CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Gadgets I can definitely do without 

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: £850 for a plastic pug? This is one tool I could do without

The Lost Master of Modern Life

Rating: ****

Brian Cox: How to live a half life

Rating: **

Scientists are like three-year-old children with an eagerness to stick their heads through the narrow rails of a fence.

Because they can do it without a good idea.

Even Professor Hannah Fry, an advocate of all things science, has doubts about the merits of certain technologies, in her six-part series The Secret Genius Of Modern Life (BBC2).

Even Professor Hannah Fry, an enthusiastic advocate of all things science, has her doubts about the merits of certain technologies.

Even Professor Hannah Fry, an enthusiastic advocate of all things science, has her doubts about the merits of certain technologies.

The expert was very confused about the benefits of Amazon’s ‘digital assistant’, the mini soccer ball that sits on the floor and listens to every word we say.

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A senior expert at Amazon HQ told her that Alexa only responds when she hears her name – the ‘wake word’. Professor Hannah seemed incredulous and said not to tell us if she had one in her own home.

‘Technology leads the way,’ he warns, ‘and then society asks the question whether we really need something in our lives.’

His mood was even less when an Amazon laptop told him he had built a synthesizer to imitate his voice. By feeding in two and a half minutes of his recorded speech, he taught the machine to follow his voice and communicate.

Amazon Astro is on sale in the US for £850 (recommended customers only)

Amazon Astro is on sale in the US for £850 (recommended customers only)

Hannah’s ‘fake depth’ sounds like Dame Edna Everage. I don’t think Rory Bremner is too worried about his job.

The expert was more than happy to trace the history of these innovations, along with archive files of devices such as the Voder — a talking robot exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. An inspector sat at a walk-behind computer and pressed the levers as if turning the railroad signals in the signalman’s box. Behind him, a speaker slowly came from the mouth of the plywood mask. It didn’t catch on.

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Neither does the Amazon Astro, I think. It’s currently on sale in the US for £850 (invited customers only).

Called ‘Alexa on wheels’, it’s a touchscreen for the face and body of a plastic pug. The camera is on a handle that can be pulled out of its head, like a unicorn made in Taiwan.

Astro walked around the house, looking at things. He can’t climb the stairs, which is a good thing, because I have a lot of trouble trying to keep the cat from falling. I don’t need an Amazon killer trying to break my neck, anymore.

Gadgets like Astro are a sign of a society with too much technology and too little intelligence, a problem that reduced actor Brian Cox to disbelief in How The Other Half Live (C5).

Brian’s face was still worn out, like a shirt that had been at the bottom of a laundry basket for a month. It’s hard to say when he’s happy, but he wasn’t too happy to meet Carolina, 21, a Polish-born student in Miami. Carolina is an ‘influencer’, posing poolside for fans on social media.

Greeting Brian at the beach house, he explained that he didn’t own the place, but rented it for the day after Googling him to learn about his life.

Brian began to explain that he wasn’t the billionaire Logan Roy, he was just playing Succession. Carolina jumped. For him, the truth is everything it says on the internet.

After working in a food kitchen for the homeless, Brian quits and pleads to ‘stop rolling the dice on the rich’.

That’s what Logan Roy calls ‘fatuous f*****g Leftie luvvie bulls**t’.

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