We are taught that the world is a top-down place. Acclaimed author Matt Ridley shows just how wrong this is in his compelling new book.
We are taught that the world is a top-down place. Generals win battles; politicians run countries; scientists discover truths; artists create genres; inventors make breakthroughs; teachers shape minds; philosophers change minds; priests teach morality; businessmen lead businesses; environmentalists save the planet. Not just individuals but institutions, too: Goldman Sachs, the Communist Party, the Catholic Church, Al Qaeda - these are said to shape the world. This is more often wrong than right.
The Evolution of Everything is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch, the endless fascination human beings have for design rather than evolution, for direction rather than emergence.
Top downery is the source of most of our worst problems in the past - why Hitler won an election, why the subprime bubble happened, why Africa lingered in poverty when Asia did not, why the euro is a disaster - and will be the scourge of this century, too. And although we neglect, defy and ignore them, bottom-up trends still shape the world.
The growth of technology, the sanitation-driven health revolution, the quadrupling of farm yields so that more land could be released for nature - these were largely emergent phenomena. So was the Internet, the mobile phone revolution and the rise of Asia.
In this wide-ranging, highly opinionated nonfiction narrative, Ridley draws on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy and examples drawn from the scientific literature, from historical narratives and from personal anecdotes.
Praise for Matt Ridley: "What a superb writer he is, and he seems to get better and better." (Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene)
Praise for The Rational Optimist: "A triumphant blast on the vuvuzela of common sense." (Boris Johnson)
"A glorious defence of our species...a devastating rebuke to humanity's self-haters." (Sunday Times)
"No other book has argued with such brilliance against the automatic pessimism that prevails." (Ian McEwan)
"His theory is, in a way, the glorious offspring that would result if Charles Darwin's ideas were mated with those of Adam Smith." (The Economist)
"Original, clever and controversial." (Guardian)
"As a work of bold historical positivity it is to be welcomed. At every point cheerfulness keeps breaking through." (The Times)
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Some fascinating insights, if overwrought
- K. Rumph