We are taught that the world is a top-down place. Acclaimed author Matt Ridley shows just how wrong this is in his compelling new book.
We are taught that the world is a top-down place. Generals win battles; politicians run countries; scientists discover truths; artists create genres; inventors make breakthroughs; teachers shape minds; philosophers change minds; priests teach morality; businessmen lead businesses; environmentalists save the planet. Not just individuals, but institutions too: Goldman Sachs, the Communist Party, the Catholic Church, al Qaeda - these are said to shape the world.
This is more often wrong than right. 'The Evolution of Everything' is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch, the endless fascination human beings have for design rather than evolution, for direction rather than emergence. Top-downery is the source of most of our worst problems in the past - why Hitler won an election, why the sub-prime bubble happened, why Africa lingered in poverty when Asia did not, why the euro is a disaster - and will be the scourge of this century too.
And although we neglect, defy and ignore them, bottom-up trends still shape the world. The growth of technology, the sanitation-driven health revolution, the quadrupling of farm yields so that more land could be released for nature - these were largely emergent phenomena. So were the internet, the mobile-phone revolution and the rise of Asia.
In this wide-ranging, highly opinionated non-fiction narrative, Ridley draws on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy and examples drawn from the scientific literature, from historical narratives and from personal anecdotes.