John Campbell and Nigel Latta team up to tell our fortunes

by Fiona Rae / 11 June, 2017
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What Next?, Sunday-Thursday.

Well, Nigel Latta, John Campbell, a truckload of survey data and a bunch of futurists.

Would you trust a robot with your life? Would you eat bugs instead of beef if it helped the environment? Will your job exist in 20 years? Would you choose to live to 130 if you could?

If you answered “no, no, yes, yes”, you’re with the majority of respondents on TVNZ’s website for What Next? (TVNZ 1, Sunday-Thursday, 8.30pm), a live television event over five nights that investigates the future direction of our island nation. The results of that online survey will feed into episodes focusing on technology, the environment, the economy and lifestyle.

The show is the brainchild of psychologist Nigel Latta, who has enticed journalist John Campbell back onto mainstream television for the first time since Campbell Live was axed by TV3 in 2015.

“It’s nice to be back,” he told Breakfast in April. “This is a good project. It’s a Nigel Latta-driven project, and I’m a big fan of Nigel’s work.

“There’s lots of long-term planning going on in this country, but it’s always piecemeal, and it’s driven by political decree, so the response is often tribal … the intention of this programme is to have a big-picture discussion about what we want for our future.

“The idea is that we remove it from the political arena and get people to participate.”

The show is underpinned by a 20-year longitudinal study being undertaken by the University of Auckland’s psychology department, called the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study. It has been surveying 6500 people nationwide since 2009, and has already collected a large amount of data, helped by the fact the Christchurch earthquakes are included in the time period.

“We can see how people were doing; their attitudes, values, health, well-being, connections with families and friends, personality; and how all these things might have changed over time,” says Associate Professor Chris Sibley, one of the survey curators.

“Psychology doesn’t know very much about long-term change in people. By being able to statistically estimate how people are changing, we can predict where we’re going.”

The series is also turning to a group of futurists, including indigenous social entrepreneur Shay Wright, tech entrepreneur Frances Valintine, and Wendy McGuinness, whose work focuses on sustainability and social inclusiveness.

To be part of this social evaluation, however, you need to be part of the digital revolution: the futurists are going to be part of a Facebook Live think tank following the TV show each night. Sign up at

This article was first published in the June 10, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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