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Cognitive Engineering

Author: Aleph Insights

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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.
257 Episodes
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Opposites

Opposites

2021-07-2131:52

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 in-depth look at the concept of opposites. We attempt to define opposites, exploring whether they are based on categorical or quantifiable features, or some intuitive interpretation of context. Finally, we examine how they can be used to help us navigate our environment, supporting rapid analysis and decision-making. And if you're interested in knowing what the opposite of a banana is, Nick will reveal the analytical output of his opposite-generator model. You may find the answer surprising or predictable, rigorous or widely speculative. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Concepts and Categories: A cognitive neuropsychological perspective https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908258/ - Kaggle: Countries of the World Dataset https://www.kaggle.com/fernandol/countries-of-the-world - U.S. Department of Agriculture: Food and nutrient database for dietary studies https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/beltsville-md-bhnrc/beltsville-human-nutrition-research-center/food-surveys-research-group/docs/fndds/ - Overtly prompting people to “think in opposites” supports insight problem solving https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13546783.2018.1553738?journalCode=ptar20 - Principal Component Analysis: a review and recent developments https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsta.2015.0202 For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Bill Smith via Flickr
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 interesting and is the modern concept of generations a meaningful one? In this podcast, we look at intergenerational conflict and its causes. We also attempt to determine whether the use of generational categories, such as Gen X or Millennials, represent a coherent and valid framework for understanding culture and history. Finally, we try to place ourselves within the generational continuum and decide the extent to which we are products of our time. How cheugy. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - The Measurement and Evaluation of Social Attitudes in Two British Cohort Studies https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251198647_The_Measurement_and_Evaluation_of_Social_Attitudes_in_Two_British_Cohort_Studies - Generational Differences in Work-Related Attitudes: A Meta-analysis https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10869-012-9259-4 - Generational Differences At Work Are Small. Thinking They’re Big Affects Our Behavior https://hbr.org/2019/08/generational-differences-at-work-are-small-thinking-theyre-big-affects-our-behavior - A Compendium of Trends in the General Social Survey 1972-2018 http://gss.norc.org/Documents/reports/social-change-reports/SC64%20A%20new%20compendium%20of%20trends.pdf - Strauss–Howe Generational Theory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss%E2%80%93Howe_generational_theory - The Method for Determining Time-Generation Range https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244020968082 For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Medicating Factors, CC BY-SA 4.0
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 scapegoats and how can we prevent ourselves from blaming the wrong person? In this podcast we examine the phenomenon of scapegoating and try to understand the human desire to find someone else to blame for our problems. We tackle the concept of blame, look at how to avoid attributing it erroneously and consider whether the monkey was in fact guilty. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Was a monkey really hanged in Hartlepool?? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-40801937#:~:text=%22There%20is%20no%20evidence%20whatsoever,retired%20teacher%20from%20the%20town - Miscarriages of Justice Registry https://evidencebasedjustice.exeter.ac.uk/miscarriages-of-justice-registry/ - Narrative Retribution and Cognitive Processing https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338233193_Narrative_Retribution_and_Cognitive_Processing - René Girard and the ‘Scapegoat Mechanism’ https://iep.utm.edu/girard/ - Framed: Utilitarianism and Punishment of the Innocent https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/236359854.pdf - Wiki: Sanctions http://sanctionswiki.org/ - Freedom House rights and liberties rankings https://freedomhouse.org/countries/freedom-world/scores For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Oliver Dixon under CC BY-SA 2.0
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 podcast, we discuss all the things we think are wrong with the World Wide Web and consider what should be done to rescue the internet, looking at ideas to make it a more informative, quality-assured and user-friendly space. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Spotify Removes Tens of Thousands of Indie Songs For ‘Artificial Streams’ https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2021/01/06/spotify-reportedly-pulls-indie-songs/ - Where Does the Majority of Internet Traffic Come From? https://www.ncta.com/whats-new/report-where-does-the-majority-of-internet-traffic-come - Kiss Your Browser Goodbye: The Radical Future of Media Beyond the Web https://www.wired.com/1997/03/ff-push/ - The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet https://www.wired.com/2010/08/ff-webrip/ - The Appification Of Everything Will Transform The World's 360 Million Web Sites https://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2012/12/16/forecast-2013-the-appification-of-everything-will-turn-the-web-into-an-app-o-verse/?sh=27784a7314bd - The Appification of Everything and Why it Needs to End https://caseorganic.medium.com/the-appification-of-everything-why-it-needs-to-end-8a2214c1968f - Mises Institute: The Truth About the "Robber Barons" https://mises.org/library/truth-about-robber-barons For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Image under CC BY 2.0
Simplification

Simplification

2021-06-2333:40

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 to how much we can simplify things? In our latest podcast, we discuss different ways of simplifying information, how to judge the right level of detail for a given context, and whether reductionism is always a useful concept. We look at how simplification can help or hinder understanding, examining some of the consequences of oversimplification. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Reddit: Explain Like I’m Five https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/ - Shannon information and Kolmogorov complexity https://homepages.cwi.nl/~paulv/papers/info.pdf For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
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, when we get frustrated by others' formatting or lack thereof? In this week's podcast, we delve into the use of common applications and discuss the importance of formatting and structure, and whether this is linked to the quality of our analysis. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/tidy-desk-or-messy-desk-each-has-its-benefits.html - Orderliness/Disorderliness Is Mentally Associated With Construal Level and Psychological Distance https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6880731/ For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Texas State Library via Flickr.
Online Cultures

Online Cultures

2021-06-0939:00

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 this week's podcast, we explore online cultures and environments. Specifically, we take an in-depth look at the world of online gaming to see what it can tell us about the evolution of online behaviours and norms, and the factors that influence our interactions with others. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - 12 Games That Can't Escape Their Own Aggressively Toxic Communities https://www.ranker.com/list/video-games-with-toxic-communities/melissa-brinks, - 'Call Of Duty,' 'Dota 2' Ranked In Top Five Most-Toxic Subreddits https://www.forbes.com/sites/hnewman/2020/03/24/call-of-duty-dota-2-ranked-in-top-five-most-toxic-subreddits/?sh=3b1696ad7a9a - Reddit: What online gaming community is the least toxic? https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/6stfcn/seriouswhat_online_gaming_community_is_the_least/ - The 8 Friendliest Gaming Communities https://medium.com/gamerjibe/the-8-friendliest-gaming-communities-13b30b8502df - Data on player numbers https://steamcharts.com/search/ For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Santtu Pajukanta via Creative Commons
Self-Defeating Greed

Self-Defeating Greed

2021-06-0230:03

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 goose that laid the golden eggs? We start this podcast by examining the decision-making of the various football clubs involved in trying to establish the European Super League, asking whether it was flawed. We then look at the pros and cons of greed as a driver of behaviour. Finally, we attempt to identify where greed tends to go wrong, and what we might do to harness the energy created by greed, while avoiding its pitfalls. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - European Super League https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/56795811 - Manchester United Business Model https://ir.manutd.com/company-information/business-model.aspx#:~:text=Within%20the%20Commercial%20revenue%20sector,licensing%3B%20and%20mobile%20%26%20content - Is Greed Good? The psychology and philosophy of greed https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/hide-and-seek/201410/is-greed-good#:~:text=Greed%20is%20the%20disordered%20desire,attention%2C%20admiration%2C%20and%20sex - Greed, not generosity, more likely to be ‘paid forward’ https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/12/greed-generosity - The Problem of Corporate Greed https://mises.org/library/problem-corporate-greed - Relational Models Theory http://sk.sagepub.com/reference/socialpsychology/n445.xml For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/9731367@N02/7643873724
Fragile, or Resilient?

Fragile, or Resilient?

2021-05-2627:10

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 prepare for unexpected events or should just rely on our adaptability. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - The cost of the Suez Canal blockage https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56559073 - Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/690806/ For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
Making Fast Decisions

Making Fast Decisions

2021-05-1934:42

Using the government’s 'Test and Trace' programme as a case study, this week’s podcast discusses decision-making and analysis in environments where decisions need to be made quickly. We debate whether we should shoot from the hip or take our time when it comes to decision-making, examining the advantages and disadvantages of both ways of operating. We explore different approaches to decision-making, particularly when we are faced with a variety of constraints and varying levels of information or data. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - NHS Test and Trace 'no clear impact' https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56340831 - Three keys to faster, better decisions https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/three-keys-to-faster-better-decisions - Make Good Decisions Faster https://hbr.org/2013/07/make-good-decisions-faster For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Elprofeabra via Flickr.
First, Do No Harm

First, Do No Harm

2021-05-1234:41

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 vaccines. In this podcast, we delve into the principle of 'first, do no harm' - primum non nocere. We discuss this principle, its limitations and how we might determine if the cure is, in fact, worse than the disease. We also examine some of the consequences of medical errors on societal trust and perceptions of competency and credibility. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - AstraZeneca: Thailand delays vaccine rollout over blood clot fears https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-56369550 - 10 Medical Errors That Changed the Standard of Care https://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/med-errors - The Ten Worst Drug Recalls In The History Of The FDA https://247wallst.com/investing/2010/12/10/the-ten-worst-drug-recalls-in-the-history-of-the-fda/ - ‘Causing Death and Saving Lives’ by Jonathan Glover https://www.amazon.co.uk/Causing-Death-Saving-Lives-death/dp/0140134794 - The Acts and Omissions Doctrine https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/doing-allowing/ For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
Town Planning

Town Planning

2021-05-0531:03

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 delve into the world of town planning. We discuss the evolution of urban planning, its pros and cons, and whether new cities have it right or if there are still lessons that can be learned from old towns. We also look at how town planning can affect people's happiness and examine what should be the key considerations when it comes to planning a new town. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Hampstead Garden: The History of The Suburb https://www.hgstrust.org/the-suburb/history/index.shtml - Annual personal well-being estimates https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/datasets/headlineestimatesofpersonalwellbeing - ‘Britain’s Love-Hate Relationship with New Towns’ https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/may/15/sterile-or-stirring-britains-love-hate-relationship-with-new-towns - The Private Production of Urban Planning https://mises.org/library/private-production-urban-planning - 10 Reasons Explaining the Importance of Urban Planning https://planningtank.com/city-insight/importance-of-urban-planning For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
Can You Whistle?

Can You Whistle?

2021-04-2834:58

Have you ever tried to teach someone to whistle? Highly frustrating for both instructor and student. This week we examine what makes a skill difficult to teach. This podcast looks into how skills are taught and what factors create barriers to this process. We try to classify different types of skills, as well as different types of teachers and learners. We also discuss what we have personally found difficult to master, and as a bonus Tom teaches us how to make a noise like a dolphin. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - PACEY survey on the hardest things to teach kids https://www.pacey.org.uk/news-and-views/news/archive/2020-news/april-2020/news-tricky-to-teach-new-pacey-study-reveals-the/ - Tom learns the piano in six easy steps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbxAHsxDML4 For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Dean Michaud via Flickr
Anniversaries

Anniversaries

2021-04-2139:29

We recently reached our five year anniversary of producing these podcasts, and (in true meta fashion) thought we would celebrate by analysing why we recognise such occasions. At the point of recording this podcast, there have been 241 episodes of the Cognitive Engineering podcast and nearly 100,000 listens. For some reason, though, we find it much more significant that this achievement has taken us five Earth years to complete. In this podcast we examine why humans are drawn to recognise the passing of the years and whether it is useful to do so. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Places with the least seasonal variations https://earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/2966/are-there-locations-on-earth-that-only-have-one-season#:~:text=The%20region%20on%20Earth%20that,experience%20cold%20and%20warm%20seasons - Javanese calendar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javanese_calendar For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
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 Alia Brahimi, an expert in Middle Eastern politics. In this podcast we look at the precursors and aftermath of the Arab Spring, examining several of the affected countries - then and now - to see whether their lots have been improved. We also examine revolutions in general and consider how you might determine their success or failure, and over what period of time it is appropriate to judge their outcomes. Finally, we analyse different types of revolution and try to understand how they might be predicted. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Jihad and Just War in the War on Terror https://global.oup.com/academic/product/jihad-and-just-war-in-the-war-on-terror-9780199562961?cc=gb&lang=en& - ‘Life has got worse since the Arab Spring’ https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/17/arab-spring-people-middle-east-poll - Alias Advisory https://aliasadvisory.com/ - Quality of Government data https://www.gu.se/en/quality-government/qog-data For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Shawn Hayward via Flickr
The Lowest Form of Wit

The Lowest Form of Wit

2021-04-0736:31

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 objectively measured, and if so, whether it is a separate concept to that of wit. We also look at why we bother to attempt humour in the first place. Finally, we engage in a slightly awkward exercise to determine whether we are good judges of our own funniness. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - The eleven kinds of joke according to The Onion’s founder https://bigthink.com/stephen-johnson/every-joke-falls-in-one-of-these-11-categories-according-to-the-founder-of-the-onion - The Atlantic: What Makes Something Funny? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/funny-how/550910/ - Do animals have a sense of humour? https://www.livescience.com/60864-do-animals-have-humor.html - Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in male https://www.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/attachments/95822/humor-predicts-mating-success.pdf - Walter Nash’s ‘The Language of Humour’ https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Language_of_Humour.html?id=Ef0NAQAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y - ‘Biggus Dickus’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQkQAU9iU7I For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
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 difficult period. In this podcast, we examine how data can be used to assess the societal value of different jobs. We look at the Covid risk exposure of different roles, consider whether salary is a good indicator of value, and explore where duty ends and altruism begins. Finally, we ask whether heroism can ever truly be measured. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Death rates by occupation (National Statistics) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregisteredbetween9marchand28december2020 - Wages by occupation (National Statistics) https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/datasets/grossweeklyearningsbyoccupationearn06 For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: via UCL Partners
What3words provides its users with an easy way of referring to any geographic location, but nobody knows how the three word reference is generated. Is this the right approach or should all standards be open? This podcast looks at how open and closed standards work, investigates the pros and cons of both and considers their economic consequences. We explore existing examples of open and closed standards and delve into the relative levels of control and investment value that both models offer. We also look at the rights of users, such as the right to repair. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - What 3 Words https://what3words.com/daring.lion.race - Why bother with What Three Words? https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2019/03/why-bother-with-what-three-words/ - Vendor lock-in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vendor_lock-in - Prisoner’s Dilemma https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/prisoners-dilemma.asp#:~:text=The%20prisoner's%20dilemma%20is%20a,expense%20of%20the%20other%20participant. - Right to repair https://repair.eu/ - A list of format wars https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/65305/winner-takes-all-8-most-dramatic-format-wars For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Wiyada Arunwaikit via Getty Images/ iStockphoto
The Covid pandemic has seen a sharp rise in government spending, and large scale testing and vaccination programmes. Some of these have been successful, while others less so. We look at whether, on balance, governments are an effective mechanism for achieving desirable outcomes. In this podcast, we explore the rationale for having governments in the first place and consider what activities it is appropriate for them to carry out. We look at what happens when the government gets it wrong and also examine what various data sources say about the relative effectiveness of the private and public sectors. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - Chicago School of Economics https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/chicago_school.asp - Milton Friedman – Four ways to spend money https://investorjunkie.com/economics/milton-friedman-ways-spend-money/ - Principle-Agent Problem https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/principal-agent-problem.asp#:~:text=The%20principal%2Dagent%20problem%20is,roles%20of%20principal%20and%20agent. - Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Good and Bad Government https://www.visittuscany.com/en/attractions/siena-ambrogio-lorenzetti-good-and-bad-government/ - PSIRU report summarising some of the evidence https://www.epsu.org/sites/default/files/article/files/Public%20and%20Private%20Sector%20efficiency%20EN%20fin.pdf - The effects of bad government https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/01/effects-bad-government/ - What’s so bad about government anyway https://fee.org/articles/whats-so-bad-about-big-government-anyway/ - What is rent-seeking? https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/economics/rent-seeking/#:~:text=Rent%2Dseeking%20is%20a%20concept,It. For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com
Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister

2021-03-1038:02

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 politicians? In this podcast, we examine ministerial accountability using Gavin Williamson as a case study. We consider whether it is realistic to expect a government minister to be infallible, and if so what level of fallibility is acceptable. We also delve into concepts of ministerial responsibility and honour, and try to understand when something is a minister’s fault. A few things we mentioned in this podcast: - The Crichel Down Affair https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crichel_Down_affair - List of political scandals in the United Kingdom https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_scandals_in_the_United_Kingdom - Institute for Government chart of ministerial resignations https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/charts/ministerial-resignations-outside-reshuffles-prime-minister - Gordon Brown - Taking Responsibility https://youtu.be/CND6i2o7tTE?t=3 For more information on Aleph Insights visit our website https://alephinsights.com or to get in touch about our podcast email podcast@alephinsights.com Image: Chris McAndrew via Wikimedia Commons
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