Anita Sethi discusses how we are all connected and what the internet means for dictatorship and democracy.
Anita maps her ancestry back to Kenya and argues the need to connect is amplified in diaspora communities.
“Migrants have a greater desire for tactile connection; if it was a forced exile or removal many experience the anxiety of loss. You can’t control the way you left so you try to connect, either by mapping your own journey or by retaining a physical representation of origin.”
The internet and social media have exponentially increased the ability to connect. In Kenya, where the majority of the population is under 30, Sethi argues there has been a huge impact in the democratisation of society.
“In a country where it used to take five years to publish a book, the outlet for information and the ability to instantaneously connect is empowering.”
Being able to communicate an idea with such speed is a privilege, but access to information is a right. Sethi argues that dictators use the restriction information as an authoritarian weapon.
“When a regime feels threatened it cuts off means of information."
Closer to home, Sethi finds the growing closures of British libraries worrying.
“Libraries provide wisdom, knowledge and the right to learn for all. The ability to challenge thinking is a human right.”
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.
David Aaronovitch, writer, broadcaster and commentator on international politics and the media joins Little Atoms to discuss the role of the conspiracy theory in shaping modern history.
“A very committed conspiracy theorist is as attached to their theories as any significant religious person is to their faith or a political ideologue to a political idea that they really don’t want to give up.”
His book, Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History explores the importance of rationality in the information age.
“The sources of information available to young people today are at a level that we never dreamed of. It will be increasingly important that as the information revolution deepens, to create spaces that have a rationalist kite mark on them - spaces that have a badge of quality on them. I think its going to be one of the big discussions of the next 10 years.”
For Aaronovitch deconstructing conspiracy theories and finding the truth is vitally important.
“It matters because one is true and one isn’t. It matters trying to get at the true versions of history and the true versions of science as far as we can know them. That effort matters.”
First broadcast 29/05/09
Stewart Lee is a writer and stand-up comedian. He has written for radio, television, theatre, newspapers and magazines and performed as a stand-up comedian all over the world. His first novel, The Perfect Fool, was published in July 2001. He is co-author with the composer Richard Thomas of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which was denounced by the good folk of Christian Voice as “crude, offensive and blasphemous in the extreme”.
Jon Ronson is a writer and documentary film maker.
He began his journalistic career as an award-winning columnist for Time Out. He also wrote the popular “Human Zoo” column for The Guardian and produced the BBC Radio 4 documentary Hotel Auschwitz. He also presents the late night Radio 4 series, Jon Ronson on…
For Channel 4, Jon has made the acclaimed five part series the Secret Rulers of the World, multi award-winning Tottenham Ayatollah, New Klan, New York to California (A Great British Odyssey), Dr Paisley, I Presume, the four-part series Critical Condition, and the late-night chat show For The Love Of…
For BBC2 he made the six part series The Ronson Mission. Now contributing regularly to The Guardian, Jon has written two books, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats.
Edward Slingerland is an internationally recognized expert in both early Chinese thought and the links between cognitive science and the humanities.
He is Professor of Asian Studies, Associate Member in the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, and holds the Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Effortless Action (2003) and What Science Offers the Humanities (2008). His latest book is Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity.