Podcast by Aleph Insights


  • The US Electoral System

    The US Electoral System

    04/11/2020 Duración: 29min

    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 the rationale underpinning its complexities. We delve into the difficulties of changing such a system and consider what an idealised electoral system would look like. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Effect of the electoral college on narrow elections - US election outcomes and the popular vote - Electoral college history,the%20President%20and%20congressional%20selection.&text=The%2012th%20Amendment%E2%80%94ratified%20in,the%20President%20and%20Vice%20President. - Vox on why people vote

  • Re-release: Rational Irrationality

    Re-release: Rational Irrationality

    28/10/2020 Duración: 26min

    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, and who had just passed away when we recorded the episode in 2017. We focus on dynamic decision problems, specifically how we make or should make decisions that will have an impact over time or have future consequences. In what situations should we take a rational or irrational approach when it comes to decision making and can we ever be truly irrational? A few things we mentioned in this podcast: Derek Parfit Dynamic Decision Problems Richard Dawkins The Prisoner’s Dilemma Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here and

  • Binary Thinking

    Binary Thinking

    21/10/2020 Duración: 31min

    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 polarisation. This podcast investigates binary thinking, looking at why and in what situations we have a tendency to think in absolute terms. We debate the advantages and pitfalls associated with binary thinking, and consider whether some of us are better at handling ambiguity and uncertainty than others. Finally, we discuss ways of managing our own and others’ binary thinking. Does that sound interesting - yes, or no? A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Cognitive Engineering Podcast: Polarisation - Ambiguity intolerance: - What drives ambiguity intolerance: - Ambiguity intolerance and politics - Hofstede’s cultur

  • To Err is Human

    To Err is Human

    14/10/2020 Duración: 26min

    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 examine software bugs and other types of error, and discuss whether there is any connection between the size of an error and its consequence. We also attempt to classify types of errors and look at how they might be compounded by the complex systems humans have created. Finally, we consider if errors are uniquely human phenomena or whether they can occur in our absence. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - The YAM bug: - The El Dorado fire: Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image: Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons

  • Is there Life on Venus?

    Is there Life on Venus?

    07/10/2020 Duración: 30min

    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 sufficient data to develop meaningful models of what is happening on other planets. We also discuss the way theories and counter-theories develop and - of course - alien life itself and the probability of its existence in different forms. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - ‘Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus’ - Bill Clinton’s announcement about the Allan Hills meteorite: - Why Nick Bostrom hopes we don’t find extraterrestrial life: - The Drake Equation:,in%20the%20Milky%20Way%20galaxy - The search for megastructures:

  • A-Level Algorithms

    A-Level Algorithms

    30/09/2020 Duración: 31min

    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 controversial A-Level algorithm debacle. We also touch on the concept of fairness in examinations and consider the essence of what we are trying to measure through an exam. Finally, we look at the application of algorithms to other areas of performance assessment, such as sport. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Explanation of the OFQUAL algorithm: - Accuracy of predicted grades: - Earlier research on predictive accuracy: Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image: dcJohn via Flickr

  • Good vs Bad Distractions

    Good vs Bad Distractions

    23/09/2020 Duración: 37min

    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 listening to us discuss the topic. In this podcast we discuss why we feel the urge to procrastinate, and whether it reduces or increases stress in the long run. We also consider the nature of tasks we like to avoid and what the potential benefits of time wasting activities might be. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Wait But Why? on procrastination - Svartdal et al, Behavioural Delay in Real-Time Settings - The science behind procrastination - Westgate et al, Productive Procrastination,outcomes%20in%201106%2

  • Lost and (not) Found

    Lost and (not) Found

    16/09/2020 Duración: 29min

    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 discuss different heuristics, strategies and technologies that have developed to help us find things. We also mention the psychological impact of losing something, how much time we spend looking for stuff and consider why some people may be better predisposed to locate misplaced objects. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Humans are surprisingly unproductive with their eye movements when searching for items. - Passport application data - Express article on losing things - Losing objects can induce grief - Losing things has a genetic component? h

  • Declining Fertility

    Declining Fertility

    09/09/2020 Duración: 28min

    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 true? In this podcast we discuss the accuracy of population forecasts, the assumptions they are based on, and the relationship between the number of people and factors such as productivity and societal innovation. We also attempt to predict some of the implications of an aging population with fewer children and ask whether there is an optimal number of human beings. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - BBC coverage of declining fertility - The ‘Lump of Labour’ fallacy - Derek Parfit’s repugnant conclusion Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image via PickPic

  • Toast and Marmot

    Toast and Marmot

    02/09/2020 Duración: 30min

    With a case of the bubonic plague being contracted in Mongolia after consumption of a wild marmot, we consider whether disgust at certain foodstuffs serves a protective purpose. We all experience disgust, but do we really think about it? In our latest podcast, we list some of the more disgusting foods we've come across while discussing why we find somethings more repugnant than others. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Boy eats marmot, dies - Neural basis for cheese disgust - The mystery of disgust - The disgust test Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image: DC via Wikimedia Commons

  • Don’t Buy the Album

    Don’t Buy the Album

    27/08/2020 Duración: 33min

    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 about the implications of its evolution from vinyl, to tape and CD, and finally to the cloud. We also touch on the artistic purpose of an album, and whether this has been destroyed or merely altered by the move to digital streaming. Fundamentally, we question the purpose of an album and whether it still has meaning. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Album sales at their lowest for 60 years - Music format trends - Average length of hit songs Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image via PxHere

  • Dispensing Wisdom

    Dispensing Wisdom

    19/08/2020 Duración: 32min

    “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 equates to wisdom and what makes someone receptive to advice, regardless of its quality. We also address the areas in which people seek advice and how this has altered over time. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Biggest life mistakes - Citizens Advice trends - Citizens’ Advice Bureauxinformation film from 1940 - Do old people understand what young people worry about? Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image: Paul Mercuri via Wik

  • Storm in a Teacup

    Storm in a Teacup

    12/08/2020 Duración: 30min

    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 the information we obtain from little shibboleths such as making tea, and discusses whether it is accurate, valid and useful. Does it merely foster class and cultural exclusion, or do these ceremonies and their preservation still serve a valuable social purpose? A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Michelle on TikTok explains how to make ‘British Tea’ - The original ‘shibboleth’ - Tea and class - Historical shibboleths Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image via

  • High Anxiety

    High Anxiety

    05/08/2020 Duración: 27min

    With our current pandemic related concerns, we seem to have forgotten about other scary things, like terrorism or environmental catastrophe. Should we be concerned by our lack of worry? We discuss whether we worry about the right things, whether we are worrying less than we used to and whether worry can even be accurately measured. What is the right amount to worry and what is the purpose of worrying? Does it serve a rational function? Things mentioned in this podcast: - Personal well-being, according to the ONS - Ipsos MORI’s ‘issues index’, tracking top concerns over time - Cognitive economics is a new field that takes the goings on inside of the mind seriously - System 3: Decision making through imagination

  • The Worst Year Ever?

    The Worst Year Ever?

    29/07/2020 Duración: 34min

    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 to go about determining the overall amount of suffering in a given year and what constitutes the worst year ever. How should it be measured? Is the size of the human race at the time relevant? And are we predisposed to recency bias, where terrible events in the past are largely ignored? A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Is 2020 the worst year ever? - List of natural disasters by death toll - List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll - The Toba Catastrophe Theory - The ‘536 AD’ theory Find more Cognitiv

  • One-hit Wonders

    One-hit Wonders

    22/07/2020 Duración: 31min

    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 and Fraser discuss what constitutes a one-hit wonder, how it applies to other art forms and areas of human endeavour, and whether we should aim for sustained mediocrity or concentrated brilliance. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - UK one-hit wonders - ‘One Hit Wonderland’ by ToddintheShadows Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here Image: Phil Long via Flickr

  • Pre-Digital Relics

    Pre-Digital Relics

    15/07/2020 Duración: 26min

    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 worth hanging on to. And for the sake of nostalgia, here are some things that we grew up with that are unknown today because of the evolution of digital technology: writing a letter, calling someone on the phone for a chat, reading the papers, looking stuff up in reference books, reading maps, surprise visits, being uncontactable, remembering things like phone numbers and waiting for news. Image via Pickpic Things mentioned in this podcast: - Two spaces after a full stop. - Buttons on shirts - Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here

  • Individual vs Group Decisions

    Individual vs Group Decisions

    08/07/2020 Duración: 31min

    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 Things mentioned in this podcast: - How group dynamics affect decisions - ‘Officially official’ - Group decision-making - The Expert Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here

  • Should we Listen to Celebrities?

    Should we Listen to Celebrities?

    01/07/2020 Duración: 33min

    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 mentioned in this podcast: - Hugh Grant’s views on the government’s reaction to COVID-19 - Cognitive skills and their transfer: - List of actor-politicians - Fifty years of celebrity endorser research - 24 times celebrities have been completely unrelatable during quarantine Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here

  • Rewriting History

    Rewriting History

    24/06/2020 Duración: 28min

    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 Cummings changed his blog - Historical Negationism - Our World in Data, ‘Books’ - List of pages removed from Google’s search results: Find more Cognitive Engineering episodes here

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