Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on tea bags, ten-pound Poms and a warning from history

According to a travel-industry survey, nearly half of British holidaymakers take their own tea bags abroad with them. But why wait until you're going overseas?

Ten Pound Poms (BBC1)

There are plenty of British hotels and cafes who seem to think one teabag will serve half-a-dozen customers. I rarely travel anywhere without a couple of extra teabags tucked in my left-side anorak pocket. The right pocket is, of course, where I keep the English mustard.

“More human contact” is needed in Britain's automated welfare system , according to a study of the Department for Work and Pensions. I bet it's not the only department suffering from a shortage of people-people. And as AI (Artificial Intelligence) expands, we can expect more memos, texts and even call-centre conversations generated not by humans but by AI which may be a million times more efficient than the human mind but is a tad short of empathy, compassion and all that stuff.

For example, ask a roomful of humans how best to deal with genetic diseases and they'll probably suggest spending billions of pounds on medication, surgery and social care. The AI solution, based on pure, ice-cold, bean-counting logic, might be simply to prevent people with congenital conditions from breeding. Already, some pundits are likening the rush to AI with the rise of eugenics in the early 20th century. Eugenics began with a desire to improve the human race and appealed to millions of people, including some of the great celebrities of the day. But it led ultimately to the Holocaust in Europe and mass sterilisation in America. A warning from history.

As the series Ten Pound Poms (BBC1) tells the story of Brits who emigrated to Australia on cheap tickets, a reader recalls a pal who in the 1950s fell madly in love with an Australian woman. When she sailed for home, he booked a passage and followed, love-sick, on another ship. He was determined to woo, win and wed her in Oz.

However, on the boat he met another girl, fell in love and married her instead. Do you ever get the impression that, back in the old days, people led more interesting lives?