Matt Ridley: How Innovation Works, Part 2

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Key Takeaways

  •   “The COVID pandemic has shown us, quite starkly, that we have not been doing enough innovation. We’ve not been developing enough vaccines” Matt Ridley
  • “We’ve hardly scraped the surface of different ways of combining and recombining the atoms and elements of the world”Matt Ridley
  • “Unfortunately in 2020, the economists are building epidemic models and the epidemiologists are running the economy, so we’ve got it backwards.” – Naval Ravikant
    • “You’ve put these health officers in charge who didn’t train  or sign up to run the entire world—and they’re  terrified they’ll be blamed for excess deaths if they let up too early.”
  • “In the last two years since the hype bubble popped, there have been great entrepreneurs hard at work, and I can now see the first green shoots coming out of crypto.” Naval Ravikant
  • “What we tend to do as a species, as we progress, is to become more and more specialized in what we produce but more and more diversified in what we consume.” Matt Ridley
  • The world needs great people but not as much as we think
    • “Although we needed Edison to create the light bulb, there were 21 other people creating the light bulb at around the same time. We needed one of those 21 people to be the innovator to drive it forward.” – Naval Ravikant

Intro

Books Mentioned

We’re In An Innovation Famine

  • We’re living through an innovation famine (particularly in areas other than digital)
    • One of the reasons for this is the power of the environmental movement to oppose new technologies
      • Ex: Genetically modified organisms can make a plant insect-resistant and have the capacity to wean agriculture of chemical pesticides. This has been proven to work and is now being used in India, Brazil and North America as well, but not in Europe or Africa because of pressure from environmentalists
  • “The end point must be that the more we innovate, the fewer resources we need, the less land we need, the more land we can give back to nature, the more we can make people prosperous, and that results in them cutting their birth rate.” – Matt Ridley
    • “The COVID pandemic has shown us, quite starkly, that we have not been doing enough innovation. We’ve not been developing enough vaccines”
  • “We’ve hardly scraped the surface of different ways of combining and recombining the atoms and elements of the world”Matt Ridley
  • Human collaboration is vital to innovation. Even making something as simple as a pencil involves cutting down trees, mining graphite, and many more steps.
    • “We are capable of making objects, even our simplest objects that are beyond the capability of one human mind to comprehend. It requires lots of human minds to collaborate, to make them and to accumulate the knowledge of how to invent them as well.”Matt Ridley
      • “Cooperation is the basis for the species” – Naval Ravikant

COVID-19

  • “Unfortunately in 2020, the economists are building epidemic models and the epidemiologists are running the economy, so we’ve got it backwards.” – Naval Ravikant
    • “You’ve put these health officers in charge who didn’t train  or sign up to run the entire world—and they’re  terrified they’ll be blamed for excess deaths if they let up too early.”
  • “It makes no sense that big box retailers are open, but small businesses are not allowed to open.” – Naval Ravikant
  • The British government scared it’s people so much that many are afraid to go back to work even though the government is now saying the worst is over
    • “The British government is discovering at the moment that it’s quite easy to scare people and not so easy to unscare them” – Matt Ridley
  • There’s 3 main variables to tracking COVID:
    • Infection fatality rate and how many people end up sick or dying
    • Economic impact
    • What percentage of the population has built up a herd immunity
  • “It should be possible to use voluntary measures to suppress this virus and get to herd immunity at quite low levels of infection” – Matt Ridley

Filter Bubbles

  • The world has become fragmented by filter bubbles and echo chambers, social media is partially at fault:
    • “I thought the invention of the Internet would lead to social media, would lead to us all seeing each other’s points of view, it hasn’t turned out that way. Social media has proved to be a very divisive medium” – Matt Ridley
  • “With radio there was filtering by tuning the channel. But in social media, you’ve built your own channel. The level of a filter bubble that you can go into is much deeper and much more tuned to the individual than any previous filter bubble.” Naval Ravikant
  • The invention of new mediums have been used throughout history to sway people’s beliefs (even the invention of printing) 
    • Martin Luther was the best published author in Europe and used the invention of printing “to cause a social revolution, and eventually it turns into a series of religious wars” – Matt Ridley

More Crypto

  • Amara’s Law talks about how the effects of innovation are overestimated in the short term and underestimated the long term
    • A good example of this is crypto
      • “I suspect that a lot of people will lose their shirt on crypto plans for quite a while before it starts to deliver that promise” – Matt Ridley
  • “In the last two years since the hype bubble popped, there have been great entrepreneurs hard at work, and I can now see the first green shoots coming out of crypto.” Naval Ravikant
  • The two main categories of crypto:
    • 1) A decentralized finance infrastructure for borrowing, lending, derivatives, trading, and custody
    • 2) Applications of crypto in file storage and authentication and identity

Automation

  • There danger of AGI (artificial general intelligence) is that it advances so quickly that it improves itself faster than we can retrain, faster than we can create new jobs, and we all get put out of jobs
  • There are positives from automation, it creates new job opportunities, wealth, and leisure time:
    • “We can spend more time in education and retirement. We can have longer weekends than our grandparents did.” – Matt Ridley
  • We still have a long way to go until robots do all of our biding:
    • “Until I can get all the peeled grapes and massages that I want on demand, there’s still room for more employment” – Naval Ravikant
  • “What we tend to do as a species, as we progress, is to become more and more specialized in what we produce but more and more diversified in what we consume.” Matt Ridley

Great Man Theory

  • The world needs great people but not as much as we think
    • “Although we needed Edison to create the light bulb, there were 21 other people creating the light bulb at around the same time. We needed one of those 21 people to be the innovator to drive it forward.” – Naval Ravikant
  • Before there was Facebook, there was MySpace and Friendster
  • Before there was AirBnb, there was HomeAway and VRBO
    • “Unfortunately, history is written by the victors. And in this case, the victors don’t even have to write history; it’s everyone around them who’s writing history…to the victor go the spoils and the credit.” Naval Ravikant

Additional Notes

  • The best books are ones that you have to put down and think about
    • “Every third page I had to put it down and think about it, which to me is the mark of a good book. I think the faster you can read a book, the worse the book is. If you can speed-read a book, you shouldn’t. Just put that book away, it doesn’t deserve to be a book.” – Naval Ravikant
  • “The government gets to restrict you because it has a monopoly on violence.” – Naval Ravikant
  • Privacy is dead:
    • “We’re losing physical anonymity with camera surveillance, the NSA spying on everybody and Internet-connected cameras everywhere. Physical privacy is dead.” – Naval Ravikant
  • Quote from Matt’s book: “Innovation is the child of freedom because it is a free and creative attempt to satisfy freely expressed human desires.”
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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