Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
Book Review: Author Tim Harford’s “Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy” deserves Plenty of Plaudits
- Author Tim Harford has written a new book titled ‘Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy
- Tim Harford is also an economist and a columnist
New Delhi, August 22, 2017: The i-Phone may seem the pinnacle of human endeavour, ingenuity and technological prowess — but while Steve Jobs deserves the plaudits, the range of technologies making it possible were a collective effort, facilitated by a surprisingly unexpected benefactor. Such tales are discussed in Tim Harford’s “Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy.”
When we think of the wonders of our modern world, we may cite these flashy hand-held devices that enable us to communicate, entertain ourselves and find information instantly. But they are merely one facet, for our lives now owe to a range of inventions and discoveries stretching from the humble plough to Google, and from the elevator to intellectual property, and achieved in several unusual and unexpected ways.
And while the i-Phone does make a list of 50 such inventions, so do concrete, clocks and infant formula as well as limited liability companies, public key cryptography and the welfare state — and many others, including some which may seem surprising.
But economist, columnist and author Tim Harford does not only seek here to list of 50 specific inventions but also to tell us the singular stories behind their inception — the iPhone especially — and how they affected us socially and economically from the beginning of civilisation to workings of the world economy now. Or rather in laying its foundations.
These 50 inventions, he says, range from those “absurdly simple” to ones which became “astonishingly sophisticated”, “stodgily solid” to “abstract inventions that you cannot touch at all”, profitable right from their launch or, while others were initially commercial disasters.
“But all of them have a story to tell that teaches us something about how our world works and that helps us notice some of the everyday miracles that surround us, often in the most ordinary-seeming objects. Some of these stories are of vast and impersonal economic forces; others are tales of human brilliance or human tragedy.”
Harford, known for his “Undercover Economist” series, does stress that he doesn’t seek to identify the 50 most economically significant inventions for some seemingly obvious entrants — printing presses, airplanes, computers — are missing. And there are good reasons why.
He also promises that while zooming in closely to examine one of these or pulling back to notice the unexpected connections, will provide answers to questions like the link between Elton John and the promise of a paperless office, how an American discovery banned in Japan for four decades affected women’s careers there, which monetary innovations destroyed Britain’s Houses of Parliament in the 1830s.
Harford also explains how all these inventions have two facets — they may not be always benign — in the longer run, or ensure a “win-win” scenario for all.
While it is easy to see inventions as solutions to problems, he warns against seeing them as only solutions, for they “shape our lives in unexpected ways — and while they’re solving a problem for someone, they’re often creating a problem for someone else”.
These attributes are best shown by the case of an ostensibly well-meaning American inventor who is responsible for poisoning our environment twice-over though his two contributions were initially helpful, and then by both the beneficial and baleful impacts of the plough — or banks for that matter.
Harford also shows that there is more to an invention than its inventing, and even for any one of them, “it’s often hard to pin down a single person who was responsible — and it’s even harder to find a ‘eureka’ moment when the idea all came together”.
Dealing with such aspects in the brief interludes between the inventions, placed in no discernible chronological or thematic order, Harford also seeks to put them together at the end to pose the vital question of how we should think about that often used and often misunderstood buzzword “innovation” today.
“What are the best ways to encourage new ideas? And how can we think clearly about what the effects of those ideas might be, and act with foresight to maximise the good effects and mitigate the bad ones?” he asks.
But as his incisive but illuminating and entertaining sojourn through centuries of human activities and endeavours show, there are no easy or definite answers. (IANS)
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine a seeking direction to the Election Commission to de-register a political party, which fails to comply with the court's direction to disclose criminal antecedents of candidates fielded in polls. Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay requested a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli to list the petition urgently, against the backdrop of the ongoing election process. He contended that nomination for the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election has started, and the political parties and candidates are brazenly violating the top court judgments.
After briefly hearing Upadhyay, the bench said: "We will consider it... will give a date".
The plea argued that allowing criminals to stand for election threatens democracy and secularism. | Wikipedia
The plea claimed that the cause of action for filing the plea arose after the Samajwadi Party fielded alleged gangster Nahid Hasan from Kairana but neither published his criminal records in electronic, print and social media nor the reason for his selection within 48 hours. On February 13, last year, Shamli police imposed the Gangster Act on Nahid Hasan, who is a two-time MLA from Kairana. "He (Hasan) has multiple criminal cases and is the 'mastermind' behind the Hindu exodus from Kairana. There are many criminal cases including fraud and extortion, and he was declared a fugitive by Special MLA-MP Court," the plea said.
The plea argued that the consequences of permitting criminals to contest and become legislators are extremely serious for democracy and secularism. The plea sought a direction to the Election Commission to take steps to ensure that every political party publishes the details regarding criminal cases of each candidate along with the reason for such selection on the homepage of its official website in bold letters within 48 hours in the spirit of top court orders passed on September 25, 2018, and February 2, 2020. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: uttar pradesh assembly election, hima kohli, justices a.s. bopanna, chief justice n.v. ramana, political party, election commission, the supreme court, tainted candidates, action, plea)
There will be no chief guest at the Republic Day parade this year also as the plan to host state heads of five Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- seems to have been cancelled due to the Covid situation in India as well as in the respective nations. Though the Ministry of External Affairs is yet to confirm this officially.
If the guests arrive, then this would be the second time when India hosts a group of state heads as the chief guests on the Republic Day. In 2018, state heads of ASEAN countries graced the occasion with their presence. Apart from Kazakhstan, none of these countries' state heads had been invited as the chief guests on the Republic Day. In 2009, Kazakhstan's then president Nursultan Nazarbayev was the Chief Guest.
The Government of India is in no mood to take any risk to invite any foreign guest.Unsplash
As per sources, due to the corona situation, the Government of India is in no mood to take any risk to invite any foreign guest, so the plan seems to have been cancelled. Last year, British Prime minister Boris Johnson was invited for the same, but later cancelled due to rising corona cases in the UK.
In the past, there have been occasions when the Republic Day ceremony was celebrated without any foreign guest. In 1966, there was no foreign chief guest in the Republic Day parade ceremony as the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had passed away in Tashkent in January, and Indira Gandhi took oath as Prime Minister on January 24. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : chief, guest, Republic Day, parade, India, January, pandemic, 2022, host, nation, guest, invite, foreign, occasion, presence, celebrate.)
A team of scientists from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have found a cure for those suffering from chronic wounds, particularly with diabetic foot ulcers. The team led by Prof Gopal Nath of the department of Microbiology, Institute of Medical Sciences, said that wounds that took months and years to heal, could now be cured in days or months. The findings of study have been published in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health, US.
Prof Nath said that a wound is defined as a breach in the skin or body tissues due to injury. An acute wound is defined as a "recent break that is yet to progress through sequential stages of healing". The wounds where normal healing process is stalled due to underlying pathology (vascular and diabetes) or infection beyond three months is defined as chronic wound. While chronic wounds always get infected, the contaminated wounds are reasonably susceptible to infection.
A significant improvement could be achieved in the form of complete wound epithelization within a few weeks.Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash
Infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and biofilm formation halt healing progress. These wounds cause significant psychological and physical morbidity. The traditional treatment strategies often succeed in healing wounds, he said adding that many wounds have been observed recalcitrant to them, leading to persistence and recurrent infections. Search for alternatives to antibiotics has now become a compulsion. Fortunately, bacteriophage therapy is a re-emerging solution to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Prof Nath's team carried out phage therapy of acute and chronic infected wounds in animals and clinical studies. It showed efficacy against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a mice wound model. Furthermore, they evaluated the efficacy of phage cocktails in animal models' acute and chronic osteomyelitis caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. They also observed biofilm eradication from K wire in rabbits' wound infection model. Clinical trials of phage therapy initiated by the BHU have reported the efficacy of topical phage in healing chronic wounds in three prospective exploratory studies and no adverse events mimicking the results in vivo animal models.
Scientists have found a cure for those suffering from diabetic foot ulcers. Unsplash
A clinical study by Gupta demonstrated the significant role of bacteriophage therapy in the chronic wounds associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The study employed a total of twenty patients with chronic non-healing ulcers for more than six weeks duration. A significant improvement could be achieved in the form of complete wound epithelization within a few weeks. Another study, employing 48 patients having a minimum of one eligible full-thickness wound that did not heal in six weeks with convention wound management, showed the promising result, and significant improvement was observed in the wound healing.
The study projected that specific phage therapy is equally effective regardless of the diabetic or non-diabetic status of the patient though the healing was relatively delayed in diabetic patients. Another successful study has shown encouraging results on healing process of infected acute traumatic wounds. The average number of days required for complete granulation of wounds and attaining sterility and healing was half compared to conventional therapy. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : scientists, cure, chronic, wound, suffer, ulcer, diabetes, healing, pathology, health, infection, bacteria, study, patient, therapy, successful.)
- Cheap source of Electricity? Indian Scientist makes a Cell that can ... ›
- IIT-Kanpur scholar wins Young Geospatial Scientist award ... ›