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.
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Reviews for Nature via Nurture:
‘Nature via Nurture sets the modern terms for an ancient debate, and at the same time delivers a superb tutorial on contemporary genetics; the feedback loop that embraces genes and environment is generally not well understood. And yet this plasticity, this elegant mutuality, seems crucial if our new understanding of human nature is to inform public policy. These times need a book like this.’ Ian McEwan
‘Lucidly explains the most recent discoveries on what makes us what we are, and how we should think about these discoveries as we ponder who we want to be...A treat, written with insight, wisdom, and style.’ Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate
‘Bracingly intelligent, lucid, balanced – witty, too. Nature via Nurture is a scrupulous and charming look at our modern understanding of genes and experience.’ Oliver Sacks
‘A real page-turner. What a superb writer he is, and he seems to get better and better.’ Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish GeneFrom the Back Cover:
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. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping 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 two hundred years.
Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization--which started more than 100,000 years ago--has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair.
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 likely 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 enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.
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Book Description HARPER COLLINS PUBLISHERS. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7412525