Matt Ridley thinks that it is. Born in United Kingdom, this scientist shows in Rational Optimist his point of view about human evolution. Analysing changes that happened from mankind was based on hunting to the current society; he makes an invitation to foresee an excellent future for the human beings.
Is catastrophism something new in the XXI century or terrible predictions have been a common trait of mankind? Ridley states that pessimism is a chronic disease since past times. Thus, scepticism about changes as well as fear to unknown have dictated the behaviour of people. For instance, during industrial revolution it was commonly apprehended the change from countryside to cities. Nonetheless, the author wonders whether this life in the country was as idyllic as it seems to be.
The engine of human evolution, following Ridleyās words, has been the capacity to exchange. On the other hand, the main downsize has been the times when subsistence farming was necessary. Successively, glorious ages like Roman empire were followed by dark ages where a dominant class took benefit from taxes and tributes. Under this scheme, the capacity of specialisation in addition to exchange, which is extremely beneficial, virtually disappears. Hence, a privileged group receive important benefits without contributing to the society. Another social retreat occurs as a result of famines. Once food is scarce people tend to comeback to farming. This eventually means the end of the markets and specialisation.
An optimistic position is the conclusion of this analysis from the beginning up to today. Following the path of the humankind, it seems evident that many things have been improved. Not only has life expectancy increased but also entertainment, violence or comfort. Therefore, it is hard to understand why there are still reluctances about the possibilities of following this trend. Nevertheless, it is true that humanity is facing great challenges which can lead us to an unhappy ending. For example, climate change is one of them. Ridley is sceptical about some measures like bio fuels since they require a great area which could be used for farming. He defends the use of nuclear power as the unique viable alternative to fossil fuels.
This book differs from other scientific divulgators like Lovelock who are catastrophists. Its historic analysis resembles āWhy nations Fail?ā, albeit it has a wider explanation of crisis eras where humanity turns back. It could be not absolutely convincing, however, it is a clear invitation to think over. If humans have climbed up to this point, why not continue climbing instead of falling?