What Samsung’s new TVs owe to Jeremy Bentham

Plus: How far did Japanese prices deflate? And just how dangerous are lorries?

14 February 2015

9:00 AM

14 February 2015

9:00 AM

Watching brief

Samsung warned users of its voice-activated televisions that what they said in front of the TV could be transmitted to other people. The story attracted comparison with the telescreens in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but the principle of keeping a population under control by surveillance was foreseen a century earlier by Jeremy Bentham.
— In 1791 he came up with the idea for a Panopticon, a circular prison with one-way observation holes which would allow a single gaoler to patrol several hundred prisoners, none of whom could tell whether they were being watched at any one moment.
— Bentham saw the government’s eventual rejection of the scheme as ‘sinister’, a word now more likely to be used to describe the idea itself.

Land of the sinking price

Britain was predicted to be heading for ‘Japanese-style deflation’. How far did prices fall in Japan? It had consumer-price deflation in eight of the past 20 years:

1995 -0.4%
1999 -1.1%
2001 -1.3%
2003 -0.4%
2005 -0.4%
2009 -1.7%
2011 -0.2%
2012 -0.1%


Curtain call

Sir Tom Stoppard complained that theatre audiences aren’t as clever as they used to be and don’t get his jokes. Who goes to the theatre?

— The age group most likely to attend is 16–19
— The average income is £31,300
65% are female
55% work full time and 12% part time
11% are students; 15% are retired
29% have checked their phone during a performance
50% have eaten during a performance
Source: Ticketmaster/Society of London Theatres

Killer lorries

A runaway lorry killed four people in Bath, following the dustcart accident in Glasgow before Christmas. Are lorries a menace?

% traffic made up by lorries
Motorway 11%
A-road 5.4%
Minor 1.4%

Source: Department for Transport

% fatalities
involving lorry
Motorway 52%
A-road 18%
Minor 7.2%

Source: Department for Transport

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