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Based on the series produced for the BBC World Service Who thought up paper money? How did the contraceptive pill change the face of the legal profession? Why was the horse collar as important for human progress as the steam engine? How did the humble spreadsheet turn the world of finance upside-down? The world economy defies comprehension. A continuously-changing system of immense complexity, it offers over ten billion distinct products and services, doubles in size every fifteen years, and links almost every one of the planet's seven billion people. It delivers astonishing luxury to hundreds of millions. It also leaves hundreds of millions behind, puts tremendous strains on the ecosystem, and has an alarming habit of stalling. Nobody is in charge of it. Indeed, no individual understands more than a fraction of what's going on. How can we make sense of this bewildering system on which our lives depend? From the tally-stick to Bitcoin, the canal lock to the jumbo jet, each invention in Tim Harford's fascinating new book has its own curious, surprising and memorable story, a vignette against a grand backdrop. Step by step, readers will start to understand where we are, how we got here, and where we might be going next. Hidden connections will be laid bare: how the barcode undermined family corner shops; why the gramophone widened inequality; how barbed wire shaped America. We'll meet the characters who developed some of these inventions, profited from them, or were ruined by them. We'll trace the economic principles that help to explain their transformative effects. And we'll ask what lessons we can learn to make wise use of future inventions, in a world where the pace of innovation will only accelerate.
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2017 by BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK, THE FINANCIAL TIMES, AND AMAZON A lively history seen through the fifty inventions that shaped it most profoundly, by the bestselling author of The Undercover Economist and Messy. Who thought up paper money? What was the secret element that made the Gutenberg printing press possible? And what is the connection between The Da Vinci Code and the collapse of Lehman Brothers? Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy paints an epic picture of change in an intimate way by telling the stories of the tools, people, and ideas that had far-reaching consequences for all of us. From the plough to artificial intelligence, from Gillette’s disposable razor to IKEA’s Billy bookcase, bestselling author and Financial Times columnist Tim Harford recounts each invention’s own curious, surprising, and memorable story. Invention by invention, Harford reflects on how we got here and where we might go next. He lays bare often unexpected connections: how the bar code undermined family corner stores, and why the gramophone widened inequality. In the process, he introduces characters who developed some of these inventions, profited from them, and were ruined by them, as he traces the principles that helped explain their transformative effects. The result is a wise and witty book of history, economics, and biography.
This volume brings together a group of contributors from varied backgrounds to tell a history of intellectual property in 50 objects.
Providing an exceptional overview and analysis of the global economy, from the origins of Homo sapiens to the present day, Colin White explores our past to help understand our economic future. He veers away from traditional Eurocentric approaches, providing a truly global scope for readers. The main themes include the creative innovativeness of humans and how this generates economic progression, the common economic pathway trodden by all societies, and the complementary relationship between government and the market.
'Mark Lynas is a saint' Sunday Times 'Fluent, persuasive and surely right.' Evening Standard Mark Lynas was one of the original GM field wreckers. Back in the 1990s – working undercover with his colleagues in the environmental movement – he would descend on trial sites of genetically modified crops at night and hack them to pieces. Two decades later, most people around the world – from New York to China – still think that 'GMO' foods are bad for their health or likely to damage the environment. But Mark has changed his mind. This book explains why. In 2013, in a world-famous recantation speech, Mark apologised for having destroyed GM crops. He spent the subsequent years touring Africa and Asia, and working with plant scientists who are using this technology to help smallholder farmers in developing countries cope better with pests, diseases and droughts. This book lifts the lid on the anti-GMO craze and shows how science was left by the wayside as a wave of public hysteria swept the world. Mark takes us back to the origins of the technology and introduces the scientific pioneers who invented it. He explains what led him to question his earlier assumptions about GM food, and talks to both sides of this fractious debate to see what still motivates worldwide opposition today. In the process he asks – and answers – the killer question: how did we all get it so wrong on GMOs? 'An important contribution to an issue with enormous potential for benefiting humanity.' Stephen Pinker 'I warmly recommend it.' Philip Pullman
This book introduces materials and how advances in materials result in advances in technology and our daily lives. Each chapter covers a particular material, how the material was discovered or invented, when it was first used, how this material has impacted the world, what makes the material important, how it is used today, and future applications. The list of materials covered in this book includes stone, wood, natural fibers, metals, clay, lead, iron, steel, silicon, glass, rubber, composites, polyethylene, rare earth magnet, and alloys.

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