“In framing an ideal we may assume what we wish, but should avoid impossibilities.” This Aristotle quote opens one of my favourite books, Aldous Huxley’s last novel, Island (1962).
It also summarises neatly Neville’s, and to a lesser degree, Sam’s, position re the appetite and capacity for, and thus the likelihood of radical change to the British political and electoral system.
To be fair, Neville suggested not to focus on politics at all in our latest episode, and instead invest all of our podnosticating attention in the “only big news of the day”, the split of Phil and Holly. In a masterclass of persuasive communication however, Sam and I manage to talk him round to our planned discussion of the recent local elections in England and all the related fall-out.
Both Neville and Sam refer to local political evidence in their respective leafy neighbourhoods in West Berkshire and East Sussex, where Conservative councillors are all but extinct.
And yet, as Sam highlights, on the local election evidence, UK-psephologist-in-chief Sir John Curtice doesn’t quite see an outright Labour majority at the next general election.
Fire and music go well together. Sixties rocker Arthur Brown – a long-time resident of the liberal enclave of Lewes, home of your correspondent, Podnosticator Knowles – made an entire career out of his 1968 cult classic, Fire
Indeed, I even played roadie to him and had the honour of putting him out when he caught fire during the first chorus of Fire in a Sussex gig back in 2007, my pimple on the backside of rock ‘n’ roll history. And the first time Arthur had gone up in flames since the 1971 Windsor Jazz Festival.
The least successful rockstar of all time, John Otway, was given a 50th birthday present to remember when his fans “rigged” the charts in a totally legal way and bought him a second, top-ten hit in a 5,000-plus gig career, and that catchy ditty Bunsen Burner stormed the charts.
Its chorus features the line “Burn, baby, burn”, a lyrical echo through the ages, from The Tramps to (appropriately enough) Ash.
And “burn baby burn” is exactly what it appears the planet will be doing – even quicker than the entire combined scientific consensus has unequivocally determined it will do, thanks to our crack-like addiction to fossil fuels – if we don’t shake our very recent, very deep love of generative AI.
Sam starts episode 72 of the Small Data Forum podcast with a look at the latest developments in this new technology, whose poster boy is ChatGPT and one of whose early funders was Elon Musk. But more of the Musky one, anon.
In each episode of The Small Data Forum podcast, we pride ourselves in the “sideways look” we apply to our podnostications on the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life, with our opinions and insights that challenge accepted wisdoms.
We hear, anecdotally, that you like this informed but irreverent style.
As we evolve the podcast, we also think it’s a good time now to invite our listeners to actually tell us what they think of the podcast, its content, and our style. What you think.
And so we have our first listener survey! It’s short and simple, designed to help us gain more understanding about what you think of our podcasts, and what suggestions you care to share that will help us make them even more useful and entertaining for you.
Back in the grey drizzle of a late March Friday morning in the UK, the three Podnosticators of the SmallDataForum convene to take another sideways look at ‘events, dear boy, events’ (something Harold Macmillan apparently never said).
In ancient Greece, people consulted oracles to learn about the future. The best known resided at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where the blind priestess Pythia provided prophetic prediction for all in need of direction. Above its entrance, the temple had an inscription: Know thyself.
In fact, there appear to have been a total of 147 maxims chiselled into the marble – and they are well worth studying in detail if one wants to fine-tune one’s moral compass. The first three are the best-known: in addition to self-knowledge, they appeal to moderation, and the avoidance of overly strong beliefs or ideology (one might be tempted to call that humility).
It is no surprise that the Sam, as the classicist among the three veterans of the SmallDataForum, came up with our new name, blending the ancient Greek word describing foreknowing – prognosis (with gnosis = knowledge at its heart) with our cherished medium of podcasting. Lo and behold, in an act of neology-meets-etymology, the googlewhacking Podnosticators were born.