‘If there is one dominant myth about the world, one huge mistake we all make … it is that we all go around assuming the world is much more of a planned place than it is.’
From the industrial revolution and the rise of China, to urbanisation and the birth of bitcoin, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the ground up. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Matt Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future.
As compelling as it is controversial, as authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley’s deeply thought-provoking book will change the way we think about the world and how it works.
‘He argues we live in a bottom-up world…a compelling argument and in this fascinating work, an evolution from Ridley’s other books, such as The Rational Optimist of The Origins of Virtue, he takes it to all realms of knowledge and how new ideas emerge… Ridley has amassed such a weight of fascinating evidence and anecdote that the pages fly by’ Ed Conway, The Times
‘Intriguing and artfully argued’ Ian Critchly, The Sunday Times
‘This is a book of remarkable scope (when Ridley says everything, he isn’t exaggerating), clearly written by a polymath who reads whatever is interesting, old and new. What’s more, it does not have the feel of a book written on commission so much as one that has been slowly assembling its own emergent thesis over time, tentatively testing and sometimes rejecting ideas along the way. As so often in nature, something wonderful has thereby come about’ Literary Review
‘The book displays his wide and deep knowledge of many different fields. It is fast paced and elegantly written. Few readers will come away without fresh information and a challenge to their preconceptions’ Prospect
‘Readable, provocative and infuriating’ New Statesman
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
‘As a work of bold historical positivity it is to be welcomed. At every point cheerfulness keeps breaking through’ The Times
About the author
Matt Ridley received his BA and D. Phil at Oxford researching the evolution of behaviour. He has been science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor of The Economist. He is the author of bestselling titles The Red Queen (1993), The Origins of Virtue (1996), Genome (1999) and Nature via Nurture (2003). His books have sold over half a million copies, been translated into 25 languages and been shortlisted for six literary prizes. In 2004 he won the National Academies Book Award from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for Nature via Nurture. In 2007 Matt won the Davis Prize from the US History of Science Society for Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. He is married to the neuroscientist Professor Anya Hurlbert.
Working from the idea that evolution is "happening all around us" and is "the best way of understanding how the human world changes, as well as the natural world," Ridley (The Rational Optimist) looks at how numerous facets of society and nature develop and change over time. "Evolution is far more common, and far more influential, than most people recognize," he says. The book's primary argument is that, more often than not, there is no rational mind or organized decision-making behind the development of common concepts or widespread phenomena, but an unconscious reaction to an immense variety of factors. "The genome has no master gene, the brain has no command center, the English language has no director, the economy has no chief executive," he states. Ridley observes this principle in culture, government, and technology. There's a lot of information to work through, but the reasoning is sound and arguments are well-supported with historical precedent and general observation. While the premise may not sit well with everyone, Ridley provides enough evidence to support his claims and generate no shortage of debate.