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Download The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, by Matt Ridley Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,651 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Matt Ridley Narrator: L. J. Ganser Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2010 ISBN: 9780061997655
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Life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for two hundred years.

Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization—which started more than 100,000 years ago—has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair.

This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the Stone Age to the Internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the likely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change, and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Rational Optimist teems with challenging and original ideas…No other book has argued with such brilliance and historical breadth against the automatic pessimism that prevails in intellectual life.”  

    Ian McEwan, New York Times bestselling author

  • “A fast-moving, intelligent description of why human life has so consistently improved over the course of history, and a wonderful overview of how human civilizations move forward.” 

    New York Times

  • “Original, clever and …controversial.”  

    Guardian (London)

  • “With vivid storytelling illuminating the huge role of markets and trade in material progress…[A] fascinating history of trade and innovation.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Ridley’s dazzling, insightful and entertaining book on the unstoppable march of innovation is a refresher course in human history...Great ideas spring up unexpectedly from every direction, with each new one naturally coordinating with others.”  

    New York Post

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kevin | 2/3/2014

    " Although the author's arguments for why we should all be starry-eyed optimistic about our common future regardless of the circumstances appear persuasive, on closer examination the author quite frequently confuses correlation and cause in the service of scoring political points (scantily) dressed up as the book's thesis. Hence, apart from some interesting historical vignettes, the book fails to persuade me of much other than the author's need to review logic 101. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nic | 1/28/2014

    " Interesting take on the future of our global trading markets based on an understanding of the trading and specialization movements in ancient human civilizations. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Felix | 1/13/2014

    " Matt Ridley explains the upcoming conditions and all the despair that sorrounds the actual conditions, he explain wrong considerations that are just biased but not supported by facts. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James Hacker | 1/13/2014

    " It's a nice breath of fresh air to read arguments about how things aren't getting worse and we're not all going to die immanently. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Armen Sanasarian | 12/29/2013

    " as an extremely well written and though-out antidote to "the sky is falling" mentality, but it is more than that. Really enjoying this book--maybe because it is further support for what I've thought and been saying for years? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steve | 12/15/2013

    " Many stretches of 4 stars with patches of 2 and 3. Having said that it was a great strike for a general optimism based on history and experience, in the face of the doomsdayers, environmentalists , and other prophets of catastrophe. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Thomas | 11/25/2013

    " I read and enjoy Ridley's blog. This seemed like just a collection of blog entries. I thought it was a bit repetitive in style and I didn't learn too much more than what is is his blog. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gary | 11/13/2013

    " 2.5 stars. I'm not sure all his explanations hold enough water. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Red Dragonfly | 8/17/2013

    " I am an optimist - and do think that people and the world will adapt and continue to flourish. But there was a lot in this book that I either don't really agree with or that was over simplified. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 2/26/2013

    " Great alternative perspective of the state of the world and human development. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth Holter | 2/19/2013

    " I read Rational Optimism shortly after finishing Life Ascending. The latter is a good tour through the evolution of life. Rational Optimism is an even better tour through the evolution of ideas, as well as a good antidote to the profusion of doom and gloom writing in which we are always immersed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anthony Cheng | 11/22/2012

    " Commerce and trade lead to ideas mating. Ideas mating leads to new technology and innovation. Technology is the primary driver of rising living standards and increased prosperity. Ideas are mating faster than ever. It's therefore rational to be optimistic about the future. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Manish | 9/17/2012

    " I was thinking that the author is going on and on about the financial crisis at the start of the book and every one has suddenly become an expert on that topic. It became more interesting after that. Recommended if you like to review things in historical context. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Frank | 9/13/2012

    " Some worthwhile insights, especially at the outset; after that: polemic and superficial. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rob | 8/28/2012

    " I can't say I was gripped by his passages about early man, but all told this is a welcome antidote to pessimism found in much of our discourse. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Spencer B | 7/2/2012

    " I liked very much the case the author makes that in almost every metric the life/the world/everything is better now than 50 years ago and doomsayers notwithstanding there is a very good chance that in 50 years from now it will be better still. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lincoln | 5/17/2011

    " Really awesome read - mixes history, economics, evolution, politics, and global warming all in one! It's a fun book that made some interesting connections and really made me think about the future possibilities. I definitely recommend it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris | 5/10/2011

    " A book that really hits home the value of individual freedom. He underplays the impact of financial irresponsibility and environmental degradation, but the tenet that allowing ideas to grow through ingenuity and trade will I tue end serve man kind is an important one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tom | 4/5/2011

    " Damn, we have it good. Thoughtprovoking. Worth reading just for the first few pages. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonathan | 4/3/2011

    " Brilliant, must read book. Makes you think about psychological reasons behind everyone's pessimistic view of the way the world is going. Most people have always felt the future was going to be worse, most people have experienced it as immeasurably better. Great stats and graphics. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jacob | 3/26/2011

    " Great book, makes an excellent case against intellectual pessimism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Spencer | 1/6/2011

    " I liked very much the case the author makes that in almost every metric the life/the world/everything is better now than 50 years ago and doomsayers notwithstanding there is a very good chance that in 50 years from now it will be better still. "

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