Elon Musk claims to believe that in ten years speech will be obsolete. Tiny chips planted in the human brain will instead allow humans to communicate entirely with their minds. Never one to shy away from a grandiose proclamation, Musk describes his latest venture, Neuralink, as ‘conceptual telepathy’. ‘There’s a lot of information loss when compressing a complex concept into words,’ he explained recently on TheJoe Rogan Experience. The ‘link’ promises to erase such inefficiencies by removing speech from the equation. But such reasoning is only compelling if you think smooth communication is the sole purpose of language. Musk says that humans will soon speak only ‘for sentimental reasons’.
There’s a long history of describing laid-off workers using metaphors of disease. The first comprehensive policy effort to deal with unemployment in the UK was the Labour Exchanges Act of 1909. ‘Relief works cannot seriously be regarded as a cure for unemployment,’ Gavin Hamilton said, proposing the bill in the House of Lords. ‘At the best they are only a palliative. What is wanted is not a drug to still the pain of this disease, but a cure which will reach deep down to its roots.’ Only recently, though, has unemployment come to be seen as a disease of the individual rather than social body.
Maurice Podro, the last surviving member of the 43 Group, died in June. He was 91. The group fought against the postwar fascism of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts using many of the tactics still favoured by anti-fascist organisations today. Like many Jews returning from the war, Podro was devastated to find fascism thriving in the UK. Mosley had reappeared with a new party, the Union Movement, which, like the British Union of Fascists in the interwar years, sought to stir up resentment against Jews in working-class neighbourhoods by holding rallies at such places as Ridley Road Market, home to East London’s largest Jewish community. In April 1946, the final report of the government committee on fascism concluded it would be neither ‘desirable’ nor ‘in the best interests of the Jews themselves to introduce any special measures against anti-Semitic propaganda’.