people would build their community if they could start afresh.

Backlight: Bye Bye Car


A documentary about the future of transportation.

Cars will become less prominent. Bill Ford of Ford Motor company claims that in ten years’ time the company will sell mobility, not cars. How will we move around in the future? The first spectacular signs are manifesting themselves.

Backlight: Seed Battles

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Hidden deep inside a massive mountain in inhospitable Spitsbergen is the most important vault in the world: the Global Seed Vault. It is 20 degrees below zero and the vault is able to withstand earthquakes, floods, missile attacks and nuclear disaster. It’s Noah’s Ark for our food production with the largest diversity in seeds from all over the world, a backup of as many crops as possible and the toolbox for seed breeders. This is vital, for by 2050 there will be 9 billion mouths to feed.

Backlight: Big Data; The Shell Search

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Ever since the revelations about the snooping practices of the US and the Dutch intelligence services, we have become increasingly aware of the vast amount of digital data that are stored about us on the net, in the matrix. Data about citizens, information about governments and multinationals is also stored in multi-terabyte files: big data. The good news is that a large part of this information is, thus, also accessible to all of us, if you just know where to look.

Backlight: The Wall Street Code

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A thriller about a genius algorithm builder who dared to stand up against Wall Street.
From the makers of the much-praised Quants: the Alchemists of Wall Street and Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box. Now the long-awaited final episode of a trilogy in search of the winners and losers of the tech revolution on Wall Street. Could mankind lose control of this increasingly complex system?

Backlight: The Value of your personal Data

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The personal data that is being collected by internet companies has turned into a goldmine. The applications for this enormous mountain of data is endless, from health care uses to marketeers who can accurately predict your behavior. But who is making money from it? And who is the owner of your personal data?

Backlight: Tech Man

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Google Glass is the new smartphone-with-camera-on-the-retina, that listens to spoken commands and adds a permanent, visual layer to reality. It is only the tip of the iceberg. A new generation of omnipresent cameras is creeping into everyday life and gnaws at our perception of reality.

Backlight: Greece is the Anwer


Is ailing Greece the start of a new Europe? New economic models arising from the ruins of the bankrupt growth economy, and now citizens take their own control over supply and demand.

Many Greeks are gradually coming to terms with the collapse of a failing social and political system. They are taking matters into their own hands and addressing crucial issues through grassroots activism and local collective action. There are signs of a lifestyle transformation, incorporating values and social patterns of the past.

Backlight: A Future of Abundance


While the world is in crisis, there is a man who thinks the future is as bright as it can be. Peter Diamandis, author of the book Abundance and co-founder of Singularity University, sees how technology can soon provide all basic needs such as energy, clean drinking water and food for the growing world population, with ease.

Backlight: Hotel Europe. Go with the Workflow

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Amid protests from citizens and (populist) politicians,t Northern Europe is sending money to the ailing economies of Southern Europe. But wouldn’t it be better to combat the high youth unemployment in the PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) with a better international alignment of Europe’s labour market?

Backlight: Inside the Banker’s Brain


Joris Luyendijk (journalist/publicist, with a ‘banker’s blog’ for ‘The Guardian’) dives into the financial brain of the London City, and descends into the minds of the master bankers. A study of adrenaline, testosterone, addiction, and the magic of the big bucks.

Backlight: The Africa-China Connection


Backlight follows a group of Nigerian immigrants in the Chinese metropolis Guangzhou. This community is at the vanguard of an important trend that will determine the economic and political development in the first half of the 21st century: the flow of migrants from low-wage countries is shifting from the old continent Europe to the new economies in Asia.

Backlight: The Tax Free Tour


‘Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much?’ Gaining insight from international tax experts, Backlight director Marije Meerman, takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally.

Backlight: Capitalising Happiness


Trust, openness, and love are terms that will make any manager shiver. Yet, they made Brazilian top entrepreneur Ricardo Semler immensely rich. He built a world empire based on the simple question: What would really make my employees happy? He wrote a book on the subject – ‘Maverick’ – an international bestseller, that was devoured in over 35 languages. Everyone wants to know what magic spell he has found to make so much money on happiness.

Backlight: China – from Cartier to Confucius (HD available)

While the rest of the world tries to come to terms with China’s rising economic and political power and its impact on the existing global order; a small group of philosophy students from Shanghai’s prestige Fudan University gathers every Friday night at their professor’s house to study Chinese classical texts by Confucius.

Backlight: The Promised City

On the Western Jordan Banks a wonder takes place. Next year 40,000 people from the new Palestinian middle class will live in the new supercity Rawabi City.

Backlight: Regreening the desert

For more than 15 years, cameraman and ecologist John D. Liu has been working on his worldwide mission to green deserts and to restore biodiversity.

Backlight: The Food Speculator

Assuming the role of a speculator, director Kees Brouwer tries to find out whether he is merely taking advantage of the opportunity offered to investors by the food scarcity, or that, through this abstract world of financial products, he is drastically interfering in poor people’s lives.

Backlight: Sisters in Islamic banking

Female CEO’s are scarce in the banking world. Surprisingly, in the Malaysian world of Haute Finance female executives are at the forefront. What connects these female professionals is a respect for the Sharia laws and ethics in banking, while at the same living their lives as modern day career women.

Backlight: Second Thoughts

The dilemmas surrounding euthanasia are nowhere in the world as openly under discussion as in the Netherlands. However, this does not make the issues any less emotionally charged. Backlight follows the negotiations between a doctor, a patient and the family in an Amsterdam nursing home.

Backlight: Waste = Food

A documentary about the Cradle to Cradle principle: designers and manufacturers should incorporate the recyclability of the materials of which the products are made off.