Mental Health

Is Mental Health the World's greatest health challenge?

The World’s Most Profound Health Challenge

In these exclusive interviews we speak to: Dr. Thomas Insel (Director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, NIMH), Dr. Shekhar Saxena (Director of Mental Health for the World Health Organisation), Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind, the world’s largest Mental Health NGO), Sergeant Kevin Briggs (Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge) and Marcus Trescothick (International Cricketer and Mental Health Campaigner). We look at the realities of mental health worldwide, understand the true burden on individuals, communities and countries and look at the opportunities to deal with our global mental health crisis.

Read the piece at: http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/mental-health.html

Genius

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Scientists, scholars and academics have yet to define genius, yet the concept is rightly applied to those exceptional individuals who, through their art, their science or their enterprise, create unique changes in our thinking, or our broader-world.

Genius carries a certain mystical quality, distancing it from even that which we call exceptional. Those to who the term is applied are often seen as outliers, perhaps even crazy- but their minds have created the structures, technologies, treatments, cultural artefacts and concepts that we take for granted as being our world.   Another way to understand their importance would be to imagine a world in which they hadn’t existed. What if Franklin and Faraday had never pondered electricity, Edison had never conceived the light bulb or Fleming had never realised the benefit of mould as the antibiotic we now call Penicillin?

From Gates to Jobs, Ellison to Bezos and Zuckerberg to Musk; our modern world is littered with individuals rightly described as exhibiting genius, who have created hundreds of millions of jobs between them, and contributed more to the story of global growth than perhaps any other such-cohort in history.

One man, Doug Menuez, was lucky enough to have a front-seat to some of these stories. He is an award winning photographer who has photographed at the North Pole, crossed the Sahara and explored the Amazon. His subjects have included the Ethiopian famine, the Olympics, and the AIDS crisis. He covered five Super Bowls, five World Series and the 1984 Olympics. Menuez gained exclusive, unprecedented access to record the rise of Silicon Valley from 1985-2000 and documented the private daily lives of its most brilliant innovators, including three years with Steve Jobs, as well as covering Bill Gates, John Warnock, Carol Bartz, Andy Grove, John Sculley, Bill Joy, and John Doerr during an era when more jobs and wealth were created than at any time in human history. He published this stories, and his amazing photographs in his 2014 book, “Fearless Genius.”

To learn more about the true nature of genius, I spoke to Doug about this incredible journey. Continue reading

The Economics of Happiness

The Economics of Happiness

By: Vikas Shah, Originally Published at AllAboutAlpha.com

Factory farming is a brutal endeavour.  In this environment, chickens (and other animals) are given a variety of feeds and chemicals (stimuli) designed to make them grow as big as possible as fast as possible and hence maximise output.  In truth, factory farms probably will output more product than their organic counterparts, but in the process the animals are kept in horrendous conditions where the combination of feeds and supplements bloats them so fast, that often their growth outpaces their body’s ability to cope resulting in broken bones.

We may squirm at this example; but it’s precisely what the macro-level policies around economic development (particularly in the rich nations) have been designed to do.  The post-war era(s) created a world in need of growth; and in some cases, growth at any cost.   A significant piece of research highlights what is now known as the Easterlin Paradox, which shows that the vast economic growth in the rich nations since the second world war has failed to make people any happier.   A study published on October 30th 2014 by the Pew Research Centre in Washington DC (perhaps the largest such study of its kind) also found that people in emerging markets are within a whisker of expressing the same level of satisfaction as people of the rich countries.

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi commission has also led a movement of change after concluding (in 2009) that indicators of subjective well-being hold the promise of delivering better measures of the quality of life, it’s determinants, and hence- the well being of an overall economy.

To learn more about happiness in economies, I spoke to Richard A. Easterlin, University Professor and Professor of Economics, University of Southern California. Professor Easterlin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, Fellow of the Econometric Society, a former Guggenheim Fellow, and past president of the Population Association of America, Economic History Association, and Western Economic Association International. Continue reading

How Power Shapes our World

How Power Shapes our World

In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Moisés Naím (Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former Minister of Trade and Industry for Venezuela and Executive Director of the World Bank) and Admiral James Stavridis (Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University and former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO). We discuss the fundamental nature of power, how it shapes our world economically, politically, socially and how it impacts the lives of every single individual on the planet.

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/how-power-shapes-our-world.html

Is It Time to Re-Design our Markets?

IITR

By Vikas Shah (Originally for AllAboutAlpha.com)

Modern markets are hugely complex environments.  CME Group for example, trades over 3 billion contracts (with a notional value of over U$1 quadrillion) each and every year.  Alongside this, many of the world’s largest companies such as Google, Alibaba and Amazon (with market capitalisations of U$380bn, U$240bn and U$141bn respectively) have built entire business models solely around the provision of markets.   Every day, markets also have to match tens (if not hundreds) of millions of individuals and companies to goods and services,  healthcare, education, travel, accommodation, jobs, travel and more- and must do so efficiently and smoothly.

We are at a very unique time in humanity’s story where rapid population and economic growth, augmented with technology and communication has increased the speed, complexity and size of our markets (in aggregate) and allowed the creation of hundreds of thousands of niche market opportunities.  This also means that when markets go wrong, they do so fast; the financial crisis of 2007-08 illustrated this profoundly, with an inconceivably abrupt ‘stop‘ to the normal operations of the global financial market.

To learn more about market design, we speak to Nobel Prize Winning Economist, Professor Alvin E. Roth. Continue reading

Learning to Be Who We Are

Learning to Be Who We Are

In these exclusive interviews we speak to Marina Abramović (internationally acclaimed performance artist), and Sir Ken Robinson (widely considered to be the world’s foremost expert on creativity, innovation and human resources in education and business). We question the fundamental nature of learning and education and discuss the life long journey of understanding our purpose and who we are.

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/learning-to-be-who-we-are.html

Why Economics is Failing

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Macroeconomics has not done well in recent years…” writes Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, “The standard models didn’t predict the Great Recession; and even said it couldn’t happen. After the bubble burst, the models did not predict the full consequences.”  In a hugely relevant recent paper titled “Reconstructing Macroeconomic Theory to Manage Economic Policy,” he explores how modern macro and microeconomic theories simply aren’t appropriate for our world today.

As Stiglitz notes, the loss in output as a result of the current downturn (between the US and Europe alone) amounts to over $5 trillion; equivalent to the loss- from the global economy- of a country the size of Japan. Continue reading

Entrepreneurship as Experimentation

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Each and every year, I have the pleasure of judging at the Rice Business Plan Competition.  Tens of thousands of enterprising students from around the world compete, with a handful making it to the finals in Houston, Texas.   At this incredible event, student entrepreneurs pitch to the crème-de-la-crème of global investment professionals (VC’s, angels, and more) and eventually make it through a series of rounds to a final where they stand to win some serious cash.  In 2014 for example, the overall finalists (in industries ranging from apps to engineering to biotech) shared over US$ 3 million in prize-money.  Over the years, a disproportionately large number of businesses from the competition have gone on to commercialise, raise further rounds of funding and exit- creating significant economic returns.

In a stagnating global economy, entrepreneurial innovation is hugely important, and as a recent Harvard Business School working-paper Entrepreneurship as Experimentation shows; there are many principles we can apply to strengthen high-growth entrepreneurial activities. Continue reading

Disability and The Injustice Facing Over 1 Billion People

Disability and InjusticeIn this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to Javed Abidi (Chair, Disabled People’s International DPI), Sir Philip Craven MBE (President, International Paralympic Committee IPC) and Professor Hugh Herr (Head of the Biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab and Founder of BiOM Inc). We discuss the human rights and social injustices faced by the those living with impairments and disabilities around the world, look at issues ranging from economics and politics to culture and sport and discuss opportunities for the future and whether technology could even end disability.

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-injustice-facing-over-1-billion.html

Could Crypto-currency Disrupt Money?

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Money is a strange phenomenon.  Our modern notion of it mean that (in essence) it is intrinsically useless apart from as a medium of exchange.  Our government, regulators, law and communities agree that phenomena (whether a physical banknote or an electronic ledger such as a bank account) have certain value, in certain units and certain denominations.

From a cultural perspective however, things are not quite so clear.  As society advances (technologically and socially) we find that many things which were thought of as fiat can change.   Examples can be found all around us…  In linguistics, it’s not uncommon for words which (previously) existed as slang to be adopted and accepted into mainstream language.   This is both a move of progression (the expansion of culture) and efficiency (helping to communicate the zeitgeist more accurately).  Interestingly, with language- as with money- it is often only when the ‘regulator‘ (for example, the dictionary producer) agrees that a word is now accepted, that it is made so!

The Language of Money

Crypto-currency is an interesting phenomenon.  It is a system of exchange which exists as fiat in nature, but which also has security.  Traditional currency is secured by the notional protection of the central bank from where it is issued- whilst crypto-currency is secured by the integrity of the system itself.  Subverting a traditional currency is made impossible due to the supranational power of the issuer, and subverting a crypto-currency is (theoretically) impossible due to the mathematics of breaking the encryption.

In recent years, novel entrants to the market such as BitCoin have moved crypto-currency from the fringes (where they were akin to linguistic slang) to the mainstream- where multi-billion dollar business are now accepting BTC’s as legitimate payment for goods and services.

So, could BitCoin disrupt money? Continue reading

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