Search the Site

Bring Your Questions for Rational Optimist Matt Ridley


Why has the human species thrived so well? Is it because of our big brains? Our tendency toward altruism (as impure as it may be)? In a new book called The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, the science writer Matt Ridley argues it’s because we started doing something very simple: trading ideas and goods. “By exchanging, human beings discovered ‘the division of labor,’ the specialization of efforts and talents for mutual gain,” Ridley writes.
After specialization came continuous innovation (a uniquely human trait) and increased prosperity, all of which made the average person’s life today so much better than in the past.
More controversially, in light of current concerns about the global economy and climate change, Ridley believes that humans will continue along this path of improvement: “Rational optimism holds that the world will pull out of the current crisis because of the way that markets in goods, services, and ideas allow human beings to exchange and specialize honestly for the betterment of all. … It will not be easy, but it is perfectly possible, indeed probable, that in the year 2110, a century after this book is published, humanity will be much, much better off than it is today, and so will the ecology of the planet it inhabits.”
Ridley has offered to field questions on the topic from Freakonomics readers, so ask away in the comments section below. As with past Q&A’s, we’ll post his answers shortly.
Addendum: Ridley answers your questions here.