Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

by Nicholas A. Christakis MD PhD

Hardcover, 2019


Little, Brown Spark (2019), Edition: First Edition, 544 pages


"For too long, scientists have focused on the dark side of our biological heritage: our capacity for aggression, cruelty, prejudice, and self-interest. But natural selection has given us a suite of beneficial social features, including our capacity for love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. Beneath all our inventions--our tools, farms, machines, cities, nations--we carry with us innate proclivities to make a good society. In Blueprint, Nicholas A. Christakis introduces the compelling idea that our genes affect not only our bodies and behaviors, but also the ways in which we make societies, ones that are surprisingly similar worldwide. With many vivid examples--including diverse historical and contemporary cultures, communities formed in the wake of shipwrecks, commune dwellers seeking utopia, online groups thrown together by design or involving artificially intelligent bots, and even the tender and complex social arrangements of elephants and dolphins that so resemble our own--Christakis shows that, despite a human history replete with violence, we cannot escape our social blueprint for goodness. In a world of increasing political and economic polarization, it's tempting to ignore the positive role of our evolutionary past. Drawing on advances in social science, evolutionary biology, genetics, neuroscience, and network science, Blueprint shows how and why evolution has placed us on a humane path--and how we are united by our common humanity."--Dust jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookboy804
Well written, well documented description and analysis of what the author calls the social suite consisting of 8 elements: individual identity, love, friendship, social networks, cooperation, in- group bias, mild hierarchy, social learning and teaching. The contention is these are universal in
Show More
human society and, therefore, genetic. Assuming these traits are universal, it seems inevitable that they are genetic unless you believe in the supernatural or some massive cultural convergence. However, I feel an additional trait is required: creative imagination which explains the wide range of diversity iand flexibility in the various cultures and the ability to form ideas that contrast what is with what might be or ought to be, and to actualize a subset of these ideas. Also, I think the analysis is overly optimistic in downplaying in- group bias and qualifying hierarchy with 'mild.'
Show Less
LibraryThing member Tom.Wilson
A universalist and cross-cultural account of friendship, love and social connections. One of the best books to be published in 2019 for its towering ambition and reach.
LibraryThing member Opinionated
I have mixed feelings about this to be honest. Certainly it is packed with interesting information and examples of surprising behaviours driven by evolutionary selections. So its a compelling book. But I waited in vain for a blueprint to be revealed, and it doesn't come. The argument is broadly
Show More
that genes, and evolutionary selection, is driven by cultural and environmental factors and that in turn our genes impact culture and the environment. And thus that the social suite is genetically driven

I have no particular issue with this as an argument. But I do question the idea that we are genetically blueprinted to bend towards the good in the way we form societies and interact. Good is relative; we don't know which more utopian paths we might have taken, but that we have selected against.

The book is full of interesting fragments, and well worth reading for those. But if you are expecting a universal theory of social behaviour, as some of the blurb seems to suggest, then you might be a little disappointed
Show Less
LibraryThing member Paul_S
The book is interesting but extremely condensed. I know most of the experiments from other books where they are described in detail but I can't see how you could understand the outcome just based on the brief mentions here. Otherwise well written but the arguments put forward just don't follow from
Show More
the facts presented. It's like using the Chernobyl meltdown as evidence that Atomic power is safe. I just kept thinking: "wait, what?" over and over.
Show Less
LibraryThing member WiserWisegirl
Leaves you with a positive hope for humanity's future.
LibraryThing member WiserWisegirl
Leaves you with a positive hope for humanity's future.
LibraryThing member steve02476
Focuses on the evolution of social and cultural behavior. Well written.




0316230030 / 9780316230032
Page: 0.3618 seconds