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What Uber and another John Kay teach us about innovation and competition

Uber’s superior service threatens London’s black-cab drivers, just as (my namesake) John Kay’s flying shuttle eventually led to rebellion by out-of-work Luddites in the 19th century. The losers from such innovations should in some circumstances be compensated. But restricting competition is against the public interest.

Pharma responsibilities are to a wider community than its own shareholders

Two recent events have served to highlight the range of difficult questions raised by pharmaceuticals regulation. Last week, a man died in the French city of Rennes after a clinical trial of a painkiller went tragically wrong. In New York last month, the company controlled by former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, raised the price of the life-saving drug, Daraprim, from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

Must we endure excessive drug prices to encourage pharmaceutical R&D?

A mechanism of funding pharmaceutical research which leads to drug prices far in excess of marginal cost is bound to lead to anguish and injustice. But is there a better idea?

Why do we welcome innovation to products more readily than to processes?

Children love to play with new toys but hate disruption to their routines. These traits persist in adult life: innovation is readily adopted when it is incorporated in new gadgets but innovation that involves doing things differently is resisted. There are understandable reasons for this.

Regulators will get the blame for the stupidity of crowds

Just as dammed water finds new channels of escape, crowdfunding seems to provide a way around the blockage.

Technology’s crystal ball offers only a hazy view of the future

Knowledge is more than additive. What we learn when we bring two bodies of knowledge together may be much more than the sum of each alone.

Sometimes the best that a company can hope for is death

Humans have always found it hard to cope with the idea that every individual has a lifespan even as life itself goes on. The idea of a natural life cycle for a business, or industrial centre, is even more difficult to accept.

Enduring lessons from the legend of Rothschild’s carrier pigeon

Why do we devote more resources to training carrier pigeons and building fibreoptic links than to understanding military and business strategy?

Fair value is not the same as market price

The growth of the trading culture has encouraged the belief that the only measure of value is what someone is willing to pay. But this is a mistake.

New York’s wonder shows planners’ limits

If unplanned social interactions are the key to a vibrant city, they are also the key to a vibrant organisation.