Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The rational optimist

Next session today was entitled Rational Optimism, and delivered by Matt Ridley who
argued that for most people in the world, the future is going to be inexorably better than the past for the following reasons.

1. Despite recessions and wars, human society has been getting wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, freer, kinder, more peaceful and more equal.

2. Though we repeatedly expect this improvement to cease, yet it keeps defying the pessimists.

3. There is a reason that this happens – through exchange and specialization, a process that allows us to work efficiently for each other in an increasingly interdependent way that creates a sort of collective intelligence.

Reasons to be cheerful| - Lots of positive trends:
World GDP going up
Probability of dying in a war going down
Globally we're more equal. Gap is closing. Rich countries getting richer, slower.

Can it go on? What could bring it to a close?
From beginning of 20th century has ranged from eugenics, population explosion, nuclear war, acid rain, y2k, climate change

Population growth rate has halved since 1960s. Heading for static population in 2070 of 9billion.Happened because people get richer, move to cities, reduced infant mortality.
Can we feed them? Need a lot of land if we go organic! Need to increase yield. Have already tripled yield in global cereal crops. Just need to get fertiliser to people who aren't getting it to people at the moment.

Climate change currently undershooting estimates made several years ago. Dying as from extreme weather down 98% because we've got better technology, communication.

Running out of fossil fuels? End of oil coming for hundred years and still not happened. Have consumed tiny amount of fossil fuels available.

Resources? Metal prices dropping because we're getting better at finding and extracting them

World getting better, people getting richer. Why? Something in last hundred years which has caused explosion in development and inventions. What? Habit of exchange.

Innovation like evolution.
Innovation that happens from the bottom up is chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens form the top down is orderly but dumb.

Sex. Cumulative evolution requires sex for recombination of genes. Like exchange in technology.

Accelerating pace of technology all about exchange and collaboration.

We're all expanding the amount of time we spend working for each other rather than working for ourselves.

Ideas can have sex. Exchange and trade.

If cut people off from exchange, innovative development stops, and goes into reverse. Technologies die. Tasmania good example, when became cut off, an island, lost many technologies. Innovation requires a critical mass of people to interact.

Comparison of a stone tool and a computer mouse. Who knows how to make a computer mouse? No one. Knowledge held in the crowd.

The Internet is a brain. We're the nodes in it

Human beings have gone from the individual intelligence enabling us to make stone tools, to the collective intelligence enabling us to make the iPhone.

That's the reason he's incredibility optimistic about the human race despite the fact that terrible things are probably going to happen in this century!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments: