The coronavirus pandemic upended the world overnight and sounded the global alarm for more and targeted innovation. Everyone has been forced to adapt and find new ways to connect and do business. Industries have responded en masse to meet new demands. There’s no telling yet which inventions will bolster the next revolution.

How does innovation happen? Join CEI for an online discussion with Matt Ridley, who answers the timely question in his just published How Innovation Works – And Why It Flourishes in Freedom.

Innovation, like evolution, is a process of constantly discovering ways of rearranging the world into forms that are unlikely to arise by chance–and that happen to be useful… [It] means finding new ways to apply energy to create improbable things, and see them catch on. It means much more than invention, because the word implies developing an invention to the point where it catches on because it is sufficiently practical, affordable, reliable and ubiquitous to be worth using…

In the pages that follow I will trace the path of ideas from the invention to the innovation, through the long struggle to get an idea to catch on, usually by combining it with other ideas. And here is my starting point: innovation is the most important fact about the modern world, but one of the least well understood. It is the reason most people today live lives of prosperity and wisdom compared with their ancestors, the overwhelming cause of the great enrichment of the past few centuries, the simple explanation of why the incidence of extreme poverty is in global freefall for the first time in history: from 50 per cent of the world population to 9 per cent in my lifetime.

The striking thing about innovation is how mysterious it still is. No economist or social scientist can fully explain why innovation happens, let alone why it happens when and where it does. In this book I shall try to tackle this great puzzle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020, 12:00 – 1:00 pm EDT

Matt Ridley, How Innovation Works author
Kent Lassman, CEI President


Questions? Email [email protected]


Matt Ridley is an admired and provocative science and economics writer, a regular columnist in The Times London, and the author of such notable books as The Rational Optimist, The Red Queen, The Origins of Virtue, and The Evolution of Everything. Viscount Ridley was elected to the House of Lords in 2013. He was the 2012 recipient of CEI’s Julian L. Simon Memorial Award. His 2010 TED talk “When Ideas Have Sex” has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times.

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