Book Review: The Rational Optimist
Pessimism might still be good in small doses
There seems to be a widespread view of a bleak future for the human kind today as we are bombarded with information that makes us feel as if we are unquestionably turning our planet into an inhabitable rock for future generations. Matt Ridley, although not the only optimist on this planet, has a more encouraging outlook on our future as a species as he writes in his latest book The Rational Optimist. The author, with a strong background in science and who has written books relating to evolution, genetics and human nature, is now trying to persuade us with a rather enthusiastic prose that we are not headed for darker ages. In fact, things are looking up and we should not worry too much about current issues such as overpopulation, global warming and depletion of resources because technological advancements will eradicate most if not all our problems. Dr. Ridley’s main argument in this book is that humans have gotten this far and will most likely continue to thrive due to our innate predisposition for trade. He writes “Exchange is to technology as sex is to evolution.”(p.71) as he explains this in great detail with historical analysis going back 500,000 years. Perhaps people are prone to be pessimistic as bad news is always more interesting than good but maybe the lack of optimism is what actually drives the world towards a better future.
The author starts off by exploring the world we live in today and comparing it to the past. He argues confidently that many difficulties we’ve had before have been eradicated by our progress; life expectancy has increased worldwide due to medical advancements, the average person has more spare time and money because of specialization while some of the poorest people today have better...