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How Innovation Works: Serendipity, Energy and the Saving of Time

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Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society. Forget short-term symptoms like Donald Trump and Brexit, it is innovation itself that explains them and that will itself shape the 21st century for good and ill. Yet innovation remains a mysterious process, poorly understood by policy makers and businessmen, hard to summon into existence to order, yet inevitable and inexorable when it does happen.

Matt Ridley argues in this book that we need to change the way we think about innovation, to see it as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens to society as a direct result of the human habit of exchange, rather than an orderly, top-down process developing according to a plan. Innovation is crucially different from invention, because it is the turning of inventions into things of practical and affordable use to people. It speeds up in some sectors and slows down in others. It is always a collective, collaborative phenomenon, not a matter of lonely genius. It is gradual, serendipitous, recombinant, inexorable, contagious, experimental and unpredictable. It happens mainly in just a few parts of the world at any one time. It still cannot be modelled properly by economists, but it can easily be discouraged by politicians. Far from there being too much innovation, we may be on the brink of an innovation famine.

Ridley derives these and other lessons, not with abstract argument, but from telling the lively stories of scores of innovations, how they started and why they succeeded or in some cases failed. He goes back millions of years and leaps forward into the near future. Some of the innovation stories he tells are about steam engines, jet engines, search engines, airships, coffee, potatoes, vaping, vaccines, cuisine, antibiotics, mosquito nets, turbines, propellers, fertiliser, zero, computers, dogs, farming, fire, genetic engineering, gene editing, container shipping, railways, cars, safety rules, wheeled suitcases, mobile phones, corrugated iron, powered flight, chlorinated water, toilets, vacuum cleaners, shale gas, the telegraph, radio, social media, block chain, the sharing economy, artificial intelligence, fake bomb detectors, phantom games consoles, fraudulent blood tests, faddish diets, hyperloop tubes, herbicides, copyright and even – a biological innovation -- life itself.

320 pages, ebook

First published May 1, 2020

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About the author

Matt Ridley

29 books1,868 followers
Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington correspondent from 1987 to 1989 and American editor from 1990 to 1992.

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Profile Image for posthuman.
64 reviews105 followers
June 11, 2020
How Innovation Works is an inspiring and thought-provoking review of the history of human innovation with a goal of illustrating three principles. First, that important innovations tend to arise from many people improving incrementally upon the work of others. In other words, that the singular inventor's "Eureka!" moment is largely a myth. Second, that recent regulatory hurdles have hindered innovation, particularly in Europe. And finally, that the net impact of intellectual property laws has been to hinder innovation as well.

Ridley shares many delightful anecdotes about the historical struggles of innovators but his emphasis on proving these three principles detracts from the pleasure of reading the book. It might have better served his purpose to split this work into three volumes, or at least two. Particularly the odd crusade against intellectual property rights falls flat, and given the complexity of the issue probably deserves its own separate book.

Innovation happens when people are free to think, experiment and speculate. It happens when people can trade with each other. It happens where people are relatively prosperous, not desperate. It is somewhat contagious. It needs investment. It generally happens in cities. And so on. But do we really understand it? What is the best way to encourage innovation? To set targets, direct research, subsidize science, write rules and standards; or to back off from all this, deregulate, set people free; or to create property rights in ideas, offer patents and hand out prizes, issue medals; to fear the future; or to be full of hope? You will find champions of all these policies and more, fervently arguing their cases. But the striking thing about innovation is how mysterious it still is. No economist or social scientist can fully explain why innovation happens, let alone why it happens when and where it does.

According to Ridley, “inventions are ideas having sex.” Each new inventor stands on the shoulders of those who came before him or her and the resulting new tech becomes part of more new tech. In a culture of invention, the process of combination and recombination of ideas multiplies the possibilities without limit. The more inventions there are, the more new tech becomes conceivable. He draws a fascinating parallel to the incremental steps of biological evolutionary processes: "There is no day when you can say: computers did not exist the day before and did the day after, any more than you can say that one ape-person was an ape and her daughter was a person."

By diving into the minutiae of these incremental steps that blur the line between what is or is not a computer, a steam engine, or a working flush toilet, etc, the author seeks to discredit the notion of our technological progression as a chain of heroic singular inventors having flashes of inspiration. Industry-shifting innovations may be gradual and impossible to attribute entirely to any one person, but I fail to see how this makes any of the multiple innovators involved any less heroic or inspiring.

Innovation also requires a great deal of trial and error, with practical tinkerers paving the way for science to follow more often than the reverse. People were inoculating children against smallpox, breeding crops and building steam engines long before they had any valid theories of immunology, genetics or thermodynamics. Ridley argues that the level of regulatory restrictions on certain modern technologies like nuclear power have prevented the sort of trial and error tinkering that would otherwise have resulted in tremendous innovation (or tremendous explosions):

In terms of its energy density, nuclear is without equal: an object the size of a suitcase, suitably plumbed in, can power a town or an aircraft carrier almost indefinitely...Yet today the picture is of an industry in decline, its electrical output shrinking as old plants close faster than new ones open, and an innovation whose time has passed, or a technology that has stalled. This is not for lack of ideas, but for a very different reason: lack of opportunity to experiment. The story of nuclear power is a cautionary tale of how innovation falters, and even goes backwards, if it cannot evolve.

The problem is cost inflation. Nuclear plants have seen their costs relentlessly rising for decades, mostly because of increasing caution about safety. And the industry remains insulated almost entirely from the one known human process that reliably pulls down costs: trial and error. Because error could be so cataclysmic in the case of nuclear power, and because trials are so gigantically costly, nuclear power cannot get trial and error restarted. So we are stuck with an immature and inefficient version of the technology, the pressurized-water reactor

The latter portion of the book makes the compelling case that the objectives of some special interest organizations converge with those of sluggish, large companies lobbying to protect obsolete technologies resulting in a perfect storm of restrictive regulatory frameworks that stifle innovation:

We are... reinventing the guilds that often monopolized and stifled commerce in the Middle Ages...In Florida, an interior designer must go to university for four years before being allowed to practise, even if he or she has already qualified as an interior designer in another state. God forbid that some subversive should put the public interest in danger by trying to furnish a Florida apartment in the Alabama style!

Examples of these regulations are illustrated in various countries including the US, but mostly in Europe:

Of Europe’s 100 most valuable companies, none – not one – were formed in the past forty years. In Germany’s Dax 30 index, just two companies were founded after 1970; in France’s CAC 40 index, one; in Sweden’s top fifty, none at all. Europe has spawned not a single digital giant to challenge Google, Facebook or Amazon.

Ridley also argues that intellectual property rights restrict innovation, but this argument is not so convincing. Most would agree that IP laws are in need of reform in many countries, particularly patent laws; however, doing away with them altogether would be akin to a seizure of many trillions of dollars of assets (including Ridley's right to earn money from this book). This is a complex issue that cannot be properly explored in a few chapters here.

Overall this is quite an enjoyable read, if somewhat marred by the focus on proving the three principles. There is also a chapter where the author goes off on a tangent about historical opposition to coffeehouses that seems irrelevant and probably should have been cut from the book.
Profile Image for Viktor Stoyanov.
Author 1 book157 followers
February 9, 2022
Учудващо неиновативна.

Първа книга ми е от този автор. Усещането ми след завършването е за човек, който е истински запален по други книги и други изследователи, но не представя своя изследователска гледна точка.

Поне 6 пъти се цитира Уолтър Айзъксън, като съм убеден, че се има предвид основно наистина добрата му "Иноваторите: Гениите, които изобретиха цифровото бъдеще".
Поне 2-3 пъти се цитира Vaclav Smil, като съм убеден, че се има предвид основно наистина добрата му Energy and Civilization: A History.
Разказва се историята на биотех компанията Теранос ... не всъщност се преразкава книгата на Джон Кариру "Лоша кръв: тайни и лъжи в един стартъп от Силициевата долина".
Не е цитиран, но съм сигурен и че някои неща са взаимствани от Харари (или от който там Харари е взаимствал) и тн.

Щях да кажа, че поне книгата е добре структурирана, но ... това важи до последната 1/3, когато плавното хронологично проследяване от парната машина до компютъра, продължава рязко в ... земеделската революция.

Освен това, авторът много яростно защитава анти-ЕС тезата, като свръхрегулатур - враг на всяка иновация. Нормално за един англичанин, ще кажете, те нали си излязоха с Брекзит.

Накрая се правят няколко прогнози за бъдещето, които са, да кажем - банални, меко казано. Единствено донякъде ми хареса, защото по принцип обичам да чета по темата. Дори и когато ми е като преразказ, на вече познати примери и заключения.

Но защо всъщност на някой му е необходим преразказа, когато има опцията за оригинала?
Препоръка - ще остане за останалите споменати книги в ревюто.

Тази се оказва за мен учудващо неиновативна книга за иновациите.
44 reviews8 followers
April 27, 2021
The book essentially consists of two halves: the first half deals with stories of how innovation came about in fields such as energy, health, technology etc. and the second half, based on the stories, tries to come up with theories for how innovation works. It is a decent conceit -- to grip the reader with rousing tales of scientific and technological breakthroughs and then, using these stories, tease out the mechanism through which innovation works. The problem is, the conceit fails on both counts.

Let's start with the second half, the punchline of the book. Almost none of the points Ridley makes about innovation are particularly insightful. They come across as fairly obvious. Does innovation happen in a society that is open to trade and communication or one that is closed? Does innovation happen when there is less regulation or more? Does innovation happen by teams working together or by individuals working alone? I am sure most people would pick the former in each case, and unsurprisingly, Ridley too reaches the same conclusion, but makes us work hard to get there. To be fair, there are some instances where his conclusions are somewhat novel (e.g. patents don't really help innovations) but the payoff for slogging through the stories is low. Which brings us to another point: the stories. The problem with relying on stories to make your point is that you leave yourself open to the charge of cherry-picking anecdotes to suit your narrative. There is very little systematic study of innovation across time or countries or a data-driven analysis of innovations within an industry or across industries. Ridley is almost entirely reliant on secondary sources -- it is not a problem in itself (Sapiens is a good example of a book that despite being based wholly on secondary research had something new to say), but it fundamentally limits how insightful one can be especially if the primary research in the area is lacking. By using mainly stories to back up his assertions, Ridley often ends up contradicting himself, as for every story there is probably a counter-story. On the one hand, he says innovation thrives in a society with fragmented governance (such as Federal vs. State in the US) but on the other hand China, with its single authoritarian government setup, he concedes, is a mega innovator. He ends up having to making exceptions and creating loopholes to explain why certain stories don't jibe with the other stories. At one point in the book, Ridley asserts that the invention of the radio led to mass propaganda which led to polarisation of society but the invention of TV united people. Er, what? One merely has to flip to a couple of news channels to see the level of polarisation TV has engendered today, something which Ridley too mentions later on in the book, contradicting his statement from before.

And the first half of the book, the stories, are narrated in a surprisingly dull manner. Some stories, which would have been putty in the hands of a better raconteur, come across almost like an uninterested journalist's news report. The tales of innovation are rushed, with dates and names jumping at you on every page but lack a human interest. (Contrast this with the stories of medical discovery in Bill Bryson's The Body.) This is a shame, as the examples Ridley picks out, one suspects, would have made for great reading if handled by a better writer. A pet peeve: I dislike a writer butting in in the middle of a story and Ridley does it a few times. Once he notes that he is typing out the chapter at the same railway station mentioned in the story he is narrating, which brought to mind an image of the writer half-attentively flinging words onto the page, trying to rush though a chapter before he reached his destination and had better stuff to do. The stories have this glib, hurried quality to them that sometimes undermine the points he wants to makes. Also, about 30% of the book is EU-bashing (big, bureaucratic, slow, regulation-heavy), which becomes tiresome after a point.

All in all, it was an OK read. You learn a few fun things on the way but the journey in general is not much fun.
Profile Image for Христо Блажев.
2,206 reviews1,423 followers
November 27, 2020
Кратка история на иновациите е всъщност кратка история на света: https://knigolandia.info/book-review/...

Мат Ридли е сред любимите ми популяризатори на науката – в блога има текстове и за “Геномът”, и за “Червената царица”, и за “Еволюция на всичко”, и за “Предстоят ли най-д��брите дни за човечеството?”, в която има дейно участие. И някак неизбежно е да се продължи с последната му, “Кратка история на иновациите”, която излезе в същата година като оригиналното издание. И за мен е сред най-интересните му, защото набляга на непознатата страна на човешкия прогрес: иновациите. Свикнали сме да свързваме тази дума само с нашето време, но Ридли показва, че всъщност те съпътстват човека от древни времена – дори откриването на огъня е вид иновация, както и опитомяването на кучето. В тоя ред на мисли опитомяването на самия човек се е случило по същите закони:

Profile Image for Matt.
Author 7 books29 followers
December 11, 2020
A good book, though not quite as innovative (sorry) or eye-opening as The Rational Optimist. A lot of this book - the first 2/3 or so - is devoted to recounting in great detail different stories of innovation. Throughout these stories, Ridley occasionally reflects on the nature of innovation, drawing lessons about how it occurs as why. But it's not really until the last third of the book that he begins to tie these ideas together in any kind of systematic way. Even then, the "why it flourishes in freedom" part of the book's title is never really adequately explored. There's some brief discussion of how innovation requires trial and error, and trial of error requires a certain kind of economic and political freedom. But the analysis doesn't get much deeper than that, and there's nothing in the way of a systematic attempt to examine the idea empirically, for instance by somehow measuring levels of innovation and comparing them across countries via one of the various indices of political or economic freedom.

One of the most interesting ideas from the book, really, is the distinction Ridley draws between innovation and invention. The two are often conflated, but Ridley describes innovation as involving not only coming up with some new idea, product, or process, but finding someway to make it useful enough to become widely adopted. Framed in that way, there turns out to be quite a gap between invention and innovation, and quite a lot of room for people with little in the way of scientific expertise or credentials, but ample amounts of business savvy, to become innovators on the basis of ideas that other people had invented. Innovation is almost always, Ridley points out, a gradual, incremental, and collective process. Even if a single "great man" comes up with the big idea (and usually it's not a *single* individual - simultaneous independent discovery, as Ridley notes, is remarkably common), it still typically takes a lot of time and a lot of minds to make that idea into something economical and useful.

Another really interesting point: although we tend to think that scientific discovery usually precedes and plays a causal role in facilitating innovation, it's usually the opposite. Practice precedes theory. People often figure out *that* something works without really understanding *why* it works, and scientific study often plays catch-up to discoveries that are already being developed in industry.

Bottom line: if you're interested in the history of the development of technology, or stories about how entrepreneurs have worked in a variety of fields to come up with new and useful ways of doing things, you'll enjoy this book. If you're looking for a more general *theory* of innovation, especially if you're looking for an account of the relation between innovation and freedom, you're likely to be disappointed. There's a lot here on the basis of which such a theory might be developed, but you'll have to do the work yourself.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,793 reviews1,627 followers
April 20, 2021
Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society. Forget short-term symptoms like Donald Trump and Brexit, it is innovation itself that explains them and that will itself shape the 21st century for good and ill. Yet innovation remains a mysterious process, poorly understood by policy makers and businessmen, hard to summon into existence to order, yet inevitable and inexorable when it does happen. Matt Ridley argues in this book that we need to change the way we think about innovation, to see it as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens to society as a direct result of the human habit of exchange, rather than an orderly, top-down process developing according to a plan. Innovation is crucially different from invention, because it is the turning of inventions into things of practical and affordable use to people. It speeds up in some sectors and slows down in others. It is always a collective, collaborative phenomenon, not a matter of lonely genius. It is gradual, serendipitous, recombinant, inexorable, contagious, experimental and unpredictable. It happens mainly in just a few parts of the world at any one time. It still cannot be modelled properly by economists, but it can easily be discouraged by politicians. Far from there being too much innovation, we may be on the brink of an innovation famine.

Ridley derives these and other lessons, not with abstract argument, but from telling the lively stories of scores of innovations, how they started and why they succeeded or in some cases failed. He goes back millions of years and leaps forward into the near future. Some of the innovation stories he tells are about steam engines, jet engines, search engines, airships, coffee, potatoes, vaping, vaccines, cuisine, antibiotics, mosquito nets, turbines, propellers, fertiliser, zero, computers, dogs, farming, fire, genetic engineering, gene editing, container shipping, railways, cars, safety rules, wheeled suitcases, mobile phones, corrugated iron, powered flight, chlorinated water, toilets, vacuum cleaners, shale gas, the telegraph, radio, social media, block chain, the sharing economy, artificial intelligence, fake bomb detectors, phantom games consoles, fraudulent blood tests, faddish diets, hyperloop tubes, herbicides, copyright and even – a biological innovation -- life itself. This is a fascinating, information-rich and thought-provoking read with plenty of inspirational stories to help fuel your fire and a tonne of statistics and interesting anecdotes throughout. Encompassing and addressing a wide range of instances in which innovation takes place, how it takes place and how important it is for human advancement and modernity, Ridley has penned an insightful, eye-opening read. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Constantin  Beda.
62 reviews19 followers
June 14, 2022
Necunoscutul ne-a făcut mereu precauți. De multe ori ne temem de nou, de schimbare. De inovație. Și tocmai despre asta e aici, în "Inovația". Despre cum lucrurile pe care le acceptăm cu greu ne-au făcut viața mai bună, mai ușoară. Pentru că, în mod paradoxal, suntem și foarte adaptabili și flexibili, altfel n-am fi ajuns unde suntem, n-am fi ajuns să evoluăm tehnologic. Doar că ne ia mai mult să acceptăm schimbarea de care spuneam, să asimilăm ideile inovatoare, pentru că apoi să le acceptăm și să ne întrebăm cum am putut trăi fără ele. Inovația și ideile "din afara cutiei" pot crește nivelul de trai și confortul. De asta trebuie citită cartea asta, așa vom vedea că schimbarea e benefică, și că se petrece în jurul nostru în permanență.

Interesant este că inovația precede știința, și invers. Tehnologia poate apărea ca efect al inovației, însă la fel de bine dezvoltarea tehnologiei poate duce la inovație. E un concept care merge în ambele sensuri.

Inovația nu înseamnă întotdeauna invenție. Sunt strâns legate, bineînțeles, doar că prima e în mare parte modalitatea prin care a doua este introdusă într-o societate. Și felul în care e primită. Deosebirile despre cum ajunge să fie primită într-un mediu al unui stat închis și refractar și unul care e deschis către nou sunt semnificative. Dar chiar și într-un stat cu o societate deschisă și democratică se poate lovi de prea multă birocrație. Matt Ridley insistă că este nevoie de libertate pentru inovație, cum spune și în titlu, și cu siguranță are dreptate.

"Inovația este unul dintre acele lucruri pe care, în general, le susține toată lumea și împotriva căreia toată lumea găsește motive să se revolte în particular. Departe de a fi bine primiți și încurajați, inovatorii trebuie să se lupte cu interesele investiționale ale părților implicate, conservatorismul precaut al psihologiei umane, profitabilitatea protestului și barierele de acces ridicate de brevete, reglementări, standarde și licențe."
Profile Image for Otto Lehto.
437 reviews161 followers
July 4, 2020
What a delightful and insightful book. Matt Ridley explains the colourful history of innovations and upends some common preconceptions about how they come up. The book contains several key lessons: 1) Innovation is mostly a result of team effort, co-discovery, serendipity, step by step refinement, aimless tinkering, and endless trial-and-error learning. 2) Innovation strives in a free society where permissionless innovation is encouraged. 3) You cannot plan for innovation but you can encourage it indirectly. 4) Patents and copyrights today are more of a hindrance than a spur to innovation.

The book is sprawling and encyclopaedic. It lacks cohesion and structure, since it continuously jumps from one story to another. This would be a fault in any other book, but it works wonderfully given the theme of the book. The riches of empirical data are coalesced into a smashing narrative. Sure, the book doesn't invent the wheel. It doesn't, if you pardon the pun, innovate. But it spins a cohesive and compelling yarn about innovations and why they matter. It highlights some of the key ways in which governments, companies, and the people at large fail to grasp social evolution. Recommended.
Profile Image for Boris.
421 reviews155 followers
November 5, 2021
Компилирани статии от уикипедия, отпечатани на хартия. Мега зле.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,638 reviews329 followers
May 10, 2022
Ridley's publisher ran a quote from the starred Kirkus review on the cover: "Opinionated, often counterintuitive, full of delicious stories, always provocative." Good pick, and good book. Might be Ridley's best. It took me awhile to get through it, but certainly not because it's dull reading! Here's that review, which is where you should start: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re...
Basically, If this sounds interesting, you should read the book. Almost certainly, your library will have a copy. I have notes.... Bottom line: 4.4 stars, and I might still go for the bit more to kick it up enough to round up to 5. Important book.

As he usually does, Matt Ridley looks at problems from a different angle. WSJ just ran an excerpted essay from his upcoming book: https://www.wsj.com/articles/innovati...
The expiration of patents often results in a burst of innovation, as with 3-D printing, where the recent lapse of three key patents has resulted in notable improvements in quality and a drop in price. The historian Anton Howes, of the Royal Society of Arts in London, points out that the French government bought out Louis Daguerre’s patent for photography in 1839 and made the technology freely available, unleashing a burst of creative innovation. Dr. Howes argues, “As we look to fight coronavirus and any future pandemics, we should perhaps consider which patents—for antivirals, vaccines, ventilators and other hygienic equipment—might be bought out in order to remove…innovation bottlenecks.”
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Kremer came up with a concept called the Advance Market Commitment that would fine-tune prizes as incentives to innovate. In 2007, the Gates Foundation committed $1.5 billion to a prize fund to find a vaccine for Pneumococcus bacteria for use in developing countries, where no pharmaceutical company could make money from it. But rather than just winning a lump sum for meeting the goal, companies were assured that if they succeeded, they would win a contract that paid out for 10 years at a good price. The prize money effectively topped up the sum received by the pharmaceutical firm for every vaccine sold. The result of the auction was three good vaccines, costing $2 per dose, which have been given to 150 million children, saving 700,000 lives.

The essay is likely paywalled at the WSJ. I expect Ridley will republish it elsewhere. If not, I'll be happy to send you a copy.
Profile Image for Daniel.
622 reviews83 followers
June 18, 2020
Ridley’s books are always deeply insightful and unconventional. This book is no different.

1. Happens randomly and unpredictably
2. Many failures but a few great breakthroughs
3. Often happens simultaneously across different countries and continent, but usually attributed to the most successful inventor
4. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration
5. Mostly done by practical people such as mechanics and other tinkerers and seldom by professors
6. Science mostly comes after the invention
7. All are built on other prior innovation
8. Cross pollination of ideas very important
9. Must serve a need or else it will disappear
10. Needs supportive innovation to work; timing is everything
11. Other not the best design but the best manufactured and marketed one wins
12. Regulation kills innovation and benefits the incumbents (European regulation on IT/GMO food/vacuum Cleaners). No innovation means stagnant economy
13. Empires are bad for innovation; small independent states good
14. Freedom to experiment and fail and learn from them is critical for success.
15. Intellectual properties law is probably only good for medication but not for most other innovation. Leads to patent hogging and endless lawsuits
16. Resources are unlimited as we can find much more efficient use of stuff and substitutes
17. Even in America, too little innovation is happening so economy stagnation ensues; China is the new innovation powerhouse
Profile Image for Gregory Pelley.
14 reviews5 followers
June 10, 2020
Ridley is your favorite dinner guest, full of fascinating stories that quickly veer from one point to the next and are offered in a haphazard order. Which is fun at a dinner party. The advantage of the rapid-fire storytelling is to mask the wild contradictions and unsupported claims that he tosses in there.
Still, at some point one begins to wonder why we should listen to him beyond the amusing anecdotes.

Fundamentally, Ridley argues for a free and completely unfettered landscape into which innovation be allowed to occur. Fine. But he readily dismisses any possible negative consequences. No innovation, no matter how deadly, damaging, or oppressive is off Ridley's table. It is all good, always good, and Ridley's shame and consternation is foisted on anyone who would dare say, "Hold on, are you sure this is a good thing? Perhaps we might consider the consequences?"

Ridley is clearly a Bentham utilitarian. Nothing wrong with utilitarianism -- unless you are the one getting crushed under the trolley wheels.
Profile Image for Derek Pankaew.
151 reviews8 followers
October 18, 2020
I liked the overall themes and discoveries of the book. It did feel like it could have been a 3 page Medium post rather than a 200 page book, though. A little boring & drawn out at times.
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews505 followers
September 18, 2020
People love Matt Ridley. I almost feel bad for rating this so low, but he is really in tight with the old guard, Dawkins et al. I thought this would blow my mind. It didn't. It had the potential to, if newer and more progressive science were included, but Ridley is very scientifically conservative.

This is a book about innovation; and yet, it is not very innovative itself. I like that he included life, but even this is nothing new. It was an a pretty standard history of innovation, written about extensively elsewhere. He threw in some Neil Shubin ideas-- innovation is not a lone accomplishment; you could never make an iPad in the stone age; ideas are usually floating in the air. But Shubin wrote about that years ago.

It's not that I didn't like the history of innovation. I LOVE the invention of the steam engine. It is actually one of my favorite things in all of life. I am obsessed with innovation in general. I just really thought this book would have included so much more insight into the nature of innovation than it did.
Profile Image for Pete.
809 reviews52 followers
July 1, 2020
How Innovation Works: Serendipity, Energy and the Saving of Time (2020) by Matt Ridley is a very good book that looks at how innovation has arisen in recent history and what makes it work.
Ridley defines innovation as different from invention, which is the creation of something new and describes innovation as getting something to market that people actually use and that has an impact on society.
The book emphasizes how innovation almost always gradual, it's done by teams, it's mostly not from a theoretical work and large organisations are generally not that good at it. Also Ridley looks at why innovation seems to be slowing globally.
How Innovation Works has an extensive history of various innovations and this part of the book is really fantastic. Ridley goes into how the steam engine was gradually improved, how vaccines were discovered, how the Wright Brothers made their first flight, the story of containerisation, how the Haber Bosch process was discovered and developed and many other tales of innovation. It's fascinating and enables Ridley to point out the bottom up, practical nature of innovation.
The present day barriers to innovation are examined. Overly restrictive patents and European blocks on GMOs are described in detail. The point is made that just two companies in the DAX top 30 were formed after 1970 and the same is true across Europe in contrast to the US.
How Innovation Works is a really good book. Ridley writes well, knows his subject inside and out and makes the case that innovation is crucial and that it needs a free environment to work.
Profile Image for Raghu.
385 reviews77 followers
August 9, 2021
Innovation has been the buzzword with leaders of developing nations in the past couple of decades. They see it as the magic wand that could catapult them from a lower-income, lower-technology nation to a richer, more prosperous one. A lot of this belief has its roots in the creative technologies of the mid-1990s in Silicon Valley, California. Innovations, such as the World Wide Web, the Mosaic internet browser, and VoIP/communication technologies, brought the immense power of the internet, improving the daily lives of the average citizen. Even politicians could see how inventions such as email, e-commerce, search engine, the cell phone, and social media revolutionized societies across the world. It inspired China, Brazil, and India to have their own Silicon Valley to spur innovation. If a nation creates its own Silicon Valley, would innovation always follow? What are the conditions, environment, and incentives that are necessary to foster innovation? Author Matt Ridley tries to answer these questions in this book. He does it by looking at the history of innovation, its nature, its successes, failures and frauds, its impediments, its economics, etc. He has taken a non-academic, non-didactic approach to this exposition, making the book educational.

Ridley begins with a working definition by characterizing Innovation as the act of discovering ways to rearrange the world in useful forms that are unlikely to arise by chance. When people are rather prosperous, free to think, trade with each other, experiment and speculate, we create conditions for innovation. So, liberal economies, with their free-roving experimental opportunities, do well with innovation. Yet, no economist or social scientist can quite explain why, when, and where innovation happens. In Ridley’s view, innovation is a gradual and evolutionary process. Serendipity still plays a big part. It is an urban myth that innovation is the work of lonely, autistic geniuses, toiling away in their father’s garage. There is no accepted best way to encourage innovation. But we can still create conditions for it. Ridley believes deregulation and freedom for the people are key elements. He does not believe in directing research, intellectual property rights, or subsidizing science. One key feature of innovation is we underestimate its impact in the long run but overestimate it in the short run. For all the lip service we pay to it, innovation is often unpopular. If not useful to us, we focus on its dire consequences than the good ones. People with vested interests in the status quo throw obstacles in the way and impede its progress. In this book, Ridley uses examples from the worlds of energy, public health, transport, food, low technology, computers, and communication to argue his case.

Each chapter covers one field of activity. It uses examples from that field to highlight innovators’ work in history to support the author’s contentions. As one would expect, Thomas Edison, Graham Bell, Marconi, James Watt, and the Wright brothers find their pride of place in these discussions. We also learn about obscure names like Lady Mary Pierrepoint, who was an early champion of viral inoculation in 18th century London during the smallpox epidemic. She did not invent inoculation, but she strove to popularize and spread the practice. Ridley uses her example to make his point that innovation is gradual and often begins with the ordinary people, before the elite take the credit. It is appropriate to remember her in these days of opposition to vaccination against Covid-19. Ridley says the path of innovation is not smooth, with only successes and good intentions. The book has a chapter on fakes and frauds in the name of innovation. It discusses the Silicon Valley company Theranos and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop idea. Ridley makes insightful comments about why Theranos got unraveled and why he has doubts about Hyperloop delivering what it promises to customers. Though the ideas behind Theranos were innovative, the core technologies to realize them were yet to be developed. Hyperloop is a two-century old idea repackaged for modern transportation. Ridley lists several technological and land issues as Hyperloop’s toughest problems. They have not tackled these issues. A central rule of innovation is that the toughest issue needs to be tackled first, in case it’s unsolvable. Both Theranos and Hyperloop break this rule and hence the author’s misgivings.

I had always imagined that intellectual property rights are necessary to spur innovation. Still, I found Ridley’s arguments about the disservice that intellectual property rights (IPR) do to impede innovation thought-provoking. Innovation is a gradual and evolutionary process. But popular imagination sees it as a revolution, a breakthrough and instant enlightenment. Ridley believes the cause for this misconception lies in human nature and IPR. Our society sees history as the product of outstanding men, women, and geniuses. We know it to be untrue of history and of innovation. The inventor likes to sell his or her innovation as sudden, world-changing, and the result of his years of struggle and insight. He has no interest in crediting the predecessors or rivals. Journalists and biographers also have their own vested interests in promoting this view. Nationalism compounds the problem even further. Sometimes, the inventor draws the patent in too broad a span to protect his / her market and deter further innovation.

Ridley gives examples from the book publishing, film-making and music industry to show that copyright laws have contributed little to encourage investment and innovation. As for patents, their purpose is to encourage people to innovate. It allows them a monopoly profit from the patent for a limited period, provided they disclose the details of their invention. However, inventors end up wasting the best years of their lives in court defending their patents. Watt, Morse, Marconi, and the Wright brothers are excellent examples. Often, inventors pursue futile vendettas against rivals who deserve some credit. There is no evidence that areas unprotected by patents produce less innovation. Organizational inventions such as franchising and just-in-time inventory management happened in companies unpatented. Others copied them with enthusiasm, but it didn’t stop companies from inventing more. Patents raise the costs of goods and inventors use them to keep competition at bay. The author concludes that intellectual property rights are a significant drag on innovation and growth, the very opposite of IP law’s stated purpose. They are now a hindrance, not a help to modern innovation.

The last chapter, titled ‘An Innovation Famine’, disappointed and confused me. It is a curious mixture of contradictory arguments and defeatism in contrast to the author’s usual sunny optimism. Ridley had argued earlier in the book that state sponsored innovation is possible, but private enterprise does it better. In this chapter, he says it is likely that China will innovate on a grander scale and faster than anywhere else in the coming few decades. The reason is the Chinese entrepreneur is free of petty bureaucratic rules and delays. He is free to experiment so long as he does not annoy the Communist Party. The speed with which China executes projects is given as evidence of the signs of an impending innovation deluge. Some examples are building bridges and roads, high-speed rail, adopting digital payment systems, online education, and financial services. Ridley has similar hopes for India and Brazil. He believes India’s innovation is speeding up, with the use of technologies like biometric identification, usage of fingerprints and irises, for welfare payments and banking. According to him, India’s drug industry is speeding from generics to innovative medicines. Ridley does not back up these assertions with examples, as he does in the earlier chapters. The chapter ends with pessimism about the decline of the West. He cites the 9-9-6 (9 am to 9 pm, 6 days working week) ethos of China as a positive. In contrast, the West is grappling with bureaucracy and superstition, blocking innovation. Regulators, lawyers, consultants and rent seekers suck the vital juices from entrepreneurial enterprises in the West. Central banks look down their noses at innovations like cryptocurrencies and digital fin-tech.

The examples Ridley cites in China are a by-product of centralized governance. It reads almost as though aspects of dictatorship have impressed Ridley, a libertarian. If China, India, and Brazil are taking over the mantle of innovation, then there was no greater opportunity for them to showcase it than in the year 2020. Covid-19 ravaged the world. China and India could have shown their scientific and technological prowess by developing a reliable vaccine that is affordable for the entire world and captured the world’s imagination. China developed two vaccines and India one. Both the Chinese vaccines have dubious efficacy and there are doubts on whether China used its clout in the WHO to get them approved. The WHO has still not approved India’s own vaccine, called Covaxin. India exported the vaccine to Brazil, but corruption scandals and doubts about the data on its Phase 3 trials have dogged the deal. ‘Nature’ magazine reported that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is safe and effective. But the Russian Health Ministry okayed it in August 2020, more than a month before its Phase 1 and 2 trial results got published. This was before its Phase 3 trial had even begun! It is only the vaccines from the Western countries which have proven effective and legitimate, despite all the criticism of its bureaucracy, declining standards and anti-Vax superstitions.

I have misgivings about the author’s rosy prognosis on innovation in China in the future. One year after this book’s publication, we see the Chinese state cracking down on their big tech companies. The three biggest online educational services and the biggest financial and e-commerce services have got the axe from the Chinese state, curtailing their freedom to operate. It is not clear why they did it, but the speculation varies from the three-child policy to security concerns to challenges to the Communist party. The picture is not too rosy in India either. Despite paying lip-service to democracy and freedom, dissent and protests acutely scare the Hindu-nationalist government. This has resulted in greater centralization of governance, surveillance, and restrictions on press and intellectual freedoms. India has at least one silver lining though, because it is possible to dislodge the ruling party through polls and usher in a more humane and liberal regime. China does not seem to have this option with its one-party rule.

The book has examples in plenty and it helps to get a good grasp of the author’s exposition of his viewpoints. It makes the book accessible to the general reader. I found it enjoyable reading and would recommend it..
Profile Image for Kurt Jensen.
141 reviews4 followers
June 2, 2020
I was at first quite ambivalent about this book, but ultimately I think it's one of the best books I've ever read.

That's not to say I think Ridley is always right. I think some of his arguments are weaker than others, especially: 1) that basic research is only valuable in that it enriches our lives (and it *rarely* leads to innovation), 2) his central conflation that all government is equal to poor regulations stifling innovation and 3) the idea he finishes on - an odd, motivational correlation about sheer hours of work. Number #1 has been hotly debated in the press and elsewhere, and Ridley even kind of backed off or otherwise waffled on not really meaning what people thought that meant. Number #2 is my central criticism - Ridley seems to rail on "government" and laud the innovation engine of capitalism when he really is railing on Crony Capitalism - which is the corruption of the two combined, together. Could Crony Capitalism exist without government? Well, no - but neither could capitalism exist without government. But - making that edit in my own mind keeps his arguments very strong.

One thing I like about this book is it is a history of innovation, which I think is really important for people to understand. At first, I worried it would be bereft with anecdotal evidence and cherry-picking, and it's not completely devoid of that bias - but it's fairly comprehensive (of world-changing innovations) and very persuasive. It goes into where vaccines came from and early backlash to them - I think that should really help people demystify vaccines as not some sort of dangerous, government-sponsored attack on their offspring but rather a stunning, grassroots innovation that has greatly bettered our lives.

But many ideas in here I have not seen expressed quite this way anywhere else, and they've greatly inspired me. It actually makes me think that the political philosophy, herein, could really transcend political divisions and bring people together, productively and progressively.
Profile Image for Lourens.
75 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2023
Recounts (mostly well-known) success stories of innovation, something that will always excite me.

Falls short of giving a convincing description of when innovation works.

Last section, on the bright future of China's innovation, seems to me a bit shortsighted. There is a significant burden of proof when claiming that China is "free" on the level of the entrepreneur, and that burden is not met.
June 29, 2020
If innovation can be bottled into a formula, it wouldn’t be that unique or valuable. Irrespective of the title, I was interested in getting more perspectives of it, especially from Matt Ridley whose Rational Optimist I enjoyed a while ago (review here).

The book is structured somewhat differently from other books. The author spends a lot of time on specific innovation in different areas for two thirds of the book. The rest of the time is in summarizing the theorizes. The case for the second part of the title, is never fully made, but I was not that keen on that aspect anyway. The stories are interesting and the summaries are okay, but I was left expecting more. I wish the book had been clearer about who it was intended for. That might have helped direct it better.
192 reviews35 followers
September 18, 2020
Quick, fun, and educational read. Matt Ridley covers a familiar and well-trodden territory that deals with history, impact and serendipity of various inventions and innovations. But unlike many others, well-exemplified by Tim Hartford and his “Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy”, Ridley doesn’t mind getting a little dirty.

There are plenty of politically charged tangents in the book such as nuclear energy, GMOs, and genetic engineering, as well as controversy-fertile subjects such as human self-domestication, scientism, resistance to innovation by centralized governments and academia, and harmful regulation. To get into history of innovation, one probably shouldn’t start with Ridley’s book, but his take on the subject is indispensable.
Profile Image for Simon Eskildsen.
215 reviews953 followers
April 1, 2021
I've read quite a few books about how innovation works over the past few years, and this is one of the better ones. If it's a topic that interests you, pick it up. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to mark it as read.. it's been a while, so I forget exactly what I got from this and not others... but when reviewing the highlights, they are all very familiar. That's a really good sign.
Profile Image for Adam.
996 reviews197 followers
June 3, 2020
This book has a lot in common with Andrew McAfee's More From Less, and indeed both authors cite each other directly. They're both very quick reads, touching shallowly on many topics and relying extensively on research done by other scholars, making fairly broad points. But Ridley pulls off that balance much better overall. The book is mostly composed of historical vignettes about invention and innovation, but while none of them are individually very detailed, they're carefully summarized in a way that drives home Ridley's key point: innovation is the outcome of cultural evolution, not intelligent design. And of course because that's a point I'm deeply committed to, I found this exercise very satisfying. Ridley takes a bunch of famous examples of solitary genius invention and shows that all of them are 1) recombinations of previously existing ideas and technologies that were 2) arrived at by intense trial and error either by societies over generations of undirected activity or by persistent individuals through intense directed activity.

Cultural evolution in human innovation has many properties carried over from biological evolution that aren't often appreciated. Just as "crossing over" allows whole functional genes to be rearranged into new combinations, cultural evolution makes big leaps by combining functional ideas developed for old purposes into solutions to new problems. Thus what matters is both the size of the "cultural genome" or "cultural brain" and the ease with which people who know whole ideas can encounter each other to combine them. And while cultural history usually prioritizes this phase of history--in which something starkly new comes into existence--the far more important process is selection, which seizes on those new solutions, propagates them, and hones them to reduce costs and increase efficacy. One interesting point Ridley makes, using the example of Moore's law for semiconducters, is that true disjunctions are more rare than we might think. IE, cases in which a new discovery is made, producing not just a new solution to a familiar problem but a new realm of problem per se, are hard to think of. Instead, most inventions that seem to invent their own demand are in fact just new ways to tackle old problems. Airplanes experience a selection pressure to be better at flying, but they're responses to the intense demand for transportation that existed before them. Semiconducters experience intense selection for higher transistor density per microchip, but the invention of semiconductors was in retrospect just a smooth step in a much longer process of selection for higher computational power, etc.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, and one of the things I was only half-hoping Ridely might cover. Ultimately I'm only half-satisfied. It seems to me that market forces must almost necessarily be responsible for mediating this selection pressure. After all, a huge number of people will come up with lots of ideas, but unless the presence of an idea makes you individually less likely to die, it's hard to see why it would spread or be improved. Markets are the intermediary, translating one person's good idea into an opportunity for them, and many other people, to improve their situation. More specifically, I think that in this (almost impossible to conceive) thought experiment in which ppl can transmit ideas but not engage in trade, cultural evolution would simply select for ideas that were 1) easy to learn and 2) easy and fun to engage in individually. In reality markets and market forces are inevitable; the only question is how they should be arranged, or more neutrally, how different arrangements change the rate and direction of innovation.

Ridley is certainly friendly to this idea--his worldview is clearly what you might call libertarian--and there's plenty of relevant material here. Most of the innovators and inventors he discusses were businesspeople actively pursuing the profits that come with a big breakthrough in a commercially valued field. And he frequently makes gibes about how the lack of "freedom" in states like the USSR reduced their innovation rate to practically nothing. But he never quite dives into the details on that. The only place he discusses the question directly is done through an econometric comparison that only looks at results without considering mechanisms.

The interesting part is that Ridley is firmly anti-copyright. He bemoans how much time and suffering brilliant people have wasted in fighting patent lawsuits to protect the profits of their discovery. He thinks the whole thing is a waste, and that there's no evidence that the lack of such state-enforced monopolies would discourage innovation at all. Quite the opposite. Instead, he thinks innovators will be able to make their profit by first-mover advantage or secrecy, etc. This explains in part why innovation may not occur in planned economies, since people can't just make firms and earn profits when they come up with a good idea. But it isn't the end of the story, not least because many of the innovations in the book were not developed in clearly profit-driven scenarios. Many of the medical innovations in particular seem to have earned their inventors profit only through indirect, reputational rewards. It seems plausible to imagine such mechanisms could have driven innovation in the USSR as well--so why didn't they? Ridley claims that innovation threatens the status quo and therefore entrenched power elites with strong mechanisms for state control increasingly clamp down on it. That seems plausible but it's not explored in enough mechanistic detail, and enough evidence is not provided, to "prove" it for my standards.

I was excited to see how much this book was about my obsession with cultural evolution, and even more excited when I realized it broadened its scope to include all of biosemiotics. Ridley devotes a somewhat cursory chapter to life itself as an innovation, which along with a chapter on prehistoric innovations serves to make the point that human cultural evolution is a seamless continuation of prior evolution. Great. But the way he says it: that innovation is an infinite improbability engine that endlessly produces improbable arrangements of matter. Well, that's biosemiotics! And while I understand that no one wants to hear about biosemiotics, I would have been delighted to hear him acknowledge that he understands that's what he's saying and use the concept to wrap it all up together.

I feel obliged to note that Ridley is I guess maybe IDW-adjacent, and drops at least two casual and unsupported eugenics claims into the text for no real reason. First he claims that by preventing violent individuals from reproducing (?), the prison system is a continuation of the process of human self-domestication. Later, he more or less predicts that medical innovation will "cure" autism. Not great Matt!
Profile Image for Dio Mavroyannis.
165 reviews15 followers
September 7, 2020
Patents and copyright are justified with a question, "Why would people innovate if they didn't expect to gain?» At first glance this argument sounds like common sense; however, if we dig a little we quickly understand that this is "lawyer logic". That is, it is a story that conveniently has lawyers legitimacy reinforced.
Economics teaches us to think in a rather different manner. The narrow interest versus broad interests, specifically for two sides that have equivalent interests, the side that has the narrowest base has an advantage. It is simply easier to coordinate their interests. The lawyers are an example of such a narrow coalition. So if you think the question is sufficient to justify patents, the narrow interests are winning.
A more neutral framing can be presented, one such formulation could be "do most innovations occur faster with or without patents?". Note that this question doesn't have the conclusion baked into it. An infamous paper shows that the more innovation is sequential, the more likely it is that patents will slow down it down. The logic here is really quite simple, it may be true that the next innovation will be created faster with patents, but the innovation that improves on this innovation may be created slower because there is a decreased incentive to work on a patented invention.
This is the reason the sequentiality of innovation is such a contested territory. If one can show that innovation is a highly sequential phenomenon, then the lawyer logic is under attack. Matt Ridley's book is an important contribution to this debate. In "How Innovation works", Ridley isn't interested in the theory of the debate, he wants to stick to what is important, the innovations.
His book reads like a series of short stories, indeed hundreds, about many different innovations. He attempts the impossible task of trying to classify them, in the beginning, he classifies them by industry (transport, health, food, energy) but by chapter 5 this approach is already limiting its limit, he then has a chapter on pre-historic innovations and low technology innovations.
Ridley doesn't just focus on debunking the lawyer argument through the sequentiality argument. A running theme throughout the book is that people seem to be motivated by creating in itself, indeed the academics are usually the exception with their litigating behavior. The problem itself is academic; the working moto when it comes to evaluating innovation is "if I can't measure it, it isn't there".
He makes a rather sharp distinction early on, invention is not innovation. The person who brings the product to market and changes the norm is the innovator. According to Ridley, if patents were always given to innovations then they would be less harmful, the problem is that an innovation is defined ex-post; it isn't possible to know which invention will turn out to be an innovation. As such most patents are given on things that never had any potential to generate revenue. An invention may or not turn out to be ready for the market, if it isn't ready, then protecting it can only slow down the invention that will be able to penetrate the market.
Except for the sequentiality and the motivation of entrepreneurs, an important reason to undermine the lawyers’ argument for patents is the pushing of inferior products. In a world without patents, firms have an incentive to search the best possible product for any given end and then attempt to sell that product. In a world with patents, firms have an incentive to sell the products that are protected. A safer more effective drug will not be pushed over a less effective and more dangerous one because they have property rights over the latter and not the former.

It is not until page 240 that Ridley takes a break from his short stories to try and synthesizes what has been learnt so far. He also briefly stops by the economic literature to take a few digs at Mariana Mazzucato (who thinks the government is an important source of innovative activity). Perhaps the most fun chapter in the whole book is kept for the ending,"fake" innovations, with some absurd stories, such as Elizabeth Holmes faking her way into becoming a billionaire as well as becoming Obama's ambassador of global entrepreneurship.
The elephant in the room is how come patents are so pervasive? While part of the story is the narrow versus wide interests. An even bigger part of the story is the United States forcing it upon others. Ridley’s book is rife with examples of both historical and contemporary interest with examples ranging from why coffee is subversive to the public good, European regulations being dictated by German manufacturers of vacuum cleaners, and how much Ridley's ancestors were paying in patent fees.
The book isn't perfect there are some important areas that are not expounded upon. Though household innovation as a concept is sprinkled throughout the book it is never quite given due credit in the conclusion. In some places Ridley is rather too cautious, he correctly claims there is no evidence that patents increase the rate of innovative drugs but does not advocate for the abolition of the patent system. The inverse problem occurs when he is discussing GMO’s(Genetically Modified Organisms), he does not sufficiently explore the problems raised which are both about the combinatorial nature of the disease and about the industry structure which has the potential to increase the cost of errors.
Nevertheless, Matt Ridley makes a powerful contribution to the debate by sticking to the stories. Innovation is a bottom-up process; no single mind is guiding it. Innovation can only emerge when the cost of errors is low and so Matt Ridley is on the correct side of the issue when he says "evolution" not "revolution".
Profile Image for Chintushig Tumenbayar.
462 reviews32 followers
December 1, 2020
Инновацийг түүхээс нь эхлүүлээд өнөө үе хүртэл маш сонирхолтойгоор тайлбарлаж яагаад одоо бидэнд үүсээд байгаа асуудлууд гарах болсон үүний шийдлүүдийг хаанаас ямар нөхцөлд эрж хайвал үр дүнтэй байж болох талаар гаргасан санаа нь таалагдлаа.
Profile Image for Bryan McGarrigle.
1 review2 followers
September 26, 2020
Interesting review of the history of innovation that captures the commonalities which bring it to life. The book provoked much thought on the pre-conditioned beliefs I hold, such as the idea of the innovator and the role of luck in the whole concept. My only critique is that parts of the book seem to be subjective to the authors own political beliefs.
Profile Image for Gizem Kendik Önduygu.
63 reviews93 followers
July 12, 2020
Kimsenin beğenmeyeceği ve anlaşılmaz referanslarla dolu kitap yorumuma hoş geldiniz. 

Ya benim kömür zenginim tabi ki hemen enerji bölümüyle başlıyor. Kömür övüyor, gaz övüyor, nükleer santral övüyor. Bayılıyorum. Aile Şerefi'ndeki Oktay gibi değil mi ya. Aileden zengin, her istediği yapılıyor, altına Mustang veriliyor falan. Hallederiz, sıkıntıya girmeyinci rasyonel optimist şeyi de oradan geliyor gibi. Neyse aşırı seviyorum Matt Ridley'i <3

Ama bu tek bölümde anlatılabilecek şeyleri kitaba çevirme işini kim yaptırıyor, bunu yayınevleri mi yaptırıyor? Ayrıca insanlar hikaye okumayı seviyor diye 10 sayfalık içeriği gereksiz detaylı hikayelerle doldurmak. Ve bunu "this is my best book." olarak tanıtmak. Biz UK dışındaki köylüler COVID'le ilgili güncellemeyi alamadık bile. Kitap yorumum burada bitiyor.
Profile Image for Yanick Punter.
267 reviews35 followers
Currently reading
March 17, 2021
I figured out the saving of time by not reading this. I am honest here, I'm familiar with a lot of the ideas mentioned in the description. From Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder and Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation I already learned about tinkering, the role of chance and innovations making other innovations possible. In The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter and Diversity and Complexity the busting of the myth of the lone genius: groups outperform individuals. Scale is also important for innovation, see Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies. Lastly, there is Life Finds a Way: What Evolution Teaches Us About Creativity.
Profile Image for Chris Ziesler.
67 reviews20 followers
July 12, 2020
Disappointingly unbalanced and altogether too biased in his political outlook. Ridley is a better writer than this, but he has allowed his ideological prejudices to dominate his material. Because he chooses to explore only half of the story in so many cases and deliberately to ignore the counter-arguments, the end product is an interesting thesis which is disappointingly one-sided.

One example to illustrate this, he rails against the shortcomings of regulation, but the reason regulation was introduced in the first place was because of the predatory business practices of the likes of Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Ridley never breathes a word about the benefits of regulation when done well. This whole book reads as a polemic, not a balanced work of honest inquiry.

Ridley also fails to give any substantial account of China and why, despite a complete lack of any political freedom, China seems to be producing advances in many fields. He touches on this subject briefly in the closing pages, but only in passing. Surely this deserves a much more thorough investigation.

Overall there are some excellent anecdotes and case studies, but his ideological blind-spots, he is sneeringly dismissive of renewable energy for example, make it a frustrating rather than a satisfying read.
Profile Image for Frederic.
30 reviews9 followers
July 19, 2020

- patents don’t help
- innovation cannot be planned, it is the result of trial and errors; the science explaining why something works sometimes comes after the innovation
- the west is clogged by bureaucracy
- incumbent megacorps spend more time lobbying for the status quo
- hyperloop is idiotic
- China and Africa are taking over
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