Rebirth of Reason

Favorite EditSanction this itemThe Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
This is a great book with a lot of interesting content.  The theme of the book is why we should be optimistic about the future.

The author describes how exchange between people allows each person to gain the advantages of the other person's knowledge without having to actually learn it.  If I know how to build computers, you can trade for them instead of having to learn how and built it yourself.  In this way, our effective knowledge is magnified by the extent of the market.  The author describes this as a "collective brain".  We're able to take advantage of the knowledge and thinking of others by exchanging what we have for what they have.

The book looks at exchange historically.  The author describes why humans perform a kind of exchange that other animals don't.  He shows how exchange had a profound impact on the development of humans.  He describes how exchange spread, and provides archaeological evidence.  He shows how when people became wealthy, it attracted looters.  He provides a new view of why cities developed.  He details the rate of technological progress, and explains why there were setbacks at various times.  The book has amazing scope.

He also discusses how optimism is looked down up and considered naive, and how it's been that way for a long time.  He points to some of the pessimistic predictions, and how wrong they were and why.  He tackles some of the big reasons for pessimism today, including Africa and Global Warming.

He discusses population and food growth.  He talks about various forms of energy, from animal power, to slave power, to water, to charcoal, to fossil fuels, and to nuclear energy.

And he ties it all into one cohesive package.

It's a fun read, and loaded with interesting points enmeshed in a well integrated argument for rational optimism. 
Added by Joseph Rowlands
on 9/16/2011, 3:40am

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