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Past Tense

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Past Tense

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This is Past Tense. This is a history podcast. Pat yourself on the back for getting the ingenious pun and settle back for as close to time travel as you can get without building any complicated machines or risking all existence in a logical paradox.
 
Let’s begin with the question of why and how does anyone become entrenched in the discipline of leadership development? For myself, it began with a graduate course on The Presidency and the required reading of a huge tome by James MacGregor Burns on what he considered to be the most significant Presidents in the history of the US. His was a qualitative, historical, and, at times, psychological account of the leadership vision of those who changed the institution of the American executive. On ...
 
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Most of us are healthier, wealthier and better educated than ever before. We have greater access to knowledge and expertise than any previous generation. So, why do humans keep doing stupid things? And why is the world awash with conspiracy? Have we already passed “peak intelligence”? And if so, what can we do to ensure a smarter future?…
 
Responses to climate change are often marked by frustration as much as fear. Those seeking to end our fossil-fuel dependency are increasingly turning to litigation to force the hands of companies and governments - often on human rights grounds. But do the courts have a legitimate role to play in leading the way? Or is this a form of judicial activi…
 
Stories like opinions have become a necessity of modern life. Everybody is encouraged to have an opinion and everybody – in the vernacular of countless motivation speakers – is encouraged to be the “hero of their own story”. But are we in danger of making too much of them? If the story becomes the central device for much of our communication, do we…
 
Some animals, like sea sponges, can live for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. They also never get cancer. Understanding why that’s the case has led scientists to question conventional notions of ageing. The idea that future humans may never grow old now seems theoretically possible.
 
Rewilding is a conservation approach based on the reintroduction of lost animal species to their natural habitats. Its original manifestation was controversial because it centred on apex predators like wolves. But the approach has matured and advocates believe it now has a crucial role to play in securing future biodiversity levels.…
 
Despite increased safety features, policies and content moderation practices, social media platforms continue to be sites where people perpetrate and experience harm. A new approach to platform governance called Transformative and Restorative Justice could help address the underlying causes of harmful behaviour and promote safer and more inclusive …
 
When the global pandemic struck the world’s major cities were plunged into silence. But were they? New research casts doubt on just how quiet it really got when people were suddenly forced from the streets. It adds to our complex understanding of noise and sound and how both will shape our future.
 
What will the global political landscape look like when the world’s dependency on fossil fuels is finally over? Adjustments are already being made, but for so-called “petrostates” like Saudi Arabia and Russia, the prospects look particularly bleak. Experts warn of new inequalities and shifting power dynamics. They also warn of a fall in available e…
 
Paul Howe has a novel theory that could help explain the current state of humanity. Adolescence, he says, isn’t so much a time of life as a state of mind – and it’s transforming our adult world. Also, why an emphasis on human rights has failed to reduce global inequality; and redefining minimalism as “intentional living”.…
 
Historian and economist, Marc Levinson, argues we’ve entered the fourth age of globalisation. An era, he says, that will be driven by the movement of “bits and bytes, not goods”. Also, should fintech companies be marketing their wares to children as young as six? And why is NASA planning to open fire on a pair of asteroids?…
 
The technology sector has a long history of designing devices to lock in customers and accelerate consumption. But “planned obsolescence” as it’s called is facing a push-back. We also speak with Margaret Mitchell, who helped set up the AI ethics group at Google, only to find she was shown the door when the company’s bosses didn’t like what she had …
 
Simon Chesterman argues for a new global agency to regulate the development of artificial intelligence. One that would also ensure an equitable distribution of its benefits. Professor Chesterman, the Dean of the Law at the National University of Singapore, says discussion around AI has been dominated by the US, Europe and China, but smaller Asian n…
 
If you think coal is controversial, spare a thought for nuclear energy. It may not be everybody’s choice as a replacement for fossil fuels, but the technology is evolving, new reactors are being built and researchers are working on making them smaller and mobile. In this episode we give an overview on the size and scale of the nuclear energy sector…
 
Surveillance has become mainstream in the 21st century. It’s now so ubiquitous that many of us no longer notice its intrusion in our personal lives. But not all forms of monitoring are designed to exploit and/or contain. In this episode we look at several interesting monitoring technologies designed to assist and heal.…
 
Google has affirmed its decision to ban all third-party cookies from its popular Chrome browser by the end of 2023. Cookies have long under-pinned the business model for online marketing. Some analysts are predicting a “cookiepocalypse”. But others say that’s hard to swallow. Also, the world is currently facing a global shortage of computer chips. …
 
We all know the value of planning, but in a complex, complicated and often confounding world it can be difficult knowing how to start. Scenario Planning is planning tool for uncertain situations - find out what it entails and how it might benefit organisations and businesses.
 
The big traditional religions of the world are losing followers, but not just, as is commonly thought, to atheism and secularism. Religion as such won't die any time soon because human beings are “hard-wired” to believe in the religious and the supernatural. Some analysts say the world is experiencing a shift toward individualistic spiritual expres…
 
The terms “sustainability” and “sustainable development” are now so commonplace as to be meaningless – according to the sceptics. Worse still, a focus on sustainability, they say, can actually mask the very real problems we have in dealing with climate change and managing the world’s diminishing resources.…
 
Facebook’s CEO has spoken about changing the social media platform into a “metaverse” company and he’s pledged billions to the cause. The metaverse is a term Silicon Valley uses for the next stage of the internet: a world in which all activities are conducted in an immersive Virtual Reality environment. But would Zoom-weary humans want to live in s…
 
New legislation aimed at curbing the power and influence of the big technology companies has been drawn up in both the United States and Europe. While in China, the government has already implemented sweeping changes to the way Chinese technology companies can operate in the PRC and beyond. So, have we now entered a new age of tech regulation?…
 
Is our inability to think long-term influenced by the sheer number of threats we face? In times of crisis, it seems, human beings find it harder to think beyond their immediate difficulties. We investigate. Also, new research on why threats of punishment often fail to deter bad behaviour; and we get an update on Seabed2030, the global initiative to…
 
The cliché is that once something goes online, it’s up there forever. But the truth is that the Internet has a memory problem and some of what we’re losing – or could potentially lose – has significance and value. While archivists struggle with the challenge of preserving our digital record, the rise of pay walls present a particular problem.…
 
An Australian court has given inventor status to a piece of Artificial Intelligence. It’s big news in the tech sector, but does it have real world significance? Also, a new research discipline called "Affectivism" – what is it and how will it influence our understanding of human behaviour? And why one New York researcher has labelled Virtual Realit…
 
Almost every week, Bitcoin makes the headlines. Rollercoaster prices, environmental concerns and even the latest scams regularly make the news. But the sheer proliferation of stories surrounding Bitcoin has made it hard to understand what’s happening, let alone the technology itself. This week, Edwina Stott unpicks some of the biggest headlines in …
 
President Joe Bidden wants to establish a new alliance of democracies to counter the rise of authoritarianism. He’s planning a global summit for later this year. But is such an alliance achievable in a 21st century marked by heightened geo-economic interdependency? Or is it simply a nostalgic yearning for the past? And if such an alliance could be …
 
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