The Spectator

What Samsung’s new TVs owe to Jeremy Bentham

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

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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%

Source: www.inflation.eu

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