The main reason that I am a rational optimist in the long run, like Matt Ridley, is that technology is expanding exponentially; it is growing at a growing rate. Kurzweil in his book, The Singularity is Near, discusses how difficult it is for us to perceive the exponential growth. Compare it to standing on earth and looking out to the horizon; the ground looks flat near us, but it actually curves so substantially that it eventually ends up behind us.
It is the same with the exponential growth in technology; near us in time it doesn’t look like much is happening, but not long from now it will increase dramatically. For a hint of that, look at all of the stories that hit Ray Kurzweil’s website every day, or try to remember what it was like to use dial up internet just twenty years ago or no internet thirty years ago. The gains in technology from 1900 to 1930 were substantial, but they pale in comparison with the gains from 1984 to 2014.
(Update 7-15-15: On last night’s MLB All-Star Game broadcast Fox referenced the record number of players who were under age 25 with a vignette showing those players holding up “ancient” technology that they had never seen or used before such as VCR players and rotary dial phones. It was pretty funny.)
Here, Ray Kurzweil talks about the rapid development of our brains in a TED Talk and explains that soon our brains will be connected directly to the internet. Can you imagine that? Like curved earth, it is difficult to imagine, but not impossible, especially when we are armed with information. It is likely to happen in the next thirty years.