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Gamechangers from The Economist

Gamechangers: Don't shoot the messenger

Ep. 2

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is the molecule that forms the basis of the coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna and by Pfizer-BioNTech. Although the vaccines went from lab to jab in just a few months, the idea of using mRNA as a therapy has been around for decades. The pioneers of this powerful technology reveal its unexpected path, the obstacles that had to be overcome along the way and its future potential. Tom Standage hosts.


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  • Gamechangers: Trailer

    It might start with a lightbulb moment or a sudden flash of insight. But having an idea and making a success of it are very different things. It’s the difference between invention and innovation. And the path from one to the other is rarely a straight line.But when ideas succeed they can change the world. They can be… Gamechangers.In this monthly podcast series, we’ll be looking at the people and stories behind these game changing ideas. Some of them you’ll have heard of; some of them, you won’t. Sometimes it takes decades of work to create what looks like an overnight success. But by telling their stories over six episodes, we hope to illuminate how innovation really works in practice.
  • 1. Gamechangers: The battery that powers the world

    What does it take for an idea to change the world? This new monthly series examines how innovation really works. The lithium-ion battery is the most important factor in the recent rise of the electric car and also powers everything from toothbrushes to smartphones to lawnmowers. We talk to the Nobel prize-winning scientists, the co-founder of Tesla and the pioneers behind this game-changing technology. What does their story tell us about the nature of innovation? Tom Standage hosts. Subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:
  • 3. Gamechangers: More than just a game

    Deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, powers voice assistants, facial recognition, music recommendations and underpins pioneering scientific research on how proteins fold. But all this was made possible by a breakthrough in a completely different field: video games. Powerful graphics chips (GPUs), developed to make video games more realistic, turned out to be ideal for speeding up the mathematical calculations used in deep learning. Host Tom Standage finds out how gaming transformed AI and meets the researchers who persevered when the chips were down.
  • 4. Gamechangers: Thinking inside the box

    The notion of shipping things in standardised boxes seems obvious in retrospect, so why did shipping containers take so long to emerge? Host Tom Standage finds out how difficult it was for this simple idea to take off. He talks to shipping experts and economists about the container’s far-reaching impact on the global economy—creating both winners and losers.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at
  • 5. Gamechangers: Mobile money

    Paying for things using your phone has become far more widespread during the pandemic. But Western consumers are playing catch-up. Mobile payments have been widespread for more than a decade in Africa, and in particular in Kenya, where the world’s first successful mobile-money system, called M-PESA, was launched in 2007. Why did it take off in Kenya first, how did users shape the development of the product—and what does this story reveal about innovation? Tom Standage hostsFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at
  • 6. Gamechangers: Reinventing the wheel

    Who first thought of putting wheels on suitcases and why did this seemingly obvious idea not take off until the 1990s? In the final episode of our series on how innovation works, we explore how the adoption of an idea can be hampered by social attitudes and prejudices. In the case of the wheeled suitcase, it wasn’t a change in technology that made the difference—instead, the crucial change took place inside people’s heads. Tom Standage hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at