Matt Ridley

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Author, The Rational Optimist

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Originally a science reporter on The Economist, Matt has held several board positions (including Northern Rock) and written extensively on genes and ‘nature versus nurture.’ In speeches and his book, The Rational Optimist, Matt offers a counterblast to the prevailing pessimism: we are better fed, sheltered and protected from disease than ever before. He demonstrates how trade has brought enormous progress and will continue to do so, provided we keep on changing.


Matt Ridley argues that human beings’ ability to connect, collaborate and co-operate gives our species an often underestimated capacity for change and social progress.

In his acclaimed book, The Rational Optimist, Matt takes on contemporary pessimism to argue that, in spite of disasters and reverses, the world has been getting better and better for humanity over the last two centuries. He suggests that our overall quality of life and material wealth will continue to increase throughout the 21st century. In our lifetime per capita income has trebled, lifespan has increased by one third and child mortality has fallen by two thirds.

His follow up, The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, looks at the often overlooked power of the masses. Whilst history tends to say statesmen, philosophers and other leaders inspire the big changes, Matt argues that real revolutions are driven from the bottom up.

At TEDGlobal, Matt showed how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he argues; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is. Innovation comes from people and human exchange, not from government policy or elite diktats.

As well as a writer and thinker, Matt has worked as science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor for The Economist. He was the founding chairman of the International Centre for Life in Newcastle and served as non-excutive chairman of Northern Rock. He now writes for the Wall Street Journal and a number of other business and science publications around the world.

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