Bryan Appleyard

Bryan Appleyard is a Sunday Times journalist and award-winning feature writer. His latest book, The Car is out March 2022.

Identity crisis

28 min listen

On the podcast: In his cover piece for the mag this week, political scientist, Yascha Mounk has written about why identity politics has polarised our understanding of race. And why the left has come to divide groups into oversimplified categories of ‘the oppressors’ and ‘the oppressed’.  Also this week:  Can we trust photographs to paint

No one should trust the camera in the age of AI

This war is being fought with pictures more than words. The poignant shots, often selfies, of families, children, even babies, who were to become victims of Hamas butchery, the wailing mothers and children on stretchers in Gaza, the missile strikes and collapsed concrete buildings. We know politicians on all sides lie, but photography is a

Paper dragons: is Chinese science all it’s cracked up to be?

At the tail end of last year, Chinese scientists claimed they had achieved something world-changing. In a widely circulated paper, the researchers said they had developed an algorithm run on a quantum computer that is able to break the best encryption that exists today. Modern encryption runs on mathematical problems which take the most powerful

A tribute to my friend James Lovelock

The scientist James Lovelock died this week at the age of 103. He was best known for his Gaia theory, which found that Earth is a self-regulating system formed by the interaction between living organisms and their surroundings. Here, Bryan Appleyard, who co-wrote ‘Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence’ with Lovelock, pays tribute to his

Reality check: could our universe be a simulation?

Are we all living in a computer simulation? Is the world we imagine to be real simply virtual reality instead, an elaborate computer program? That sounds ridiculous, but nonetheless it’s what many clever people actually think — or at least, think possible. One of them, the philosopher David Chalmers, has just written a book on

Lumpily scripted and poorly plotted: Cry Macho reviewed

Clint Eastwood is 91; Cry Macho may well be his last film. Or maybe not. He has, after all, been directing himself as majestically craggy old guys for decades. Craggiest and most majestic of all, he was, in 1992, Will Munny in Unforgiven and, in 2008, Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino. In both those films,

The bleak brilliance of Hud

Hud is a film that has haunted me for decades. I was never sure why. It seemed to be something about the bleakness of the setting and the story but also the extravagance of the hero and his car. I recently watched it as research for a book, and then, immediately, I watched it again.

Comic genius

For the hundredth, possibly the thousandth, time, Lucy van Pelt offers to hold the football for Charlie Brown so he can kick it. She cajoles him with the innocence of her eyes. He falls for it; he falls for it every time. Lucy, as she always does, whips the ball away. Charlie loops into the

Ways of seeing

‘Radical’ is like ‘creative’, a word that has been enfeebled to the point of meaninglessness. Everybody seems to want to be both, but nobody has any clear idea of what might be involved. In the case of this exhibition, radical could refer either to aesthetic or political themes; neither seems quite right. Never mind, ’modernist’

A different class of snob

‘Ah, beware of snobbery,’ said Cary Grant, who was surprisingly often the smartest guy in the room. ‘It is the unwelcome recognition of one’s own past failings.’ In Britain, the only place where true toffs abide and, let’s face it, the place where modern snobbery was most successfully codified, it is still a more powerful force than

The descent of man

Why do humans want to build robots? It seems, on the face of it, to be a suicidal endeavour, destroying jobs and, ultimately, rendering our species redundant as more intelligent and effective beings take over. Lacking, as we now do, an agreed metaphysical justification for human specialness — for example, the soul — it must

A mystery, even to herself

Armed with their tiny Leicas and Nikons, most of the great postwar ‘street’ photographers liked to be unobtrusive; they wanted to capture life unobserved. Garry Winogrand and Henri Cartier-Bresson haunted the city in search of the ‘decisive moment’. Somebody I know was photographed by Robert Doisneau, a very ghostly snapper. Doisneau entered the room and

Net effect

As a documentary-maker, Werner Herzog is a master of tone. His widely parodied voiceovers — breathy, raspy, ominous — are cunningly ambivalent. The interviews he conducts are seldom less than strange, often shocking, and the pacing and tenor of his films are subtly modulated. Never more so than here. Lo and Behold is divided into

The sheer stupidity of artificial intelligence

The latest US census found that 43 per cent of the population in Santa Clara County, California, were members of a religious institution. This is slightly less than the American national average of 50 per cent, but you’d probably expect that because the area includes Silicon Valley, where geeks are busy designing our online, gadget-laden future. You

Sex and Society: Design fault

‘Designer babies’ is headline shorthand for a weird new world of genetic enhancement. Thanks to several generations of science-fiction imagery, it evokes an unnatural and evil world of blond, staring, probably homicidal children, which scares ordinary people. Headlines create a cartoon world that subverts understanding and wisdom, but there is some truth in them. Human