A few years ago, a young French journalist called Judith Duportail decided to find out what kind of personal information Tinder, the dating app, was collecting about her. To begin with, she found it impossibly difficult to convince the executives to hand over the data to her—even though, logically, it seemed to belong to her without a doubt. After six months, when she finally got her way, she was in for a shock. Her file ran to over 800 pages, detailing every chat she had ever had with anyone on the platform, including all the sexts she had ever sent and kinky confessions she had made. Worse, she found out about the algorithm’s controversial scoring system that matched you with people according to their, and your own, “desirability quotient”.
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Duportail ended up writing a book about her experience—and you can hear her speak of it in Connected, a limited docuseries hosted by the journalist Latif Nasser, about the mind-boggling connections that exist among the most obvious realities of our lives. From surveillance mechanisms to human poop to dust storms in the Sahara desert to nuclear debris, everything is linked together in ways you can scarcely begin to understand. Did you know, for instance, that there’s a mathematical law that applies to phenomena as disparate as classical music and tax fraud—and probably the rest of the universe too?
In the fallow days of the lockdown, being cooped up within the four walls of your home may have felt claustrophobic—but if you think about it, you are always surrounded by a wealth of curiosities. In Everyday Miracles, another limited documentary series, Mark Miodownik, a material scientist, takes you through the seemingly magical fuel of scientific discoveries—from ubiquitous light bulbs to foam plastic—that keeps the wheels of our domestic life rolling. Capitalist societies function because, somewhere in the past, a man (or woman) in a lab coat accidentally mixed two chemicals and came up with a wondrous third substance, which then allowed us to pursue activities like cycling and air travel that we now partake of without a thought.
Even more riveting than the mechanism of the external world is the one that’s inside us and keeps us alive. Human: The World Within explains, in six compact episodes, cutting-edge discoveries in technology that are transforming the quality of our lives. From bionic hands that can convey sensations to a limbless body, to the art of excelling at adventure sports by controlling our pulse and appetite, human minds and bodies are sites of unending wonder, capable of achieving the seemingly unattainable. As science pushes the boundaries of research, we are confronting ever-new mysteries of our heart, brain, capacity to reproduce, and influence our gene pools. Once you have watched this docuseries, you are unlikely to take the running of your body for granted. Who would, indeed, knowing they themselves are the most complex machines ever conceived in the whole wide universe?
All three docuseries are streaming on Netflix.