How Self-Isolation Works

Posted on 19/03/2020

Matt Ridley – award-winning author of Genome, The Rational Optimist, and The Evolution of Everything – is back with what he believes could be his best book – and best-seller – yet, quite a statement given his towering backlist…

The official release date is two months from today, but Matt is already hard at work in the run-up to publication – most notably putting his self-isolation to good use by creating a makeshift sound studio in his own linen closet to record the audiobook:

Now that’s innovative.

How Innovation Works is available to pre-order from all good bookshops – most of whom will take pre-orders over the phone during our current situation – or online here.  Meanwhile, here’s a teaser from Matt, taken from the introduction from the book:

Innovation, like evolution, is a process of constantly discovering ways of rearranging the world into forms that are unlikely to arise by chance–and that happen to be useful… It means much more than invention, because the word implies developing an invention to the point where it catches on because it is sufficiently practical, affordable, reliable and ubiquitous to be worth using…

In the pages that follow I will trace the path of ideas from the invention to the innovation. And here is my starting point: innovation is the most important fact about the modern world, but one of the least well understood. It is the reason most people today live lives of prosperity and wisdom compared with their ancestors, the overwhelming cause of the great enrichment of the past few centuries, the simple explanation of why the incidence of extreme poverty is in global freefall for the first time in history: from 50 per cent of the world population to 9 per cent in my lifetime.

Yet the striking thing about innovation is how mysterious it still is. No economist or social scientist can fully explain why innovation happens. In this book I shall try to tackle this great puzzle.

Can Matt unpick the threads of a conundrum that has baffled some of the world’s great minds for centuries?  Find out in May – and if you can’t wait that long, keep up with Matt – who has recently been bringing his expertise to bear on the current crisis, as well as subjects relating to innovation – by following him on Twitter/Facebook… or by subscribing to his brand new newsletter.  And you can also watch his highly-acclaimed TED-talk, When Ideas Have Sex – a decade old, but still incredibly relevant.

We will leave you with these words, perhaps even more pertinent now than when Matt said them in reply to Bill Gates after the publication of The Rational Optimist.

I am certainly not saying, “Dont worry, be happy.”

I am saying, “Don’t despair, be ambitious.”