Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley and Ronald Bailey Talk About The Evolution of Everything This Wednesday in D.C.

Incremental, bottom-up, trial-and-error innovation yields moral progress, superior technologies, and greater wealth


Matt Ridley

This Wednedsay, I will be commenting on Matt Ridley's new book, The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge at noon at a book event at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. From the Cato Institute:

Featuring the author Matt Ridley, Journalist, businessman and author of the best-selling book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010); with comments by Ronald Bailey, Science Correspondent, Reason Magazine, author of The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century; moderated by Marian L. Tupy, Editor,, Cato Institute.

The way human history is taught is misleading, argues Matt Ridley. Far too much emphasis is placed on the "top-down twitch" — the belief that change comes from on high: the politicians who run countries, scientists who discover truths, inventors who make breakthroughs, men and women who head companies. In fact, Ridley says, bottom-up progress through evolution is far more crucial. From the natural forces that formed the universe and human life itself to the cultural mechanisms that have shaped everything from our educational system and global financial structure, to the products we buy and the language we speak, "evolution is far more common, and far more influential, than most people recognize."

For more background see my review my review, "Good News Is Unplanned."

Click on over to Cato to register for the event. See you there.

NEXT: Join Reason for a Happy Hour in Portland Thursday!

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  1. Loos like the Obama/Holder “Get Whitey” racialist politics sweeping the nation has just gotten its latest scalp, as the president of the University of Missouri is stepping down.

    I’d bet good money that Wolfe voted for this fucking asshole too. It’s absolutely revolting what’s going on these days.

    1. I remember hearing about getting more of what you reward or something.

    2. I’m with you, mike. We need to stop calling people who aren’t racists racists. I’m out of luck though. You see, when I go to an Chinese restaurant and the menu says “Beaf with Brocori” I point it out to my White friends and laugh. I’m a bad White.

      1. You see, when I go to an Chinese restaurant and the menu says “Beaf with Brocori” I point it out to my White friends and laugh. I’m a bad White.

        No, let’s be clear: you didn’t go into a restaurant, look at a menu with “Beaf and Brocori”, and laugh. That’s not racism.

        You saw a group of Asians holding signs with proper, correct English on them, and said, “They can’t be real Asians! They’re using correct English!” That’s racist.

        You’re not a a racist because you weren’t racist.

        You’re a racist because you are racist.

        If you want to go pretending you said something completely different, then you enjoy pretending to be someone who’s not racist.

        However, things you didn’t actually say or do aren’t really relevant to your actual racism.

        Now here, fill out this form, mail it to the government, and wait for a civil servant to come help you address your issue.

        1. I’ve never seen someone try to strawman themselves to get out of their original argument.

          That’s new territory. Bravo.

  2. I don’t know anything about Ridley…

    but i’m vaguely reminded of James Burke and his whole “Connections” approach to the evolution of major technologies, none of which were ‘coordinated’ so much as the product of various smaller incremental changes in how people went about trying to improve often more-mundane processes.

    An example from the wiki entry on the first series =

    “”Death in the Morning” examines the standardisation of precious metal with the touchstone in the ancient world. This innovation stimulated trade from Greece to Persia, ultimately causing the construction of a huge commercial center and library at Alexandria which included Ptolemy’s star tables. This wealth of astronomical knowledge aided navigators during the age of discovery 14 centuries later following the introduction of lateen sails and sternpost rudders. Mariners discovered that the compass’s magnetised needle did not actually point directly north. Investigations into the nature of magnetism by Gilbert led to the discovery of electricity by way of the sulphur ball of von Guericke. Further interest in atmospheric electricity at the Ben Nevis weather station led to Wilson’s cloud chamber which in turn allowed development of both Watson-Watt’s radar and (by way of Rutherford’s insights) nuclear weaponry.”

    1. Ridley’s fantastic. I remember watching Burke’s stuff as a kid. It was very entertaining but in retrospect I’m not sure about the accuracy.

  3. Bah!, government invented everything!


    1. That’s Marianea Mazzucato’s line.

    2. I think a more likely Tony quote would be:

      “People wouldn’t invent things unless there was a government to protect them.”

  4. It is great to see Matt Ridley adding his voice to those who draw attention to the observable reality that the development of technology is actually an autonomous evolutionary process. A drum that I have been beating in my own writings for many years. A realization presaged as far back as 1863 by Samuel Butler in “Darwin Among the Machines”

    Although touched upon by various others such as George Basalla in “The Evolution of Technology” the idea never gained much purchase. Partly because of now obsolete notions regarding the biological “evolutionary tree” but mostly because acceptance involves stepping outside our traditional anthropocentric comfort zone.

    But, as discussed in my recent “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill”, there is a further dimension to this paradigm inasmuch as technological evolution is contiguous with that of biology and, for instance, geology (See Robert M Hazen’s Scientific American article “The Evolution of Minerals”).

    In fact we observe an evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of chemical elements in the first stars and extends right through to its latest phase, the growth of the Internet.

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