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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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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 …
 
Automation and outsourcing are dirty words for many people in Western countries worried about their future employment prospects. Developing countries are seen to be the major beneficiaries of off-shore labour, with multinationals hoovering up increased profits. But the reality is a lot more complex and even messy. Now, even developing countries are…
 
New technologies are transforming agriculture, but getting farmers to experiment with different tech combinations remains an issue. A technologically-infused approach can bring benefits, but it also carries risks. In the developing world it can sometimes undermine traditional farming practices and increase inequality.…
 
The rush to go digital during Covid-19 has coincided with a marked rise in ransomware attacks. Some have a political dimension, some are merely opportunistic, but all make sound business sense from a criminal perspective. We discuss the ins and outs of ransomware operations and meet a man whose job is to negotiate with the criminals.…
 
It’s time to attack the “supply side” of fossil fuels, activists argue. And the best way to do that is by establishing a fuel non-proliferation treaty similar to the one used for nuclear weapons. But what would it entail and could it ever work? Also, the sticky relationship between online personalisation and consent; and a call for CEOs to become t…
 
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…
 
Trying to predict the future is a timeless and time-consuming pursuit. Artificial Intelligence is increasingly being enlisted to the cause, but so too are “super-forecasters” – a new coterie of individuals with remarkable predictive powers. But what are their limits and what does their rise say about the still popular notion of collective intellige…
 
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.…
 
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.
 
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?…
 
Scientists in the UK have developed a form of artificial intelligence that mimics the brain functions of a honeybee. The results promise to make drones and other flying craft far more manoeuvrable and crash-proof. Also, the dream of a “female internet”; and why mathematician, Hannah Fry, thinks all technologists should take a Hippocratic oath.…
 
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…
 
Sovereign Wealth Funds come in all shapes and sizes. They act as government-backed investment vehicles. They’re used to fund specific social projects and to act as a nest-egg for future generations. There are currently around 150 in the world with global assets worth in excess of $USD 9 trillion. But are they worth the investment?…
 
Imagine if you could use your own body heat to recharge your smart phone? That’s just one of the ways scientists are trying to decentralise energy production. They also have an eye on new means of power distribution, including using laser beams instead of lines and poles.
 
There’s a serious campaign underway to have 30 per cent of the Earth designated as a giant conservation zone. The target date is 2030.The eventual aim is to lock down half the planet. It’s about protecting habitats and biodiversity.But, in so doing, what are the risks for indigenous communities and the poor?…
 
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