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SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed Reprint Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1451626636
ISBN-10: 1451626630
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Nowak’s] willingness to argue for group selection, a theory suggesting that evolution operates beyond the genetic level, reawakens old controversies – but he does so using innovative mathematical models, able to incorporate dynamism and uncertainty… Like other great controversialists, Mr. Nowak moves from decision matrices to emotive moral language…all politicians can draw inspiration and ideas from the intellectual resources of this exciting approach.”
Financial Times

About the Author

Martin A. Nowak is a professor of biology and mathematics at Harvard University and director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. He established the first center in Theoretical Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
Roger Highfield is the editor of New Scientist magazine. He has written or coauthored six popular science books, two of which have been bestsellers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451626630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451626636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a lot, but I rarely suggest books to people I am acquainted with (you know, people get sick of that sort of thing); however, since I finished reading this book, I can honestly say that this is the one volume I have actually recommended to my friends and family. This book covers a crucial aspect of our modern life and is far-and-away one of the most indispensable pieces of scientific writing I have read to date. For example, take this quote from the Preface: "Many problems that challenge us today can be traced back to a profound tension between what is good and desirable for society as a whole and what is good and desirable for an individual. That conflict can be found in global problems such as climate change, pollution, resource depletion, poverty, hunger, and overpopulation. The biggest issues of all - saving the planet and maximizing the collective lifetime of the species Homo sapiens - cannot be solved by technology alone. They require novel ways for us to work in harmony. If we are to continue to thrive, we have but one option. We now have to manage the planet as a whole. If we are to win the struggle for existence, and avoid a precipitous fall, there's no choice but to harness this extraordinary creative force. We now have to refine and to extend our ability to cooperate. We must become familiar with the science of cooperation. Now, more than ever, the world needs SuperCooperators."

One reviewer called Martin Nowak a virtuoso, this is most certainly true, and it may even be an understatement. It would seem that Dr. Nowak has his hands in nearly every discipline and knows nearly everyone who is anyone in the scientific community.
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Format: Hardcover
For Martin Nowak cooperation is the master architect of evolution. This man is obsessed with the idea that cooperation is an indispensable driving force of evolution at any level - mutation, selection and cooperation. Without cooperation among RNAs in the primordial soup, you and me would be still one of them. Is he crazy? Nowak has been Professor of Mathematical Biology at Oxford, the first head of the Program in Theoretical Biology at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, and now he is full professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University in his own institute called "Nowakia". Of his numerous papers more than 50 were published in Nature or Science. Nowak is a leading evolutionary theorist of our time. Why is he crazy for cooperation?

Cooperation has always been Nowak's main subject that he studies mostly with only one technique: mathematics. "We can capture the way it (evolution) works with mathematics, distilling its essence into the form of equations." "SuperCooperators" is the grand review of his oeuvre on cooperation, a kind of textbook that reads like a bestselling novel with a wonderfully lucid and enthusiastic style, thanks to Nowak's ghost-writer and kind of co-author ("with" instead of "and") Roger Highfield, an ingenious science writer and the editor of the New Scientist magazine. A layperson could enjoy just reading this book and finally has happened to learn most about a fascinating part of biology. Imagine all textbooks were written this way! Try this appetizer from the chapter on the evolution of language: "Gossip. Banter. Chat. Let's talk. Let's organize a colloquium. Even better, let's have a party! Language allows people to work together, to exchange their ideas, their thoughts, and their dreams.
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Format: Hardcover
Martin Nowak is, first and foremost, a virtuoso. He has turned modelling into an art. Whether they deal with mutations inducing cancer, irregular verbs turning regular, the spread of HIV or the chemical lego of pre-life, his models always capture quintessential aspects with superb clarity and elegance. Even more remarkable as his light and confident touch in setting up the models is his dexterity in interpreting the results. He goes straight for the thrill. Nowak is enormously convincing and persuasive. This requires, of course, that he is convinced of himself. The evolution of cooperation has been the main theme of his stellar career, which led him in the briefest time from beginnings in Vienna to professorships in Oxford, Princeton and Harvard. Nowak's Hirsch-index is eighty (meaning that eighty of his more than three hundred papers have each been quoted in at least eighty papers), a fantastic achievement for someone in the mid-forties. Now he has decided to reach out for a larger audience, and written, with the expert support of Roger Highfield, one of Britain's foremost science writers, a book intended for the bestseller lists. Cooperation is a topic of central importance in many fields ranging from chemistry and biology to social and economic sciences, and Nowak is uniquely qualified, by his interdisciplinary background and his skills as communicator, to cover the whole canvas in a masterly tour.
One need not agree with all Nowak claims. In fact, some of the chapters will be highly controversial. Nowak defends his views with bravado, be they on kin selection or on Gustav Mahler's music. Some of these views make me slightly wince, but that is part of the fun. Nowak lives for his work, and merges with gusto his biography with the story of his field. Sobriety and a sceptical distance are for critics, not artists. Nowak runs on sheer enthusiasm, and conveys much of it to the reader. The book is a pleasure, heady, stimulating and brimful with adrenaline.
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