On commerce and creativity: Companies are evolving from hierarchical structures located in one physical location, to a “…nebulous and ephemeral coming together of creative and marketing talent to transmit the efforts of contracting individuals towards the satisfying of consumer preferences.” Capitalism is “dying, and fast,” as the average size of American firm has shrunk from 25 employees to ten in the past 25 years.
On the Triumph of Cities:
The hollowing out of cities due to technology, predicted by demographers, never materialized. What’s happening is the propensity of people to want to agglomerate, even in such footloose industries as financial services. It’s forecast that by 2025 some five billion people will be living in cities; rural populations will be shrinking. Eight cities will have populations of 20-plus million: New York, Mumbai, Delhi, Tokyo, Dhaka, Sao Paolo, Mexico City and Calcutta.
“As far as the planet is concerned, this is good news because city dwellers take up less space, use less energy and have less impact on natural ecosystems than country dwellers.”
On Escaping Malthus’s Trap
“Throughout the world, birth rates are falling. There is no country in the world that has a higher birth rate than it had in 1960, and in the less developed world as a whole the birth rate has approximately halved.”
The essential point here is that the rate of increase of the world’s population has been declining for the past 40 years. As Ridley references environmentalist Stewart Brand: “Most environmentalists still haven’t got the word. Worldwide, birth-rates are in free-fall.”
In the 1970s the media fixated on global cooling, writing fear stories about impending doom. That later switched, as we all know, to global warming and its disastrous consequences. Ridley’s central point here is the capacity of humans to adapt to change. That’s not to ignore the greater likelihood of global warning to be “mild,” not “catastrophic.” Or that global warming occurred during the Middle Ages and some 6,000 years ago. Or that the human race and the environment survived much greater warming shifts during the ice ages.
“…the extreme climate outcomes are so unlikely, and depend on such wild assumptions, that they do not dent my optimism one jot.”
Onward and Upward
“I have argued that now the world is networked, and ideas are having sex with each other more promiscuously than ever, the pace of innovation will redouble and economic evolution will raise the living standards of the twenty-first century to unimagined heights, helping even the poorest people of the world to afford to meet their desires as well as their needs.”