Filmmaker Adam Curtis discusses power, politics and his searing cybernetic vision of the future.
The notion of cybernetics looks at the whole world, from society to cells, as systems. For Curtis, it is a highly political ideology whereby systems of nature and systems of computers have become intertwined.
“It’s a beautiful vision of this interconnected world, resonant of the cyber-utopian mood of our time, bleeding into nature”.
Curtis sees the increasing salience of cybernetics as a fundamental shift in the way we view human beings.
“We are moving away from the old enlightenment idea than human beings are separate, above the rest of the world and can shape and bend the world. In fact we are all components in systems of an interwoven network where everyone is connected”.
In this connected world, Curtis argues democracy is not about lots of individuals, but about mediating the powerful. Regulating those who often use their unequal access to power at the expense of the weak.
“It’s about electing people who will stand up and represent the weak and negotiate against the powerful. All evidence in western society shows power becoming more concentrated and unequal.”
First broadcast 20/05/11
John Lanchester is the author of Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.
As a journalist and novelist, he was winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award for his debut The Debt to Pleasure.
John’s article on our love affair with the City,Cityphilia generated much response on its publication in January 2008, and indeed predicted a worldwide crash based on the misuse of financial derivatives.
First broadcast 15 April 2011
Alex Cox is a film director, screenwriter, actor, and author. Among his features are Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Walker, and Revengers Tragedy. Between 1998 and 1994 he hosted the BBC2 cult film series Moviedrome. He currently teaches film production and screenwriting at the University of Colorado. He is also the author of 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western and most recently The President and The Provocateur: The Parallel Lives of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald. Also this week, critic Miranda Sawyer on her love for the suppressed Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues.
First broadcast on 23rd November 2013.
Professor Brian Cox is a particle physicist, a Royal Society research fellow, and a professor at the University of Manchester. He is a member of the High Energy Physics group at the University of Manchester, and works on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. He is also working on the FP420 R&D project in an international collaboration to upgrade the ATLAS and the CMS experiment by installing additional, smaller detectors at a distance of 420 metres from the interaction points of the main experiments. He is best known to the public as the presenter of a number of science programmes for the BBC, most recently Seven Wonders of the Solar System, due for broadcast in March 2010. Brian has co-authored a book with Jeff Forshaw, Why Does E=MC2 (and Why Should We Care?).
First broadcast on 8th January 2010.
Dr Cordelia Fine is an academic psychologist and writer. She is the author of A Mind of Its Own: How your brain distorts and deceives, and writes regularly for the press. She wrote the introduction for the Britannica Guide to the Brain, and her second book, Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Difference is now published.
Cordelia studied Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, followed by an M.Phil in Criminology at Cambridge University. She was awarded a Ph.D in Psychology from University College London. From 2002 to 2007 she was a Research Associate at Monash University, and then at the Australian National University. She is currently a Research Associate at the Centre for Agency, Values & Ethics at Macquarie University, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
First broadcast on 10th September 2010.
Late last year, Little Atoms took part in an audio installation, Mind’s Eye, which consisted of a number of interviews with scientists involved in current space missions.
Mind’s Eye is now on tour, and can been heard from 16 to 22 February as part of Smashfest UK at the Albany Theatre in Deptford. Here are two interviews recorded for this tour. Dr Shoshana Weider was a postdoctoral fellow on NASA’s Messenger mission to Mercury, and Dr Matt Taylor is currently Project Scientist on ESA’s Rosetta.
In this episode, Neil visits the University of Chicago and spends some time in the company of Jerry Coyne. Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, where he works on diverse areas of evolutionary genetics. His research focuses on the origin of new species, using the fruit fly (Drosophila) as mode organism. A former student of the distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin, Coyne has taught evolutionary biology for more than 25 years, and has contributed frequently to the public debate concerning evolution and creationism. He has published widely in research journals and is the author, with Allen Orr, of Speciation, now the standard academic text in the subject. He was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007. Jerry is the author of Why Evolution is True.
Greg Jenner is the historical consultant to CBBC's multi-award winning Horrible Histories,Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry, and the various HH spin-offs. As well as contributing sketches and co-writing Stephen Fry's links, over the past four years he has been solely responsible for the factual accuracy of nearly one thousand comedy sketches with subject matter that has spanned the entirety of human history.
Greg studied at the University of York and, after dropping initial plans for a life in academia, has worked on historical documentaries and dramas for the past seven years. Greg's first book is A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age.
Dorian Lynskey is a music writer for the Guardian. He was the Big Issue's music critic for three years and has freelanced for a host of titles, including Q, Word, Spin, Empire, Blender and the Observer. He is the author of The Guardian Book of Playlists, and his latest book is 33 Revolutions Per Minute:A History of Protest Songs.
Damian Thompson is a leader writer for The Daily Telegraph and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald. He blogs for the Telegraph on religious affairs and is the author of a number of books, including Waiting for Antichrist: Charisma and Apocalypse in a Pentecostal Church and The End of Time: Faith and the Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium.
In February 2008, Damian's latest book, Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History, will be published. You can discover more by visiting www.counterknowledge.com.
Dr Hannah Fry is a mathematician and complexity scientist from University College London’s Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis. Fry also regularly presents the Number Hub strand of BBC Worldwide’s YouTube channel, and regularly appears on radio and tv in the UK, most recently Climate Change by Numbers on BBC4. Her first TED talk attracted more than 500,000 views and evolved into her first book, The Mathematics of Love.
Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many bestselling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon RonsonMysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender. Jon’s latest book is So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
Duncan Watts is a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, and a former professor of sociology at Columbia University. His research on social networks and collective dynamics has appeared in a wide range of academic journals, including Nature, Science, and the American Journal of Sociology. He is also the author of two previous books, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age; and Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness. Duncan's latest book is Everything is Obvious* *Once you Know The Answer: How Common Sense Fails.
First broadcast on 29th July 2011.
Neil Denny conducted a series of "Fireside Chats" with some of the many speakers at the FutureEverything conference in Manchester on 31st March and 1st April 2014.
Alex Fleetwood is the founder and director of Hide&Seek, a game design studio dedicated to inventing new kinds of play. Hide&Seek started life in 2007 as a festival of social games and playful experiences on London's South Bank, and built into a studio occupied a unique position in the UK, creating innovative games, installations and events with organisations including Film4, the Cultural Olympiad, Tate Modern, Warner Bros, Gâité Lyrique, Nike, Sony, the Royal Opera House and Kensington Palace.
Anab Jain was born and educated in India (NID), with an MA in Interaction Design from the Royal College of Art, and founded Superflux in 2009, leading the Consultancy's client partnerships whilst balancing the Lab's self-initiated conceptual projects. She has lead multidisciplinary design, strategy and foresight projects for businesses, think-tanks and research organisations such as Sony, BBC, Nokia, NHS, Design Council, Forum for the Future, Qatar Foundation and Govt. of UAE. Honoured as a TED Fellow, she is the receipient of several awards, including the Award of Excellence ICSID and Apply Computers, Innovation Award, Chicago International Film Festival and the UNESCO Digital Arts Award. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA New York, Apple, Mattel Toys, Tate Modern, Science Gallery Dublin, National Museum of China and the London Design Festival. She is on the Board of MzTek and Broadway Cinema and Media Centre, and is a guest lecturer at the Royal College of Art, VCUQatar, Architectural Association, Goldsmiths, Dundee Innovative Product Design and CIID.
Ted Vallance is a Reader in Early Modern History at Roehampton University. After reading History at Balliol College, Oxford, he was DeVelling Willis Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. He writes a historical blog, and is a regular contributor to the New Statesman and BBC History Magazine. Ted's books include The Glorious Revolution, and most recently, A Radical History of Britain.
Evgeny Morozov is the author of The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World. He is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy and runs the magazine's "Net Effect" blog about the Internet's impact on global politics. Morozov is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. He was formerly a Yahoo! fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a fellow at George Soros's Open Society Institute, where he remains on the board of the Information Program.
Morozov's writings have appeared in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, Times Literary Supplement, Le Monde, Dissent and many other publications.
Henry Nicholls is a freelance science journalist writing regularly for Nature, New Scientist and BBC Focus as well as the broadsheets. His first book Lonesome George told the story of the last giant tortoise of Pinta in the Galapagos and was shortlisted for the 2007 Royal Society General Book Prize. Henry's latest book is The Way of The Panda: The Curious History of China's Political Animal.
First broadcast on 25th February 2011.
Heather Brooke is a freelance journalist and Freedom of Information campaigner famous for uncovering the MPs' expenses scandal. She has written for most of the national papers and has worked as a consultant and presenter for Channel 4's Dispatches. She is a visiting professor at City University's Department of Journalism and is the author of Your Right to Know and The Silent State. She has won numerous awards, including the Judges' Prize at the 2010 British Press Awards. Heather's latest book is The Revolution Will be Digitised: Dispatches From the Information War.
Danny Dorling is Halford Mackinder Professor in Geography at the University of Oxford. He has worked both with the British government and the World Health Organization and is frequently asked to comment on current issues on TV and the radio. He has published more than twenty-five books, including Injustice: Why Social Inequality Exists and So You Think You Know About Britain? His latest book is All That is Solid: The Great Housing Disaster. Also this week, writer Naomi Alderman on Teach us to Sit Still by Tim Parks.
Interview one first broadcast on 25th June 2010.
Ian Sinclair is a British writer, documentarist, film maker, poet, flaneur, psychogeographer, metropolitan prophet and urban shaman, keeper of lost cultures and futurologist. His books include Downriver, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, Lights Out for the Territory, Dining on Stones, London Orbital, and most recently, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire. He is the editor of London: City of Disappearances. He lives in Hackney.
Ian McEwan has written two collections of stories, First Love, Last Rites and In Between the Sheets, and 12 novels including The Cement Garden, The Child in Time, The Innocent, Enduring Love, Atonement and Saturday. He won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam in 1998. Ian's latest novel is Solar, to be published by Jonathan Cape on the 18th March 2010.
This show featured Adam Rutherford as a guest host.
Frank Furedi is professor of sociology at University of Kent, and author of a number of books including Politics of Fear, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, Therapy Culture, Paranoid Parenting and Culture of Fear. During the past decade his intellectual work has been devoted towards clarifying the meaning of humanism for the twenty-first century. In Politics of Fear he argues that the politics of fear thrives in an atmosphere where the exercise of human agency is regarded with suspicion if not dread – and that the alternative to this culture of misanthropy is to set about humanising our existence. To further this aim Frank has recently initiated The Manifesto Club with a group of friends and like-minded colleagues, whose stated aim is to humanise humanism, and to reclaim the creative spirit of the Enlightenment for the twenty-first century.
Donna Dickenson is the first woman recipient of the International Spinoza Lens award for her contribution to public debate on ethics. She is emeritus professor of medical ethics and humanities at the University of London, and formerly John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham. Body Shopping is her first popular book on science and medicine.
First broadcast on 21st August 2009.
After qualifying from medical school in Edinburgh, Gavin Francis spent ten years travelling, visiting all seven continents. He has worked in Africa and India, made several trips to the Arctic, and crossed Eurasia and Australasia by motorcycle. His first book, True North: Travels in Arctic Europe was published in 2008. He has lectured at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, the Edinburgh Book Festival, and is a regular speaker at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Gavin's latest book, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RSL Ondaatje prize, is Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence and Emperor Penguins.
First broadcast on 28th June 2013.
Ian Sample is an award-winning science correspondent at the Guardian. He was named investigative journalist of the year in 2005 by the Association of British Science Writers. He was previously a feature writer for New Scientist and holds a PhD in biomedical science from Queen Mary, University of London. Ian's first book is Massive: The Hunt for the God Particle.
First broadcast on 6th August 2010.
Jennifer Potter is a horticultural historian who writes about the history and culture of plants, plantsmen and gardens. The author of four novels and five works of non-fiction, including Strange Blooms: The Curious Lives and Adventures of the John Tradescants, and The Rose: A True History, and a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, she is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at King's College London. Her latest book is Seven Flowers and How They Shaped Our World. Also this week, writer and critic Andrew Mueller recommends we listen to Southern Rock Opera by Drive-By Truckers.
First broadcast on 21st December 2013.
Jesse Bering, PhD, is a frequent contributor to Scientific American and Slate. His writing has also appeared in New York magazine, The Guardian, and The New Republic, among other publications, and has been featured by NPR, Playboy Radio, the BBC, and more. The author of The God Instinct and Why is the Penis Shaped Like That? Bering is the former director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen's University, Belfast, and began his career as a professor at the University of Arkansas. Jesse's latest book is Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us. Jesse Bering has been a guest on Little Atoms twice.
Interview one first broadcast on 30th November 2012.
Interview two first broadcast on 10th May 2014.
Jim Al-Khalili OBE is a theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds the first Surrey chair in the public engagement in science. He was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication in 2007, elected Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and has also received the Institute of Physic's Public Awareness of Physics Award.
Jim is the author of numerous popular science titles, including Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines, Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed and the book we talk about in this interview, Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science.
Joanne Baker studied Physics at the University of Cambridge and took her PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Sydney in 1995. She is the author of the best selling 50 Physics Ideas You Really Need to Know and is an editor at Nature magazine, where her speciality is space and Earth science. Her latest book is 50 Universe Ideas You Really Need to Know.
First broadcast on 18th February 2011.
John Lanchester is a journalist and novelist, and was winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award for his debut The Debt to Pleasure. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and The New Yorker, and a restaurant critic for the Guardian. He also writes a monthly column form Esquire. John's article on our love affair with the City “Cityphilia” generated much response on its publication in January 2008, and indeed predicted a worldwide crash based on the misuse of financial derivatives. In October 2008 he charted the financial crisis as it had developed over the year in “Citiphobia”. This then led to a book: Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.
First broadcast on 15th April 2011.
Christopher Hitchens is a British born, but recently naturalised American Author, Journalist, Essayist and Literary Critic. Based in Washington D.C., Christopher is currently a writer for Vanity Fair and Slate, and an (acrimoniously) ex-writer for The Nation.
Christopher's books include Blood, Class and Empire, Letters to a Young Contrarian, Orwell's Victory, The Missionary Position, No One Left to Lie To and The Trial of Henry Kissinger. His collected Literary essays can be found in Unacknowledged Legislation, and collected political essays in For the Sake of Argument and Love, Poverty and War. Christopher's most recently published book is God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Christopher describes himself as an Anti-Theist, rather than an Atheist, and he was an outspoken supporter of the removal of Saddam Hussein, a position which has alienated him from a large number of his former Comrades on the Left.
James Hannam is a historian of science specialising in the relationship between science and Christianity in the Medieval and Early Modern eras. He took Masters (2003) from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD (2008) in the History and Philosophy of Science at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. James' reviews and articles have been published in the academic journals British Journal of the History of Science, Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliography Society, Science and Christian Belief and Perspectives on Science and Faith. James Hannam is the author of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science.
Jonnie Hughes is a filmmaker in the BBC Natural History Unit and Head of Development for BBC Earth. His documentaries have been shown on the BBC, Discovery and National Geographic Channel. He studied ecology and evolution at the University of Leeds. Jonnie's first book is On the Origin of Tepees: Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct.
First broadcast on 16th November 2012.