#024 The Wilderness Within

Professor Frank Fisher in conversation with legendary broadcaster Robyn Williams


The late Professor Frank Fisher was a pioneering systems thinker and Australia’s Inaugural Environmental Educator of the Year. He died 6 years ago today. To celebrate his life and insight, we’ve delved into the archives and found this wonderful conversation Frank had with a man who has been described as a legend of science broadcasting, Robyn Williams. 

Frank Fisher getting around the streets of Melbourne by the most efficient means possible.

Frank Fisher getting around the streets of Melbourne by the most efficient means possible.

At the beginning of every year I say to our new students, my interest isn’t in the wilderness in East Gippsland, it’s in the wilderness looking at me across the room. If I can retain that wilderness, in fact make my students a little wilder, that is a little less predictable to myself when they leave the room, I’ve done my job.
— Frank Fisher

This is no mild walk down memory lane. Their conversation, recorded in 2002, has almost uncanny relevance to so much of what’s happening in the world today. From the fraught terrain of energy transition and human perception, to the enticing prospect of ticketless public transport. And very personal questions of privacy in the context of integrated digital health records, and the broader phenomena of so-called ‘smart’ technologies. 

During an adult life shaped largely by his experiences with chronic illness, Frank longed for the sort of digital health record being introduced in Australia and elsewhere, but had a very distinct vision in general for the use of these ‘smart technologies’. In essence, he preferred the ‘smarts’ be located in our minds, more than our machines. He shares various insights here, on how to do just that – regenerating, as he puts it, the wilderness within.

This interview of Frank Fisher by Robyn Williams was originally broadcast on The Science Show, ABC Radio National, on 3 October 2002. Many thanks to Robyn Williams for his kind permission to podcast this conversation.

Get more:

Podcast #005 Thinking & Living in Systems, with the late Professor Frank Fisher.

Robyn Williams’ ABC Radio National profile.



Bach’s Prélude No. 1, interpreted by Jacques Loussier & band.

Rosa Mundo, by Schubert.

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