Future Squared Episode #185: Tim Harford Returns to talk 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

September 30, 2023

Future Squared Episode #185: Tim Harford Returns to talk 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

Today, we welcome to the show for a 3rd time, the one and only Tim Harford. Tim is an economist, author, TED speaker, journalist and broadcaster. He is author of “Messy” and the million-selling “The Undercover Economist”, a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4’s “More or Less” and host of the popular BBC podcast, “50 Things That Made the Modern Economy”, which is incidentally enough, the name of his new book and the subject of today’s conversation. 

From the plough to artificial intelligence, from Gillette disposable razor to Ikea’s Billy bookcase, Tim recounts each invention’s own memorable story and introduces you to the characters who developed them, profited from them, and were ruined by them. Former Future Squared guest and widely respected economist and custodian of MarginalRevolution.com, Tyler Cowen, says that Tim’s new book “reaffirms his status as one of the great (greatest?) contemporary popular writers on economics”. 

Tim and I  go an inch deep and a mile wide in this episode. In particular, we discuss 3 key topics: 

Why most companies that invest in technology and innovation fail and what those that succeed do differently 

What should Government’s role be in developing and regulating technology 

Why we shouldn’t be looking at emerging technologies in isolation and how the most transformative technologies often aren’t the most glamorous   

I really enjoyed my last two conversations with Tim as well as the 50 Things podcast so couldn’t wait to have him back on the show to broaden my thinking so with that, I bring you, Tim Harford.   

Topics discussed:

The inspiration for the podcast and book 

How inventions and innovations often have far-reaching and unexpected implications 

UBER getting banned in London 

Government intervention and regulation of technology: how much is enough? 

Government: an unlikely source of technology innovation? 

How the gramophone gave rise to the ‘superstar economy’ 

How the superstar economy goes beyond musicians and athletes and today includes big business

Elizabeth Billington and the English Premier League 

What do air conditioning, computers, the subway, skyscrapers, Dubai and Singapore have in common? 

Technology creates winners and losers 

Can we truly forecast the impact of technology?

Why companies need to change the entire system around a technology to truly leverage it and capitalise on promised performance gains (this feeds into why most digital transformation projects today fail) 

Key lessons for corporate executives 

How the plough started everything   

Show notes: 

TimHarford.com @TimHarford on Twitter 

Get the book: www.amazon.com/Fifty-Inventions-…omy/dp/0735216134 

Listen to the podcast: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04b1g3c 

Vote for the 51st thing: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/article…for-the-51st-thing 

Get ‘Adapt – Why Success Starts With Failture’: www.amazon.com/Adapt-Success-Alw…ure/dp/1250007550 

Listen on iTunes @ goo.gl/sMnEa0 

Listen on Stitcher @ www.stitcher.com/podcast/future 

Listen on Google Play @  bit.ly/FSGoog 

If you’ve got any questions on this podcast feel free to send an email to [email protected] or tweet me on Twitter @steveglaveski or @future_squared 

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To sign up to our mailing list head to www.futuresquared.xyz 

For more information on Collective Campus, our innovation hub, school and consultancy based in Australia and Singapore check out www.collectivecamp.us

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Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Campus which he established to help companies and their employees to create more meaningful impact in the world in an age of rapid change and increasing uncertainty. Steve also founded Lemonade Stand – a children’s entrepreneurship program, wrote the Innovation Manager’s Handbook vol 1 and 2, hosts Future², an iTunes chart topping podcast on corporate innovation and entrepreneurship and is a keynote speaker. He previously founded HOTDESK, an office sharing platform and has worked for the likes of Westpac, Dun & Bradstreet, the Victorian Auditor General’s Office, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Macquarie Bank. Follow him at @steveglaveski and Book a free 15-minute call with Steve to talk through your innovation objectives.

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