- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 5th Printing edition (May 18, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006145205X
- ISBN-13: 978-0061452055
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 424 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves Hardcover – May 18, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Ideas have sex, in Ridley's schema; they follow a process of natural selection of their own, and as long as they continue to do so, there is reason to retire apocalyptic pessimism about the future of our species. Erstwhile zoologist, conservationist, and journalist, Ridley (The Red Queen) posits that as long as civilization engages in exchange and specialization, we will be able to reinvent ourselves and responsibly use earthly resources ad infinitum. Humanity's collective intelligence will save the day, just as it has over the centuries. Ridley puts current perceptions about violence, wealth, and the environment into historical perspective, reaching back thousands of years to advocate global free trade, smaller government, and the use of fossil fuels. He confidently takes on the experts, from modern sociologists who fret over the current level of violence in the world to environmentalists who disdain genetically modified crops. An ambitious and sunny paean to human ingenuity, this is an argument for why ambitious optimism is morally mandatory. (June)
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Science journalist Ridley believes there is a reason to be optimistic about the human race, and he defies the unprecedented economic pessimism he observes. His book is about the rapid and continuous change that human society experiences, unlike any other animal group. Ideas needed to meet and mate for culture to turn cumulative, and “there was a point in human pre-history when big-brained, cultural, learning people for the first time began to exchange things with each other and that once they started doing so, culture suddenly became cumulative, and the great headlong experiment of human economic ‘progress’ began.” Participants in the exchanges improved their lives by trading food and tools. Ridley believes it is probable that humanity will be better off in the next century than it is today, and so will the ecology of our planet. He dares the human race to embrace change, be rationally optimistic, and strive for an improved life for all people. --Mary Whaley
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This book by Matt Ridley is indeed a fresh breath of air that gives people of the world a beacon of truth. Ridley asserts on the grounds of rational evidence and explanation that the progress of the human race within the historical times ranging from the ancient Greek/Roman times to the modern time has been made possible by collective human intelligence by which we exchange our ideas, skills, and knowledge in the form of specialized division of labor. This social collectivism, whether tacitly or unconsciously realized by doers, apperatins to synchronicity, a kind of inter-brain entrainment in which information based on experience is exchanged between individuals, which is also known as collective phenomenon. This collective intelligence is a vital essence of cultural evolution which results from selection by imitation of successful institutions and habits. It is this element of cumulative culture that makes us singularly different from beasts. Since this social trait is innately preprogrammed in mankind, there is no inevitable end to specialization of efforts and talents that keeps this collective phenomenon going. In fact, more jobs will be produced in more specialized areas contrary to brooding premonition that technology will push out manpower from work.
In sum, Ridley aims to enlighten readers about the necessities of changes as part of cultural evolution for the betterment of mankind and the world itself. In the human history, no other time period has produced the better living conditions and cultural developments than those we have now due to a continued cumulative cultural evolution, which links to the evolution of the origins by natural selection. This book renders me a feeling that how wasteful it would be fretting about the uncertain and dark future that looks darker by popular theories of dysopic economic and social future. Just as Ridley will remain a steadfast rational optimist, I will continue to perform demands imposed upon daily tasks of life as a contribution to the orderliness and constancy of the world as m ancestors did because I know the world will not fall in calamity. as long as we as a collective body of the human race exist.
Specialization is good.
Trade is good (and we are the only species that trades).
Together, specialization and trade enable us to efficiently use our talents in the best way to get the best of what others produce.
Self-sufficiency leads to poverty, because no one can master all of the skills and have all the tools necessary for anything above a subsistance living.
Cross-fertilization of ideas is necessary. Rarely if ever does one invent something entirely on his own. Inventions come from putting together ideas others have had in novel and unique ways. (As a patent holder, I can attest to this.)
Use of energy from other than human beings is what allowed the effective end of slavery (Yes,it still exists, but is criminal nearly everywhere).
The more compact the form of energy, the better for the environment.
The higher the real per-capita income, the longer and better people live.
In the next century, real growth will allow us to deal with any ill effects from global climate change, and lift Africa out of poverty, if we but act reasonably intelligently.
I don't have the book in front of me just now, so I may have left something out. But I assure you, Matt Ridley did not. Get it, read it, and be sure to look at the graph at the beginning of each chapter.