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Cognitive Engineering

265 EpisodesProduced by Aleph InsightsWebsite

Welcome to the Cognitive Engineering podcast. Occasionally coherent musings of Aleph Insights. We hope you like listening to them as much as we like recording them.

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First-mover Advantage

September 15th, 2021


Does being the first to market give you a competitive edge? Is first-mover advantage still the harbinger of success that economic theory suggests? When does being the first mean you might end up finishing last?

In this …

Ballardian Spaces

September 8th, 2021


Why is it that public spaces, like petrol stations, shopping malls and airports, are depressing and boring? These spaces are extremely useful and …

Where Have All The Vests Gone?

September 1st, 2021


Some fashions come and go quickly, but others move in slower cycles (e.g. the bowler hat). What drives the rate at which given fashions shift, and most importantly, what does this mean for the future of facial hair?

In …

Re-release: Are Governments Effective?

August 25th, 2021


As the UK continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan and the covid-19 pandemic lingers on, this week we revisit a podcast from March about the effectiveness of governments.


The Covid pandemic has seen a sharp …


August 18th, 2021


Identifying a friend or family member from a baby photo seems like a trivial task. Conversely, showing someone a photo of a child and asking them to …

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

August 11th, 2021


When bad luck befalls us, we often say, “wrong place, wrong time.” Rather than accepting that our daily choices continually expose us to new and ever-changing risks, we tend to view life events in terms of good and bad …

What Makes an Idiot?

August 4th, 2021


What makes an idiot? Sometimes those who are meant to be the best and brightest among us say the most idiotic things. This suggests intelligence and idiocy are not mutually exclusive characteristics. Can we prevent our …

A Ten-year Newspaper

July 28th, 2021


Traditionally newspapers are published daily or weekly, but what if they were only published every ten years or perhaps, even longer? How would you …


July 21st, 2021


Opposites are one of the first things we teach children: big-small, short-long, happy-sad. But how universal is the idea of opposites? What's the opposite of a banana for example?

In our latest podcast, we take an …

Cheugy and Intergenerational Conflict

July 14th, 2021


The word 'cheugy' has become a key weapon on the battlefield of intergenerational conflict. We might be its user, its target or utterly oblivious to its meaning. Does our relationship with the word tell us anything …

Scapegoats and the Hartlepool Monkey

July 7th, 2021


In the apocryphal story of the Hartlepool monkey, the residents of the town hang a shipwrecked monkey for being a French spy. Why do we search for …

Are Pop-ups Killing the Internet?

June 30th, 2021


Is the internet becoming unusable? Does it have a life beyond the constant barrage of annoying pop-ups, cookies, self-playing video commercials, captchas, paywalls and requests to turn off your ad blocker?

In this week's …


June 23rd, 2021


Is administering a Covid-19 test on yourself difficult, or are the instructions just confusing? How should we explain complexity and is there a limit …

Ye Shall Know Them by Their Spreadsheets

June 16th, 2021


Spreadsheets, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations: do the ways people format these file types tell us something about the way they think, analyse or organise information? Or do they tell us more about ourselves, …

Online Cultures

June 9th, 2021


Are you a fan of League of Legends or a Fortnite feen? Or do you prefer to share and create content on social media? Either way, how much have you thought about your own online behaviour or the behaviour of others?

In …

Self-Defeating Greed

June 2nd, 2021


The aborted attempt, by the world’s richest football clubs, to form a European Super League appears to be another salutary lesson in the self-defeating nature of greed. But, does greed always lead to the death of the …

Fragile, or Resilient?

May 26th, 2021


How ready are you for whatever the world might throw at you?

Using the closure of the Suez Canal as a case study, this week's podcast explores the concepts of fragility and resilience. We discuss whether we can really …

Making Fast Decisions

May 19th, 2021


Using the government’s 'Test and Trace' programme as a case study, this week’s podcast discusses decision-making and analysis in environments where …

First, Do No Harm

May 12th, 2021


As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues, there is an ongoing discussion in some parts of the world about the relative risks associated with various …

Town Planning

May 5th, 2021


Are you allowed to choose the colour of your house, the height of your grass, or more importantly can you have a garden gnome?

In this podcast, we …

Can You Whistle?

April 28th, 2021


Have you ever tried to teach someone to whistle? Highly frustrating for both instructor and student. This week we examine what makes a skill …


April 21st, 2021


We recently reached our five year anniversary of producing these podcasts, and (in true meta fashion) thought we would celebrate by analysing why we …

Revolutions and the Arab Spring

April 14th, 2021


Ten years on from the Arab Spring uprisings, we look at whether revolutions constitute an effective way of improving a country’s governance, with Dr …

The Lowest Form of Wit

April 7th, 2021


Which is more grating, constant punning or permanent snarkiness? We examine the hierarchy of humour in order to determine what is, indeed, no laughing matter.

In this podcast, we consider whether humour value can be …

The Real Heroes of Lockdown

March 31st, 2021


What is more virtuous, delivering a pizza or administering a Covid test? As we begin to end lockdown, we discuss who was most helpful during this …

Open versus Closed Standards

March 24th, 2021


What3words provides its users with an easy way of referring to any geographic location, but nobody knows how the three word reference is generated. …

Are Governments Effective?

March 17th, 2021


The Covid pandemic has seen a sharp rise in government spending, and large scale testing and vaccination programmes. Some of these have been …

Yes, Minister

March 10th, 2021


Some government ministers seem to constantly court controversy, while others manage to fly smoothly under the incompetence radar. Is this down to luck or judgement, and what is it realistic to expect from our …

Are We Living in a Dystopia?

March 3rd, 2021


Quite aside from a pandemic, a brewing environmental catastrophe and a highly disruptive technological revolution, is the trend for protein shakes …

Return To Monke

February 24th, 2021


Nasty, brutish and short or the Garden of Eden? We explore the Return to Monke meme and ask whether we are right to yearn for a more primitive lifestyle.

In this podcast, we examine our origins as hunter-gatherers and …

Dead Art Forms

February 17th, 2021


Some art forms seem to have passed their creative peak, no longer acting as an outlet for human ingenuity and innovation. But how do we know that …

Who or What is Donald Trump?

February 10th, 2021


As Donald Trump’s impeachment trial continues, we take a dispassionate and analytical look at his personality, motivations and leadership model with …

Why Are Cocktail Bartenders Annoying?

February 3rd, 2021


What is a show-off and are we right to be irritated by those who display certain types of skills? Be warned, various swear words are analysed in this …

Pride and Joy

January 27th, 2021


In the wake of a relatively successful British vaccination programme, we ask what it is to be proud and whether we have any right to bask in the …

Power Transitions

January 20th, 2021


A beginning is a very delicate time. The transition from one set of leaders to another can be fraught with difficulty. Talking before the US Capitol …

Why Do We Like Puzzles?

January 13th, 2021


If you like wasting your time on pointless activities, join us as we talk to Chris Lear from the Magpie Crossword Magazine and discuss why humans …


January 6th, 2021


We discuss whether rivalries spur us on to ever greater achievements or distract us with unnecessary competition. Is a nemesis necessary in order to define our success, or do they simply lure us to the edge of the …

Southern Comfort - Christmas Repeat

December 23rd, 2020


What’s it like to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere? Are there things about Christmas that don’t make sense in summer?
Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Was Jesus born on 25 December?

Passwords and Pins

December 16th, 2020


Passwords have become an integral part of our everyday lives, keeping our money, our data and our secrets safe. But what makes a good one, or a bad one for that matter? Click, friend, and enter.

In this podcast we look …

Made by Hand

December 9th, 2020


In response to a world threatened by automation, we seem to be flocking to artisanal products. But how much human skill is actually involved in their …

US Election Forecasts

December 2nd, 2020


We review our predictions about the US Presidential Election with the benefit of hindsight, and discover how it is that Fraser can now afford a double bass.

This podcast comprises two elements. The first part is our …

Sorting Out Time

November 25th, 2020


Time is defined by its measurement, and yet our system for counting something so fundamental has been allowed to develop haphazardly over the ages. We consider whether it’s time for a change.

In this podcast we discuss …

The Country and the City

November 18th, 2020


Which is better, urban splendour or bucolic majesty? Our guest this week, Mikey Lear, provides a passionate defence of country living in the face of …

The Global Terrorism Database

November 10th, 2020


Ever wondered how we measure the amount of terrorism? We talk to Jerry Smith from CHC Global, who explains how the Global Terrorism Database has been keeping track of terrorist events all around the world for 50 years.

The US Electoral System

November 4th, 2020


As the US is in the throes of a presidential election, we examine why the US electoral system seems so strange and complicated.

In this podcast we discuss the origins of the US electoral system, why it seems foreign and …

Re-release: Rational Irrationality

October 28th, 2020


Can behaving irrationally ever be a rational thing to do? This week we are re-releasing a podcast based on the works of the late Derek Parfit, a philosopher who specialised in personal identity, rationality, and ethics, …

Binary Thinking

October 21st, 2020


Many decisions are binary: should we wear a face mask or not? We discuss how this might affect our thinking more broadly and whether it drives …

To Err is Human

October 14th, 2020


We look at the YAM cryptocurrency bug and ask whether in a digital age our capacity to mess up has spiralled out of control.

In this podcast we …

Is there Life on Venus?

October 7th, 2020


With the recent discovery of phosphine gas on Venus, we debate whether Dan Dare has now been vindicated.

This podcast explores what we can infer from the small amounts of data we receive from space, and whether we have …

A-Level Algorithms

September 30th, 2020


What is a fair way to decide an exam result in the absence of being able to sit the exam?

In this podcast we discuss the background to the …

Good vs Bad Distractions

September 23rd, 2020


Is procrastination a total waste of time or can it be productive? If you have something important to do, you should really spend the next 25 minutes …

Lost and (not) Found

September 16th, 2020


What does it mean when we lose something and why are some of us better at finding things than others?

We define the concept of losing something and …

Declining Fertility

September 9th, 2020


Recent research suggests there will be a significant reduction in the birth rate over the course of the next century. What would this mean if it were …

Toast and Marmot

September 2nd, 2020


With a case of the bubonic plague being contracted in Mongolia after consumption of a wild marmot, we consider whether disgust at certain foodstuffs …

Don’t Buy the Album

August 27th, 2020


In the age of music streaming, does the idea of an album make sense any more?

In this podcast we discuss the conceptual origins of the album and talk …

Dispensing Wisdom

August 19th, 2020


“Advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise” - so definitely don’t listen to us, as we discuss what to do with others’ wisdom.

In this podcast we explore the value of intergenerational advice, whether age …

Storm in a Teacup

August 12th, 2020


An American makes tea badly and suddenly the British are up in arms. What does the way you make tea tell someone about you?

This podcast addresses …

High Anxiety

August 5th, 2020


With our current pandemic related concerns, we seem to have forgotten about other scary things, like terrorism or environmental catastrophe. Should …

The Worst Year Ever?

July 29th, 2020


How bad or good is 2020 by historical comparison? Should we stop moaning and just be glad we weren’t living through 536 AD or 541 AD?

We mull over how …

One-hit Wonders

July 22nd, 2020


Is it better to live one day as the comic singer of a novelty number one, than 100 years as a respected indie band with a cult following?

Nick, Chris …

Pre-Digital Relics

July 15th, 2020


Do pre-digital relics have a purpose in our technology-driven world? How have digital technologies changed our world and what pre-digital relics are …

Individual vs Group Decisions

July 8th, 2020


Is there wisdom in crowds and is group decision-making effective? Fraser, Nick and Peter reach a swift and conclusive judgement.

Image: by Tia Dufour via the Whitehouse

Should we Listen to Celebrities?

July 1st, 2020


Does fame and an ability to pretend to be someone else qualify you to be an expert on other matters?

Image: Kurt Kulac via Wikimedia Commons

Things …

Rewriting History

June 24th, 2020


According to the adage, you can’t change the past, but can you or should you change the record of the past?

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Dominic …


June 18th, 2020


It gets everywhere - but what is it and where does it come from?

Image: by Pattadis Walarput via Pixabay.

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Where does all this dust come from?

Technologies That Never Quite Catch On

June 12th, 2020


Why is that some technologies are perennially about to transform our lives, but never really take off. Do they have something in common?

Image: …


June 5th, 2020


Should we be suspicious of successful people? Is high performance related to dishonesty?

Image: justlego1O1 via Flickr

Things mentioned in this podcast:

Mob mentality

May 29th, 2020


Is there a wisdom in crowds, or are we all heading over the cliff like lemmings?

Image: Sérgio Valle Duarte via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- The Great Battle of Fire and Light, Wait But Why

Power shifts

May 22nd, 2020


Does the way different nations have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic tell us anything about the international balance of power?

Image: priyampatel4 via pixabay

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Correlates of War …

Cultures of Debate

May 15th, 2020


Heated argument or reasoned discussion? Is there an optimal way to frame debate?

Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Agreeableness and outcomes

What makes a good excuse?

May 8th, 2020


Explaining the situation or avoiding your responsibilities - are excuses valid and is there an art to them?

Image: Kārlis Dambrāns via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- ‘Sorry about the speeding, I was having …

Apocalypse Yet?

May 1st, 2020


How would we know if the world was ending?

Image: Daniel Case via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Ministerial reassurance over food …

Good things coming from bad things

April 24th, 2020


Are there any positives to emerge from the global pandemic? How can we make the most of a bad situation?

Image: jamiemusialek via pixabay

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- The upside of Tube strikes:

The Best Thing since Junction-Field Effect Transistors

April 17th, 2020


Penicillin, the printing press, and cheese and onion crisps - What makes an invention well known rather than merely successful?

Image: anaterate via …

Health Data

April 10th, 2020


Fraser, Nick and Peter discuss health data and measuring medical outcomes with special guest Neil Bacon.

Image: IWM via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Neil Bacon’s web page

Fame. What’s the point?

April 3rd, 2020


Here lies Matt Goss: look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.

Image: Christian Lanegger via Flickr

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Tim Ferris - reasons to not become famous

Old Squares

March 27th, 2020


Does experience make us wiser or simply more boring? Three middle aged men will tackle the question with a total lack of bias.

Image: Republican Party via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- ‘Young people tend …

Moderation v Excess

March 20th, 2020


Small doses, or all or nothing - what is the best way to live life?

Image: Moine buvant du vin dans une cave. Artist: Unknown via Wikicommons

Things …

What are Extremism and Terrorism?

March 13th, 2020


Was it useful to label Extinction Rebellion as a terrorist organisation? How is terrorism different from extremism?

Image: Extinction Rebellion via …

Psychological Resilience

March 6th, 2020


We ask whether mental toughness is all in the mind.

Image: Mark Jones via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Harry and Meghan’s statement
- Susie Ballentyne’s research page at the …

Knives are dangerous, so why do we use them?

February 28th, 2020


Edged tools have been used by hominids for millions of years, but the elastoplast was only invented just over 100 years ago. Did we get our …


February 21st, 2020


Emotion, recency and virtue signalling - does it matter what drives charitable behaviour?

Image: Cimon and Pero: "Roman Charity" by Jean-Baptiste Greuze via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Amelia Roberts’ …

Does revenge work and how do you de-escalate?

February 15th, 2020


A dish best served cold, or not at all? We discuss revenge as a strategy.

Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- The …

Death Of Serendipity

January 19th, 2020


Does our always on, instantly connected world mean that we’ve lost the job of serendipity? Can we engineer our environment to maximise the chance of good things happening to us?

Image: The Three Princes of Serendip

Things …

Does inequality actually matter?

January 10th, 2020


Does inequality actually matter? If it does, why? What problems does it cause? Is it self fulfilling? Is our objection to it a moral one, or is there …

Cats vs Dogs - Which is better?

January 5th, 2020


Are you a cat or a dog person? Which is best?

Image: nguyen hoangnam via Flickr

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Moral Foundations Theory
- PDSA Animal Wellbeing …

Southern Comfort

December 21st, 2019


What’s it like to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere? Are there things about Christmas that don’t make sense in summer?

Image: Milz via

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Was Jesus born on 25 …

Out Of Touch

December 16th, 2019


What does it mean to be out of touch? Why do we expect our leaders to be in tune with everyday people and their concerns?

Image: Ewan Munro via

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Influence of class on …

Boo to a Goose

December 6th, 2019


Is it wrong to do amoral things in computer games? Is it ok to bully people as a goose in Untitled Goose Game?

Image: House House

Things mentioned in …

Different Animals Different Languages

November 29th, 2019


Why do animal sounds vary between languages?

Image: Alex Andrews via

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Onomatopoeia in different languages
- …

Viral Responsibility

November 22nd, 2019


Assuming we can’t blame a virus for its own evolutionary success, just whose fault is it when we catch something?

Image: Robert E. Bates, USCDCP via …

Seven Ages: First Puking and Mewling...

November 15th, 2019


Can you be forever young or wise beyond your years? Is age a justifiable way of categorising people?

Image: William Mulready RA via Wikipedia

Things …

Neoteric Vocabulation

November 10th, 2019


Peter, Nick and Fraser mansplain the adoption of new vocabulary for any wordies out there - totes adorbs.

Image: artyangel via

Things …

You’ll Have your Eye Out

November 1st, 2019


Should we spend time worrying about the risk of freak accidents?

Image: Theo Campbell and Kaz Crossley by Theo Campbell

Things mentioned in this …

Harmful Prayers

October 26th, 2019


Can the call for divine intervention be a cause of harm? God only knows.


Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Willingness to pay for prayers
- Hate …

How American is American Football?

October 21st, 2019


Cowboys, 49ers and Patriots - can we determine anything about a culture based on the sports it plays?

Image: KeithJJ via pixabay

Things mentioned in …

Energising the Base

October 11th, 2019


Do fiery rhetoric and extreme policies help win elections?

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikipedia

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Kaldor-Hicks criterion

Learning from History

October 5th, 2019


"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." Was George Bernard Shaw right about the lessons of the past?

Image: Public domain via Wikicommons


September 20th, 2019


The internet provides a level of information resilience that mankind has never before possessed. But what happens if it breaks?

Image: Tekniska museet via flickr

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Getting deplatformed …

Ignoring Officials

September 13th, 2019


Do not listen to this podcast. When is it permissible to ignore the voice of authority?

Image: Danny Lawson via PA Images

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Whaley Bridge residents who refuse to move


September 6th, 2019


They're persistent, irritating and difficult to ignore. Yes, Frazer, Nick and Peter discuss midges.

Image: CSIRO via Wikipedia

Things mentioned in this …

Vague Requirements

September 2nd, 2019


Would it be wrong to take a set of instructional schematics to the barber? We discuss when vague requirements work, and importantly when they don't.

Summer Re-release: Dated Films

August 16th, 2019


While Aleph Insights is on a summer break from recording podcasts, here's an episode from our archive.

Why do some films age better than others?


Summer Re-release: Optimised Fruit

August 10th, 2019


While Aleph Insights is on a summer break from recording podcasts, here's an episode from our archive.

What does tastiness tell us about fruit choice? …

Summer Re-release: Personality Tests

July 31st, 2019


While Aleph Insights is on a summer break from recording podcasts, here's an episode from our archive.

Are personality tests any use? What can they tell us if anything? Or is it like a star-sign?

Take the test!

Is it Still the Nineties?

July 19th, 2019


Is it meaningful to assign personalities to the decades?

Image: Ezekiel via Wikipedia

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- The thirty-year nostalgia …


July 12th, 2019



Was the ending contrived? Were you satisfied by the way it ended? What makes a good ending?

Image: BagoGames via Flickr

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- ‘Creative Writing Now’ on endings

Scaling Up to Oblivion

July 8th, 2019


Why did Jamie's Italian fail? What goes wrong when businesses try to scale.

Image: Scandic Hotels via Wikicommons

Things mentioned in this podcast:
- Problems in the casual dining sector


June 28th, 2019


How can we avoid the end of the world through nuclear and other cataclysmic accidents? Could Chernobyl happen again? How can we design our systems …

Rest in Peeves: The Death of Grumpy Cat

June 21st, 2019


Grumpy Cat dies aged seven: 'Some days are grumpier than others'. A loss the meme world. Memes, what are they? Do they have some property that makes them reproduce more effectively than other ideas.

Image: Gage Skidmore …

The Perfect Chalk

June 14th, 2019


The Perfect Chalk

Chalk has been used by humans as a communication tool for thousands of years. Are some technologies too good to be replaced?

Image: …

Influential v Popular

June 10th, 2019


Does listening to The Grateful Dead make you yearn to meet your maker, or do you acknowledge the seminality of their music? Is the term ‘influential’ …

Stupidity and ignorance

June 4th, 2019


Crystal Palace goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, provides an unintentional insight into the links between ignorance and stupidity.

Image: Wayne Hennessey by Steindy via Wikimedia

Things mentioned in this podcast:
-Wayne …

Wasting celery

May 24th, 2019


Some things seem difficult to purchase in the right quantities. Why do we always end up with too much celery in our fridge?

Image: Peter Griffin via …

Spotting liars

May 17th, 2019


Following Gavin Williamson’s sacking from Theresa May’s cabinet, we discuss the indicators of whether or not someone is telling the truth.

Image: …

Can you Avoid Becoming a Victim of Irony?

May 10th, 2019


David Cameron famously promised ‘stability and strong Government’ if he won the 2015 general election. How can we minimise our chances of our statements being undermined by subsequent events?

Great Temple at Abu …

Why do Good Things always Come to an End?

May 3rd, 2019


As London’s black cabs move inexorably towards extinction, we ponder whether the progress of civilisation is merely illusory.

Image: …

Emotions and Decision-making

April 26th, 2019


David Simoes-Brown, CEO of 100%Open, tells us why we should trust our feelings when it comes to important decisions.

Image: The Anger of Achilles, by …

When do you Become a Grown-up?

April 20th, 2019


When do you grow up? Is there a cut off age to childhood or are we constantly growing up?


Things mentioned in this podcast
Commons’s Model of Hierarchical Complexity:

Algorithmic Bias

April 12th, 2019


What happens when algorithms learn to be biased? What does that even mean? We talk to special guest Dr Jess Whittlestone from the Leverhulme Centre …

Transgender Women and Sports

March 29th, 2019


Should transgender women be allowed to compete in women’s sports? Is it unfair on cis women if they do? Is it unfair on trans women if they can’t? Is …

Modelling Other People

March 22nd, 2019


Understanding how other people are going to behave is a key element of analysis and forecasting. But professional actors do this all the time. We talk to special guest Edmund Kingsley to find out what insights the …


March 15th, 2019


What’s the point of tidying up? It’s just moving stuff from one place to another. But does it offer cognitive and health benefits, and if so why?

Image: My Bed by Tracey Emin. Photo: Karen Bryan via Flickr

Things …


March 1st, 2019


Is the slow creep of Americanisms into the British vernacular a pernicious assault on our linguistic heritage, or should we just chill?

Things …

Is Creativity Overrated?

February 22nd, 2019


Where would we be without the likes of Da Vinci, Turing and Goethe?

Things mentioned in this podcast
Jordan Peterson on the ‘curse of creativity’:

Smells like... something

February 15th, 2019


Smells like… something

Why is smell the oft forgotten sense, and where does following our nose take us?

Image: Barney Moss via Flickr

Things mentioned …

Great people

February 8th, 2019


Russia after Putin - is history shaped by great men and women, or are they just in the right place at the right time?

Image: Пресс-служба Президента Российской Федерации via Wikipedia

Things mentioned in this podcast

Reality vs Fiction

February 1st, 2019


Is reality killing fiction?

Things mentioned in this podcast
Scripted dramas are not dying out:
Ranker article on the ‘Dumbest Reality …


January 25th, 2019


What makes a good analogy? Is Tyrion Lannister a good comparison for Michael Gove?

Things mentioned in this podcast

Michael Gove is like Tyrion …

Rude Vs Polite

January 18th, 2019


Is being polite better than being rude? Does civility really cost nothing and buy you everything? What are the costs of being polite?

Image by …

Brexit Preppers

January 11th, 2019


Are Preppers mad? Or are they wise to get ready for Britain to crash out the EU? Should we stock up on beans and UHT?

Image: Vaciando el supermercado …

Dodgy Builders

January 4th, 2019


Why do builders get such a bad rep? What makes us trust some trades people and not others?

Taking Stuff For Granted

December 28th, 2018


What things do we take for granted? Will new riches make us happier?

Image: Daderot via Wikipedia

Things mentioned in this podcast

Great Expectations by Dickens:

When To Intervene

December 14th, 2018


Were Dynasties camera crews right to rescue wild engines? Should we give iPhones to uncontracted peoples? What could possibly go wrong?

Image: …

Personality Tests

December 7th, 2018


Are personality tests any use? What can they tell us if anything? Or is it like a star-sign?

Take the test!


December 2nd, 2018


What is Remembrance for? How long should it be observed?

Image: Philip Stevens via Wikipedia


November 23rd, 2018


Are we more polarised than ever before?

Things mentioned in this episode:
- Recent Pew Research on polarisation:


November 18th, 2018


Would you wear cycling shorts to the office?

Image: fourway333 via flickr

Tinder lies

November 9th, 2018


Lies damn lies and profiles! You're going to exaggerate, that's a given. So what's the best strategy?

Image: Carlo Chiostri via Wikimedia commons

Film Remakes

November 3rd, 2018


Why do we have so many remakes? Why are some movies remade and others are not? Why are some so bad?

Image: Everett …

Future History

October 26th, 2018


Why did it take 100 years to find the #49? In a world where everything is digitized, will we ever lose anything? If things don't have a digital record, will they may as well not exist?

Inverted Jenny:

Humorless Professionalism

October 19th, 2018


Can you be both interesting while being professional? Will humor always offend someone?

Signalling theory:

Innovation in big firms

October 12th, 2018


Can big firms be innovative? Peter, Nick and Fraser are joined by a special guest Roland Hardwood.

Image: Carsten Ullrich via Wikipedia


October 5th, 2018


What makes a hero?

Image: United States Congress

Elon Musk

September 29th, 2018


What is up with Elon Musk? Is he OK? How bad for a business is it if the CEO goes off the rails?

Image: JD Lasica via Flickr

See for shownotes more episodes and other interesting things.


September 22nd, 2018


What is fun? Is organised fun actually fun? Can fun be manufactured?

Image: Heather Cowper via Flickr

Media Balance

September 14th, 2018


What is balance in media? Why is it important? How do we find it? Should we give air time to climate change deniers?

Image: Gridge via Wikipedia

Digital Dementia

September 7th, 2018


Do you suffer from digital alzheimer's? Are young folk wired differently? Does instant communications on many platforms impact productivity?

Image: …

Gentlemen's Disagreements

August 31st, 2018


What are 'Gentlemen's agreements'? How binding are they? What happens if they are broken? Why do the hold sometimes, but not others?

Image: …

Flat Earthism

August 24th, 2018


Flat Earthism, what is that all about? Why do people with strange beliefs bother us so much? Do they really mean it or are they joking?

Image: Orlando Ferguson via Wikipedia


August 17th, 2018


What makes a cult? What makes a cult different from a religion? Are they damaging or dangerous?

Image: Scientology Media via Wikipedia


August 10th, 2018


Are the British stuck in the past? Why do we keep going on about old victories and defeats? Do we look back more than other nations?

Image: National …

Political Capital

August 3rd, 2018


What is political capital? Can you touch it, measure it? How does it work?

Image: Number 10 via Wikipedia

Schedule vs Schedule

July 20th, 2018


Which type of english is best? Why do we prefer the sound of some language over others?

Ticket Touting

July 13th, 2018


Is ticket touting wrong? Why? Is there a better way of deciding ticket pricing?

Image: Mattia luigi Nappi via Wikipedia

Football Cheats

July 8th, 2018


Why is there a culture of cheating in some games and not others? Do some teams cheat more than other?

Image: Mahmood Hosseini via Wikipedia

Red Bad

June 29th, 2018


Colour and meaning: Why do some colours seem to have some inherent meaning? How is it that we have cultural standards for colour to indicate meaning?

Virtually (Limitless) Reality

June 22nd, 2018


Virtual Reality promises great things. Headline often read along the lines of "VR will make any world possible". Is this true?

Image: Maurizio Pesce via Flickr

Friendly Computers

June 15th, 2018


Why are computer interfaces always so friendly?

Image: Loki, provided by Rhonda Oglesby via Flickr

Language of immigration

June 8th, 2018


How does use of language affect our attitude to immigration?

Image: cytis via pixabay

Democracies versus dictatorships

June 1st, 2018


In light of the recent summit between North and South Korea, and the on-off bromance between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, we ask the question whether democracies or dictatorships offer more certainty.

Image: Bjørn …


May 25th, 2018


Future dread and hindsight relief. Why do we experience dread and relief for some events?

What's in a name?

May 19th, 2018


Men who change their surname when they get married are still unusual. Why is it important to some?

Off-pitch referees

May 11th, 2018


What's wrong with off-pitch referees? Do they make the game less beautiful? Do off-pitch refs make better or worse decisions? What effects does …


May 4th, 2018


Why do we get so worked up about our territory? Where does the sense of what is ours come from? What is ownership anyway?

Image: irenne56 via Pixnio

Driving Licences

April 28th, 2018


Are older drivers less safe than younger drivers? Does just having a licence indicate you are more able to drive? What is the point of certification?

Optimized Fruit

April 20th, 2018


What does tastiness tell us about fruit choice? Could we engineer the perfect fruit? Or are we just comparing apples and oranges?

Image: Malte …

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

April 13th, 2018


In a world were everything is available on demand, will we miss out on the pleasure of nostalgia? What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows

National Identity

April 6th, 2018


What are the giveaways that tell you you're in another country? What is national identity?

Image: Jorge Royan via Wikipedia

Gun control and ideological tribalism

March 30th, 2018


What does the gun control debate tell us about ideology? Do peoples believes cluster into similar groups? If I tell you I'm pro-life, what can you …


March 23rd, 2018


The culture of condiments: Why don't we find wasabi in fish and chip shops? What do they tell you about national culture? Why salt and pepper and not …

Animals music

March 16th, 2018


Why do some animals like music, even though they don't make it? Why do we like music? Does it have a purpose?

Image: Howcheng via …

Alpha Zero

March 9th, 2018


What does it mean? Is it a big step or a small one? How could we know?Is Artificial Intelligence becoming a massive anticlimax? Is it inevitable that …


March 2nd, 2018


What is the most universal science? What will be true where ever you go?

Philosophical reductionism:

Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser via Wikipedia

Micro transactions

February 9th, 2018


In game purchases. Why do we hate them? Is the a moral repulsion to buying an advantage justified?

Gamer backlash against EA:


February 4th, 2018


Are we as unproductive as we feel with modern technology?

Image: Jeremy Keith via Wikipedia

Fake Whisky

January 29th, 2018


How do you guarantee provenance? Why are evidence trails difficult?

Image: Lyntha Scott Eiler via Wikimedia Commons

Violent Entertainment

January 14th, 2018


Is TV getting more violent?Are we being desensitize to horror and violence? Does something need to be done?

Swimming with Crocodiles

January 5th, 2018


How dangerous is it to swim with crocodiles? To do so would you be the idiot of the century? Is the notoriety worth it?

Image: Magnus Manske via …

Social Questions

December 30th, 2017


Why do we ask questions when we don't really care about the answer? What information can you glean from polite questions? Wouldn't it be better if we …

Christmas Presents

December 22nd, 2017


Why is it so hard to choose presents?

Image: JD Hancock via Flickr


December 16th, 2017


What makes a princess? Does looking the part make a difference? What does it mean to be the genuine article?

Image: Kevin Casper

Not Getting Ripped Off

December 8th, 2017


How do you not look like a tourist? What stops street sellers badgering locals? What is the role of information in haggling?

Image: Wanderlane via …

Parking Meter

December 1st, 2017


What to parking meters tell us about user interfaces. Why is it so hard to use an unfamiliar keyboard? Why is the numpad on your keyboard the opposite way up than the one on your phone?

image: ehendel via pixabay


November 24th, 2017


How do you know when you need a hair cut? How do you monitor gradual change so you know when to act?

Photo: Tom Diggers via flickr


November 17th, 2017


Is planning always a good idea? Are there cases where it's best not to plan? Is winging it sometimes the best strategy?



November 3rd, 2017


Chris, Nick and Fraser discuss the inheritance and ownership.

Plot Spoilers

October 21st, 2017


SPOILER ALERT - Chris, Nick and Fraser reveal what they think is so emotionally jarring about spoilers.

Killer Robots

October 13th, 2017


Chris, Nick and Fraser pass the time in hiding from a T-1000 by discussing automation of weaponry.


October 9th, 2017


Chris, Nick and Fraser wonder if Switzerland is as boring as people say.

Shoe signals

September 22nd, 2017


Nick, Chris and Fraser discuss whether one can reasonably expect a modern gentleman to own tan colored shoes. What can you tell about a person from …

Outsourcing Risk

September 10th, 2017


Chris, Fraser and Peter discuss risk and outsourcing. Is it possible to reduce the risk through outsourcing?

Macaque Selfies

September 1st, 2017


Peter, Fraser and Nick discuss what macaque selfies tell us about the fundamentals of ownership.

Useful Computer Games

August 25th, 2017


Fraser, Nick, Peter and Chris discuss computer games and simulations. How are they useful to real life decision makers?

Drugs and Prohibition

August 18th, 2017


Nick, Fraser, Chris and Peter talk (soberly) about prohibition of harmful substances.

Sibling Rivalry

August 13th, 2017


Fraser, Chris, Peter and Nick discuss what sibling rivalry. What's it for?

Late vs Early

August 6th, 2017


Chris, Peter and Fraser talk about being late and being early. Which is worse?

Naughty Google

July 28th, 2017


Peter, Fraser and Nick talk about the £2.42bn fine levied against Google by the European Commission for manipulating search results. Are monopolies …

Political Schadenfreude

July 21st, 2017


Chris, Nick and Fraser explore why the humbling of important public figures is particularly satisfying.

Good Decision Bad Outcome

July 14th, 2017


Was Theresa May right to call the general election? When sound decision making does not necessarily guarantee the outcome you want.

Preserving History

July 7th, 2017


Peter, Nick and Fraser lament about the amnesia of humanity. How do you communicate with people in the future? How do you makes sure that important things don't get forgotten?

Online Rating Systems

June 30th, 2017


How much can we trust online rating systems? What can we infer from them? Peter, Chris and Fraser discuss.

Facebook Censorship

June 23rd, 2017


Following the exposure of Facebook's content filtering rules, Peter, Chris and Fraser discuss censorship and ethics in data science.

WannaCry and risk perception

June 16th, 2017


Chris, Fraser and Nick discuss the public perception of WannaCry and what it tells us about how people perceive risk.

Heebie Jeebies

June 9th, 2017


What are the Heebie Jeebies? What purpose do they serve?

General Election

June 2nd, 2017


Fraser, Nick, Chris and Peter discuss the their certainty in general election results.

Cold vs Hot

May 26th, 2017


Nick, Fraser, Chris and Peter discuss whether Cold is worse than Hot.

Stupid Flies, Stupid Humans?

May 21st, 2017


Chris, Peter, Nick and Fraser talk about what the seemingly idiotic behavior of flies tells us about the choices that human make.

Unconstrained Hot Tubs

May 12th, 2017


Nick, Fraser, Chris and Peter discuss what the removal of constraints means for behaviour.

Mass Surveillance

May 5th, 2017


Peter, Fraser, Chris and Nick discuss mass surveillance. Is it a good thing, allowing better analysis or is it a dangerous erosion of privacy.

Trolley Problem

May 1st, 2017


Nick, Chris, Fraser and Peter discuss the trolley problem in relation to the terrorist attack in Stockholm.

Lift Buttons

April 21st, 2017


Do you show your frustration by hammering the lift call button? Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss the urge.

Good Judgement

April 10th, 2017


Nick, Peter and Fraser speak with special guest Michael Story of Good Judgement Inc about the uptake of good analytical practice.

Blackberry keyboards and UIs

March 31st, 2017


Fraser, Nick and Peter talk about interfaces. What does the Blackberry keyboard tell us about generalisation and specialisation?

Ernie vs. Bert (1979)

March 24th, 2017


Peter, Nick and Fraser scrutinize the infamous distribution of pie between Bert and Ernie.

Derek Parfit - Rational Irrationality

March 17th, 2017


Peter, Fraser and Nick discuss the thought experiments of Derek Parfit.

Peas on Plates

March 10th, 2017


Chris, Fraser, Peter and Nick explore how social conventions make decisions for us.

Unexplained Mysteries

March 3rd, 2017


Nick, Peter, Chris and Fraser discuss the point at which mysteries become unexplained and when should you stop looking for something lost.

Body Mass Index

February 24th, 2017


Nick, Chris, Fraser and Peter discuss the purpose of BMI

Computer Interfaces

February 20th, 2017


Chris, Peter, Fraser and Nick ponder the nature of computer interfaces.

Fake News

February 10th, 2017


Chris, Peter, Fraser and Nick discuss Fake News. Can we believe a word of it?

False Memories

February 3rd, 2017


Fraser, Nick and Chris consider why we remember things that didn't happen.

Technical Obsolesence

January 28th, 2017


Chris, Fraser and Peter discuss the rates of change and life cycles in technology.

Facebook and Insurance

January 21st, 2017


Chris, Peter and Fraser discuss the insurance industries use of social media data to assess risk in individuals.

Funes the Memorious - Jorge Luis Borges

January 13th, 2017


Peter, Fraser, Nick speak with special guest Andres about what Funes's affliction tells us about thinking and perception.

Trump and Hindsight Bias

January 6th, 2017


Fraser, Nick and Peter experiment with their own biases, by comparing their pre-US election forecasts with their post-event beliefs.

Automation, AI & Work

December 31st, 2016


What will automation and artificial intelligence mean for the future world of work?

Elections: What do they tell you?

December 16th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser disucss how much you can read into an election result.

Star Wars and Technology

December 9th, 2016


Chris, Fraser, Nick and Peter talk about the technology of the Star Wars galaxy. Can you really have all that hardware but so little software? Why …

Currency Denominations

December 2nd, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss why you never see £50 notes but get lots of €50 notes.

Pseudo Science

November 26th, 2016


Chris, Nick and Fraser discuss why pseudo science crops up in some areas of life but others.

No Man's Sky - Death of Marketing?

November 18th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser look at the controversy surrounding 'No Man's Sky', and ask if the information revolution has killed marketing.

Why don't the trains run on time?

November 11th, 2016


Chris, Peter and Fraser discuss the decisions that create problems in public services.

Entertainment And Data

November 4th, 2016


Fraser, Peter and Chris discuss how data is making entertainment even more entertaining

Great British Bake off and Intellectual Property

October 28th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss what the Great British Bake off tells us about intellectual property.

Remember your passport: Why are things hard to remember?

October 21st, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss why it is hard to remember some important things, but easy to remember others.

Changing lanes

October 14th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss whether lane changing gets you anywhere.

Shop front signalling

October 8th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser talk about what the presentation of shop fronts tells up about signalling and quality.

Fraud Detection and Machine Learning

September 30th, 2016


Fraser, Peter, and Nick discuss how machine learning can be used to fight online fraudsters, with special guest Mairtin O'Riada, CIO of Ravelin.

The value of games

September 23rd, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss the value of playing games and whether they can help you learn.

Investing in Yahoo: Spotting Potential

September 16th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss why it is so hard to spot future potential in ideas.

How long should a podcast be?

September 9th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser ponder the length of podcasts and what that tells us about the size of an idea.


September 2nd, 2016


Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss the film Sunspring, written by an artificial intelligence. Is it a novelty or a sign of things to come?

Olympics and Marginal Gains

August 26th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss what the Olympics show us about the the human pursuit to reach for the limits of performance.

The Chilcot Inquiry

August 19th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss mechanisms of government decision making in the wake of the Chilcot Report.

Ad Blocking

August 13th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss ad blocking and what it can tell us about messaging.

Summer Classification

August 5th, 2016


Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss what summer is, and how we know when it's started.

Terrorism Prediction with Big Data

July 29th, 2016


Fraser, Nick and Peter consider the use of Big Data for prediction of terrorist attacks.

New online ecology of adversarial aggregates: ISIS and …

Referendum Part 2

July 24th, 2016


Fraser, Nick and Peter wonder if they have had enough of experts.

Referendum Part 1

July 15th, 2016


In the wake of the Brexit vote, Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss what referendums can tell us, and what technology means for democracy.

Return to the Library Of Babel

July 9th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser return to the Library of Babel and discuss how to go about building one.


July 1st, 2016


Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss what the point of averages is, and whether we will need them any more in a world of machine analysis.

Leicester City

June 25th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss why Leicester City winning the Premier League was perhaps not all that surprising.


June 18th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser make some irrational assertions about decision-making.

Borges Library Of Babel

June 10th, 2016


Peter, Nick, Fraser and special guest Andres get lost in the vastness of Jorge Luis Borges’s Library of Babel and discuss what it tells us about probability, information, language and meaning.

Karate Kid

June 3rd, 2016


Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss the the hit 1980s movie, The Karate Kid, and what it suggests about learning and skills development.


May 27th, 2016


Peter, Fraser and Nick discuss the threat posed by rare hamburgers, and ways of assessing risk in the absence of data.

Celebrity Death Wave

May 20th, 2016


Peter, Nick and Fraser discuss the 2016 spike in celebrity deaths, how the scientific method applies to analysing it, and some of the fundamental constraints of fame.


May 16th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss what Cuftsgate tells us about classification and categorisation.


May 6th, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss what cosmopolitanism is, and how it affects our beliefs about the world.

Trump and Uncertainty

April 29th, 2016


The rise of Donald Trump prompts Nick, Peter and Fraser to discuss the limits of forecasting behaviour.


April 22nd, 2016


Nick, Peter and Fraser discuss what AlphaGo's triumph over Lee Sedol might mean for analysis and decision making.

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