In late 2017, scientists at a Hawaiian observatory glimpsed a strange object soaring through our inner solar system. Astrophysicist Avi Loeb conclusively showed it was not an asteroid; it was moving too fast along a strange orbit and leaving no trail of gas or debris in its wake. There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization. Professor Avi Loeb wrote about his encounter with this object, ‘Oumuamua, in his 2021 book Extraterrestrial. In this interview, I speak to Avi Loeb about how we would detect the existence of intelligent civilisations beyond Earth, the implications of such discoveries for science, culture, and our planet and why space archaeology could be our species’ most important project.

Thought Economics

Have you ever dreamt you could fly? Or imagined what it would be like to glide and swoop through the sky like a bird? Do you let your mind soar to unknown, magical spaces? Richard Dawkins is one of the world’s most eminent writers and thinkers. He has made a major contribution to public understanding of the science of evolution. He is the award-winning author of the Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion and a string of other bestselling science books, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Literature. In his latest book Flights of Fancy, Richard Dawkins explains how nature and humans have learned to overcome the pull of gravity and take to the skies. From the mythical Icarus, to the sadly extinct but spectacular bird Argentavis magnificens, from the Wright flyer and the 747, to the Tinkerbella fairyfly and the Peregrine falcon. But it is also about flights of the mind, about escaping the everyday – through science, ideas, and imagination. In this interview, I speak to Richard Dawkins about beauty, mythology, science, and culture of flight. We discuss the fundamentals of how nature took to the skies, and the extraordinary abilities (and mysteries) of flying species who navigate the world. We talk about human fascination with flight, and why the understanding of flight can help us open our own imaginations.

Thought Economics

Every year, the world eats more meat than ever before. There is an increasing demand for animal protein and rising concerns about the serious, adverse environmental effects and impacts of the conventional meat industry. Prof. Yaakov “Koby” Nahmias is a bioengineer and innovator, whose breakthroughs ranged from the first 3D printing of cells to the first commercial human-on-chip technology. He is the President & Founder of Future Meat, the Israeli company who recently raised an incredible $347million funding round to scale-up their pioneering cultivated meat technology which uses lines of animal cells that grow forever without the need for genetic modifications. Future Meat creates real meat free of animal slaughter, and with 80% less greenhouse emissions, 99% less land use, 96% less freshwater use and 100% of the nutritional value of conventional meat. In this interview, I speak to Professor Yaakov Nahmias about the science and technology behind cultivated meats, the health, economic and environmental benefits and how Future Meat is transforming the global food system.

Thought Economics

Artificial intelligence is smarter than humans. It can process information at lightning speed and remain focused on specific tasks without distraction. AI can see into the future, predicting outcomes and even use sensors to see around physical and virtual corners. So why does AI frequently get it so wrong? The answer is us. Humans design the algorithms that define the way that AI works, and the processed information reflects an imperfect world. Does that mean we are doomed? In Scary Smart, Mo Gawdat, the internationally bestselling author of Solve for Happy, draws on his considerable expertise to answer this question and to show what we can all do now to teach ourselves and our machines how to live better. With more than thirty years’ experience working at the cutting-edge of technology and his former role as chief business officer of Google [X], no one is better placed than Mo Gawdat to explain how the Artificial Intelligence of the future works. By 2049 AI will be a billion times more intelligent than humans, and in this interview I speak to Mo Gawdat about what artificial intelligence means for our species, and why we need to act now to ensure a future that preserves humanity.

Thought Economics

The information you receive from your senses makes up your world. But that world does not exist. What we perceive to be the absolute truth of the world around us is a complex reconstruction, a virtual reality created by the complex machinations of our minds in tandem with the wiring of our nervous systems. But what happens if that wiring goes awry? What happens if connections falter, or new and unexpected connections are made? Tiny shifts in the microbiology of our nervous systems can cause the world around us to shift and mutate, to become alien and unfamiliar. Professor Guy Leschziner is one of the world’s foremost clinical neurologists, and in his new book The Man Who Tasted Words, he explores the secrets of our senses, and how people with extraordinary sensory disturbances can teach us more about our own sensory experience. In this interview, I speak to Prof. Guy Leschziner about how our senses work, what we need to know about our senses, and how the science of sense is opening questions of philosophy, and about who we are.

Thought Economics

AI is transforming society. Not since the Age of Reason have we re-envisioned our approach to economics, order, security, and even knowledge itself. Now, the Age of AI is changing nearly everything about how we navigate the world- and what it means to be human. Daniel Huttenlocher is the inaugural dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. Currently, he serves as the chair of the board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and as a member of the boards of Amazon and Corning. In his recent book, The Age of AI, co-authored with Eric Schmidt and Henry A. Kissinger, he explores what AI will mean for us all. In this interview, I speak to Daniel Huttenlocher about the role of AI in the present, and future of our species, how it will transform our lives, and how we- as humans- need to prepare for the Age of AI.

Thought Economics

The Arctic Circle is a remote, beautiful, and critical part of our planet. Covering one sixth of the Earth’s surface, and over twenty-four time zones, this region is home to more than four million people, and is critically important to keeping our world’s climate, weather, and oceans in balance. Like most everywhere in the world, the Arctic is being shaped by the forces of globalisation and is seen as a frontier of new economic opportunity, but perhaps more than anywhere on Earth, the Arctic is at the front-line of climate change. In this interview, I speak to H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (Chairman of the Arctic Circle; President of Iceland, 1996-2016) on the crucial role of the Arctic Circle in the future of our planet, why we need to act now on climate change, and the huge economic, social, and cultural opportunities presented by the region if we engage in dialogue and cooperation.

Thought Economics

Today humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding – and appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that doubled its lifespan, sequenced its genome, and developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures, conspiracy theories, and “post-truth” rhetoric? In this interview, I speak to Professor Steven Pinker about rationality. We discuss how he rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply irrational cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions (after all, we discovered the laws of nature, and set out the benchmarks for rationality itself). We discuss how we (as a species) think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we’ve discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others
. Steven also takes time to discuss how the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity, and uplifting mythology can add up to crippling irrationality in a society.

Thought Economics

We are living through the most prosperous age in human history, but we are hurtling toward destruction. People are more listless, divided, and miserable than ever, and our civilization faces numerous existential threats, any one of which could take us out – whether it’s climate change, a Carrington Event, a nuclear exchange set in motion by wealth inequality, a refugee crisis, or revolution. We modern humans have become a threat to our own existence, yet we are resting on our cultural laurels, lulled into a false sense of security while speeding toward disaster. In this interview, I speak to evolutionary biologist and professor, Bret Weinstein who- alongside his co-author, Heather Heying has done empirical work on sexual selection and the evolution of sociality, and theoretical work on the evolution of trade-offs, senescence, and morality. In this interview, Bret distils more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth to offer a robust scientific framework for understanding ourselves – both as individuals, and in relationships with others – and why the novelty of the modern era is killing us.

Thought Economics

In The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul explodes the myth that the brain is an all-powerful, all-purpose thinking machine that works best in silence and isolation. We are often told that the human brain is an awe-inspiring wonder, but its capacities are remarkably limited and specific. Humanity has achieved its most impressive feats only by thinking outside the brain: by “extending” the brain’s power with resources borrowed from the body, other people, and the material world. Annie’s research tells the stories of scientists and artists, authors and inventors, leaders, and entrepreneurs—Jackson Pollock, Charles Darwin, Jonas Salk, Friedrich Nietzsche, Watson and Crick, among others—who have mastered the art of thinking outside the brain. In this interview, I speak to Annie Murphy Paul on her ground-breaking work exploring how our minds work, how extra-neural resources play a role in our thinking, and how understanding the extended mind can give us ground-breaking insights into harnessing our potential.

Thought Economics

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