Given a history of economic innovation beginning with the exchange of differing objects and dramatically accelerating with the advent of efficient networks, the author of The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley asks aloud in this video from Reason, "why does pessimism sound wise and optimism so foolish?"
Key quote: "prosperity" is "the saving of time while satisfying your needs... The collective brain is what matters to social prosperity." This review of The Rational Optimist also gets to the social dimension of wealth: "Ten individuals could know between them ten things, while each understanding one."
For a wide-ranging exchange with Ridley, who, by the way, is a trained Zoologist, read this lengthy Q and A with Freakonomics readers.