The Algorithm of Regret

Forest 404 Review

10 min readMay 25, 2020

Reaching the Vertex

What will the world look like in 300 years? There is much to learn through science, technology and the deep depths of the universe, yet it is still unclear where these endeavours will lead mankind in the future. Evidently, as we’ve grown, we’ve shown arrogance towards the core roots we’ve adapted to throughout day to day life. Perhaps it’s merely instinctive. Evolution may be an agitating thirst that can’t be quenched. Nevertheless, this leaves us uncertain if we have progressed or, figuratively, poisoned ourselves. In this podcast, this is where we reach the vertex.

Forest 404 suggests that we could be at risk of exterminating nature, particularly our once flourishing forests. This podcast highlights the importance of valuing our current surroundings prior to visualising any further. It is implied that artificial intelligence and nature couldn’t co-exist within this future perception, which is quite concerning, considering we are currently amid entering a completely technological era. From a global perspective, environmental issues of all sorts are arising. Beyond climate change, ecosystems are experiencing extinctions at unsustainable rates, largely due to human products such as synthesised materials and toxic wastes. From a personal standpoint, many consequences of discovery are foreseeable, however, these are either overwhelmed by the benefits or simply not prioritised. Without widespread action, the future is quite literally conditional to the few figures who outpace billions.

To deliver and explore this questionable future, Forest 404 has been produced so that each episode is accompanied by a pod talk and a soundscape. The trend within our class seemed to be in favour of this trio and some even claimed that it was beneficial to their learning. From the catchy tune to kick-start the series to the “did you know?” facts, these additional elements were ironically appreciated later in the podcast.

The Revelation about Forest 404’s Dystopian Future

An Eco-Thriller

Forest 404 is a science fiction podcast starred by Pearl Mackie, Tanya Moodie and Pippa Haywood. Forest 404 is about a dystopian future showing us the consequences of our actions. This podcast is set in the 24th Century in a world where forests and nature have been erased from history while humans are fading to extinction. The 9 episodes in Forest 404 show how Pan, a sound archivist, searches for the truth about how her world came to be after uncovering an audio file on forest sounds during the ‘rupture’. As Pan finds her answers in the last Homosapien, she learns that the world she loved was just created by Artificial Intelligence and that nature was a thing of the past destroyed by humans.

Correspondence with other Dystopian Predictions

The podcast Forest 404’s dystopian future both links and contradicts with a novel called The Roar.

Reliability of this Dystopian Future Prediction

Future Humanoid Robot

There are many varying dystopian future fiction stories that show us exaggerated themes and ideas. Forrest 404’s theme may not be exactly our future, but it does have some truth in it. Within the past few decades, it has been evident that environmental issues are going to hugely affect our future. Forest 404 has shown us this comprehensive extent of our disastrous actions on nature, where the remains of nature are no more than audio files. Forest 404 demonstrates the value of nature in our lives and affects our actions to take care of our planet and be grateful for its existence in our lives. However, the possibility that AI’s are our successors seemed a bit far-fetched. But after I listened to Forest 404, this seemed like a credible possibility as the podcast provided a viable explanation on how it happened.

Forest 404 has definitely given me an idea of how the future might look like and how humans have a huge hand in it.

An epiphany of knowledge

Could we live in total darkness? How will we die out? Are we all doomed to become cyborgs? Why does a tree live so long? Why should we listen to the sounds of nature? All of life’s largest, most enthralling questions about our very existence, answered by experts across the globe, constitute the PodTalks in Forest 404. Each of the thrilling episodes in the podcast is complemented with one of these talks which riff off of the themes evoked in the main drama.

It provides additional information and aims to answer many of the dilemmas the characters are faced with. They make us more appreciative and aware of our remarkable bodies and the complex processes it undergoes every second of our lives. Most of important of all, however, the PodTalks elicit gratitude towards the unparalleled beauty and intricacy of nature.

“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”

– Renowned poet, Linda Hogan

How do you perceive nature?

We often overlook and undermine our reliance on nature in our everyday lives despite it both literally and figuratively making up the framework of our entire civilisation. T9: Love Letter to the Forest, Forest 404’s last PodTalk, provides insight far beyond statistics and facts. This final talk exemplifies the prevalent theme of trees in the podcast through a beautiful by none other than renowned biologist and author, David Haskell.

In his poem to the forest, he emphasises the importance of nature as well as the unique connection that we all have with the natural world — a bond which, as Haskell illustrates, transcends the language of written words. A connectedness that occurs at a molecular level and has a cognitive, behavioural and affective component.

· A cognitive aspect that is responsible for how ‘in touch’ we feel with nature.

· A behavioural aspect comprising of our dedication to protect the natural world.

· And an affective aspect that makes up our sense of care for nature.

In my own experience, I have observed that nature has its own way to evoke a sense of tranquillity and admiration. On my recent visit to Canada, I visited the Niagara Falls, where I found myself transfixed by its inextricable beauty, gazing at the water gushing in from the river and tipping over the edge. At my school camp last year, I had a similar experience, where I was lost staring into the vast forest below from a cliffside. Even Pan herself was mesmerised when she first saw a tree.

I can understand where Haskell’s views stem from and how he came to create such a poem, which perfectly reflects one of the main concepts in Forest 404.

“Science and technology revolutionise our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.”

– Historian, Arthur Schlesinger

Would you vote for an AI Government?
Would you vote for an AI government?

Another captivating PodTalk was T7: Would you vote for an AI government? which delves into yet another main concept in the podcast; the rise of artificial intelligence. This PodTalk depicts bio-futurist and sci-fi author, Elsa Sotiriadis, expressing her views on whether AI would run countries better than humans. Many of the other PodTalks explore similar concepts of technology albeit this one brings into light how AI could be implemented into our daily lives and society, and how we are already doing so.

As suggested by Sotiriadis, a government comprised of artificial intelligence would manage our limited resources better and assist in everyday problems, which scientists are currently doing.

We are inexorably heading into a world built and reliant on AI, though it is necessary to keep in mind that we should not cross the line.

The PodTalks exhibited in Forest 404 allow you to view issues from a completely different perspective and have the ability to change your opinion altogether. So, how will you decide to see things?

The serene sounds of nature…

A “large body of evidence shows that spending time in natural environments can have positive effects on people’s wellbeing.” Soundscapes were a portion of the Forest 404 series. There were nine episodes with the vast majority of them being a mesmerising melody of nature.

A research project was conducted in conjunction with the entire series. The experiment aims to assess the effects that different natural sounds have on one’s mental health and wellbeing. This particular study launched in April 2019; all data will be available in July 2024 after a series of waves. This is one of the largest soundscape experiments ever conducted, after the first wave which closed on the 30th of September, a staggering 7,596 participants took part. There were many positive opinions on this particular experiment. There is much more data which can be explored.

This experiment was organised to increase our knowledge of the correlation between a person’s emotions and natural sounds. Multiple studies have shown that sounds of nature can have positive effects on a person’s wellbeing. Despite this, we only have little knowledge of its benefits and how it could help in real-life situations. The first four soundscapes were all sounds from nature. Rainforest symphony, Frog chorus, Whale songs and Woodland Walk.

The majority of people listening to these soundscapes had similar opinions. Listening to these incited many positive feelings. I felt calm, undisturbed, restful and peaceful. These recording could play an important role in stressful situations such as now. Could these soundscapes be so effective that it has the potential to cure diseases? Can natural sounds be used as a form of music therapy? Maybe more studies such as the one being conducted currently could provide more clues. Could listening to these calming tunes solve mental health implications?

Although there is still some uncertainty about natural sounds, I believe that urban soundscapes do not have the same effect. This theme is explored in the fifth soundscape, Theia’s Hometown. When I listened to this, unlike the first four soundscapes, it affected me differently. I did not feel peaceful or anything of that calibre. If anything, I felt restless and a bit irritated. The sixth soundscape had the same effect, although there were a couple of natural sounds, it was dominated by electrical elements which were not pleasing to the ear.

We had several discussion boards in our class for each of the soundscapes in which people expressed their opinions and views for each one. Our class had similar opinions for the soundscapes. Listening to the natural sounds aroused the same positive emotions. Despite this, the whale songs sparked disagreement between the class. There is an interesting podcast by National Geographic about this particular soundscape. It was quite bizarre, “at times they can sound like a creaking door like something you’d hear in a spooky movie. Other times it is more melodic, it has more of a song quality to it. And the sound is just vibrating inside of you”. The first time I listened to the whale soundscape I was not a huge fan of it. But I decided to give it another go, and it sounded amazing and had the opposite effect on me. This was very peculiar and quite confusing. The fifth and sixth soundscapes which incorporated fewer natural elements also did not seem to have any effect on the class’ wellbeing. Most described it as disturbing and not nearly as good as the first few soundscapes of nature.

Ultimately, the sounds of nature could be beneficial in the future. More research should be conducted before it becomes viable in the future. I believe that we should all sacrifice a small amount of time and effort to take part in experiments relating to this topic and ensure a bright future.

Change: Is it possible?

The world is quite clearly a much different place than what it was hundreds of years ago. Although, forests have lived on for millions of years. I can only pose what utter regret and bitter resent would fall on us if we exterminate the stems of the Earth. But is it too late?

Forest 404 suggests otherwise. Despite the electrifying sequences of events throughout the episodes, perhaps the century 2300 wasn’t such a wasteland in disguise. Sure, many of us may have challenges comprehending the calibre of the circumstances during that time period, although, I believe the producers of Forest 404 intentionally left us soaking in suspense. Even in that arguably specific storyline, the ending wasn’t definitive. Considering this was produced by one of the most actively recognised radio stations, I doubt that this was due to a lack of time or resources.

Why do we value forests?

Quite simply, isolating yourself from forests is a risk that can misleadingly punish you for doing so. The scientific research portioned between the pod talks was specifically chosen to prove such feats. Our carbon emissions would have drowned the Earth long ago, and our availability of resources would greatly limit industrial and medical revolutions. This podcast has also allowed our class to reveal a previously concealed appreciation for forests. The ongoing research through the soundscapes leads me to believe that an absence of natural serenity could have an unspecified mental toll on anyone accustomed to hearing these sounds on a regular basis.

Where are we heading in the future?

This podcast could be viewed as a warning or a misguided interpretation from BBC Radio. Regardless, it encourages listeners to establish their own, unique perspective among the key concepts explored. I certainly have reaffirmed my viewpoint on a certain belief. “What is coming is better than what is gone”; an idea too equitable it could be inapplicable.