Why a sense of humor is a key indicator of both intelligence and emotional development

Image credit: Clown Antics

Early on in my career as a semi-sentient creature, I came to realize that the possession of a healthy sense of humor was a reliable guide to whether or not I’d want to spend time with a person. By this I don’t mean that I was looking for a sense of humor similar to mine, nor that I felt it necessary for people to share the same cultural references that facilitate a great many transiently popular jokes. …


How the Netflix series Messiah demonstrates our preference for what we’ve already had a thousand times before

Image credit: Netflix

As anyone who’s ever attended a scriptwriting class or seen a Hollywood writer’s group in action will know, the essence of popular entertainment is to dish up the same old formula but with miniscule cosmetic changes that will simultaneously enable the audience to believe (i) they’re getting something excitingly new, and (ii) there won’t be any unwelcome surprises to disturb their semi-somnolent viewing pleasure.

Story arcs and character arcs are so predictable that the day is not far off when popular entertainments will be auto-generated by cheap AI programs running on a producer’s laptop. Dialog is likewise so obvious that…


How it’s easy to make human beings believe anything you want them to believe

Image credit: BBC

The world is awash with evidence of how readily we humans believe the most spurious nonsense. From established religions to trendy pseudo-Eastern spiritual nonsense, and from politics to entirely mistaken ideas about forensic science, our brains are full of absurd notions we think are true. The one distinguishing feature of all bogus ideas is their simplicity.

We humans evolved under conditions of scarcity and as thinking consumes up to 30% of the body’s blood glucose — and as that glucose was far more often needed to power muscles in the search for food or in flight from a potential predator…


How the mass media is destroying civilization for the sake of short-term profit

Image credit: Brunel University, London

It’s difficult not to be immensely proud of our modern Western civilization. We are, after all, the very first people in history to destroy ourselves purely for the sake of generating advertising revenues. And who doesn’t want to be first in something, even if it unfortunately happens to be catastrophic self-harm?

To understand why we’re blindly and compulsively self-harming on a global scale, we need to understand our evolutionary history.

We humans evolved under conditions of scarcity, a prey species clinging on to survival at the edges. Every new day brought risks, and even a minor loss could have lethal…


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…

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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