Why Matt Loves Being An Author & Why You Can’t Stop Innovation | Matt Ridley on What Got You There with Sean DeLaney

Check out What Got You There Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Curiosity has played a huge role in Matt Ridley’s life
    • “I think curiosity is what it’s all about” – Matt Ridley
  • For example, Matt became curious about how scientists sequenced the human genome and so he figured he’d write a book about it
    • “That really was an excuse to get to know the people who were working on the genome project and become friends with some of them and dig in into the work that was going on”Matt Ridley
  • Matt says being an author is a “license to curiosity” 
    • “I’m just allowed to go outside and satisfy my curiosity about things that interest me”Matt Ridley
  • “I haven’t been in a library for probably nearly 20 years because the library’s at my fingertips, it’s called the internet” Matt Ridley
  • “There’s an extraordinary asymmetry here, as we look forward we can’t see these moments of ripeness of inevitability and technology coming but as we look backwards, we can seem them very clearly” Matt Ridley

Intro

Books Mentioned

About Matt Ridley

  • Matt’s father taught him about natural history and Matt became interested in nature
    • He ended up getting his Ph.D. in biology
      • However, he was not keen on researching one topic for a long time; since he loved reading and writing, he became a journalist for The Economist
        • “Writing is the theme throughout my career” – Matt Ridley
  • Matt considers himself incredibly lucky to be a writer
    • He gets to pick a topic that interests him, spend time talking with experts, and gets paid to share what he’s learned 
      • “I love writing” – Matt Ridley
  • Matt credits The Economist for teaching him how to be a good writer
    • He considered it bootcamp training for writers
      • The magazine taught him the importance of editing, rewriting, compressing information, and removing unnecessary words

Author = A License To Curiosity

  • Curiosity has played a huge role in Matt’s life
    • “I think curiosity is what it’s all about” – Matt Ridley
  • For example, Matt became curious about how scientists sequenced the human genome and wanted to learn more so he wrote a book about it
    • “That really was an excuse to get to know the people who were working on the genome project and become friends with some of them and dig in into the work that was going on”Matt Ridley
  • Matt says being an author is a “license to curiosity” 
    • “I’m just allowed to go outside and satisfy my curiosity about things that interest me”Matt Ridley
  • When Matt finds something interests, it usually leads him to something else interesting
    • Back in the day, Matt would spend a ton of time at libraries searching through books and research papers for information but now things are much easier with the internet
      • “I haven’t been in a library for probably nearly 20 years because the library’s at my fingertips, it’s called the internet” Matt Ridley
  • Since Matt writes for himself now and not a magazine, he’s able to go down different rabbit holes and explore a wide range of topics
    • However, you have to be careful not to go into too many directions or drop a topic if it’s not as interesting as you thought
      • “I think you have to know how to cut your losses as a writer when avenues of exploration…turn out to be dead ends” Matt Ridley

Matt’s Favorite Topic

  • What topic has fascinated Matt the most?
    • Evolution by natural selection
      •  “It’s an endlessly fascinating topic” 
  • About 25 years later, Matt wrote the book The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge
    • In that book, he explained how natural selection occurs in humans and shaped the modern world
      • “People are expecting to find somebody in charge, whether it’s the government or big companies or whatever. We don’t see it as an organic, evolutionary phenomenon to nearly the extent that we should.” – Matt Ridley

You Can’t Stop Innovation

  • The book, What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, talks about how many inventions were invented by multiple people around the same time
    • For example, it’s recorded that 21 people came up with the invention of the light bulb independently
      • The same thing happened in the 1990s with search engines
        • “If Sergey Brin had never met Larry Page we’d still have search engines” – Matt Ridley
          • However, although it seems inevitable in retrospect, no one saw them coming during the current time
            • “If you go back to the 1980s and say who’s predicting search as a key internet to the internet, almost nobody…even the people who invented search engines didn’t realize that was what they were doing” 
  • “There’s an extraordinary asymmetry here, as we look forward we can’t see these moments of ripeness of inevitability and technology coming but as we look backwards we can seem them very clearly” Matt Ridley
    • “You reach a point when the ideas are coming together that you can’t help but stumble on the next one”

Predicting The Future

  • Social media has made it easier to invent new things because you’re able to collect ideas from people around the world
    • “It must be easier to bring together ideas” Matt Ridley
      • But, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to predict where the next breakthrough will happen
        • In the 1950s, people predicted that the future would have supersonic jets and regular space travel, but hardly mention communication or computers
          • Matt predicts that in the next 50 years we’ll see breakthroughs in AI and biotechnology 
  • When you’re trying to invent the future, it helps to go venture outside your silo 
    • On the website InnoCentive, people or organizations can post problems and pay people to help them find solutions
      • A study on the winners found that many of the solutions came from people who were from different disciplines
        • “It really was the outsiders to a field who were solving the problems for people” Matt Ridley
  • Matt has had several conversations about inventing the future with Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos 
    • Jeff has a rule that even if only one person thinks an invention could work, it’s advanced up the hierarchy for consideration by management
What Got You There with Sean DeLaney : , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

The best ideas from the world’s best podcasts in minutes

Get the 10 Best Ideas/Tips/Tricks from over 10 hours of the best podcasts every week, FREE

No Thanks