Techies, here’s what to see, read & listen to in September
I’m back with the second instalment of my new monthly series on tech (ish) content I think everyone should check out.
Although you’ll read this blog once I’ve returned to the UK, I’m writing it poolside — in true digital nomad style — at Spain’s La Manga Club. On annual leave, my husband and I are here with our kids, who are taking full advantage of the myriad activities on offer at this incredible Murcia resort. Golf, tennis, cycling: you name it, they’ve got it. Other parents, however, might need a little help keeping their children entertained on vacay, which explains my first pick.
In this Guardian article, Samuel Gibbs rounds up some of the top tech ideas to keep youngsters amused on holiday. I know that, for most, the new school year has started, or will soon start, but these recommendations will definitely be of use to any families heading off for a late summer hol — or even those already planning a half-term or Christmas getaway.
We Campbells are an active bunch, so one of my faves is unquestionably the fitness trackers. As I say in an upcoming blog about the gamification of sustainable transportation, I love the notion of achieving serious goals, whether weight loss or the reduction of carbon emissions, through fun. If you can’t get your little angels off their bums, then gamify exercise using technology. It’s a brilliant idea.
I’m not a huge fan of Gibbs’ tablets suggestion though — kids spend too much time scrolling and swiping at home, so shouldn’t we take the opportunity to break those habits and keep them engaged, even if just for a week or two? Speaking of a week or two, you don’t have long left to catch my next pick on the big screen.
Lightyear dropped back in June, so cinemas will soon be waving goodbye to this enjoyable Disney-Pixar sci-fi movie. Fear not though, as it’s available with a Disney+ subscription — but get in there before Disney ups its prices.
When it was first announced, nobody understood how Lightyear would fit into the world of Toy Story, but all is clarified in the first few minutes of this spin-off: the Buzz Lightyear action figure in Toy Story was inspired by a film, and Lightyear is that film. It follows the determined efforts of space commander Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans) to get his stranded crew off a hostile planet.
Lightyear isn’t the best entry in the computer-animated movie canon, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a fun and wild ride nonetheless. Highlights include an adorable robotic AI cat called Sox (I want one), and a neat exploration of time dilation (Buzz’s test flights last just a few minutes, while years pass back on the planet).
You’ll have to watch the movie to find out if Buzz makes it home or remains stuck elsewhere in the universe, but my next pick has the latter in mind.
EXHIBITION: Building a Martian house
Next to Bristol’s M Shed museum, artists Ella Good and Nikki Kent have installed their prototype of a Martian house. Costing upwards of £70k (a drop in the ocean compared to the potential price of an actual pad on our dusty red neighbour), the model resembles a legless golden woodlouse on the outside. On the inside, the accommodation is filled with features designed to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of its inhabitants.
Good and Kent have taken into account how resourceful we’d need to be to sustain life on Mars, and so their imaginative project stimulates fresh visions for ways of existing here on Earth too. Love that — fantasy with practical application. Practicality is also at the heart of my last pick.
Straight off, I’ll confess that Karen Armstrong’s Sacred Nature isn’t a tech book. In fact, it’s sort of the antithesis, but a very powerful one that I simply had to share. As a technologist, I’m certain that technology and innovation can help us prevent the environmental catastrophe our climate crisis is likely to cause.
In this brilliant nonfiction book, Armstrong opines that tech and science don’t have all the answers. We need a better solution if we’re to save the planet, the British author adds. Borrowing themes central to the world’s religious traditions, she argues that we must completely change the way we think and feel about the natural world, before offering practical steps to help us make that happen.
I haven’t finished Sacred Nature yet, so I’ll wrap up this blog here and get back to my poolside reading. It would be rude not to — that’s my argument and I’m sticking to it!