LSE IQ is a monthly podcast from the London School of Economics and Political Science in which we ask some of the smartest social scientists - and other experts - to answer intelligent questions about economics, politics or society. #LSEIQ
Bullshit jobs, technology, capitalism
Contributor(s): Professor David Graeber | This episode is dedicated to David Graeber, LSE professor of Anthropology, who died unexpectedly in September this year. David was a public intellectual, a best-selling author, an influential activist and anarchist.
He took aim at the pointless bureaucracy of modern life, memorably coining the term ‘bullshit jobs’. And his book ‘Debt: The First 5000 years’ was turned into a radio series by the BBC.
But David started his academic career studying Madagascar. Anthropology interested him, he said, because he was interested in human possibilities - including the potential of societies to organise themselves without the need for a state - as he had seen in his own research.
He was also a well-known anti-globalisation activist and a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
David was generous enough to do an interview for us in 2016 when LSE iQ was in its infancy. That episode asked, ‘What’s the future of work?’ and in his interview he reflected on the disappointments of technology, pointless jobs and caring labour.
David was such an interesting speaker that we would have liked to use more of it at the time, but we didn’t have the space. Now, it feels right to bring you a lightly edited version of the interview.
The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, published by Melville House.
‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit jobs: A work rant’, STRIKE! Magazine
Bullshit Jobs: A theory, published by Allen Lane
Is perfect the enemy of the possible?
Contributor(s): Dr Thomas Curran | Jess Winterstein speaks to Dr Thomas Curran about the potential pitfalls of wanting to be perfect. Our society values perfection, but is the concept of perfect really that good for us? The latest episode of LSE IQ explores perfectionism.
In this bitesized episode of the LSE IQ podcast, Jess Winterstein speaks to Dr Thomas Curran, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE. While aspiring to perfection may still be viewed positively by many, Dr Curran’s research reveals that the drive to be the best can potentially do more harm than good. Are the potential downsides worth it when balanced against the possible achievements that can come from being a perfectionist? In a discussion which explores the realities of being a perfectionist, we ask, is perfection really worth it?
Dr Thomas Curran https://www.lse.ac.uk/PBS/People/Dr-Tom-Curran
A test of social learning and parent socialization perspectives on the development of perfectionism by Thomas Curran, Daniel J Madigan, Andrew P Hill and Annett Victoria Stornæs
Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time: A Meta-Analysis of Birth Cohort Differences From 1989 to 2016 by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/101352/1/Curran_Hill2018.pdf
Can we afford the super-rich?
Contributor(s): Paul Krugman, Andy Summers, Dr Luna Glucksberg | The coronavirus crisis has devastated economies and brought existing inequalities into sharper focus. Will it result in higher taxes on income and wealth, as we saw after the Great Depression and WWII? Or will the top 1 per cent continue to pull away from the rest of society? Exploring the question, ‘Can we afford the super-rich?’, Joanna Bale talks to Paul Krugman, Andy Summers and Luna Glucksberg.
Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future by Paul Krugman.
Capital Gains and UK Inequality by Arun Advani and Andy Summers.
A gendered ethnography of elites by Luna Glucksberg.
How can we tackle air pollution?
Contributor(s): Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Dr Ute Collier, Dr Sefi Roth, Dr Thomas Smith | Seven million people die of air pollution, worldwide, every year. This episode of LSE IQ asks how this invisible killer can be tackled.
Sue Windebank speaks to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah about her campaigning work for both clean air and a new inquest into the causes of her daughter’s death. In 2013, her daughter Ella Roberta died from a rare and severe form of asthma – she was just nine years old. According to an expert report there was a "real prospect” that without unlawful levels of air pollution near their home, Ella would not have died.
As well as the impact on health, the episode looks at the effects of air pollution on crime and education. It also examines air pollution on the London Underground, forest fires and clean cooking.
Addressing these issue are: Dr Ute Collier, Head of Energy at Practical Action; Dr Sefi Roth, Assistant Professor of Environmental Economics at LSE; and Dr Thomas Smith, Assistant Professor in Environmental Geography at LSE.
Dr Ute Collier
Dr Sefi Roth
Dr Thomas Smith
‘Crime is in the Air: The Contemporaneous Relationship between Air Pollution and Crime’ by Malvina Brody, Sefi Roth and Lutz Sager, a discussion paper by IZA Institute of Labor Economics.
‘The Long-Run Economic Consequences of High-Stakes Examinations: Evidence from Transitory Variation in Pollution’ by Avraham Ebenstein, Victor Lavy and Sefi Roth in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.
‘Spatial variability of fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) on the London Underground network’ by Brynmor M Saunders, James D Smith, T.E.L Smith, David Green and B Barratt in the journal Urban Climate.
‘Review of emissions from smouldering peat fires and their contribution to regional haze episodes’ Yuqi Hu, Nieves Fernandez-Anez, T.E.L Smith and Guillermo Rein in the International Journal of Wildland Fire.
Is big data good for our health?
Contributor(s): Dr Stephen Roberts, Dr Leeza Osipenko, Professor Barbara Prainsack, Dr James Somauroo | With more and more information about us available electronically and online, this episode of LSE IQ asks, ‘Is big data good for our health?’
Advances in bio-medical technologies, along with electronic health records and the information we generate through our mobile phones, Smart Watches or Fit bits, our social media posts and search engine queries, mean that there is a torrent of information about our bodies, our health and our diseases out there.
Alongside this, the tremendous growth in computing power and data storage means that this ‘Big Data’ can be stored and aggregated and then analysed by sophisticated algorithms for connections, comparisons and insights.
The promise of all of this is that big data will create opportunities for medical breakthroughs, help tailor medical interventions to us as individuals and create technologies that will speed up and improve healthcare.
And, of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve also seen some countries use data, generated from people’s mobile phones, to track and trace the disease.
All of this poses opportunities for the tech giants and others who want to be part of the goldrush for our data - and to then sell solutions back to us
What are the risks in handing over our most personal data? Will it allow big data to deliver on its hype? And is it a fair exchange?
In this episode, Oliver Johnson speaks to Dr Leeza Osipenko, Senior Lecturer in Practice in LSE’s Department of Health Policy; Professor Barbara Prainsack, Professor of Comparative Policy Analysis at the University of Vienna and Professor Sociology at King’s College London; Dr Stephen L. Roberts, LSE Fellow in Global Health Policy in LSE’s Department of Health Policy; and Dr James Somauroo, founder of the healthtech agency somX and presenter of The Health-Tech Podcast.
Blockchain’s potential to improve clinical trials by Leeza Osipenko
Big Data, Algorithmic Governmentality and the Regulation of Pandemic Risk by Stephen Roberts
Personalized Medicine: Empowered Patients in the 21st Century? by Barbara Prainsack
Dr Leeza Osipenko
Professor Barbara Prainsack
Dr Stephen L. Roberts
Dr James Somauroo
What does gender have to do with pandemics?
Contributor(s): Clare Wenham | A special bite-sized episode of LSE IQ asks, “What does gender have to do with pandemics?” Cholera, Ebola, Influenza, MERS, SARs, Smallpox, Yellow fever, Zika and of course novel Coronavirus – these are just some of the pandemic, epidemic diseases listed by the World Health Organisation. And until a few months ago, many of us – particularly in the West – had remained comfortably unaffected by these terrible diseases. Yet today it seems dreadfully routine to consume daily infection rates and sobering death tolls. And while the exact figures are unclear – men seem to be dying at a far higher rate. So it might be strange to be focus on women at a time like this. But in this episode Sue Windebank speaks to Dr Clare Wenham, Assistant Professor of Global Health Policy at LSE about why it’s so important to think about gender when responding to epidemics and pandemics.