The Spark

The Spark

11 ideas to change the world


Journalist and author Helen Lewis meets groundbreaking thinkers to test out their big ideas

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties are crumbling, and we need new solutions to shake up the status quo and shape the future. In The Spark, Helen Lewis meets 11 radical thinkers who are bidding to change our world, and puts their ideas under the spotlight to find out what they have to offer compared to the failures of the past.

Part 1 sees her interviewing American economist Emily Oster, who discusses how data-based parenting could have a life-changing impact on pregnancy and child-rearing; social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam, who believes that human connection should be at the heart of the welfare state; Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who explains why 'zombie ideas' are holding us back; and social pyschologist Roy Baumeister, who talks about our inbuilt negativity bias and how to defeat it.

In Part 2, CEO and writer Margaret Heffernan argues that preparedness is the best way to deal with uncertainty; artificial intelligence pioneer Stuart Russell explains how we can keep AI under human control; former Frome mayor Peter Macfadyen takes us through his new model for community-based politics; and behavioural scientist Pragya Agarwal discusses our unintentional biases - how they affect our decision making, and ways of overcoming them.

And in Part 3, Helen's guests include economists Paul Collier and John Kay, who call for an end to destructive individualism in favour of mutuality and co-operation; educationalist Kiran Gill, whose organisation The Difference strives to improve the life chances of excluded schoolchildren; and barrister Chris Daw, advocate of a radical plan to abolish prisons and rethink our whole approach to punishment and rehabilitation.

Cogent, credible and compelling, these thought-provoking proposals will give you a whole new perspective on the problems our society faces and how we could solve them.

Copyright © 2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. ? 2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd
Presented by Helen Lewis
With: Emily Oster, Hilary Cottam, Paul Krugman, Roy Baumeister, Margaret Heffernan, Stuart Russell, Peter Macfadyen, Pragya Agarwal, Paul Collier and John Kay, Kiran Gill, Chris Daw
Produced by Eliane Glaser, Phil Tinline, Emma Wallace and Sarah Shebbeare

About the author

Helen Lewis

Helen Lewis is a staff writer at the Atlantic, and a former deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has written for the Guardian, Sunday Times, New York Times and Vogue. She is a regular host of BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster, a regular panellist on the News Quiz and Saturday Review, and a paper reviewer on The Andrew Marr Show. She was the 2018/19 Women in the Humanities Honorary Writing Fellow at Oxford University. She tweets at @helenlewis
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