Collective Intelligence

Photo by batwrangler / CC BY-NC-ND

If you wanted to build a team in such a way that you maximized its overall intelligence, how would you do it? Would you stack it with high-IQ brainiacs? Would you populate it with natural leaders? Would you find experts on a wide range of topics? Well, those all sound like great ideas, but the latest research into collective intelligence suggests that none of them would work. In this episode we will discuss what factors constitute the best solution.

You Are Not So Smart

 

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The Man Who Brought You Brexit

the-man-who-broughtBritain’s vote to leave the EU was the grand finale of a 25-year campaign by a lonely sect of true believers.
“…you don’t get to Brexit without someone dreaming up the window – the remedy of leaving – in the first place. And during those long years inside the European project, that was the work of the right wing of the Conservative party. To be specific, a small, somewhat esoteric part of that wing: a flash of feathers, almost, a sect of true Eurosceptic believers who dreamed and schemed for this moment for the last 25 years. Most worked for little else, with no reward, and with no sign that they would ever prevail. “Like the monks on Iona,” as one of their former parliamentary researchers told me, “illuminating their manuscripts and waiting for the Dark Ages to come to an end.” And no one in that group worked with more devotion than Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European parliament for south-east England.”
Written and read by Sam Knight. Produced by Simon Barnard

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 28th October 2016

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Hallelujah

HALLELUJAH“In 1984, Elvis Costello released what he would say later was his worst record: Goodbye Cruel World. Among the most discordant songs on the album was the forgettable “The Deportees Club.” But then, years later, Costello went back and re-recorded it as “Deportee,” and today it stands as one of his most sublime achievements.

“Hallelujah” is about the role that time and iteration play in the production of genius, and how some of the most memorable works of art had modest and undistinguished births.”

Malcolm Gladwell | Revisionist History | 29th July 2016

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Abdi and the Golden Ticket

abdi-and-the-goldenA story about someone who’s desperately trying – against long odds – to make it to the United States and become an American. Abdi is a Somali refugee living in Kenya and gets the luckiest break of his life: he wins a lottery that puts him on a short list for a US visa. This is his ticket out. But before he can cash in his golden ticket, the police start raiding his neighborhood, targeting refugees.

This American Life | 3rd July 2015

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Saigon, 1965

In the early 1960s, the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure their morale: Was the relentless U.S. bombing pushing them to the brink of capitulation?

Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.

Photo: Mai Elliott working in the RAND villa on Rue Pasteur

Malcolm Gladwell | Revisionist History | 23rd June 2016

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David Remnick – the editor of The New Yorker

david_remnick A Conversation with David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. “I think it’s important — not just for me, but for the readers — that this thing exists at the highest possible level in 2016, in 2017, and on. That there’s a continuity to it. I know, because I’m not entirely stupid, that these institutions, no matter how good they are, all institutions are innately fragile. Innately fragile.”

Longform | 20th June 2016

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How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers

To understand why Edward Snowden leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people across the world, you have to know the stories of two other men.

“The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed. Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored. “The government spent many years trying to break me, and the more I resisted, the nastier they got.””

Written by Mark Hertsgaard, read by Christopher Ragland and produced by Simon Barnard
Illustration by Nathalie Lees

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 3rd June 2016

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The Sugar Conspiracy

Illustration by Pete GamlenHow did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long? In 1972, a British scientist John Yudkin sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. “If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote Yudkin, “that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered.
Written by Ian Leslie, read by Lucy Scott and produced by Simon Barnard
Illustration by Pete Gamlen

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 22nd April 2016

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The Machiavelli of Maryland

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 15th January 2016

Edward Luttwak; drawing by David Levine

“People contact Edward Luttwak with unusual requests. The prime minister of Kazakhstan wants to find a way to remove ethnic Russians from a city on his northern border; a major Asian government wants a plan to train its new intelligence services; an Italian chemical company wants help settling an asbestos lawsuit with a local commune; a citizens’ group in Tonga wants to scare away Japanese dolphin poachers from its shores; the London Review of Books wants a piece on the Armenian genocide; a woman is having a custody battle over her children in Washington DC – can Luttwak “reason” with her husband? And that is just in the last 12 months.”

Military strategist, classical scholar, cattle rancher – and an adviser to presidents, prime ministers, and the Dalai Lama. Just who is Edward Luttwak? And why do very powerful people pay vast sums for his advice?
Written by Thomas Meaney, read by Lucy Scott and produced by Simon Barnard
Illustration: Edward Luttwak, drawing by David Levine

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 15th January 2016

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