Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.
Ridley is the only author to appear twice on Zuckerberg’s reading list. Ridley’s book “Genome” was one of Zuckerberg’s July picks.
“The Rational Optimist,” published in 2010, is one of Ridley’s most popular and controversial books. In it, he argues that the concept of markets is the source of human progress, and that progress is accelerated when they are kept as free as possible.
This allows ideas to “have sex,” as he puts it, blending together to create more adaptable offspring. He also argues that this evolution of ideas will consistently allow humankind to improve its living conditions, despite the threats of climate change and overpopulation.
Bill Gates is a prominent reader of Ridley’s work, and writes on his blog that although he strongly disagrees with some of Ridley’s ideas on charitable ventures and scientific innovation, his fundamental ideas regarding the evolution of ideas through markets and the concept of rational optimism “are very important and powerful.”
Zuckerberg explains his latest book-club pick on his personal Facebook page:
Two of the books I’ve read this year — “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and “Why Nations Fail” — have explored how social and economic progress work together to make the world better. “The Better Angels” argues that the two feed off each other, whereas “Why Nations Fail” argues that social and political progress ultimately controls the economic progress a society makes. This next book argues the opposite — that economic progress is the greater force [in] pushing society forward. I’m interested to see which idea resonates more after exploring both frameworks.
On his Facebook page, Zuckerberg added a photo of him reading Ridley’s book “Genome” alongside his dog, Beast:
A Year of Books so far:
- “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be” by Moisés Naím
- “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker
- “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sudhir Venkatesh
- “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss
- “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
- “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn
- “Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge” by Michael Chwe
- “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower” by Henry M. Paulson
- “Orwell’s Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest” by Peter Huber
- “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
- “The Muqaddimah” by Ibn Khaldun
- “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
- “The Player of Games” by Iain M. Banks
- “Energy: A Beginner’s Guide” by Vaclav Smil
- “Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters” by Matt Ridley
- “The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature” by William James
- “Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $US2 a Day” by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven
- “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daren Acemoğlu and James Robinson
- “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley
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