Past Present Future
History of Ideas: Montaigne
For the first episode in the new series of History of Ideas – on the great essays and the great essayists – David discusses Montaigne, the man who invented a whole new way of writing and being read. From the fear of death to the joys of life, from the perils of atheism to the pitfalls of faith, from sex to religion and back again, Montaigne wrote the book of himself, which was also a guide to what it means to be human. Elephants, civil war, gout, cosmology, torture, tennis balls, disease, diets, and politics too: all life is here.
7. Rawls, Capitalism & Justice57:50This week Daniel Chandler and Lea Ypi join David to talk about the legacy of the great American political philosopher John Rawls and his theory of justice. Did Rawls provide a prescription for the only fair way of doing capitalism? Or did he really show why capitalism and justice will never be reconciled? What can Rawls teach us about how to treat each other as equals? And does it even make sense to talk about justice in Britain or America when the world as a whole remains so fundamentally unequal?Daniel Chandler’s new book is Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look Like? Lea Ypi’s Free: Coming of Age at the End of History is out now in paperback.You can hear David’s History of Ideas episode about Rawls and the theory of justice here.
6. Live Special: The American Century w/ David Miliband53:48This week’s episode was recorded live at the Hay Festival, where David was joined on stage by David Miliband and Helen Thompson to discuss the past, present and future of American power. What explains American global dominance? Can it be justified? How will it be replaced? They discuss the fall-out of the Ukraine war, the threat posed by China, the challenge of climate change and the possibility of a second Trump presidency and ask – is the American century over?David Miliband writes about the consequences of the Ukraine war in Foreign Affairs.Hear more from Helen Thompson on the These Times podcast from UnHerd. Follow Past Present Future on Twitter @PPFIdeas
5. AI: Can the Machines Really Think?52:16Gary Marcus and John Lanchester join David to discuss all things AI, from ChatGPT to the Turing test. Why is the Turing test such a bad judge of machine intelligence? If these machines aren’t thinking, what is it they are doing? And what are we doing giving them so much power to shape our lives? Plus we discuss self-driving cars, the coming jobs apocalypse, how children learn, and what it is that makes us truly human.Gary’s new podcast is Humans vs. Machines.Read Turing’s original paper here.
3. Living Behind the Iron Curtain54:01This week David talks to Katja Hoyer and Lea Ypi about life under communism. East Germany was the most successful of the communist states of Eastern Europe, measured by economic prosperity and sporting success. Did the GDR ever really offer a model of how Soviet-style communism could give people what they wanted, including social mobility and consumerism? Why did it fall apart in the end? And how did the GDR experiment look from inside Albania, where Lea grew up? A conversation about freedom, dissent, paranoia and blue jeans.Katja Hoyer’s latest book is Beyond the Wall: East Germany 1949-1990.Lea Ypi’s prize-winning Free: Coming of Age at the End of History is available in paperback now.To hear more about Rosa Luxemburg, this is from Season 2 of History of Ideas.
2. How Dallas Saw the Future50:34This week David talks to Helen Thompson about Dallas and the end of oil. How did the world’s most popular soap opera come to explain the energy crisis and the future of a world hooked on fossil fuels? Is the fate of the Ewing family – fire and ruin – going to be the fate of America? And did J.R. Ewing really pave the way for President Donald Trump? Plus David and Helen discuss ‘oil fictions’, from Isaac Asimov to Italo Calvino.Watch the moment when ‘Miss Ellie Saves the Day’.Helen Thompson on ’the cosmic stakes of the age of oil’.Isaac Asimov’s imaginary report on a world without oil.Italo Calvino’s short story, ’The Petrol Pump’.Past Present Future is brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books.
1. The Novel that Unravels Democracy52:35David talks to Ian McEwan about Italo Calvino’s The Watcher (1963), one of the greatest of all works of political fiction. Challenging, disturbing, redemptive: this is a book about who gets to count and who doesn’t, and what identity politics really means. David and Ian also discuss how political fiction works - and why the climate change novel is so hard to write. Plus they argue about whether children should be allowed to vote. Next week: Helen Thompson on Dallas and the end of oil.Ian McEwan’s latest novel is Lessons, available now.To read more about Calvino, here is a recent appreciation of his later writings in the New Yorker.On the children’s focus groups, here is the report. For more links and info about future episodes, follow Past Present Future on Twitter @PPFIdeasPast Present Future is brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books.
Introducing Past Present Future02:44Past Present Future is a new weekly podcast with David Runciman, host and creator of Talking Politics, exploring the history of ideas from politics to philosophy, culture to technology. David talks to historians, novelists, scientists and many others about where the most interesting ideas come from, what they mean, and why they matter. Ideas from the past, questions about the present, shaping the future. Brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books.New episodes every Thursday.