The Rational Optimist  -  How Prosperity Evolves

The Rational Optimist - How Prosperity Evolves

Product ID: 30541

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Author: Ridley Matt
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 438
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780007412525


Matt Ridley, acclaimed author of the classics Genome and Nature via Nurture, turns from investigating human nature to investigating human progress. In The Rational Optimist Ridley offers a counterblast to the prevailing pessimism of our age, and proves, however much we like to think to the contrary, that things are getting better.

Over 10,000 years ago there were fewer than 10 million people on the planet. Today there are more than 6 billion, 99 per cent of whom are better fed, better sheltered, better entertained and better protected against disease than their Stone Age ancestors.

The availability of almost everything a person could want or need has been going erratically upwards for 10,000 years and has rapidly accelerated over the last 200 years: calories; vitamins; clean water; machines; privacy; the means to travel faster than we can run, and the ability to communicate over longer distances than we can shout. Yet, bizarrely, however much things improve from the way they were before, people still cling to the belief that the future will be nothing but disastrous.

In this original, optimistic book, Matt Ridley puts forward his surprisingly simple answer to how humans progress, arguing that we progress when we trade and we only really trade productively when we trust each other.

The Rational Optimist will do for economics what Genome did for genomics and will show that the answer to our problems, imagined or real, is to keep on doing what we've been doing for 10,000 years to keep on changing.


“I know of no other book that has argued with such brilliance and historical breadth against the automatic pessimism that prevails in intellectual life. Where history, philosophy, economics, and biology meet, Matt Ridley has made his own rich territory, and he is its own enthralling guide. How wealth – mental as well as material – evolves and spreads is a fundamental question for our times, and The Rational Optimist teems with challenging and original ideas.”
--- Ian McEWAN

“A delightful and fascinating book, filled with insight and wit, which will make you think twice and cheer up.”
--- Steven Pinker

“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!”
--- James Watson


“Ridley’s Enthusiasm for his subject is contagious.… He writes with panache, wit, and humor and displays remarkable ingenuity in finding ways to present complicated materials for the lay reader.”
--- Los Angeles Times on the Agile Gene

“A fascinating tour of the human genome…. If you want to catch a glimpse of the biotech century that is now dawning… Genome is an excellent place to start.”
---Wall Street Journey on Genome

“Matt Ridley manages to combine a scholarly approach with a great dash and wit, which puts him well ahead of the field; stimulating and great fun.”
--- Financial Times on the Origins of Virtue


Prologue: When Ideas have Sex

1. A Better Today: The Unprecedented Present
2. The Collective Brain – Exchange and Specialisation after 200, 000 years Ago
3. The manufacture of Virtue – Barter, Trust and Rules after 50,000 years Ago
4. The Feeding of the Nine Billion – Farming After 10,000 Year Ago
5. The Triumph of Cities – Trade after 5,000 Years Ago
6. Escaping Malthus’s Trap – Population after 1200
7. The Release of Slaves – Energy After 1700
8. The invention of invention – increasing returns after 1800
9. Turning Points – Pessimism After 1900
10. The Two great Pessimisms of Today - Africa and Climate After 2010
11. The Catallaxy – Rational Optimism About 2100

Notes and References