20 episodes

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “Messy” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser.

Cautionary Tales Pushkin Industries

    • History
    • 4.9 • 8 Ratings

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “Messy” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser.

    Cautionary Tales Presents: Brave New Planet

    Cautionary Tales Presents: Brave New Planet

    Introducing Brave New Planet, a seven-part series that delves deep into powerful technologies changing our world. They have amazing potential upsides, but we can’t ignore the serious risks. Hosted by Dr. Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
    This episode examines deep fakes. It’s getting easy to create convincing—but false —videos through artificial intelligence. These “deepfakes” can have interesting applications in art and education, but they can also cause great harm — from ruining the reputation of an ex-partner to provoking international conflicts or swinging elections. When seeing is not believing, who can we trust, and can democracy and truth survive? 
    For links to materials referenced in the episode, suggestions for further learning, and guest bios, visit bravenewplanet.org.  
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    BONUS: Storks, Smoking and the Power of Doubt

    BONUS: Storks, Smoking and the Power of Doubt

    It's easy to mock statistics or cast doubt on them... but we do so at our peril. Undermining our trust in facts and figures can cause great harm, and even death. We should guard against it.
    Tim Harford looks at how the seeds of doubt are planted in this mini-episode of Cautionary Tales to celebrate the release of his latest book.
    “How To Make The World Add Up” is out now in much of the world, while listeners in US/Canada can pre-order it under the title "The Data Detective" - ahead of its release in early 2021.
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    • 10 min
    How To End A Pandemic

    How To End A Pandemic

    The eradication of smallpox is one of humanity's great achievements - but the battle against the virus was fought by the most unlikely of alliances. How did the breakthrough happen - and can we guarantee that the world is still safe from smallpox?
    This episode owes a debt to Stephen Coss’s book The Fever of 1721, Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped From the Beginning, and to an article about Dark Winter written by Tara O’Toole, Michael Mair and Tomas Inglesby.
    For a full list of our sources please see the shownotes at http://timharford.com/
    Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.
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    • 28 min
    That Turn To Pascagoula

    That Turn To Pascagoula

    For years, people had warned that New Orleans was vulnerable - but when a hurricane came close to destroying the city, the reaction was muted. Some people took the near miss as a warning - others, as confirmation that there was nothing to worry about.
    So why do we struggle to prepare for disasters? And why don't we draw the obvious lessons from clear warnings?
    Sources for this episode include Amanda Ripley's The Unthinkable, The Ostrich Paradox by Howard Kunreuther and Robert Meyer, Margaret Heffernan's Willful Blindness, and Predictable Surprises by Max Bazerman and Michael Watkins. For a full list of sources see http://timharford.com/
    Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.
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    • 27 min
    The Village of Heroes

    The Village of Heroes

    It looked like any ordinary roll of cloth, but it brought the dreaded plague to the village of Eyam. First it killed the tailor, then resident after resident succumbed. To stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring towns the people of Eyam agreed to isolate themselves and let the plague run its deadly course. This terrible act of sacrifice is still remembered centuries later - but what does it tell us about how far people will go to save the lives of strangers?
    Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/
    Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.
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    • 25 min
    The Spreadsheet of Life and Death

    The Spreadsheet of Life and Death

    Clive had a deadly form of cancer, but fortunately there was a new drug to treat it. Imagine his anger when he was told the treatment was too expensive. He’d entered a world where unique human lives are given a value in a mathematical formula. So how much should we spend to extend or save a life? And are some lives worth more than others?
    Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/
    Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 27 min

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8 Ratings

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