Revealing the secrets

Published February 7, 2023

Screenshot of the title frame from the TV show The Secret Genius of Modern Life

Sometimes when I watch something really good and think about doing a post about it, I worry if it’s an old show that it’s not really relevant. But in this day and age when you can stream pretty much anything at your convenience, there’s no such thing as a late review. Heck, if people are still coming to Friends for the first time, then I’m good to write about something that was on TV in November.

This time, I’m talking about The Secret Genius of Modern Life - a six part factual series hosted by Hannah Fry, delving behind what makes new technology tick and how there’s usually some elaborate history behind something seemingly benign. The first episode features a bank card, and peels the layers away from the piece of plastic, quite literally, to examine the development of the black stripe, the chips inside and the RFID tucked away to demonstrate how modern swipe-to-pay technologies have evolved.

Other episodes feature virtual Al assistants, fitness trackers, the electric car, food delivery apps and the final episode, the trainer. That felt like an oddity compared to the others, but it turns out there’s a lot of high tech development behind the shoes we wear on our feet (and some surprisingly uncomfortable history behind some of the biggest brands).

Hannah Fry is, obviously, a brilliant host - natural and down to earth, excited by the littlest things in the best possible way, and completely human - at one point hitting the kerb in the very expensive prototype car and being banished to the passenger seat. This show is eye-opening at every step. I thought I might have to do a blog post about each episode because certainly the first few were jaw-dropping. The second half of the series was maybe slightly less so, but even though I’ve settled for just one ‘watch this’ blog post, it’s a very vehement one. WATCH THIS.

It’s really so good, I hope there will be more in the future.

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