Part of the fun of Bryce’s book comes from the sheer range of his examples. In one chapter, we learn how the weight of the Tour de France winner’s bicycle fell by more than half between 1903 and 2003, before the Tour stepped in and imposed minimum weight requirements for competing bicycles). In another, Bryce shows how using cell phones to transfer money in the developing world instantly raised salaries of Afghan policemen by 30 percent (due to the fact that corrupt officials could no longer skim from their paychecks before they were delivered).

…Even where Bryce’s examples are well known, he has a way of bringing them to life. Moore’s Law, which says that computing power (measured by the number of transistors on an integrated circuit) is almost a common place. Yet the implication of this trend over the course of half a century, to quote Bryce quoting Ray Kurzweil, is that a “kid in Africa with a smartphone is walking around with a trillion dollars of computation circa 1970.” Bryce is careful to acknowledge that innovation is not an unalloyed good. One of his examples of innovation in action is the AK-47. And he notes that many times innovation helps to solve one problem, only to create others (which in turn are solved by further innovations). But the overall picture that emerges is of a world made much brighter by human ingenuity.

Master Resource, May 19, 2014, by Josiah Neeley