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

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

In his book Shoemaker, Joe Foster tells the powerful tale of triumph against all the odds, revealing the challenges and sacrifices that go into creating a world-beating brand; it is also the story of how a small local business can transform itself, with the right products and the right vision, into something much, much bigger. In this interview, I spoke to Joe Foster about the remarkable story of how he turned a small factory in Bolton into one of the world’s most famous sports brands, Reebok.

Thought Economics

Ben Francis is the Founder and ambitious entrepreneur behind leading global fitness brand, Gymshark. Ben founded Gymshark when he was 19 years old, while still a student at Aston University. In addition to his full-time commitment to his studies, Ben juggled working as a pizza delivery man to fund his Gymshark venture. Ben made the decision to step down as CEO in 2017, to allow him to continue to focus on the things that have always set Gymshark apart – innovative design, creative content and consumer first thinking. In 2020, Gymshark became the first DTC brand in the UK to achieve Unicorn status with no external capital funding. The recent investment partnership with General Atlantic will see Gymshark become a true global brand. In this interview, I speak to Ben Francis about his journey in entrepreneurship and how he created Gymshark, one of the world’s most popular fitness brands.

Thought Economics

In this interview, I speak to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. Dr. Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. Working as a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half; it is available around the world in 40 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries. I speak to Daniel Goleman about the purpose of emotions, the importance of emotional intelligence and why leaders need to understand emotions & emotional intelligence.

Thought Economics

It is in Bertrand Piccard’s DNA to go beyond the obvious and achieve the impossible. From a legendary lineage of explorers who conquered the stratosphere and the abysses, he made history by accomplishing two aeronautical firsts, around the world non-stop in a balloon, and more recently in a solar plane without fuel. Pioneer in his way to consider ecology through the lens of profitability, he began working in the early 2000s to promote renewable energies and clean technologies. Solar Impulse was born to carry this message around the world. His dual identity as a psychiatrist and explorer makes him an influential voice heard by the largest institutions which today consider him as a forward-thinking leader on the themes of innovation and sustainability. Founder and Chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation, he has succeeded with his team to identify 1000 efficient solutions to protect the environment in a profitable way. In a third round-the-world tour, he will bring them to decision-makers in order to help them meet their environmental targets while ensuring clean economic growth. In this exclusive interview I spoke to Bertrand Piccard about his journey as an explorer, and how he’s bringing together the worlds of ecology, technology and the economy to solve the most pressing challenge of our time – climate change – and to ensure the quality of life on Earth.

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

Justin Sun is the founder of TRON, one of the world’s largest decentralized blockchain ecosystems and CEO of BitTorrent, the leader in peer-to-peer software and services. A protege of Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Sun in 2017 was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for China and 30 under 30 Asia in the Consumer Technology category. Sun is an avid gamer, investor, and philanthropist. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Justin Sun about why we need a decentralised web, how blockchain and crypto currencies will transform our world and the future of digital identity.

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

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

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