Business Books

50 inventions that created the modern economy

Tim Harford is an economist and presenter of BBC World Service’s podcast series “50 Things That Made the Modern Economy”.

The series is nearing its end and its creators are looking for suggestions from the public for a “51st thing” that helped create the economic world we live in.

The lightbulb… clock… disposable razor… battery… barcode… iPhone… Ikea’s Billy bookcase… paper money… the contraceptive pill… leaded petrol… department stores… barbed wire… infant formula milk… air conditioning… passports… TV dinners… lifts… antibiotics…

These are just some of the featured inventions.

You may send your suggestion for the 51st thing to 51things@bbc.com.

Description of “Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy” on Amazon:

  • "Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy” paints the epic picture of economic change in an intimate way, by telling the stories of tools and ideas that had far-reaching and unexpected consequences.

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviewed Harford for his weekly business book review.

I’m fascinated by unexpected consequences – for example, the impact of the fridge on global politics, or of the gramophone on income inequality.

Tim Harford

Listen to the interview in the audio below (and/or scroll down for quotes from it).

The computer isn’t on the list… the motorcar isn’t on the list…

Tim Harford

Most of these inventions was originally government funded.

Tim Harford

Paper is one of my favourite inventions.

Tim Harford

…incredibly cheap sensors…

Tim Harford

We’ve outsourced the human brain to the computer.

Tim Harford

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