Wamda Recommends: The Rational Optimist

Rational OptimistThe Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

By Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley is anything but a Malthusian. Far from predicting the impending doom of the human race, based on apocalyptic predictions of dwindling resources, rampant population growth and energy consumption, Ridley believes that humans are innately capable of progress – based on specialisation and, yes, the marketplace of ideas. We can, he suggests, reinvent ourselves, our businesses and our lifestyles to continue to prosper, using our collective intelligence. As a zoologist, Ridley’s optimism is grounded less in the woolly sentimentalism of much of today’s anti-corporate brigade and more in the observation that the human race has always found solutions to its most pressing challenges. We are, after all, still here over 150 years after Reverend Malthus predicted the end is nigh.

Using the metaphor of evolution, he argues that ideas, like people, will always continue to meet, mate and breed – and then spread. As ideas survive, they strengthen over generations and the more progress and prosperity we can anticipate. As a result of this exchange in concepts and innovations, he boldly predicts that human endeavour will mean that humanity will be better off at the start of next century than it is now. Humans, he says, simply have to have the courage to instigate the changes. Comparing ourselves to only five decades ago, it’s difficult to argue we’re anything but better off – not matter how bad it looks.

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Matt Ridley, Harper (2010)


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