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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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The strange lack of limits to growth

Why do people have more resources when there are more of them?

Here's an interview I did with the `Five Book's' website in which I selected five books on techno-optimism:

Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource 2

Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist

Huber and Mills's The Bottomless Well

Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants

Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Discipline

The key question they all raise is why people find more resources, more food, more energy and more time when there are more of them. The Malthusian argument would say that we should be running out of all these things and getting poorer. Instead of which, the more there are of us, the richer we get. Of course, we might run out eventually, but not if population stabilises and technology continues to advance.

Or as Brendan O'Neill put it in Spiked:

On the first point, Malthusians are simply wrong to say that resources are fixed, that we can measure and predict when they will run out. It seems commonsensical to say that the Earth is finite, and a bit mad to say that it isn't, but it's important to recognise how fluid and changeable resources are. It's important to recognise that the usefulness and longevity of a resource is determined as much by us - by the level of social development we have reached - as it is by the existence of that resource in the first place.

Resources are not fixed in any meaningful sense. Resources have a history and a future, just as human beings do. The question of what we consider to be a resource changes as society changes.