Matt Ridley at TED

Here’s rational optimist Matt Ridley‘s TED talk. Readers of this blog will be familiar with his ideas about trade and development: “you need to understand how human beings bring together their brains and enable their ideas to combine and recombine, to meet and, indeed, to mate. In other words, you need to understand how ideas have sex.” Ridley also remains optimistic about the future “[b]ecause through the cloud, through crowdsourcing, through the bottom-up world that we’ve created, where not just the elites, but everybody is able to have their ideas and make them meet and mate, we are surely accelerating the rate of innovation.”[%comments]

Ian Kemmish

The trouble is the ideas that our own ideas want to mate with - it makes teenage daughters look like the exemplars of good taste. The results are always horrible mutants, rarely viable.

The adornment of the Sistine Chapel was a solo effort. The B Minor Mass was a solo effort. War and Peace was a solo effort. Even General Relativity was a solo effort.

Most countries' legal systems, on the over hand, are the result of the procreation of ideas. So are most countries' systems of financial regulation.

So, when the aliens land, demanding to know what we've done so far, which are you going to show them?

Ben D

So if you state something that's well known conventional wisdom, but assign a provocative term to it, suddenly you're a great thinker with important ideas?


In favor of Ridley and rational optimism: it's alot easier to be a pessemist than an optimist. If you predict disaster and you are wrong, nobody cares. If you predict success and you are wrong, you will probably be crucified.


Yeah; and it makes the bad guys more powerful faster, too.

joseph mclean

Mr. Kemmish has a valid point of course, speaking of artistic genius in two instances and mathematical genius in the third. But think of this: If it wasn't for the sex between Michaelangelo and modern aircrart, the only people able to appreciated the Sistine Chapel would be a bunch of prelates. If not for sexy electronic recording technology, Beethoven would be limited to the concert hall. And if not for the marriage of radio and optical technology on the one hand with mathematical theory on the other, we would be severely limited to an appreciation of the marvelous genius of Einstein.

Brian warden

@ Kemmish: You should really rethink your point, its nonsense. The entire society we live in is the result of ideas procreating, from libraries to aviation, ALL technology, medicine, culture in general, are the result of idea evolution. The PC that you used to write your post is the collaborative effort of literally thousands of minds, and so is nearly everything in our modern world, and even not so modern. Farming techniques are the cumulative knowledge of thousands, probably millions, of past and present farmers exchanging ideasn techniques, etc. Even in art and science, Michaelangelo and Einstein didn't exist in a vacuum, unable to see/read those that came before them; they built upon or revised the ideas that had preceded them. A man who was born on an island and lived there in solitary his whole life wouldn't invent shit.