The Secret Genius Of Modern Life review: Is this robot dog the future?

The Secret Genius Of Modern Life 


Drugs Map Of Britain


This is the Artificial Intelligence we need in our lives — a bright yellow, dancing robot dog with a rotating CCTV camera for its head.

Professor Hannah Fry was horrified by the canine cyborg, in The Secret Genius Of Modern Life (BBC2). She called it ‘creepy’, ‘my nightmare’ and ‘extremely dystopian’. We get it, Hannah — you’re more of a cat person.

Bounding around on four spring-loaded legs, with a gyroscopic stabiliser to ensure it cannot easily be knocked over, the dog has been developed by a border control firm for use at airports.

In the near future, we might not have to produce our passports. Instead, Facial Recognition Fido will trot up to travellers and scan their features. Clever dog!

When suspected fugitives, terrorists or smugglers are identified, security staff will be alerted. The robot does a nifty disco jiggle, so perhaps it could be trained to cock a leg on wrongdoers or bite their ankles.

Prof Hannah was exploring the history of passports and the technology they use to foil forgers. The topic might sound dry but she was having no end of fun, sending messages using invisible ink and shooting watermelons with high-velocity rifles, to demonstrate some of the science that goes into making our passports almost impossible to forge or destroy.

The researchers were having fun, too, digging into the archives for shots of Edwardian car crashes and World War I spies. One newsreel showed a woman in a 1930s dress and cloche hat, holding a pane of bulletproof glass in front of her face, while her husband took potshots at her head. The things we did to amuse ourselves before television came along . . .

We also heard the story of 19th-century serial killer Joseph Vacher, the French Ripper, caught with the aid of photographic mugshots that were, arguably, the earliest form of facial recognition tech.

It was all fascinating stuff, told at a lively pace, though slightly marred by an egregious piece of BBC virtue signalling at the end. Hannah lamented the limitations placed on immigration by passports.

‘The government can stop certain people from crossing our borders,’ she said. ‘Some might be migrants or refugees who are looking to build a better life. Passports are about rejection. It’s not about freedom at all.’

Having made this pious plea for a policy of ‘come one, come all’, she sidestepped any awkward implications for breakdown in health services, education and housing. ‘I’m definitely not going to get involved in a conversation about open borders,’ she said, as if she hadn’t raised the issue herself.

The ugly reality of society’s breakdown was revealed in Drugs Map Of Britain (BBC3), with a hard-hitting report from Birmingham, where an epidemic of nitrous oxide abuse has British Asian teens in its grip.

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, once used to aerate cream, gives a brief, heady high when inhaled. Incredibly, youngsters from Muslim families favour it because, unlike alcohol, it is not forbidden by the Koran.

We followed young men revving through the city streets, yelling to each other from their cars as they took hits from balloons filled with gas

Many of those interviewed seemed fully aware of the drug’s dangers, wrecking the spinal cord, leaving some in wheelchairs

Many of those interviewed seemed fully aware of the drug’s dangers. It wrecks the spinal cord, leaving some in wheelchairs. But it leaves no telltale stench, unlike marijuana, making its use easy to hide. Huge canisters could once be bought legally, over the counter at 24-hour supermarkets for £25, but the drug has now been outlawed as a Class C substance.

We followed young men revving through the city streets, yelling to each other from their cars as they took hits from balloons filled with gas. They do this, rather than skulk in parks or doorways, one user explained, ‘otherwise you’ll give a bad reputation to the area. People will think there’s too many idiots about.’ It’s beyond satire.


Related posts