In the 1970s, even ITV, which is today a Galápagos of McGuinnesses, had some thinkers on its payroll, like the windmill-armed celebrity egghead Magnus Pyke. When I got a university place in 1986, Pyke was used by my anxious grandfather as an example of the dangers of education. “Be careful you don’t learn so much that you send yourself mad like all these professors,” he said, pointing at Pyke dancing about in a Thomas Dolby video.
Today the thinker is an endangered species.
It’s not just on the television either. Finding conversation is hard. Finding a place to reasonably debate something is difficult in a world where everything seems to have to have a point to it. My days of talking to smart people is taken up with blue sky European research, obscure clauses in the Frascati Manual and how to workaround the petty insecurities of a nation suffering from acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My days are packed.