An Idea Worth Spreading

By | September 21, 2010

As I mentioned on last week’s podcast, I’m currently rolling out a little experiment in memetics.

Earlier this week, I bought four copies of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist and am sending them to friends who I think…

a) Haven’t already read the book, and

b) Will enjoy it

I’m asking these friends, if they like the book, to share it with a friend or two.  Stephen suggested that, between the two of us (and with the help of our listeners) we might get the book into the hands of 100 readers who otherwise wouldn’t have read it.

Stephen is the realistic member of the team, which leaves me to inject that needed dose of “hard to predict, sometimes even hard to imagine” that keeps you lovely folks coming back here day in and day out.* So I’m saying that we ought to help get The Rational Optimist into the hands of 1000 new readers.


Well, “not that a gift between friends requires any explanation,” I’ve been explaining…

First and foremost, I’m sending it to you because I really enjoyed it and I’m hoping you will enjoy it, too. The author, Matt Ridley is the former science editor of The Economist, and he has written extensively on the subject of evolution, particularly human evolution. In this book, he hones in on social and cultural evolution, and explores how the free exchange of ideas, methods, and stuff has led to vast improvements of the human condition. He presents these ideas in an engaging and readable way, and my guess is that you will find this book as much fun as I did.

Ridley’s assessment of how we got to where we are leads to some fairly surprising predictions as to where we’re going. As you’ve probably guessed from the book’s title, he believes we’re headed in a good direction. That’s kind of a bold stand to take these days, but he makes a compelling case. In fact, so compelling is the case he makes that I wanted to share it with others, which is why I’m sending this book to you and two or three other friends.

So, yeah, I’m pretty impressed with The Rational Optimist. I mean, let’s face it, I don’t do this with every book I read. In fact, out of the hundreds of books I’ve read, I’ve only made myself a direct part of the distribution process once before — with Peter Schwartz’ The Art of the Long View (which I also highly recommend if you’ve never read it.)

Now since this is a gift there are — of course — no strings attached. Read it, ignore it, use it as a doorstop – it’s your book. But I hope you’ll give it a chance.  And if it makes the same kind of impression on you as it did on me, I hope you’ll consider passing it on to a friend or two (or three). No, I’m not getting a cut of the book sales! I just think it’s important to get the word out.

So, will this work? Let’s put it this way: we’re now 0.4% of the way to 1000 books. If I have to buy all 1000 myself, so be it — it will just take a while (and a bit more cash outlay than I was originally thinking.) However, one or two of my recipients might like the ideas enough to start sharing them, too. And I think we’ll get some takers on the podcast and amongst those of you reading this.

We’re days away from finishing the site upgrade and having comments back on line, but we’ve been days away for a couple of months now, so If you do decide to take up the challenge, drop me a line — bowermaster-at-gmail-dot-com. 

996 to go! 


* Not to say that the realism from Stephen doesn’t also keep you coming back. Anyway, it’s all relative. In the Speculist context, the “realistic” person assigns slightly more conservative time frames around when humanity will achieve complete mastery of matter and eliminate all poverty and disease.