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Backlight: City for Sale?

‘Good luck Amsterdam: watch your back!’

All large cities in the world have become magnets for newcomers, tourists, expats and laptop-nomads. In the Netherlands two cities like Groningen and Eindhoven are bursting at the seams. In our capital Amsterdam the pressure is the greatest.

Backlight: Youtubeland: Like & Subscribe

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YouTube is travelling like a high-speed train into one of the most powerful online platforms in the world. Nowadays nearly every child dreams of becoming rich and famous on the video platform. Which clever earnings model is hiding behind this success story, and how will this affect our future media landscape? A number of professional YouTubers offer a glimpse in the wondrous world of the YouTube industry.

Grey Matter

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Grey Matter follows neurosurgeons Clemens Dirven and Arnaud Vincent during the treatment period of patients with a brain tumour – a highly intense process for both physicians and patients, with the lives of patients as well as their personality, their very essence, hanging in the balance. It takes just a single cut in the brain to completely wipe out a person’s love of poetry, of their dog, or of their capacity to think, feel and love.

Robo Sapiens

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In the new six-part VPRO travel series Robo Sapiens Jelle Brandt Corstius investigates how robots and artificial intelligence influence our lives and how this will still be changing even more. The speed of new technological developments is mindboggling. What does this mean for us? Is there a reason to be fearful or should we long for the future with great expectations?

Zembla: Dry Eyed

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GP Michael Brouwer wears glasses, but he would prefer to do without, which is why he has his eyes lasered. After his operation he is in so much pain that he doesn’t know how to go on with his life. It feels as if someone is continuously poking in his eyes with a knife. It turns out that Brouwer has developed nerve pain, a rare but debilitating complication, about which he was not forewarned.

Infernal Pain

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Infernal Pain is an intimate documentary about a man whose life is completely turned upside down by chronic pain and desperately searches for pain relief. His quest takes him to a renowned pain specialist who is trying to get the pain under control with neurostimulation.

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: The Smart State

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We think new technology is developed by hip companies like Google and Apple. But is this true? VPRO Backlight explores the innovation climate in Europe, to find out what role governments and the private sector play in this. Who finances the development, and who profits from it?

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: 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.

Zembla: The Monsanto Method

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Zembla demonstrates how companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta are trying to gain control over vegetable crops by patenting the traits of these plants. European politicians and scientists are afraid that these agrochemical concerns will end up monopolizing the market and endanger food security. The programme makers expose the methods of these multinationals. After much persuasion Monsanto gives an exclusive interview. This company is already extremely powerful in other parts of the world in genetically modified crops which are still illegal in Europe. This revealing search shows viewers how Monsanto is attempting to take over the European vegetable market with its controversial methods.

Alice Cares

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Carebot Alice leaves the laboratory to visit Mrs. Remkes, Mrs. Schellekens-Blanke and Mrs. van Wittmarschen, each in their own house. The three women are getting on in age and are therefore exceptionally suited for the services of Alice, who has been developed by SELEMCA. This is a research group which tries to discover, with the help of community nurses and family, how ‘sociobot’ Alice should talk and react to stem the effects of loneliness on older women. The outcome of the experiment is surprising for all involved.

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: 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?

0,8 Amps of Happiness


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), popularly known as electroshock therapy. This therapy is often effective but has long encountered deep-rooted prejudice and fear. Director Saskia Gubbels intimately portrays three people who undergo electroshock therapy.

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: 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: 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 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: 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.

DNA Dreams

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What if we could identify the genes for human intelligence? Would a brave new world of improved human beings be waiting for us? The documentary DNA Dreams features a new generation of scientists at BGI, China’s leading genomics research institute.

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: CARS 2.0

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With rising temperatures and rising gas prices, cars need to become greener fast. And superficially, the large car manufacturers seem to work hard to improve the fuel efficiency of their products. But are they really? The technology to make cars much more fuel efficient already exists for decades, but it never makes it to the showroom. Why do we have to wait so long for fuel efficient vehicles?

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.