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Are the "Apocaholics" Wrong?

Will society avoid collapse and continue prospering? Yes, thanks to the innovators among us says zoologist and Economist editor Matt Ridley in his new book "The Rational Optimist."
"...with new hubs of innovation emerging elsewhere, and with ideas spreading faster than ever on the Internet, (expect) bottom-up innovators to prevail. (Ridley's) prediction for the rest of the century: “Prosperity spreads, technology progresses, poverty declines, disease retreats, fecundity falls, happiness increases, violence atrophies, freedom grows, knowledge flourishes, the environment improves and wilderness expands.”
We could still screw things up.  We could, for example, stifle innovation and trade while inflating the importance of restrictive bureaucracies.
"Our progress is unsustainable...only if we stifle innovation and trade, the way China and other empires did in the past. Is that possible? Well, European countries are already banning technologies based on the precautionary principle requiring advance proof that they’re risk-free. Americans are turning more protectionist and advocating byzantine restrictions like carbon tariffs. Globalization is denounced by affluent Westerners preaching a return to self-sufficiency."
Most important, says Ridley, is guarding against self-inflicted parasites:
“Empires bought stability at the price of creating a parasitic court; monotheistic religions bought social cohesion at the expense of a parasitic priestly class; nationalism bought power at the expense of a parasitic military; socialism bought equality at the price of a parasitic bureaucracy; capitalism bought efficiency at the price of parasitic financiers.”
Yes, we could still screw things up, but it's difficult to bet against thousands of creative innovators. A good lesson for societies and organizations alike.

(Review from the NY Times.)

Comments

Anyone interested in Ridley's "Optimism" book should also look at my own prior 2009 book, THE CASE FOR RATIONAL OPTIMISM, which thoroughly discusses the same points, but actually tackles the entire range of the pessimist litany. See http://www.fsrcoin.com/k.htm
Steve Davis said…
Frank - thanks for reading and for the comment. I'll definitely add your book to my reading list. Best regards.

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