How Nazis used personal names to spawn the Holocaust

In order to identify and hunt them down during the Holocaust, Nazi authorities declared that all Jews must only bear names selected from a sanctioned list. University of Cologne professor Iman Nick has spent years studying these naming tactics — and their frightening similarities to the world we live in today.

Political scientist 'doom-meister' shares prescription for a better world

Climate activist Greta Thunberg once declared that she doesn’t want hope, unless it translates into action. Political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon shares his ideas on how hope can galvanize concrete change.

Why nations rely on geometry to create order

The story of geometry is bound up in the Renaissance, the rise of nation states, and the expression of absolute power. Geometric designs came to represent order in the universe. But order’s war with chaos continues — just compare the geometric plans for Washington, D.C., with the lived reality. Historian Amir Alexander traces the rise of geometry from Euclid to the United Nations.

What cult classics can teach us about art, representation — and failure

They’re weird. They break the rules. They’re kinda bad. They are cult movies. Dive into the stories of films from ‘Troll 2’ to ‘The Last Dragon’ to the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ to learn what drives people to watch these oddball films again and again. Producer Matthew Lazin-Ryder looks at the history, future, and function of cult movies.

What does it meme? Why we're (especially) drawn to cuteness right now

The charms of cuteness seem obvious. Yet, from the Japanese fear of adulting to universal attractions of indeterminacy, the new field of Cute Studies reveals layers beneath a fluffy surface. From science, psychology and history, this episode asks why small, helpless things generate powerful feelings in us.
Ideas Afternoon

Rats: the planet's most tenacious survivors with a lot to teach humanity

Despite their admirable qualities, rats have long been reviled as disgusting and aggressive animals. IDEAS contributor Moira Donovan explores how rats have come to occupy a position as cultural villain, while also exposing their contributions to humanity. Understanding their role in our ecosystem helps us come to terms with them, she argues.

'Civilization is a very thin veneer': What the plague of Athens can teach us about dealing with COVID-19

The plague of Athens struck in 430 BC, violently killing up to half of the Greek city's population. The chronicler Thucydides documented the grim symptoms, as well as the social and psychological fallout. His vivid account holds enduring lessons for those of us living through the coronavirus pandemic today.

Lessons from an ancient Athenian in an era of 'fake news'

About 2,500 years ago, Thucydides travelled ancient Greece, gathering stories about a brutal war that plunged the ancient world into chaos. He set high standards for accuracy, objectivity and thoroughness in his reporting. IDEAS producer Nicola Luksic explains why his account of the Peloponnesian War is relevant today.

Is 'Render unto Caesar' really about taxes?

"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." It's a lasting phrase that has touched off church-and-state and tax debates. This riposte to the religious authorities transcends mere matters of money, and agitates the hearts of believers: What ultimately belongs to God, and how does that question resonate in a secular age?

The world of Roxane Gay: A fierce voice in what she calls 'an age of inelasticity'

Roxane Gay likes to joke that even her opinions have opinions — which comes in handy for her column in The New York Times. The Haitian-American writer is fond of dark explorations, but her work can also be funny and erotic. IDEAS Producer Mary Lynk speaks with the formidable Ms. Gay about racism, surviving gang rape and what she calls the 'fetishizing of forgiveness.'
2020 Massey Lectures

What happened to the promise of the internet? It's time for a reset, says Ron Deibert

In his 2020 CBC Massey Lectures, Citizen Lab founder and director Ron Deibert wants to get us thinking about how best to mitigate the harms of social media, and in doing so, construct a viable communications ecosystem that supports civil society and contributes to the betterment of the human condition (instead of the opposite). 

How an 'untouchable' inspired a force of resistance against inequality in India

B. R. Ambedkar was a thinker, activist, lawyer and reformer who claimed that India could never be free unless the caste system was eradicated. He asked what does inclusion and fraternity look like to those whose essential humanity has so often been denied.

Want to help save the planet? Hang onto your old smartphone

What we don’t see — because it is so carefully hidden from the public eye — is the ecological impact of our social media usage and the wasteful consumption loop we’re trapped in, as we’re pushed to constantly upgrade our devices and turn simple electronics and appliances into “smart” machines.

Digital authoritarianism: How technology designed to empower us was seized by autocrats

The initial vision of the internet was that it would empower individuals and expose the wrongdoings of state and corporate interests. But now the same technologies that had been used for public uprisings against oppressive governments are now being used by those governments against political demonstrators, whistleblowers and dissidents.

Why you can't quit social media

Everyone loves to hate social media, but there's a real reason it seems impossible to quit. And you might not like it.

Surveillance capitalism: Who is watching us online — and why?

The ads that personalize our internet browsing are obvious examples of how "attention merchants" vie for our data, but the more insidious actors are the ones we don't see. And unfortunately, our personal information is up for grabs with them as well.
2020 Massey Lectures

We need to reclaim our lives from our phones and 'reset,' says CBC Massey lecturer Ron Deibert

There's a problem with that device in your hand — your phone that makes you anxious when it's not near. Renowned tech expert Ron Deibert says that needs to change. The 2020 Massey lecturer suggests we need a 'reset' and in his first lecture, Deibert sketches out the layered problem — and how he sees a way forward.

Gandhi's contested legacy: why his vision for an inclusive India never materialized

The recent rise of sectarian violence in India under a Hindu nationalist government has many citizens reflecting on Gandhian values of secularism and tolerance. However, Gandhi is also a contested figure, labelled by his critics as a racist, misogynist and upholder of India’s caste system. IDEAS explores Gandhi’s vision in the first episode of a two-part series.

Yale astrophysicist on unlocking the mystery of black holes and dark matter

In 2019, the first up-close image of a black hole was recorded. And yet, so much about them, their bizarre properties and the role they play in the universe remains a mystery. The distinguished Yale astrophysicist Priya Natarajan dives into black holes and dark matter in her lecture and book: Mapping The Heavens.

The Long Conversation: Why public broadcasting is more crucial than ever

In a public talk she gave in 2018, Sue Gardner argues that we’ve returned to the same set of ominous social conditions which led to the creation of public broadcasting in the first place — and that now is the time to recommit to public service journalism.

From belly laughs to chuckles: the mystery of laughter revealed

What role does laughter play in the evolution of humanity? What does our laughter have in common with the way primates and even rats laugh? IDEAS contributor Peter Brown takes us on a joyride throughout our evolutionary history, and shows us why laughing matters.

Machines of Chance: How casino culture plays with us

We all know that "the house always wins," and yet continue to gamble against the odds. This documentary asks experts and observers to reflect on the casino as reality and metaphor. Skill versus luck, attention and distraction, fortune paired with loss: the casino reflects us, individually and culturally, back to ourselves.

How capitalism is destroying democracy

We are used to hearing how capitalism goes hand-in-hand with freer, more democratic societies. But it's not always so. Investigative journalist Bruce Livesey reveals historical examples that show when wealth becomes concentrated among the very few, the stage can be set for totalitarianism, and for the destruction that totalitarianism inevitably brings.

The chicken: a dinosaur eaten by humans and kept as a pet

Chickens have followed humankind around the world, giving us eggs and meat, and also spiritual and social comfort. And it’s the living animal who stars in IDEAS producer Tom Howell's episode entitled, An Evening with Chickens.

In the midst of a pandemic, is it too soon to talk about renewal?

In the midst of a pandemic is it too soon to talk about renewal? For some, it’s well past time. Previous Lafontaine-Baldwin lecturers and emerging leaders gather to look upon the fault lines COVID-19 has exposed, and what needs to be done in the aftermath.