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Radio review: FutureProofing, The Remittance, and Slow Radio

11 May 2018


The Revd Robert Jeffress, an Evangelical Adviser to President Trump, was interviewed on FutureProofing (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week)

The Revd Robert Jeffress, an Evangelical Adviser to President Trump, was interviewed on FutureProofing (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week)

AS A Bond villain, Giulio Prisco, of the Turing Church, will do nicely. Speaking in a lurid Italian accent of how we might download our consciousness to an all-powerful mainframe computer, he could almost be imagined as lovingly stroking a robotic cat. But Prisco is no monomaniac: he articulates better than most only the kind of thought-experiments now current in philosophy, involving artificial intelligence and the part (if there is one) played by the meta in physics.

In FutureProofing (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week), the presenters Timandra Harkness and Leo Johnson ranged over some familiar territory; and, despite the forced tone of their dialogue, did a good job of nailing down crucial arguments. Not so much a study of faith, as the programme title promised, but of the concept of soul, it nevertheless took us from Gödel to Pinker, and from the Baha’i to Sunday Assembly in a manner that was rarely specious, and frequently illuminating.

It was a shame that the only person called on to speak up for Christianity was the Revd Robert Jeffress, a member of Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Panel. But, Harkness pointed out, Mr Jeffress was the only contributor willing to talk explicitly about God; and to talk explicitly about Harkness’s posthumous damnation.

There are many ways to tell migration stories; but I have not yet heard a programme like The Remittance (Radio 4, Friday), which explored the process by which immigrants send money home to their families. Nihal Arthanayake introduced three case-studies — a Filipino, a Romanian, and a Kenyan — and their differing motivations. We heard of micro- and macro-economics at the level of the restaur­ant worker and the care-home assistant.

The Kenyan, Milton, had left his family of five to work in a restaurant in Manchester, and it became apparent that he was no economic migrant. As a moderately educated, property-owning man, he might have made a similar living for him­self and his dependants in Kenya.

It was, he admitted, the prestige, the allure, of the UK which principally drew him here. But he pays his taxes, has never been on benefits, and, judging by his forensic analysis of bus fares, knows the value of a day’s work. We never discovered how much money he was sending home, but it is clear that he is not here just for the money.

Party animals and insomniacs alike will have had the opportunity, early on Monday morning, to experience Slow Radio: Nightingales (Radio 3), for which musicians gathered in a secret wood to jam with the resident nightingale population.

Your reviewer, being an early bird, caught only the first session, and I would dispute the claim made here that the birds were wittingly “in conversation” with the human music. But there were coincidences of rhythm, melody, and timbre so affecting that one might fancy the guiding hand of a great Composer.

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