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Five things - 08/04/2020

1. The Role of The State - Fallout Episode 1

This new series on BBC Sounds is gets some respected experts to discuss some of the ramifications of the current situation. The first episode centres on the role of the state as things move forward. This was particularly topical given Boris Johnson’s statement that “there is such a thing as society”. The topics range from the cost of reducing people’s liberty, to the future of state economic intervention in response to the inevitable recession we are now facing. The panel includes former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who surprisingly suggests austerity might play a part in solving the problems. There is also my perennial favourite left-wing journalist Paul Mason, Danny Finkelstein (representing the more right wing perspective) and Anne Appelbaum, an historian with expertise in Eastern Europe and Marxism-Leninism.

The series continues with episode 2 on the topic of The Global Economy, with another esteemed panel including Yanis Varoufakis and Mervyn King.

If you want to hear something about the bigger picture impacts of what’s going on now, it’s worth a listen.

2. American Factory

This is a good Netflix documentary following the opening of a Chinese factory in the US. The central themes are the culture clash of the two workforces, with the Chinese supervisors clashing with the “lazy” Americans who only work 40 hours and are trying to unionise. It’s interesting as it shows things from the perspective of the Chinese workers and managers, and we get to see the different factory cultures of the two countries. There’s a review at The Guardian and from NPR.

3. Tesla Virtual Power Plant

I mentioned this talk several weeks ago, but now it’s available for everyone to watch. It’s quite technical, but it’s really interesting to see how Tesla is using the so-called “Internet of Things” technology to solve a large scale problem - how to generate electricity efficiently but still satisfy peak demand. The speakers seem to be reading a script, but it flows reasonably well, and they give a shout out to Scala and Akka, two technologies we use at the BBC for various things (for example the backend of BBC Sounds).

4. The BBC on the Rack

I sometimes come across articles about my employer, that are more interesting than a simple criticism. This one is very long, but talks about the history of the national broadcaster and how both the right and left have their own critiques of the funding model, remit and political coverage. But it also digs into the history of the corporation back over the last century and how it has always struggled.

5. The Coming Social Collapse

I discovered this article via the aforementioned Paul Mason, and I found it an engaging discussion of the multitude of crises that are intersecting right now. It’s the most overtly left wing piece I’ve read recently, and as you’d expect given the name of the site, it advocates ending the current capitalist system. It is fairly UK centric, but discusses other countries too, and the thrust of it is about how the left should respond to the current situation so as to prevent the neoliberal class making the world’s poor paying for everything.

I could do with finding the right-wing equivalent to balance things a bit, so ping me if you have any suggestions!