*** DEBUG END ***

TV review: Are You Scared Yet, Human?, Before We Die, and Friday Night Dinner: Ten years and a lovely bit of squirrel

04 June 2021


China and its CCTV cameras were one focus of Are You Scared Yet, Human? (BBC1, Wednesday of last week)

China and its CCTV cameras were one focus of Are You Scared Yet, Human? (BBC1, Wednesday of last week)

I WONDER what Almighty God thought of Are You Scared Yet, Human? (Wednesday of last week)? BBC1’s Panorama presented a round-up of how we employ our divinely ordained gifts to create technologies that are only too likely to prove our eventual misery and destruction — and “eventual” might mean tomorrow.

Every action that we take, every word that we speak, involving a smart electronic device is now logged as data, creating an ever-richer file of our tastes and preferences; so advertisers can ever more precisely target us with the products that we really, really need to buy. The company eBay is said to have amassed twice as much data on us as the number of words written throughout history; 90 per cent of the world’s data have been generated in the past two years.

AI has potential for good: already it can hugely speed up and more finely tune chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Such AI is now self-learning, programmed to develop exponentially beyond its original programming (sounds familiar, God?). Facial-recognition CCTV footage, all centrally and automatically monitored, offers governments surveillance over entire populations, nipping “trouble” in the bud before it flowers.

China surely leads the way here. Prosperity, public order, freedom from crime: living in a “smart city” offers great benefits — unless you want to protest, challenge, or question authority. However large the crowd, your identity is recognised: there is nowhere to hide. Most terrifying is the field of warfare. Ever-more sophisticated AI weapons systems can destroy targets with pinpoint precision, but who identifies the target?

The autonomy of the weapons, now that human agency to pull the trigger is no longer required, magnifies hugely the potential for catastrophic lethal disaster. The employees of key AI companies in the United States have refused to work with the Pentagon to develop such weapons, but the US government sees no other way to counter the threat posed by China, which is certainly (and, it seems, far less scrupulously) producing them. “AI is developing faster than our ability to control it.” So, who is in charge round here?

More surveillance might help to avert the horrors of Channel 4’s new drama Before We Die (Wednesday of last week, first of six episodes). Detective Hannah Laing’s wayward son, whom she shopped on a drugs charge that resulted in two years’ porridge, works as a lowly pot-boy in fellow ex-con’s restaurant, then morphs into undercover agent, following the threads of his Serbo-Croat bosses’ campaign to corner the market in cocaine, and so avenge their brutal murder of his mother’s lover. Everyone knows that Bristol is a bit rough, but surely not quite this bad?

Friday Night Dinner: Ten years and a lovely bit of squirrel (Channel 4, Friday) celebrated the marvellous sitcom. This most disfunctional of functioning families presents an interesting picture of religion. Their Jewishness is hardly observant in any sense of spiritual faith, but rock solid in one practice: gathering faithfully every Friday for a shared meal. We might learn from this.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)