Angela Duckworth is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a non-profit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Angela’s TED talk is among the most viewed of all time. Her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is a #1 New York Times best seller. Angela is also co-host, with Stephen Dubner, of the podcast No Stupid Questions. In this interview, I talk to Angela Duckworth about the true nature of grit, passion and perseverance. We talk about what it takes to succeed in life, to achieve great things, and the importance of goals in reaching the pinnacle of accomplishment.

Thought Economics

Disasters are inherently hard to predict. But when catastrophe strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all. Yet the responses of many developed countries to a new pathogen from China were badly bungled. Why? While populist rulers certainly performed poorly in the face of the pandemic, Niall Ferguson argues that more profound pathologies were at work – pathologies already visible in our responses to earlier disasters. Drawing from multiple disciplines, including economics and network science, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe offers not just a history but a general theory of disaster. As Ferguson shows, governments must learn to become less bureaucratic if we are to avoid the impending doom of irreversible decline. In this interview, I speak to Niall Ferguson about how we should think about disasters & catastrophe and how society can (and should) be better prepared.

Thought Economics

Philippe Starck, world famous creator with multifaceted inventiveness, is always focused on the essential, his vision: that creation, whatever form it takes, must improve the lives of as many people as possible. This philosophy has made him one of the pioneers and central figures of the concept of “democratic design”. By employing his prolific work across all domains, from everyday products (furniture, a citrus squeezer, electric bikes, an individual wind turbine), to architecture (hotels, restaurants that aspire to be stimulating places) and naval and spatial engineering (mega yachts, habitation module for private space tourism), he continually pushes the boundaries and requirements of design, becoming one of the most visionary and renowned creators of the international contemporary scene. In this interview, I speak to Philippe Starck about art, design, the human body, technology, beauty, legacy and the very essence of human civilisation.

Thought Economics

Colonel Terry Virts (ret) served in the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot, test pilot, and NASA astronaut. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Harvard Business School. On Feb. 8, 2010, he made his first spaceflight as the pilot of the Space Shuttle Endeavor during mission STS-130. His next launch was onboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-15M on Nov. 23, 2014, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. In March of the following year, Terry assumed command of the International Space Station (ISS) as Commander of Expedition 43. Virts has spent more than seven months in space. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Colonel Terry Virts about what it’s really like to be an astronaut, his experience of spaceflight, faith, aliens, and whether we will ever become a multiplanetary species.

Thought Economics

Ingrid Betancourt‘s story, her exemplary courage, spirit and resilience, has captured the world’s imagination. She is a politician (former Colombian presidential candidate) who is celebrated for her determination to combat the corruption and climate of fear which was endemic in her nation. In 2002 she was taken hostage by FARC, a terrorist guerrilla organisation. Ingrid was held captive in the depths of the jungle for six and a half years, chained day and night for much of that time, constantly on the move and enduring gruelling conditions. She was freed and reunited with her children and relatives in 2008. Ingrid Betancourt has become a global symbol of the freedom and the resistance of the human beings in the face of the most serious adversities. His struggle for democracy, freedom and peace has been a shining example of dignity and courage for the whole world. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Ingrid Betancourt about fighting corruption, her six and a half years in captivity, and what it takes to create change.

Thought Economics

In 2020 protest movements across the world revealed the inequalities sewn into the fabric of society. The wildfires that ravaged Australia and California made it clear we are in the middle of a climate catastrophe. The pandemic showed us all just how precarious our economies really are, and the conspiracy theories surrounding the US election proved the same of our democracies. So, what do we do? In Together: 10 Choices for a Better Now, award-winning political commentator Ece Temelkuran puts forward a compelling new narrative for our current moment, not for some idealised future but for right now, and asks us to make a choice. To choose determination over hope and to embrace fear rather the cold comfort of ignorance. This remarkable and timely book asks you to choose to have faith in the other human beings we share this planet with. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Ece Temelkuran about why we feel like civilisation is being torn apart, and how we can regain our dignity, our hope and our togetherness.

Thought Economics

More than one hundred years ago, the American philosopher William James dubbed the knowledge that we must die “the worm at the core” of the human condition. In 1974, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Denial of Death, arguing that the terror of death has a pervasive effect on human affairs. In The Worm at the Core, Sheldon Solomon shows that this knowledge of our own death guides our thoughts and actions from the creation of our greatest works of art, to the devastating wars we wage. He hows conclusively that the fear of death and the desire to transcend it inspire us to buy expensive cars, crave fame, put our health at risk, and disguise our animal nature. Through his research, he and his colleagues also developed terror management theory- which proposes that human culture infuses our lives with order, stability, significance, and purpose, and these anchors enable us to function moment to moment without becoming overwhelmed by the knowledge of our ultimate fate. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Professor Sheldon Solomon about the role of death in life and how we must reconsider and rethink our lives in the face of the inevitable.

Thought Economics

In her new book THE LONELY CENTURY: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart, renowned thinker and economist Noreena Hertz investigates how radical changes to the workplace, mass migration to cities, technology’s ever greater dominance of our lives, and decades of neoliberal policies that placed self-interest above the collective good have coalesced to  create a society in which loneliness, atomisation and isolation prevail – which COVID has only amplified. Hertz provides an empowering and inspiring vision for how to mitigate this, reconnect with each other and come together again. Hertz combines a decade of research with first-hand reporting that takes her from ‘renting a friend’ in New York to family-friendly Belgian far-right festivals, from elderly women knitting bonnets for their robot caregivers in Japan to Ivy League colleges running ‘How to Read a Face in Real Life’ remedial classes. What she uncovers is a global population feeling more and more alienated and isolated. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Noreena Hertz about the causes of our loneliness epidemic, the consequences for each and every one of us, and what we can do to restore human connection in a world that’s pulling us apart.

Thought Economics

Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) is considered to be one of the most dominant basketball players in NBA history. At 7 ft 1 in tall and weighing 325 pounds, Shaq’s larger-than-life personality and powerful athleticism have resulted in worldwide adulation and one of the most passionate fan bases in sports and entertainment. Shaquille O’Neal’s off-court accolades rival his athletic accomplishments, having found success in entrepreneurship, acting, music, television and gaming. Currently, Shaq is an analyst on Inside The NBA. Philanthropically, Shaquille has raised millions of dollars for charity. He is a national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, of which his relationship dates back to his youth in New Jersey. He is also a member of the national Board of Directors for Communities in Schools. In 2019, Shaquille established The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq)

Thought Economics

Tim Peake is a former Apache pilot, flight instructor, test pilot and current European Space Agency astronaut. A veteran of eighteen years military service, Tim has flown over 3000 hours on operations worldwide. In December 2015, Tim became the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station and conduct a spacewalk during his six month mission. He also ran the London marathon from space. Tim’s mission engaged more than two million students in outreach activities. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Tim Peake about our fascination with space, how seeing the earth from International Space Station changed his view of humanity and his learnings on resilience from training to be an astronaut and spending 186 days in space.

Thought Economics

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