Episodes

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Carole Hooven And Testosterone2021121720211223 (R4)Evolutionary biologist Carole Hooven on the impact of testosterone. With Helen Lewis.

Leading thinkers posit solutions to the structural problems of our age.

Chris Daw And The Abolition Of Prisons2020093020201003 (R4)The interview series in which journalist Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

Each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

In this episode, the barrister Chris Daw QC, author of Justice on Trial, tells Helen why he contends that we should abolish prisons as we currently understand them, and radically rethink our whole approach to punishment and rehabilitation. Drawing on over two decades as a criminal barrister, Daw argues that a radical rethink would help reduce rates of prison overcrowding and reoffending, and reverse what he sees as the UK's increasingly US-style approach to sentencing and incarceration. Helen challenges him to explain how this fully factors in public safety, justice as seen from the victim's and society's perspectives, and the need for deterrence.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Leading thinkers propose solutions to the structural problems of our age.

Ehsan Masood And Gdp2021081320210819 (R4)Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

Science journalist Ehsan Masood, author of GDP: the World's Most Powerful Formula and Why It Must Now Change. explains what he thinks is wrong with Gross Domestic Product as a measure of a country's economic success. He tells Helen what alternatives are on offer - and how he thinks GDP can and should be radically reformed.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Emily Alison And Rapport2021080620210812 (R4)Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

Emily Alison, co-author with Laurence Alison of Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People, reveals the insights she has derived from her work as a forensic psychologist. And she explains why she argues that techniques for building rapport can help transform a whole range of difficult personal interactions.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Henry Marsh And Terminal Illness2021072320210729 (R4)Helen Lewis returns with a new series of interviews with people offering radical solutions to the big problems we face, and explores how their personal experiences drive their work and thinking.

Neurosurgeon and author Henry Marsh tells Helen about coming to terms with being diagnosed with cancer, and how it has informed his ideas about how we deal with terminal illness. They discuss the case for assisted dying, and the changes to the law that Marsh advocates.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

Julia Galef On Motivated Cognition2021120320211209 (R4)Julia Galef on how 'motivated cognition' blocks clear thinking - and how to get round it.
Karen Stenner And The Authoritarian Predisposition2021073020210805 (R4)Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

Political psychologist and behavioural economist Karen Stenner, author of The Authoritarian Dynamic, explains how research shows a third of humanity is predisposed to authoritarianism. She tells Helen what happens when this predisposition is activated by feelings of threat - and what liberal democracy can do to respond to the challenges this raises.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Kiran Gill And Excluded Pupils2020092320200926 (R4)From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

Each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

In this episode, innovative young educationalist Kiran Gill tells Helen about her radical ideas for improving the life chances of excluded school pupils - from drawing on neuroscientific research on childhood trauma to reconnecting Pupil Referral Units with mainstream schools. Helen asks her to explain how and why she set up her organisation, The Difference, to put her ideas into action - and how it's working out.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Leading thinkers propose solutions to the structural problems of our age.

Margaret Heffernan And Preparedness2020040120200511 (R4)
20200513 (R4)
20200517 (R4)
Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

Producer: Sarah Shebbeare

This week, Helen talks to entrepreneur, CEO, and writer Margaret Heffernan about just how often the prediction business gets it wrong. Governments, business and individuals are attracted to certainty, yet the reality is that we face an uncharted future. Planning for an outcome we expect – whether it's a family holiday or ‘just in time' food supply chains – can lead to disappointment or even disaster, as events so often take an unexpected course.

Instead, Heffernan argues, the best course of action is not to plan, but to be prepared: to build resilience for a range of possible outcomes. Helen Lewis asks how this works in practice, and how individuals, organisations and policy-makers can prepare for a future that is – try as we might – impossible to predict.

Producer: Eliane Glaser

Mark Williams On The Future Of Trade2021121020211216 (R4)Shipping strategist Mark Williams on decarbonising shipping and the future of trade.
Noreena Hertz And Loneliness2021020320210206 (R4)Helen Lewis returns with a new series of interviews with people offering radical solutions to the big problems we face, and explores how their personal experiences drive their work and thinking.

In her book The Lonely Century, economist Noreena Hertz explains why she considers loneliness a pressing political problem. She tells Helen about her strange encounters while researching the subject, and outlines what she thinks are the necessary political solutions to fix a lonely society.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

Paul Collier And John Kay V Destructive Individualism2020091620200919 (R4)A new series of the interview programme in which journalist Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

Each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

In the first episode of this latest series, leading economists Sir Paul Collier and John Kay argue that the world is in thrall to destructive individualism, from the right's obsession with shareholder value to the left's extremes of identity politics.

They tell Helen why they argue in their new book, Greed is Dead, that we need to focus instead on mutual obligations and community. Helen asks them to lay out the practical proposals for trying to make this happen, from devolving power to promoting German-style 'associations'.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Leading thinkers propose solutions to the structural problems of our age.

Episode 1 Paul Collier and John Kay v Destructive Individualism

Two leading economists argue that the world is in thrall to destructive individualism, from the right's obsession with shareholder value to the left's extremes of identity politics. We need to talk instead about mutual obligations and community.

Paul Vallely And Philanthropy2021011320210116 (R4)Helen Lewis returns with a new series of interviews with people offering radical solutions to the big problems we face, and explores how their personal experiences drive their work and thinking.

In his book Philanthropy from Aristotle to Zuckerberg, journalist Paul Vallely draws on centuries of history, as well as his own experience as a reporter on the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s and later working with Bob Geldof, to argue for a radical rethink of philanthropy.

Today's super-donors, Vallely says, are often focused on data-driven 'effective altruism'. Helen asks him why he calls for them to combine that with a rediscovery of philanthropy's traditions of reciprocity and mutual respect.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

Peter Macfadyen And Rebuilding Democracy2020052520200527 (R4)
20200531 (R4)
Peter Macfadyen tells Helen Lewis his method for rebuilding democracy from the ground up.

Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past

In this episode, Helen talks to Peter Macfadyen, the sometime gardener, undertaker and former mayor of Frome in Somerset who, along with a group of independents, took over the town council and pioneered a new kind of local politics.

Doing away with formal rules and regulations, Independents for Frome opened up the council to a diverse range of community groups, creating a model for engagement and participation that is now being emulated around the country and beyond, thanks to Peter Macfadyen's DIY guide: Flatpack Democracy. But, Helen asks, how does it work – and what are its limits?

Producer: Eliane Glaser

Pragya Agarwal On Unconscious Bias2020060120200603 (R4)
20200607 (R4)
Pragya Agarwal discusses our unintentional biases.

Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

This week Helen talks to behavioural and data scientist Pragya Agarwal, author of Sway, about the science behind our unintentional biases, how they affect our decision making and how we can work to overcome them.

Producer: Sarah Shebbeare

Sam Bowman And Building More Houses2021112620211202 (R4)Economist Sam Bowman tells Helen Lewis why he thinks building more houses will fix a surprising range of social problems. And he sets out the democratic device he thinks this can bring this about without conflict with so-called 'NIMBYs' - those who prefer not to have new building take place near their homes.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Economist Sam Bowman on why building more houses will fix multiple problems.

Stuart Russell And Controlling Ai2020051820200520 (R4)
20200524 (R4)
Artificial intelligence pioneer Stuart Russell on how to stop AI destroying the world.

Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

In this episode, Helen talks to Stuart Russell, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, about how he has become increasingly worried that AI design is founded on flawed principles. And how, if we don't rethink its fundamentals, the arrival of ‘Artificial General Intelligence' could put humanity at terrible risk.

He explains how AI design creates in its products a single-minded drive to fulfil the objective we give it – but how, as the story of King Midas shows, that can go terribly wrong.

And Russell sets out three new principles which, if incorporated into AI from the very start of the design process, could ensure that humans stay in control. Otherwise, he says, we face losing all agency over our future, with potentially terrible consequences.

Producer: Phil Tinline

01Emily Oster And Evidence-based Parenting2019121120191214 (R4)Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

This week, Helen talks to American economist Emily Oster, author of Expecting Better and Cribsheet, about how to apply rational, evidence-based decision making to the sleep-deprived fog of myth and misinformation that surrounds parenting.

Questions about what to eat in pregnancy, whether to have an epidural during childbirth, and whether to sleep-train your baby are fraught with controversy and attract a great deal of anxiety and guilt. Yet the actual data on the pros and cons is surprisingly hard to come by. Emily Oster sought to fill that information gap and she tells Helen Lewis why this can have a life-changing impact on babies – and their exhausted parents.

Producer: Eliane Glaser

Helen Lewis talks to economist Emily Oster about data-driven decision making in parenting.

Producers: Eliane Glaser, Sarah Shebbeare, Phil Tinline

01Linda Scott And The Double-x Economy2021012020210123 (R4)Helen Lewis returns with a new series of interviews with people offering radical solutions to the big problems we face, and explores how their personal experiences drive their work and thinking.

In her book The Double-X Economy, the economist Linda Scott explains how, in her view, cultural assumptions hold back women's economic potential.

Drawing on both recently-available data, and her own first-hand experience in the developing world, she tells Helen how she thinks this potential could be liberated using a series of practical solutions. And why she believes that liberating the Double-X economy could change the world for the better.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Helen Lewis meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

02Hilary Cottam And Revolutionising The Welfare State2019121820191221 (R4)Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

This week, Helen meets social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam, author of Radical Help, to find out why she thinks the welfare state needs a revolution, and how a new approach to human relationships can transform it.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam on the future of the welfare state. With Helen Lewis.

02Tim Spector And Food Myths2021012720210130 (R4)HELEN LEWIS returns with a new series of interviews with people offering radical solutions to the big problems we face, and explores how their personal experiences drive their work and thinking.

In his book Spoon-Fed, the genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector argues that almost everything we have been told about food is wrong. He tells Helen why - and what he thinks can be done to transform the situation.

Producer: Phil Tinline

HELEN LEWIS meets people offering radical solutions to the big problems of our times.

03Paul Krugman V Zombie Economics2020010120200104 (R4)HELEN LEWIS meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

This week, Helen talks to Paul Krugman, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics, and author of Arguing With Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future, about the ideas he contends block the path to positive change.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Economist Paul Krugman on the ideas that, he argues, block real change. With HELEN LEWIS.

Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

Economist Paul Krugman on the ideas that, he argues, block real change. With Helen Lewis.

04Roy Baumeister V Negativity Bias2020010820200111 (R4)AKA Roy Baumeister V The Negativity Effect

HELEN LEWIS meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.

Helen's challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

This week, Helen meets social psychologist Roy Baumeister, co-author of The Power of Bad... And How To Overcome It.

Producer: Emma Wallace

Roy Baumeister on why we must beat the tyranny of the negativity effect. With HELEN LEWIS.

Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

This week, Helen meets social psychologist Roy Baumeister - co-author of The Power of Bad And How To Overcome It - who talks about our built-in negativity bias.

Roy Baumeister on why we must beat the tyranny of the negativity effect. With Helen Lewis.

Roy Baumeister on why we must beat the tyranny of our negativity bias. With Helen Lewis.

Roy Baumeister on why we must beat the tyranny of our negativity bias. With HELEN LEWIS.