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

Anil Seth’s quest to understand the biological basis of conscious experience is one of the most exciting contributions to twenty-first-century science. What does it mean to “be you”—that is, to have a specific, conscious experience of the world around you and yourself within it? There may be no more elusive or fascinating question. Historically, humanity has considered the nature of consciousness to be a primarily spiritual or philosophical inquiry, but scientific research is now mapping out compelling biological theories and explanations for consciousness and selfhood. Anil Seth is Professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and in his new book, BEING YOU: A New Science of Consciousness, he argues that we do not perceive the world as it objectively is, but rather that we are prediction machines, constantly inventing our world and correcting our mistakes by the microsecond, and that we can now observe the biological mechanisms in the brain that accomplish this process of consciousness. In this interview, I speak to Anil Seth about the fundamental nature of consciousness, how we perceive the world around us, our selves, and how the science of consciousness is helping to unlock who we are.

Thought Economics

For over a century, anthropologists have immersed themselves in unfamiliar cultures, uncovering the hidden rituals that govern how people act. Now, a new generation of anthropologists are using these methods in a new context – to illuminate the behaviour of businesses and consumers around the globe. In Anthro-Vision, Gillian Tett – bestselling author, Financial Times journalist, and anthropology PhD – reveals how anthropology can help make sense of the corporate world. She explains how to identify the ‘webs of meaning’ that underpin consumers’ behaviour on the other side of the planet. She reveals why ‘sense-making’ can explain the most erratic behaviour of Wall Street bankers, and why concealed systems of barter shape our relationship with Silicon Valley. She delves into the cultural shifts driving investment in new markets and green issues. And she reveals what anthropology can tell us about our own workplaces, too: by identifying the hidden tribes within the office, or pinpointing which rituals are binding together a team. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Gillian Tett about how anthropology can help us better understand the world, and why business leaders need to understand and apply anthropology to build successful organisations.

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

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

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

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

Brian Eno is a remarkable man. He is a musician, producer, visual artist, theorist, activist and philosopher, a polymath who has become one of our world’s most significant artists. In this first of a new series of conversations around our biggest unanswered questions, I spoke to Brian and asked: Why do we make art?

Thought Economics

James Thornton is a remarkable individual who has dedicated his life to fighting for climate and environmental justice. As a Wall Street lawyer, he won over 80 cases to force the Reagan Administration to clean up polluted water. It was in 2007, when he moved to Europe that ClientEarth was formed with a mission to change the way environmental protections are made and enforced. Now operating globally, ClientEarth uses advocacy, litigation and research to address the greatest challenges of our time – including nature loss, public health and climate change. In the last decade alone, ClientEarth has led an EU-wide law banning illegally harvested rainforest timber, setup the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, won numerous cases against governments for failing to tackle air pollution, and forced many nations and corporations to create sustainable change in their policy and strategy for the benefit of the climate and environment. James and his team use the most effective tool in the arsenal for change, the law. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to James Thornton about how we can tackle one of the greatest challenges our species has ever faced, climate change.

Thought Economics

The philosophy of science has sought to introduce order into the chaos of existence by replacing supernatural and mystical with reason, logic and frameworks. Like most of our progress as a species- this isn’t a smooth curve, but unpredictable leaps forward in our knowledge that create platforms from which humanity can never go back. Quantum mechanics represents one of those fundamental leaps; a change in our understanding of everything that will have far reaching implications ranging from the future of technology, to the very understanding of who we are. In these exclusive interviews I speak to Sean Carroll (Research Professor of Physics at Caltech and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute), Jim Al-Khalili (University of Surrey Distinguished Chair, Professor of Physics and Public Engagement in Science), Brian Greene (Professor of Physics & Mathematics at Columbia University) and Carlo Rovelli (Director of the quantum gravity group of the Centre de Physique Théorique (CPT) of the Aix-Marseille University)

Thought Economics

Stay up to date. Signup to my newsletter.

We use cookies on our website to give you the best possible experience. By continuing to use our site, we assume you are OK with that.
Accept Privacy Policy
  Contact
Close Contact Form

To get in touch with Vikas Shah, author of Thought Economics, please use this contact form.