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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.) Paperback – Illustrated, June 7, 2011
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“A very good book…a rich analysis…Ridley is a cogent and erudite social critic…He bolsters his argument with an impressive tour of evolutionary biology, economics, philosophy, world history.” -- Washington Post
“A fast-moving, intelligent description of why human life has so consistently improved over the course of history, and a wonderful overview of how human civilizations move forward.” -- John Tierney, New York Times
“A delightful and fascinating book filled with insight and wit, which will make you think twice and cheer up.” -- Steven Pinker
“The Rational Optimist teems with challenging and original ideas…No other book has argued with such brilliance and historical breadth against the automatic pessimism that prevails in intellectual life.” -- Ian McEwan
“Ridley eloquently weaves together economics, archeology, history, and evolutionary theory…His words effortlessly turn complicated economic and scientific concepts into entertaining, digestible nuggets.” -- Barrett Sheridan, Newsweek
“Invigorating…For Mr. Ridley, the market for ideas needs to be as open as possible in order to breed ingenuity from collaboration.” -- Trevor Butterworth, Wall Street Journal
“The Rational Optimist will give a reader solid reasons for believing that the human species will overcome its economic, political and environmental woes during this century.” -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“This inspiring book, a glorious defense of our species…is a devastating rebuke to humanity’s self-haters.” -- Sunday Times (London)
“Original, clever and …controversial” -- The Guardian
“A dose of just the kind of glass-half-full information we need right now…A powerful antidote to gloom-n-doom-mongering.” -- Washington Examiner
“A mesmerizing book.” -- Los Angeles Times
“Ridley’s dazzling, insightful and entertaining book on the unstoppable march of innovation is a refresher course in human history...Great ideas spring up unexpectedly from every direction, with each new one naturally coordinating with others...” -- New York Post
A fabulous new book... I was so delighted, amused and uplifted by it that I bought a couple hundred copies and sent one to all my clients. -- Donald Luskin, Smart Money
From the Back Cover
For two hundred years the pessimists have dominated public discourse, insisting that things will soon be getting much worse. But in fact, life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down all across the globe. Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people's lives as never before.
In his bold and bracing exploration into how human culture evolves positively through exchange and specialization, bestselling author Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. An astute, refreshing, and revelatory work that covers the entire sweep of human history—from the Stone Age to the Internet—The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.
- ASIN : 0061452068
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Illustrated edition (June 7, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780061452062
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 1.08 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #22,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But try to think of humanity as an organic whole (difficult, but in a sense we're not that different from the insect biomass--consider the typical traffic flow in any big city, or our ability to organize air traffic flow around any large airport--ignoring the rare disasters. Ants and bees have their problems too.).
If that be granted, which part of human identity is it that really sparks the creative fires that light the way to innovative change? Is it entirely the happy go lucky smiley face side? The guy with the big grin in the first canoe to get to the European sailing ship loaded with trinkets? Or his wife who's threatened to leave him if he doesn't get some baubles in exchange for the exotic fruit they've been throwing into the island's garbage pit for years? That guy or girl who designed a more effective spearhead--was that person motivated by the love of beautiful objects with barbed edges, or by gnawing hunger and the fear of starvation?
More to the point(!): if our great-grandchildren are going to be significantly better off than we are, despite millions more of vehicles terrestrial and celestial, a colossal pileup of trash on land, on and under the sea, and in the air, and regardless of what the scientific consensus is telling us, won't that require just a smidgen of grousing by grumps like me, to goad the engineers and scientists with the promise of fame and fortune? As the incredibly well-rounded Tina Turner so forcefully put it, "It takes two, baby."
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.
Top reviews from other countries
If you want to read an optimist's account of the world today, this book is a must. I just finished it and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Lord Ridley's vision is refreshing and illuminating and his writing style is crisp and clear. 5/5.
In a nutshell: Isolation is bad. Networking is good.
There are professional reviewers who have covered more ground than me on this, but this is the general picture.
Overall though a great read and it has gave me a newfound respect for the human propensity for trade and specialisation. To be read with an open-mind and prior knowledge of the authors political and economic views.