Not so much a lunchtime lecture as a link to a full on audio binge.
Piers Plowright is a radio legend. During his time as a BBC radio drama and feature maker from 1968 to 1997 he won the Prix Italia for radio documentaries three times as well as three Gold and two Silver Sony Awards and a Sony Special Award for Continual Dedication and Commitment to the Radio Industry. Since then he has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an honourary doctor at Bournemouth University and a ‘Radio Luminary’ at the prestigious Chicago Third Coast Radio Festival.
If anybody knows about great radio, Piers does. We are honoured and delighted to present his personal picks from the Radio 4 archive, all of which are available for you to listen to right now…
How can we explain these exorbitant numbers? Are people unaware of the dangerous health threat tobacco poses? While denial may play a role, mere misinformation is unlikely to be the reason. Anti-smoking campaigns continue to increase, and with cigarette packs featuring printed warnings like “smoking kills”, it’s hard to ignore the fact that fags simply aren’t good for you.
The reason that millions of people choose to inhale toxic fumes every day—against their better knowledge—is the strong temptation of instant rewards such as the relaxing effects of nicotine or social acceptance from peers. The human drive for immediate gratification and the challenges this imposes on our self-control are powerful factors affecting our choices. While little tricks can help us overcome the emotional pull of tempting rewards, long-term success in abstaining from negative habits crucially relies on our level of future-orientation, i.e. the extent to which we consider future outcomes.
In a video on his channel last week Australian standup comedian and YouTuber Lewis Spears laid it all out: “Videos with ‘excessive swearing’ are considered ineligible for ads. However, swearing in Australia is not offensive. It’s just how we talk. It’s a part of our culture. And to take that away from us is discrimination at its finest.
Perhaps you’ve stumped Siri before, asking Apple’s automated assistant things like, “What is the meaning of life?” or “How can I be healthier and happier?”
If so, you’re not alone in turning to your phone for existential guidance and serious, practical life advice. According to an Apple job posting, lots of people do it. That’s why the company is seeking software engineers with feeling—and a background in psychology and peer counseling—to help improve Siri’s responses to the toughest questions.
Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa can now be made to encourage children to say: “Please,” and: “Thank you,” when issuing it voice commands.
The new function addresses some parents’ concerns that use of the technology was teaching their offspring to sound officious or even rude.
In addition, parents can now set time limits on when requests are responded to, and can block some services.
The move has been welcomed by one of Alexa’s critics.
In January, the research company ChildWise published a report warning that youngsters that grew up accustomed to barking orders at Alexa, Google Assistant or some other virtual personality might become aggressive in later dealings with humans.
“This is a very positive development,” research director Simon Leggett told the BBC.
“We had noticed that practically none of the children that we had talked to said they ever used the words ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when talking to their devices.
"Younger children will enjoy having the added interactivity, but older children may be less likely to use it as they will be more aware it’s a robot at the other end.”
It was quite common to have a certain name associated with a certain job. The scullery maid is called Mary. If you hire Gwyneth, you call her Mary because she is the scullery maid. You couldn’t even depend on maintaining your own name for the purposes of your working life.