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Changing the Script

   2020    History
The written word is so important in everyday life that there can be few more radical acts than forcing an entire nation to learn a new script. Yet that is what happened in Turkey in 1928 when Mustafa Kemal decreed that the Arabic script would be replaced by the letters of the Latin alphabet. Communication with computers using human language is usually made with Latin letters. This is how most Chinese people interact with their computers and smart phones, using a Latin-based phonetic script called Pinyin. As a result, even highly educated Chinese are losing the ability to write using Chinese characters. Could what is happening in China be the future of writing everywhere?
Series: The Secret History of Writing

Words on a Page

   2020    History
Writing itself is 5,000 years old, and for most of that time words were written by hand using a variety of tools. The Romans were able to run an empire thanks to documents written on papyrus. Scroll books could be made quite cheaply and, as a result, ancient Rome had a thriving written culture. With the fall of the Roman Empire, papyrus became more difficult to obtain. Europeans were forced to turn to a much more expensive surface on which to write: Parchment. Medieval handwritten books could cost as much as a house, they also represent a limitation on literacy and scholarship.
No such limitations were felt in China, where paper had been invented in the second century. Paper was the foundation of Chinese culture and power, and for centuries how to make it was kept secret. When the secret was out, paper mills soon sprang up across central Asia. The result was an intellectual flourishing known as the Islamic Golden Age. Muslim scholars made discoveries in biology, geology, astronomy and mathematics. By contrast, Europe was an intellectual backwater.
That changed with Gutenberg’s development of movable type printing. The letters of the Latin alphabet have very simple block-like shapes, which made it relatively simple to turn them into type pieces. When printers tried to use movable type to print Arabic texts, they found themselves hampered by the cursive nature of Arabic writing. The success of movable type printing in Europe led to a thousand-fold increase in the availability of information, which produced an explosion of ideas that led directly to the European Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that followed.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

China Coronavirus Cover-Up

   2020    Medicine
Did China hide crucial information about Covid-19 from the world? What began with a handful of mystery pneumonia cases in Wuhan late last year has now left more than half a million dead worldwide. Beijing says it has been open and transparent throughout, but former BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie investigates how it delayed reporting the initial outbreak and evidence that Covid-19 could be spread by people. It also silenced doctors who tried to speak out.
The film also hears from one high-level insider who believes the animal market at the centre of the Wuhan outbreak should have been treated as a 'crime scene' and from experts who warn that this crisis may be a 'dress rehearsal' for an even more deadly pandemic in the future.

Garlic Breath

   2018    Nature
Cooking shows turned the humble garlic bulb into something that's essential to cuisines and into a multi-billion-dollar crop. Every year, humans consume nearly 50 billion pounds of garlic, and most of it comes from one country: China. But a lawsuit raises troubling questions about suppliers.
Series: Rotten

The Surveillance State

   2019    Technology
Frequent security expos feature companies like Megvii and its facial- recognition technology. They show off cameras with A.I. that can track cars, and identify individuals by face, or just by the way they walk. In China it's been projected that over 600 million cameras will be deployed by 2020. Here, they may be used to discourage jaywalking, but they also serve to remind people that the state is watching. Matching with the most advanced artificial intelligence algorithm, they can actually use this data, real-time data, to pick up a face or pick up a action.
A.I. is a technology that can be used for good and for evil. So, how do governments limit themselves in, on the one hand, using this A.I. technology and the database to maintain a safe environment for its citizens, but not to encroach on a individual's rights and privacies?
Series: In the Age of AI
Human universe
Human universe

   2014    Technology
The Private Life of Plants
The Private Life of Plants

   1994    Nature
Leaving Neverland
Leaving Neverland

   2019    Culture
Cosmos: Possible Worlds
Cosmos: Possible Worlds

   2020    Science
Tales by Light Season 2
Tales by Light Season 2

   2017    Nature
Love On The Spectrum
Love On The Spectrum

   2019    Culture