Matt Ridley || How Innovation Works

December 10, 2020

Today we have Matt Ridley on the podcast. Matt is the author of the recently-released How Innovation Works, as well as The Rational Optimist and several other books related to science and human progress, which have sold over a million copies. He is also a biologist, newspaper columnist, and member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.


[01:37] What it means to be a rational optimist

[03:39] Evidence that the world is heading in the right direction

[05:43] Giving evidence-based hope

[11:23] Understanding the probabilities of life

[12:42] “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you think you know that ain’t so”

[14:23] Why nuance is an endangered species

[16:28] The reward value to truthful or insightful information

[18:16] How not everybody is wired to create

[20:08] Working with restricted samples

[23:03] Does the lone genius really exist?

[26:43] Working with naturally occurring samples versus working with restricted samples

[32:10] Why stories don’t necessarily mean generalizable truths about innovation

[34:05] The need to look out for unexpected results

[35:00] Separating the person from the process

[36:02] The phenomenon of simultaneous inventions

[42:28] Why innovation requires freedom

[44:38] Why innovators crave the safe space to fail

[45:08] The government’s role in innovation

[49:47] Biology as the science of exceptions and not rules

4 Responses to “Matt Ridley || How Innovation Works”

  1. Deena says:

    Hi. I was very curious about the paper you mentioned regarding the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex projection of dopamine. My background is in philosophy and psychology. The doctors and lawyers and actuaries in my life have never understood why I’d bother with something like philosophy and I’ve always defended the preoccupation by describing it as intellectual masturbation. I love philosophy because it FEELS good to bend and twist and flex my mind in that way. I’d love to be able to back that up with something more like a scholarly article and less like some sort of bizarre fringe kink.
    Point me in the right direction?

    Thanks for the stimulating podcasts!!

    – Deena

  2. Chris says:

    Very interesting discussion thanks. One of the ads mentioned a podcast for music to help focus, was it called Flow State perhaps? Couldn’t see it on spotify, do you have a link? Thanks

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