Noreena’s Interview with Vikas Shah, Thought Economics

Even before a global pandemic introduced us to terms like “social distancing”, loneliness was well on its way to becoming the defining condition of the twenty-first century.

In her new book THE LONELY CENTURY: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart, renowned thinker and economist Noreena Hertz investigates how radical changes to the workplace, mass migration to cities, technology’s ever greater dominance of our lives, and decades of neoliberal policies that placed self-interest above the collective good have coalesced to create a society in which loneliness, atomisation and isolation prevail – which COVID has only amplified. Hertz provides an empowering and inspiring vision for how to mitigate this, reconnect with each other and come together again. Hertz combines a decade of research with first-hand reporting that takes her from ‘renting a friend’ in New York to family-friendly Belgian far-right festivals, from elderly women knitting bonnets for their robot caregivers in Japan to Ivy League colleges running ‘How to Read a Face in Real Life’ remedial classes. What she uncovers is a global population feeling more and more alienated and isolated.

In this exclusive interview, Vikas speaks to Noreena Hertz about the causes of our loneliness epidemic, the consequences for each and every one of us, and what we can do to restore human connection in a world that’s pulling us apart.