Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ave, Aaron!

Last night, I sat and watched a fascinating presentation by Matt Ridley on "deep optimism" at Aaron McKenzie's Idiots' Collective. The Q&A that followed was equally interesting. If you've got around 90 minutes, I'd highly recommend that you watch the whole thing.

There's a lot to take away from the lecture and the Q&A, but I was merely watching, not taking notes, so I can't list everything here. All the same, I can say I was impressed by the statistics that Ridley was able to marshal in defense of his notion that things are, on the whole, improving for the human race. He covers the down-trending graphs of poverty and disease, notes the improvements being made by richer countries as they strive to implement greener policies, defends the notion that there is indeed a correlation between wealth and happiness, questions the current alarmism about climate change, and spends a long time talking about the way in which intercommunication spurs robust creativity, leaving more closed-off cultures in the dust.

I doubt that his spiel will impress the ideologically committed. Both the left and the right contend, in their own ways, that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, whereas Ridley's interpretation of the available data is that humanity's got it better now than ever before. Japan's handling of the recent disaster figures largely in this assessment: if Japan had been as technologically backward as Haiti, things could have been much worse.

It's an interesting talk. There are worse ways to spend your time. Perhaps my favorite moment is when he flips the term "progressive" on its head during the Q&A.



SJHoneywell said...

That confirms something I've thought for awhile. When the disaster in Japan happened, I felt guilty in saying that I thought it was better there than in, say, Bangladesh. While terrible, Japan could mobilize faster, and could handle such an emergency better than could many other nations.

Is there a twinge of guilt in saying that? Yes--but there's also truth. No one wants human tragedy on a massive scale. But it would have been far worse with longer repercussions had it happened in a country with little to no infrastructure and little to know ability to handle/recover from wide-spread devastation.

Kevin Kim said...