Radio review: Thinking Allowed, Heart and Soul, and Little Brexit

08 November 2019

istock

On Thinking Allowed (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week), Laurie Taylor discussed transhumanism

On Thinking Allowed (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week), Laurie Taylor discussed transhumanism

AS THE prospect of Brexit stretches forth into a future as expansive as a geological era, the notion of cryonics becomes ever more attractive. To have the technology to freeze oneself and wake up when the Northern Irish border issue is resolved — some would pay many thousands for such a promise, even if the world to which one awoke were submerged under glacier-swelled oceans.

In Thinking Allowed (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week), Laurie Taylor discussed the philosophy and practicality of transhumanism: a notion that Francis Fukuyama has declared to be “the most dangerous idea in the world”. From the pickling of Lenin to the transfusion of youthful blood into the arteries of ageing Silicon Valley magnates, there is a level of narcissism and exploitation on display here which offends not simply through prurient distaste.

You might prefer a method of transhumanism which discards the body altogether. Digital immortality involves uploading all the data of which you are composed to a vast computer, which might then reconstruct your consciousness. As observed by Dr Alex Thomas, a scholar who has studied this phenomenon, the notion of humanity that underpins this vision of transhuman metamorphosis is so functional and reductivist that it is paradoxically dehumanising.

For those who cannot stump up the requisite sum, the anxieties of the present age must be endured. In Heart and Soul (World Service, Friday), we met Christians living either side of the Irish border, and learned of their hopes and fears for the future. This was by no means as depressing a story as one might imagine. Since the Good Friday Agreement, there have developed relationships between Protestant and Roman Catholic church communities at least as cohesive as any interdenominational projects that one might find on the mainland.

Julia Paul’s report focused on Youth with a Mission: an international Christian centre in Rostrevor which encourages the faithful to walk the border between north and south. Even in the context of a documentary devoted to matters of faith, and reporting on a Christian camp, the rhetoric employed here about the uniting love of God was intense and compelling. For a brief moment, it was possible to forget the cynical political manoeuvrings that threaten this pious rapprochement.

In contrast, cynicism and contempt were the principal ingredients of Little Brexit (Radio 4, Thursday of last week), a one-off from the Little Britain team of Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Not in general a fan of the original, I admit being ill-disposed towards this latest venture, although the first sketch, in which the inarticulate schoolgirl Vicky Pollard tries to explain the origins of Brexit, did raise a genuine laugh. Otherwise, the sketches consistently invited us to laugh at the stupidity and prejudices of Leavers; and would, for said Leavers, have done nothing to dispel perceptions of how the Remain camp really think.

 

 

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