Matt Ridley on his book How Innovation Works and the demise of the digital revolution

Virgin Radio

14 Jun 2021, 09:05

The award-winning, best selling author joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about his 9th book How Innovation Works, why lockdown is for the middle class and the dark side of social media.

He told Chris: “I was born in the 1950s. If you go back and look at what people were saying about the future in 1950, it was all about transport, it was routine space travel, personal jetpacks, supersonic airliners, all that kind of stuff. They're not talking about computers and communication at all and that's because the previous 50 years had been about transport.

"My grandparents were born before the motorcar and the aeroplane, but they died with men on the moon and Concorde in the air. Whereas they were born with the telephone and they died with the telephone.

“I’ve had the opposite experience, you know, 747s have been flying practically my whole life with very little change in shape, whereas computers and telephones have gone crazy. So it's very important when you think about technology not to assume that the trend that's going on in your lifetime will continue into the next lifetime.

"That's why I think the communications - the digital - revolution is going to run out of steam soon. Moore's law is already hitting the buffers. You don't feel the same need to replace your mobile phone every few years.

“I think the next 50 years are not going to be about computers and phones. I think they're much more going to be about biotech, about vaccines, things like that…”

On lockdown being lifted, he said: “We’ve protected the vulnerable. I don't think we're going to gain much by continuing to lockdown the people who are not so vulnerable which is what we're doing and I think the damage being done is tremendous.

"It's worth remembering that we couldn't have locked down in an epidemic before this. Back in the late 1950s when there was a flu epidemic that was pretty bad actually, nobody thought for a minute you could lockdown because everybody had to go to work.

"It's only because the middle class can now stay at home and have Amazon bring stuff to their door that we allow lockdowns at all.

“It’s a sort of downside of innovation in a way. We've innovated so much that the posh folk can stay at home and don't see the problems being caused by it… I think we could have been less draconian about it."

On the future of social media, he said: “I thought it was going to be a wonderful thing that we will see each other's point of view. 

“It has been a wonderful thing in lots of ways you know it is very social, which is great, we can stay in touch with each other, but it also means that you get these tremendous flaming rows and character assassinations of people hiding behind anonymity and all the polarisation and echo chambers, which is pretty nasty at the moment. I think we'll find a way of taming this technology, I hope we do.”


How Innovation Works, is out now in paperback, ebook and audiobook.