The Washington Post
Just wait — everything will work out for the better
By Jim Tankersley December 31, 2015
... Matt Ridley shares America’s eroding faith in institutions, but he doesn’t much believe in supervillains. He is a true libertarian, to an extreme you rarely see in American public discourse. He doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t have much use for government and argues in his new book, “The Evolution of Everything,” that people generally place far too much stock in the notion that individuals can shape the course of world events — or perhaps even their own lives.(emphasis mine)
Ridley is the best-selling author of “The Rational Optimist” and a member of the British House of Lords, though his new book often reads like the diatribe of a freshmen who just discovered Ayn Rand. Still, it arrives at an opportune moment in American politics. “The Evolution of Everything” is a preview of what America would sound like if the country were to lose faith entirely — in institutions, in public servants, in the very idea that heroes and villains exist.
In the world Ridley sketches in the book, everything will eventually work itself out for the better, thanks to free markets and survival of the fittest — so no one feels any obligation to try to change things for the good.
The crux of Ridley’s argument is that evolution guides the forward march of human existence, not God or government or individual actors. He begins with a deconstruction of religion and a veneration of evolutionary biology: There is “no need for God” to explain the course of human history, he says near the outset. Life appears to follow a design only if assessed in hindsight. “Bodies and behaviours,” he writes, “teem with apparently purposeful function that was never foreseen or planned.”
In this spirit, Ridley claims that society overrates inventors such as Edison and Pasteur — better to think of an innovation as a foregone conclusion of human progress to that point, as opposed to a burst of genius. He sees morality, family structure and technology as products of long strings of adaptation and not choices made by individual actors along the way, at least not to any meaningful extent. He discounts free will: “The illusion of an individual” with the power to make decisions, he writes, is no more just than the idea that “each person is the sum of their influences,” from genes to school chums to society at large.
He saves his greatest praise for the economic analogue of evolution — the free market — and some of his greatest scorn for government, which he casts as the closest thing he has to a villain; more an annoyance, a sort of swift current crashing against the healing powers of unfettered capitalism, than a conspiracy to work ill in the world. He wants to abolish public schools and central banks. He dislikes patents and believes that if government got out of health care entirely, history shows that doctors would take it upon themselves to ensure that the poor were cared for. He confesses some belief in global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but he worries more about countries reacting too strongly rather than too weakly to combat it...
This appeals to me since I have a very poor opinion of Rationalism in the bedlam of the present age.
I mean, Rationalism is well and good when you are sitting in the Diogenes Club and smoking a pipe and sipping scotch, but it is quite another thing when bombs are dropping, drones are flying, heads are rolling, and what have you.
In such desperate straits, rationalism merely uses game theory to find the cleanest and fastest way to suicide.
Case in point: evolution as emphasized above.
Why couldn't evolution select for villainy and bale? (I mean, a case could be made right now.)
That's my new idea. The future of AI lay in dealing with evolved mankind, which have come to resemble a vast group of Doctors Moriarty involved in deeply laid plans to subvert the non-evolved Neanderthal-like moral dolts... like us.