Sure we have all spent time making plans for the Zombie apocalypse, but that whole idea really does come from a sense of ultimate futility that has been bread into our generation. At times, ‘Modern thinking’ seems to be a euphemism for understanding all the ways that we as a species are ultimately fucked. The Media loves it, laying on the headlines about GM food, Super-maga-uber viruses, pollution, fuel crises, food shortages, global warming and the general over population of the world. All of which sells papers and leaves us feeling guilty and powerless with a vague unpleasant sense of futility growing sour in our stomachs. Its quite grotesque if you think about it. if you are a scientist or someone who has spent 5min on google and Wikipedia and is prone to make bold statements in the pub, it seems a relatively sound move to bet on oblivion; its really only a matter of which horse and when right?
Matt Ridley’s wonderful 6th book the ‘Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves’ is incredibly well written and extensively researched. It speaks against the tide of doom-propaganda and suggests that if you really sit down and think about it, as a species we are probably going to be fine. More than that, we should be proud of what we have achieved and look towards a brighter future for our children. These are not popular views, but this is not a flippant statement of sentimental optimism; this is rational optimism.
Ridley’s arguments are backed up by actual and relevant research (not Fox news, Wikipedia or day-time television), and he points out that right now we are living in a world of amazing prosperity. We have access to things that our ancestors could never dream of owning. Things they could never afford, or were only ever available to a lucky few, are now cheep and freely available to everyone. In all the important areas of life, we are better off now than we ever have been, and there is every sign that this trend will continue.
Here is Matt Ridley talking at one of the many wonderful TED talks back in 2010. Incidentally, if you don’t know about TED then I strongly urge you to take a look. TED’s Slogan is ‘Ideas worth spreading’ and there are some seriously amazing and world-view altering talks given there on what seems like a daily basis.
I truly enjoyed Rational Optimist, and more than that it made me question a number of my own ill-conceived notions of the human race. I cannot recommend it more highly. If you like what you hear in the video I urge you to run out and purchase it from a local book store in exactly the same way that your not-too-distant ancestors could never dream of doing.
More information can be found here http://www.rationaloptimist.com/