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

My interview with Stephen A. Schwarzman – He’s the man who took $400,000 and co-founded Blackstone, the investment firm that manages over $545 billion. He’s the CEO whose views are sought by heads of state. He’s the billionaire philanthropist who founded Schwarzman Scholars, this century’s version of the Rhodes Scholarship, in China. But behind these achievements is a man who has spent his life learning and reflecting on what it takes to achieve excellence, make an impact, and live a life of consequence.

Thought Economics

If you lose your ego, you lose the thread of that narrative you call your Self,” wrote Haruki Murakami in his book Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche “…humans, however, can’t live very long without some sense of a continuing story. Such stories go beyond the limited rational system (or the systematic rationality) with which you surround yourself; they are crucial keys to sharing time-experience with others…” In a hyperconnected world, our identities matter more than ever – they become empowering, weaponised, sanctuary and danger simultaneously and it’s perhaps because of this, that we must now understand identity more than ever before. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity and Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. We discuss the nature of identity, the labels we place on each other, and how best to  understand their significance and role in society.

Thought Economics

I want you to make a fist and hold it just to the left of the centre of your chest.  Just under your ribs, is an organ, around that size, which will beat around 3 billion times in your lifetime pumping blood around the 100,000 miles of vessels that supply every part of your body. The heart is a miraculous product of evolution, and one which plays a role more critical in the fact that we are alive, and the fact that we could die – than any other organ in our body.   Perhaps unsurprising therefore that even with our advances in medical science, cardiovascular disease remains the largest single health burden to humanity, contributing to over 30% of all deaths worldwide and costing the global economy over $1 trillion each year. To understand more about the reality of cardiovascular disease, I spoke to two of the world’s most preeminent cardiovascular physicians, Dr. Haider Warraich (Author of: State of the Heart, Exploring the History, Science and Future of Cardiac Disease) and Dr. Sandeep Jauhar (Author of: Heart: A History)

Thought Economics

I am one of the early birds…Ece Temelkuran told me, “I saw democracy collapse in Turkey and tried to warn the United States, European Countries and Britain about this.  I’ve been telling people that what you think is normal, or a passing phase, is part of a bigger phenomenon that affects us all.  Somehow though, European democracies feel they’re exceptional – and too mature to be affected by neofascist currents.Ece Temelkuran is an award-winning Turkish novelist and political commentator, whose journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New York Times, New Statesman, Frankfurter Allgemeine and Der Spiegel. In this exclusive interview, we discuss the dangers of populism, authoritarianism and fascism, and why we need to act now.

Thought Economics

In one of the darkest moments of modern civilisation, over six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany in a state-sponsored genocide.  This event (The Holocaust) killed over two-thirds of Europe’s entire Jewish population. It took decades for the Jewish people and the rest of the world to make-sense of what happened during World War II, and for most of us- it is impossible to imagine how the very few survivors of such atrocities could rebuild their lives, but some did; and those individuals have gone-on to become ambassadors of hope, of peace, and of reconciliation at a time where it would appear our world has not just forgotten the past, but is doomed to repeat it.  I had the privilege of speaking to three Holocaust survivors who have gone-on to become humanitarians, peace-activists and educators. Walter Ziffer (author of ‘Confronting the Silence, A Holocaust Survivor’s Search for God’), Iby Knill (author of ‘Woman Without a Number’) and Eva Schloss MBE (author of ‘Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Stepsister of Anne Frank’).

Thought Economics

What My Life In Sports Has Taught Me: An exclusive guest-post for Thought Economics by: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – The NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer, 3x Award Winning Columnist of the Year, NY Times Best-Selling Author & Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

Thought Economics

In these exclusive interviews, I speak to the leaders of five of the world’s most influential civil sector organisations. Brian Gallagher (CEO of United Way Worldwide, the world’s largest privately-funded non-profit), William “Bill” Drayton (Founder & CEO, ASHOKA), Gilles Carbonnier (Vice President of the ICRC, International Committee of the Red Cross), Linda Fuller (Co-Founder of Habitat for Humanity & the Fuller Center for Housing) and Nancy Lublin (Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line). We discuss how the charities, social enterprises, foundations, organisations and individuals in the civil sector are changing our world.

Thought Economics

To learn more about how satire and comedy can influence politics, I spoke to Dr. Bassem Youssef (whose story is told in the film ‘Tickling Giants,’ by Sara Taksler), Hasan Minhaj (host and creator of the weekly comedy show Patriot Act on Netflix) and Prof. Amber Day (author of Satire and Dissent: Interventions in Contemporary Political Debate).

Thought Economics

In 2014, Whitney Wolfe Herd launched Bumble as, “the only dating platform where women make the first move…” Today, Bumble has over 55 million users in 150 countries.  As Whitney notes herself, “Bumble has now grown far beyond a dating app into a networking platform, allowing people of all genders to make empowered connections in all areas of their lives, whether that means you’re seeking a romantic relationship, making new friendships or growing your professional network.” Like many of the world’s fastest growing entrepreneurial companies, Bumble is rooted around real pain points, faced by millions of people, which are solved elegantly, intuitively and engagingly.  I caught up with Whitney to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey, and what it takes to build a successful scale-up business.

Thought Economics

To learn more about the phenomenon of cyberhate and the reality of trolling I spoke to David Baddiel (comedian, author, screenwriter & presenter), Ginger Gorman (journalist and author of Troll Hunting: Inside the world of online hate and its human fallout) and Hussein Kesvani (journalist and author of Follow Me, Akhi: The Online World of British Muslims)

Thought Economics

In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to seven experts on conflict and peace building.  Four Nobel Peace Prize Winners; Prof. Jody Williams (Chair, Nobel Women’s Initiative), Dr. Shirin Ebadi (Human Rights Lawyer and Educator), President Maarti Ahtisaari (Former President, Finland and Founder of CMI – The Crisis Management Initiative), Lech Wałęsa (Former President, Poland) alongside Marina Cantacuzino (Founder, The Forgiveness Project), Ben Ferencz (Former Prosecutor, Nuremberg War Crimes Trial) and Bertie Ahern (Former Taoiseach – Irish Prime Minister).  We discuss the causes of war and conflict, the impact of these phenomena on society, and look at what it will take to achieve a world at peace.

Thought Economics

Chetan Bhagat is the author of nine blockbuster books, widely regarded as ‘the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history’.  his unique writing style has allowed him to tackle, head-on, some of India’s biggest cultural and social questions. I caught up with Chetan to learn more about his view of today’s India, and how writing has been a keystone of social change in a country that houses one-sixth of the world’s population.

Thought Economics

Hussain Sajwani has an extraordinary story.  From modest beginnings, he has become a self-made billionaire, recognised as one of the most powerful Arabs in the world.  Sajwani is Founder & Chairman of the DAMAC Properties, a global business with revenues of over $1.6bn and 2000+ employees which has delivered over 25,000 homes and has a development portfolio of over 40,000 units.DAMAC is now one of the largest businesses in the United Arab Emirates, a region which has taken its wealth of oil & gas reserves, to create a dynamic, diverse and fast-growing economy. I had the pleasure of catching-up with Hussain Sajwani to learn more about the DAMAC story, and his views on entrepreneurship and investment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Thought Economics

By deploying capital and talent, guided by the vision that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has achieved some incredible successes.  Over 500 million children have been vaccinated, with over 7 million lives saved… 3 million households have received access to drought-tolerant crops…. 99% fewer Polio cases are now reported worldwide… 8 million people have received access to anti-retroviral drugs, guinea worm disease is close to being eradicated, and almost 500 million mosquito nets have been distributed.   Melinda French Gates is a philanthropist, businesswoman, and global advocate for women and girls. As the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda sets the direction and priorities of the world’s largest philanthropy. She is also the founder of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company working to drive social progress for women and families in the United States. I had the pleasure of catching-up with Melinda Gates to speak to her about her learnings in philanthropy, and creating lasting global change.

Thought Economics

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist, and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, and has had her work translated into fifty languages. She is a storyteller, and social commentator – holding a PhD in political science, and frequently being called-upon to give her views on the world’s most pressing issues. I caught up with Elif to learn more about her art, her writing, and how literature can change the world

Thought Economics

In 1981 a group of 7 engineers in Pune (India) came together with US$250 of capital and a passion for computing.  They created Infosys, which has grown to become a business with almost 230,000 employees, revenues of US$11.8 billion and a market capitalisation of almost US$50 billion.Infosys catalysed many of the changes that turned India into an IT and software powerhouse, and to this day is one of the world’s greatest examples of scaling a business. Senapathy “Kris” Gopalkrishnan was one of 7 engineers who co-founded Infosys, and I caught up with him to learn more about his entrepreneurship journey and building scaling businesses in India.

Thought Economics

As society has moved through the renaissance into modernity, the questions of why (typically the domain of theology) moved from the arts to science, the preciseness of the latter arguably unsuited to such philosophical questions.  The primacy of overtly scientific approaches to understanding life has come at a tremendous cost; in some ways we see the world in shades of grey rather than in full colour. For many thinkers therefore, the pull of the questions of meaning are too strong to ignore.  In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson – professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist and the author of the multi-million copy bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.  We discuss the question of how we can find meaning in a complex world.

Thought Economics

Research has shown that evolution has created the psychological mechanisms which have enabled, and emboldened the spread of faux-intellectual movements (anti-vaccination, climate-deniers) and which can explain most of our deep rooted preferences, beliefs, and consumption instincts. To learn more, I spoke to Dr. Gad Saad a professor, evolutionary behavioural scientist, author, and public intellectual.  Gad has become one of the world’s most sought after commentators in this field, his YouTube channel, ‘The Saad Truth’ has close to 145,000 subscribers and has been viewed over 14 million times.

Thought Economics

In this exclusive interview, I speak to Rose McGowan. A writer, director, music artist, icon, entrepreneur, and feminist whistle-blower, she focused a spotlight on injustice and inequality in the entertainment industry and beyond. As an activist, she led a movement to break the silence and became a leading voice in the fight to disrupt the status quo. We discuss why our world still hasn’t moved-past sexism, and how we can fight the power imbalance with bravery, intelligence, creativity and individualism.

Thought Economics

Among music legends, Nile Rodgers is truly exceptional.  His work in the CHIC Organization and his productions for artists like David Bowie, Diana Ross, and Madonna have sold over 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide.  Merck Mercuriadis is one of the most successful music managers and entrepreneurs of all time; former manager of globally successful recording artists, such as Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Morrissey, Iron Maiden and Beyoncé, and hit songwriters such as Diane Warren, Justin Tranter and The-Dream, and former CEO of The Sanctuary Group plc.  Their latest venture, Hipgnosis Songs Fund (LON:SONG) turns the most successful songs in history into a new investment asset-class and already owns copyrights including Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’, Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ Kanye West’s ‘All Of The Lights’, Justin Beiber’s ‘Baby’, and Jay-z’s ‘Holy Grail’ featuring Justin Timberlake.  Estimates suggest the fund could rapidly grow to well over £1 billion in market capitalisation. In these exclusive interviews I spoke to Nile Rodgers and Merck Mercuriadis to learn more about the business of music, their creative process, the secrets of great management, production and what they’ve learned from a lifetime at the pinnacle of the music world.

Thought Economics

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