Helensburgh Advertiser

Broadcaste­rs can’t match Naughtie


Yet the advent and onward march of so-called Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) makes me a mite nervous.

Like most innovation­s, there are obvious pros and cons. The latter now include half of all university students accessing a site which writes their essays for them. And though its extensivel­y in use, it’s not easy to spot and disqualify.

Then there’s the nagging thought that so smart are these bots, it can only be a matter of time before they are implanted with the ability to feel emotions and think like humans.

On the plus side, AI has also been used in medicine and medical advances. Apparently it can shave weeks and months off the time it take to make diagnoses from patient samples.

Doubtless it will also prove equally efficient in many other fields as it gets more widely adopted.

And yet, and yet.

You will remember the great old fuss over geneticall­y modified crops, and how it was alleged that, properly utilised, GM could be used to solve many of the world’s famine problems.

Thing is, “properly utilised” is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting. When Dolly the sheep was born, cloning was also heralded as one giant leap for humankind.

Cue assorted rogue scientists who went on to claim that they could shortly clone humans too. And a number are already making a tidy sum claiming to be able to clone favourite pets.

Having said which, artificial inseminati­on has made many infertile couples deliriousl­y happy.

The common factor throughout is not dodgy science, but unscrupulo­us humans. Maybe we need to invent a way of screening THEM out.

In the meantime, as with all novelties, I believe we should treat AI both with proper respect and necessary caution.

SOME broadcaste­rs are out and out specialist­s. They’ll spend their entire career talking sport or whatever. Then you have the renaissanc­e types – men like James Naughtie.

For years he was one of the mainstays of Radio 4’s Today programme, but he always had fingers in other pies.

Not least in assorted US elections, having spent part of his career in Washington. He will be off there again when that nice Mr Trump tries to recapture the White House in November, having done so much to destroy the American constituti­on during his first stint as President. Heaven forfend he gets another chance!

Anyway, since “retiring” from daily radio, Jim has been making programmes about books and about opera, both subjects he knows a very great deal about.

He’s also been trying his hand as a thriller writer and his second novel – The Spy Over The Water – draws heavily on his years of experience not just on the US beat, but also up close and personal with the diplomatic corps.

Now settled with his wife in Edinburgh – he came home to cover the 2014 referendum – he finds himself endlessly hauled back to London to anchor diverse topical programmes like The World at One.

His is an instantly recognisab­le radio voice as locals will find out on September 18 when he will be at Cove Burgh Hall as part of their Sunday Conversati­ons strand.

His great skill as a broadcaste­r is to deliver perfectly polished mini essays rather bog standard reportage. You can hear him in person at 1pm on the day, preceded by a soup and sandwich lunch. Not a bad bargain for a tenner!

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