News about ideas, ideas about news


A fancier polling station than most. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Casting your vote may be dull – but the way it adds up is magic
By Ian Leslie - 07 May 13:29

There is a kind of brilliant madness to the idea that the best people to decide the direction of a large country are all of the people that live in it.

Winners, like Sir Alex Ferguson, are obsessives. David Cameron isn't. Photo: Getty
Cameron looks like a man who has lost his desire for the job - in politics as in sport, that's lethal
By Ian Leslie - 04 April 12:40

In the debates, David Cameron looked peripheral, a professional who has lost hunger. That could be the end of him.

Roses from the funeral of a mafia victim. Photo: Getty
The pursuit of power: Why Isis loves spreadsheets and mafia bosses build chapels
By Ian Leslie - 02 April 14:55

We tend to think of terrorists and gangsters - the professionally violent – as opponents of the state. In fact, they are alternatives to it. Like politicians, gangsters and terrorists are interested in governance.

I watched the Oscar hopefuls and every film is full of men, men and more bloody men
By Ian Leslie - 04 February 10:48

Oh, and moaning women. These are the films of the year, the ones that we think best capture the tenor of the times. Yet they are only interested in one half of the human tableau.

Robots assemble a car. Photo: Camera Press
Reign of the robots: how to live in the machine age
By Ian Leslie - 21 January 10:50

By using ever more machines we lose not only physical skills, but cognitive faculties.

Ed Miliband waiting to address a rally in London. Photo: Getty
Ed Miliband is too good at politics – he can’t stop playing the game
By Ian Leslie - 21 November 16:40

Too often, it feels as though the Labour leader has so assiduously studied the rules of political communication that he can’t forget them.

The strongest parts of Gordon Brown’s pro-union speech were negative. Photo: Getty
Why ambivalence is the dark matter of political debate
By Ian Leslie - 22 September 17:34

Normal polling methods struggle to detect people’s internal divisions, yet the Scottish referendum has just demonstrated how powerful an effect ambivalence can be.

A military official announces Barack Obama's arrival at the Nato Summit in Newport, Wales. Photo: Getty
With his foreign policy, Barack Obama is trying to win by playing a loser’s game
By Ian Leslie - 04 September 15:54

If you’re playing a loser’s game, strategy is unnecessary. You avoid errors, but in dangerous times risk being buffeted by events.

Ed Miliband takes questions during the Labour Party conference. Photo: Getty
Having too many clever men around Ed Miliband is making the Labour Party stupider
By Ian Leslie - 25 June 11:16

The Labour leader is surrounded by brainboxes, but they’re all clever in the same way – their lack of diversity makes the whole group stupider.

Viral hit: we all suffer from an inbuilt psychological bug, exacerbated by the internet. Photo: Marcelo Graciolli on Flickr, via Creative Commons
Omniscience bias: how the internet makes us think we already know everything
By Ian Leslie - 17 June 15:25

The internet is an answer machine, it doesn’t help us ask better questions. It feeds the illusion that we already know everything we need to know to be well-informed.

Sense of duty: Martin Bromiley founded the Clinical Human Factors Group to bring change to the NHS. Photo: Muir Vidler
How mistakes can save lives: one man’s mission to revolutionise the NHS
By Ian Leslie - 04 June 10:00

After the death of his wife following a minor operation, airline pilot Martin Bromiley set out to change the way medicine is practised in the UK  – by using his knowledge of plane crashes. 

If there is one idea we need to be rid of it’s “natural curiosity”. Photo: Rich Grundy on Flickr via Creative Commons
Why curiosity will rule the modern world
By Ian Leslie - 27 May 18:10

We ought to be doing everything we can to foster curiosity but we undervalue and misunderstand it.

Commuters travelling by train at Waterloo Railway Station, London, c1939.
Is the age of a newspaper’s “imperial editor” over? Or just beginning?
By Ian Leslie - 14 April 9:55

Now that we have infinite space on the internet and huge volumes of data about what people read, is there a role for the powerful individual who shapes a publication according to personal taste?

Electronic terminals are taking over the casino floors in Las Vegas. Photo: Getty
Addiction as art: How gambling machines – and the digital world – put us in “the machine zone”
By Ian Leslie - 06 March 9:44

A quiet revolution has taken place in gambling, with electronic terminals finely-tuned into the perfect devices for parting you from your money. Rather than thrilling you, they lull you into a calm, machine-like state that gives the illusion of control.

Kodak vs Instagram: This is why it's only going to get harder to make a good living
By Ian Leslie - 28 January 11:29

Politicians no longer change the world, technology does. Even as wealth has become more concentrated, power has become more dispersed.

The furore over M&S's Muslim staff policy shows that Islamophobia is a problem
By Ian Leslie - 23 December 10:46

Our national news agenda is distorted by a deep suspicion of Muslims.

Politicians are from Alpha, Geeks are from Beta. Will they ever get along?
By Ian Leslie - 22 November 16:02

When they are forced collaborate – as they increasingly have to these days – it’s like a horse and a cow attempting to procreate.

New Statesman
Why everyone should wear a veil in court
By Ian Leslie - 17 September 12:54

Humans are terrible lie detectors, but we believe ourselves to be practically flawless. That's why banning the veil in court will never lead to better justice.

Is the internet killing gossip?
By Ian Leslie - 12 September 13:20

Social media lull us into thinking we’re whispering to a friend at a party, when in reality we’re shouting through a megaphone. But every time we hold back from dishing the dirt, we become a little bit less human.