How relative decline leads to shrunken aspirations

Image credit: Anglotopia

I’ve been living in the Britain for the last ten months and for the last two of them I’ve been trying to understand what makes the place so quintessentially British. It’s not afternoon cream tea, nor is it the absurdly anachronistic royal family. It’s not cricket, and it’s not mushy peas and chips. To understand the British we must go deeper.

The weather, which is famously awful for 350 days per year, certainly contributes to whatever lies at the core of Britishness. It’s difficult to be filled with a sense of joie de vivre when you have to trudge to…


How a billionaires’ conspiracy that’s literally out of this world is shaping the future of space technology

Image credit: NASA and SpaceX

It’s impossible not to be bombarded with stories and pictures about Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, each spending billions of dollars to design and build machines to blast people out of Earth’s gravity well. Musk pretends he’s doing it for the benefit of humanity. But as Musk claims everything he does is for the benefit of humanity (see his eight-hour-long TED talk on how his daily visit to his blockchain-enabled all-electric toilet makes an amazing contribution to the Earth’s biosphere) we can be excused a little skepticism. Bezos is less disingenuous, merely saying that he hopes to make space tourism…


The catastrophic ongoing costs of Brexit

Image credit: StoryBlocks

Representative democracy is a marvelous thing to behold in action. Millions of people who know little and understand less get to express their “opinion” on complex matters that even experts find challenging to comprehend. Soundbites and trite memes offer the illusion of easy answers to difficult problems, and emotions are stirred by cynical politicians in order to garner the votes of the simple-minded.

This is why, wherever we look, we see that populism has swept the globe since 2015 and carried into power a motley collection of blustering incompetents and venal morons.

Trump may briefly have moved out of the…


Why everyone should buy into Bitcoin while there’s still time

Image credit: MarketWatch

There are so many ways in which Bitcoin is better than money, and in case you don’t already know them we’re going to take a look at a few of them here.

First of all, Bitcoin has no basis of value because it isn’t controlled by a government. This means that instead of its value being determined by a mix of GDP, balance of payments, national debt, interest rates, and the exchange rate, Bitcoin is free to be worth whatever we want it to be. Some days it’s worth $30,000, some days it’s worth $40,000, tomorrow it may be worth…


Family car meets marketing makeover and lives happily ever after

Image credit: Nissan UK Ltd

I recently acquired a used Nissan Qashqai which, for readers living in countries outside of the UK, is a SUV-styled mid-sized family car. To be even more precise, it is the UK’s absolute favorite SUV-styled mid-sized family car. At times it can seem as if every third vehicle on the road or in a carpark is a Qashqai, such has been the success of Nissan’s marketing endeavors and the appetite of Brits for this modest but cunningly positioned family transport.

The Qashqai is basically a five-seat family hatchback restyled to gain the appearance, but not the milquetoast reality, of a…


How we’ve accidentally engineered the next phase of humanity’s evolution, and why no one sees what is happening

Image credit: Singularity Hub

The human brain is estimated to contain 10¹¹ neurons, each of which can have up to 20,000 connections with other neurons. Collectively, the brain enables us to create internal representations of the external world that enable us to navigate our environment and response with reasonable appropriateness to stimuli. The apparatus inside our heads converts electromagnetic radiation of certain frequencies into forms that help us interact with the world around us; hence we create “colors” as a way to distinguish between certain frequencies and we feel “heat” in response to other frequencies. Our brains convert certain pressure waves into “sounds” and…


Why some people are tremendously keen to be sexual arbiters, and why their declamations are invariably wrong

Image credit: Elisabeth Busey

We humans are a relatively simple species. We’re in perpetual competition with each other, although we’re usually blithely unaware of the fact. We make most of our decisions based on feelings and instincts and then dress our decisions retrospectively with a superficial gloss of reasoning. As a social species, we live within group norms which constrain our behavior.

Shaping these norms can sometimes give us significant power and thus advantage over our less manipulative peers.

We need only see how readily huge numbers of people are manipulated by the mass media to see that it’s quite easy to shape group…


Why it’s so difficult for things to work rationally here on Earth

Image credit: SN-Drive

I’ve spent most of my life feeling as though, for a joke, I was deposited here on Earth as an infant and then thanks to someone’s forgetfulness, was never subsequently rescued.

As a small child I watched my parents each smoking their regular eighty cigarettes a day and imbibing a variety of alcoholic drinks in a desperate but perpetually unsuccessful attempt to numb their obvious misery. Why, I wondered, don’t they instead address whatever is making them so unhappy? Their supposed friends were equally discontent and equally devoted to self-medicating themselves into a perpetual semi-stupor. …


Why humans won’t explore the stars, or even our own solar system

Image credit: NASA (from Hubble space telescope)

In general, people have an endearing tendency to believe what they see depicted in Hollywood entertainments. This is why most people imagine that they need only stroll off into the sunset hand-in-hand with their beloved to enjoy an eternal happy-ever-after as the credits roll. It’s why people think that you can restart a heart with a defibrillator. It’s why juries convict on the basis of entirely unreliable DNA evidence. The list of follies we commit because we can’t discern the difference between fiction and reality is to all intents and purposes endless.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that the topic of…


Why work-from-home will soon be a distant memory

Image credit: Edie

Journalists and commentators are excitable folk who live within a bubble of the permanent present. Knowing nothing of history, nor in fact of anything much at all, media types reliably imagine the future by simply extrapolating in a straight line from whatever transient circumstances happen to exist at the moment they are doing their prognosticating.

Not surprisingly, the value of these prognostications is almost always very slight indeed.

As far back in time as most people can remember (e.g. two months ago) all the chatter was about the future of work being a blend of work-from-home with one or two…

Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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