At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.
Ridley recently released his new book called The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves which seems to combine economics with evolutionary biology along the lines of Michael Shermer’s The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics.
Update 20100721: a talk by Ridley @ Google:
In this clear-sighted book, Matt Ridley demonstrates that the world is getting better, and at an accelerating rate: food, income and lifespan are up; disease, child mortality and violence are down?all across the globe. Necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing down; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the internet and the mobile phone are enriching people’s lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for 200 years.
This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the stone age to the internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the unlikely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that, thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity greatly improved.