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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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Top customer reviews
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Each chapter he explains why and how humanity have passed those challenges that for the people that have lived in each aeon the challenges seemed hard or even impossible.
What is the importance of the ideas and exchange in society ?
Let Matt explain that to you. He’s really good at it.
What Mr. Ridley offers is a connected argument to the effect that, broadly speaking, the world is much better place than it used to be, and that this improvement is powered by deep forces explained by both evolutionary biology and economics.
Not surprisingly, this point of view will be repellent to many who, wedded to various political and philosophical views, would rather hear that mankind is spiraling into chaos and misery.
Mr. Ridley is a credentialed scientist with a doctorate in zoology from Oxford, and an experienced popular-science writer with brisk, smooth style. Well worth reading, even for pessimists. Especially for pessimists.
I also do like the way the author points out about the power of information and communication we now have, how so much knowledge is freely shared, or if not freely, at least at a accessible price. It's a interesting observation on how the hardknocks complainers are just unable to see how enslaved morals, discrimination, and mind closeness, were such strong opressors of so many people. Maybe the romantic nostalgy of something never experienced, just heard of stories, have implanted this continuous flow of longing.
I found the author to be extending a little too much making it a more lenghty book as it could be. But I do understand that this can be a good way of pulling more reflection about what's being discussed.
And as a person who would like to see more of renewable energy, researchs, and improvement of energy generation and storaging, I think he emphasizes with too much pride of the current and more popular energy sources. Again, I do understand, and appreciate, how his lenses do open to us a better understanding of how one source of energy ended up replacing the other. Still, even though he does open space for renewable energy, he puts it a being foolish to strongly support that. Maybe that was just a wishful observation on my side. =}
I'm not an academic or researcher, just a curious fellow, admiring great minds.