Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex

This is a great TED talk from Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist (that I’ve started to read and am enjoying immensely), summarizing some of the main ideas in the book.

There are many useful ideas and surprising facts and arguments presented here but the central concept is that the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of humans, that they trade and exchange things, leads to ever-increasing efficiencies of use of time and the (literal) breeding of innovation, in an ever-accelerating virtuous spiral that means the world gets to be a better place to live for nearly everyone nearly all the time, notwithstanding local variations and occasional reversals. His view of the emergent collective is particularly insightful and, though not as subtly argued as Bloom’s masterly ‘Global Brain’, makes a lot of sense and the simile that ideas literally reproduce sexually is memorable and worth examining. This is an original, poetic and compelling retelling of a very old idea that borrows heavily from Adam Smith and Leonard E. Read and that echoes many of the things W. Brian Arthur, Stephen Johnson, Kevin Kelly and others have been writing about technology and innovation recently. 

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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