Matt Ridley on The Wright Show

Matt Ridley (Rational Optimist) on The Wright Show (.mp3) for 9th February 2015. 56 minutes, straight into the interview and no tedious preamble to skip.

At the end listeners get some hints about his next book. It’s to be called The Evolution of Everything apparently, and is about the big “unbidden trends” in the world that largely fly under the radar. I’m unsure if it’s the same as Tear Down the Skyhooks, the book that 4th Estate had announced for May 2015, and which was/is apparently about “the grass-roots trends shaping our world and future”. But it sounds like it probably is the same. I guess 4th Estate wanted a more mainstream ‘bestsellerish’ sort of title. Pity, as Skyhooks was much more Google friendly.

While you’re waiting I can recommend an excellent book, also from 4th Estate. It’s Edward Tenner’s Why Things Bite Back, on the unintended consequences of the introduction of new technologies or the imposition of large projects. While often serving as a rebuke to blind optimists, as the examples are nearly all of negative effects, the book can be seen through a lens of rational optimism. If we make a few intelligent and thought-through changes to complex systems or new technologies, as they are in their early development or early deployment, this can save humanity from centuries of problems. As we gain billions more human minds on the planet, and have better access both to those minds and to the accumulated wisdom of the past, we may increase the chances of squishing such major design errors before they become intractable problems. Possibly computer modelling may also help, as it gets more reliable. The flipside of Tenner’s book, which I wonder if Matt Ridley’s new book will address, is the unintended and often unregarded positive consequences and combinatory effects of new technologies. Such as Kindles and iPads radically reducing demand for newsprint, book pulp and magazine grade papers.