Vikas Shah MBE DL Interviews the world's leading thinkers, and the people shaping the century.

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

Whether it’s CEOs, political leaders and business elites – across the world, key decisions are still made by tiny coteries of people. With enough talent, elan and hard work any of us can join them. So, we are told… Follow key rules: Be transparent. Defer to bosses and clients. Take responsibility. Feedback is everything. Do these things brilliantly and the top job can be yours. But can it? Douglas Board’s new book Elites breaks radical new ground. It shows why, paradoxically, meritocracies create glass ceilings. We end up with a society-wide misallocation of respect in favour of a few at the top, which hurts us all. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Douglas Board about the reality of ‘elite status’ in our society, and why we need a more humane world in which organisations and individuals hold in better balance the ordinariness of society’s extraordinary achievers, and the extraordinariness of ‘ordinary’ men and women.

Thought Economics

Double Academy Award winner Dr. Mark Sagar is the CEO and co-founder of Soul Machines – the world leader in humanizing AI to create astonishing Digital People. Driven by deep research into neuroscience, psychology and cognitive science- they create autonomous, hyper realistic, digital characters with whom we can interact like any other human being. Built around their Human OS platform, and with a patented Digital Brain, Soul Machines are at the forefront of some of the most exciting advances in computing. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Mark Sagar about creating digital people, how technology is helping us to understand humanity, and how interaction with intelligent machines will open up the next era of our civilisation.

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

Steve Jurvetson is the Co-Founder of Future Ventures. He is an early-stage venture capitalist with a focus on founder-led, mission-driven companies at the cutting edge of disruptive technology and new industry formation. Steve was the early VC investor in SpaceX, Tesla, Planet, Memphis Meats, Hotmail, D-Wave, The Boring Company, Zoox and the deep learning companies Mythic and Nervana. He also led founding investments in five companies that went public in successful IPOs and several others that became billion-dollar acquisitions. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Steve Jurvetson– one of the world’s most successful venture capitalists – about disruptive entrepreneurship, the technologies and concepts changing our world, and how to invest in the most innovative entrepreneurs in the world.

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

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is one of the greatest British track and field athletes of all time. A specialist Heptathlete, the pinnacle of her athletic career came in 2012, when she claimed Olympic gold in London and captured the hearts of a nation in the process. Jessica won three world titles (2009, 2011, 2015) and was European champion in 2010. Displaying extraordinary resilience, Jessica won the heptathlon world title in Beijing, just fifteen months after giving birth to her son Reggie. Jessica was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to sport. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill about what it takes to become an elite athlete, how to build your physical and mental resilience, and why she’s now on a mission to transform women’s health & fitness with her new business, Jennis.

Thought Economics

Sarah Jakes Roberts is redefining what it means to be a modern woman. Her messages spread throughout the world defying cultural, religious, gender, and socio-economic boundaries. Whether through her bestselling books or viral messages, it only takes a few minutes of connecting with her to understand why she becomes an instant favourite. Sarah has a unique way of reaching people who are seeking to make peace with their past, maximize their present, and deepen their relationship with God. Sarah regularly connects and inspires millions of women around the world through her Woman Evolve network, and in this exclusive interview I spoke to Sarah Jakes Roberts about her work and her new book Woman Evolve: Break Up With Your Fears and Revolutionise.

Thought Economics

Britain as we know it is a direct product of our imperial past. And yet, empire is barely taught at school and continues to be a subject of both shame and glorification. Covering everything from our national habits to how we live – from the foundation of the NHS, to the nature of our racism, to our economic status and our wealth – Empireland argues that imperialism is everywhere, though we often choose not to see it. It is central to the way we think and conduct politics, from the distrust of intellectuals in public life, to the exceptionalism that inspired Brexit and our response to the COVID crisis. Sathnam Sanghera’s deeply impassioned, enlightening and unsettling book demonstrates that we see that we can only truly understand who we are by knowing who we were. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Sathnam Sanghera about his new book Empireland and how imperialism has shaped modern Britain.

Thought Economics

Ziya Tong is one of the world’s most engaging science journalists. In her new book, The Reality Bubble she takes a ground-breaking look at the hidden things that shape our lives in unexpected, dangerous and profound ways. Ziya Tong serves on the Board of the WWF, and is Vice Chair of WWF Canada. She anchored Daily Planet, Discovery Channel’s flagship science programme, until its final season in 2018. Tong also hosted the CBC’s Emmy-nominated series ZeD, PBS’ national prime-time series, Wired Science, and worked as a correspondent for NOVA scienceNOW. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Ziya Tong about humanity’s biggest blind spots. We talk about our biology and how technology is revealing a world beyond our senses. We explore our civilisational blind spots, how they shape our society – and how we collectively remain blind to some of the most important aspects of our world.

Thought Economics

Kate Raworth is a renegade economist focused on exploring the economic mindset needed to address the 21st century’s social and ecological challenges and is the creator of the Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries. Her internationally acclaimed framework of Doughnut Economics has been widely influential amongst sustainable development thinkers, progressive businesses and political activists, and she has presented it to audiences ranging from the UN General Assembly to the Occupy movement. Her book, Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist was published in 2017 and has been translated into 18 languages. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Kate Raworth, the creator of Doughnut Economics, about why we need to rethink economics, for the sake of all of our futures.

Thought Economics

In 2008, during the turbulence of a global financial crisis, a person (or group) called Satoshi Nakamoto released a white-paper called Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. The principle was simple but revolutionary- a technique to record digital transactions in a way that was public, permanent and verifiable without requiring a third party for trust. It is this principle that became more commonly known as Blockchain (or distributed ledger). Today, just 13 years later, the cryptocurrency market is valued at a staggering $1.6 trillion (around 2% of the entire global economy) and blockchain based companies are raising some of the largest rounds of funding in technology. To understand more about Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies I spoke to Nobel Prize Winning Economist, Professor Eric Maskin and a global expert on blockchain and cryptocurrency, Michel Rauchs.

Thought Economics

Sridhar Ramaswamy is CEO and Co-founder of Neeva and a Venture Partner at Greylock Partners. Neeva is search re-imagined. It is subscription based and does not sell ads or track user behaviour as a part of its business model. Neeva is focused on finding exactly what matters most for its customers, whether it’s on the web, or buried in personal files like emails or other documents. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Sridhar Ramaswamy (CEO & Co-Founder of Neeva) about his learnings from running Google’s $115 billion advertising arm, why our model of search is broken and how he’s fixing it.

Thought Economics

A real life ‘Samantha’ from Sex and the City, Melanie Blake’s own incredible life story reads like the plot of an outrageous novel itself. From a working-class background, Blake pulled herself out of a life of poverty and homelessness as a teen by working as an extra on various film and TV sets. After declaring bankruptcy in her 20s, now 44, Blake has re-invented herself to become one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen. She is a self-made multimillionaire, property entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She went from being a TV extra to becoming one of the most powerful celebrity agents in the UK and an award-winning businesswoman. Alongside Jaqueline Gold CBE, the CEO of Ann Summers, Melanie Blake is also one of the UK’s most vocal champions of women in business. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Melanie Blake about her life as a media entrepreneur, the challenges faced by women in the media & entertainment industry and why she’s chronicled her experiences in her bestselling novel, Ruthless Women.

Thought Economics

In this exclusive interview, I speak to Max Parker (Founder of Matchstick Group) and Danny Jones (Investor & one-quarter of the multiplatinum British pop rock group McFly) about managing talent in the digital era, and the mental health impact of public profile and fame.

Thought Economics

In his latest book Think Again, Adam Grant – Wharton’s top-rated professor and #1 bestselling author – offers bold ideas and rigorous evidence to show how we can embrace the joy of being wrong, encourage others to rethink topics as wide-ranging as abortion and climate change, and build schools, workplaces, and communities of lifelong learners. How shows us how international debate champion wins arguments, a Black musician persuades white supremacists to abandon hate, and how a vaccine whisperer convinces anti-vaxxers to immunize their children. Think Again is an invitation to let go of stale opinions and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what you don’t know is wisdom. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Adam Grant about why we need to re-evaluate what we know, what we think we know, and how we know it.

Thought Economics

Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. Her ability to captivate audiences and her wide appeal as an advocate for classical music has made her one of the most influential artists of today. Nicola is a dedicated, passionate ambassador and leader in music education reaching young people and connecting with teachers, supporting their practice, highlighting their essential role in society and encouraging collaboration and mutual learning. This commitment was underlined in July 2018, when Nicola took over as President of the European String Teachers Association and by establishing a charitable organisation: The Benedetti Foundation. Winner of the GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo in 2020, as well as Best Female Artist at both 2012 and 2013 Classical BRIT Awards, Nicola records exclusively for Decca (Universal Music). Her most recent recording features premiere recordings of works written especially for her by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis: Violin Concerto in D and Fiddle Dance Suite for Solo Violin, for which she won her 2020 GRAMMY. Nicola was appointed a CBE in 2019, awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music (2017), and an MBE in 2013. In addition, Nicola holds the positions of Vice President (National Children’s Orchestras), Big Sister (Sistema Scotland), Patron (National Youth Orchestras of Scotland’s Junior Orchestra, Music in Secondary Schools Trust and Junior Conservatoire at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Nicola Bendetti CBE on her life in classic music, the beauty of the violin, and why music education matters.

Thought Economics

Nitin Sawhney CBE, recipient of the Ivor Novello 2017 Lifetime Achievement award, is one the most distinctive and versatile musical voices around today. Sawhney has recorded multiple albums, film soundtracks and compilations, encompassing over 60 film and TV scores and is established as a world-class producer, songwriter, touring artist, BBC Radio 2 and club DJ, multi-instrumentalist, theatrical, dance, videogame and orchestral composer and cultural/ political commentator.  He holds 6 honorary doctorates from various UK universities along with 2 fellowships and works as Ambassador for/sits on the board of multiple charities. He has received over 20 major national and international awards for his work and is a member of the academy of motion picture sciences (Oscars), BAFTA and the US recording academy (Grammys). Sawhney is also the new Chair of the PRS Foundation, the UK’s funding body for new music and talent development. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Nitin Sawhney CBE on the fundamentals of why we make music.

Thought Economics

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is one of the UK’s best known singer songwriters. She first came to prominence in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the indie rock band Theaudience, and went on to achieve huge solo success with her unique blend of mainstream pop, disco, nu-disco and 1980s electronic influence. Her debut solo album Read My Lips went double-platinum, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide with her follow-up albums Shoot from the Hip, Trip the Light Fantastic,  Make a Scene, Wanderlust and Familia achieving significant success and critical acclaim. Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Instagram Live Kitchen Disco’s during the Covid-19 lockdown were a means of virtual escapism for many, and became weekly moments of united sequined catharsis for the hundreds of thousands tuning in (the concept was so successful that Sophie now has a tour and album of it). In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Sophie about the power of music & dance and why music has been such a powerful force for good during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Thought Economics

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