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Blueprint is highly original and engrossing. Christakis is a fluent and lucid writer with an arresting personal voice. At the heart of the book is what he describes as 'the social suite' -- a set of cultural universals that constitute the core and the blueprint of all societies. Integral to the universality of the social suite is his contention that these key features of all human societies are shaped by natural selection and encoded in our genes. Christakis calls into question a false dichotomy between cultural and genetic evolution. Rather, he regards the two as co-existing in ways that recurrently intersect and influence one another. He shows that the similarities that exist between the social attributes of human and animal societies bind humans together in a way that heightens our common humanity. Blueprint is a richly interdisciplinary, deeply documented, brilliant opus on how our long evolutionary history bends toward a good society." Renée C. Fox, University of Pennsylvania
"Blueprint is an exciting volume that constitutes a major scientific contribution of broad interest. It is a fascinating account of how genes and culture interact and how this knowledge provides the foundations for establishing a Good Society." Ernst Fehr, University of Zurich
"Blueprint is an extraordinarily readable and entertaining book that is also one of the most profound among recently published books on evolution. It brings to bear a long history of research to show that cooperation and pro-social traits of humans are genetically based and are the result of evolution by natural selection. By doing this, Christakis corrects one the most frequent misperceptions about biological evolution, namely that inter-individual competition is a law of nature. I only wish this book would have been published decades earlier." Gunter Wagner, Yale University
"In the media and online, we live with a daily barrage of the things that divide us -- the differences among individuals, groups, and whole societies seem to define the ways we interact with one another. With a broad sweep of history and a deep knowledge of genetics and social science, Christakis takes us along a different path, one that is as important as it is timely. Whether in hunter-gatherer societies, small bands of people brought together by chance, or Silicon Valley corporations, our societies are linked by the common bonds of humanity. In Blueprint, Christakis shows how we are much more than divisiveness and division; we are programmed to build and thrive in societies based on cooperation, learning, and love." Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish
"Christakis takes us on a spellbinding tour of how evolution brings people together, setting the stage for our modern world where online networks connect people in new and unprecedented ways. Our genes don't work in isolation; rather they equip our species with the capacity to join together and make great things. This powerful and fascinating book shows the fundamental good that lies within us, that connects us, and that helps us cooperate beyond the survival of the fittest." Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz
"In this provocative book, Christakis makes a thorough and compelling case that we are hardwired to value goodness in our societies -- and thus innately compelled to participate in building, strengthening, and enhancing the common good. In an era marked by polarization and rising inequality, Christakis marshals science and history into a message of hope." Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab
"A blueprint for constructing a good society arrives when we most need it. Christakis has outrageous optimism, rooted firmly in biological and social science, that we will prevail. With a voice that is joyous and uplifting, he teaches us about the core of our nature -- this obligatory patterning of ourselves into units called society, with the building blocks being love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. What an enlightened house this blueprint will build if we, the occupants, heed his message about the possibilities that lie within us." Mahzarin R. Banaji, author of Blindspot
"One of the world's leading social scientists is on the hunt for the biological bounds of human culture, for what we are capable of as a species, and for society's generic tendencies. In this eloquent, wide-ranging book Christakis finds what turns out to be the good news about what it means to be human." Gary King, Harvard University
"In this wisely optimistic book, Christakis explores the evolutionary imperative of forming bonds that are both cultural and genetic. His writing is colorful, personal, and often exuberant." Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree
"Blueprint is a brilliant and provocative tour de force that could not be more timely. I don't think I've learned this much from a book in a long time. Christakis is the rare author who can combine rigor and erudition with page-turning readability. Filled with fascinating studies, including experiments from his own lab, Blueprint ultimately offers reason for hope grounded in science for our difficult times." Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
"In an era when borders close and the perceived differences among us drive the public narrative, Christakis travels across societies and continents to remind us that we share much more than what keeps us apart. Blueprint unveils the communities and the social networks that define our successes and failures, and it celebrates the universality of human experience. A powerful and gripping book." Albert-László Barabási, author of The Formula
"At a time when it seems that nothing can unite us, Christakis cuts through our divisions to reveal a rich and poignant look at our shared human nature. Christakis's trademark passion and broad scholarship are full-throttle as he lays out the ancient recipe for our shared humanity. Compelling, absorbing, and chock-full of delightful examples of what humans can do when they band together, Blueprint is a must-read." Coren Apicella, University of Pennsylvania
"Christakis brings to general readers his most famous theory: the genetic profile of both humans and animals dictates the types of societies that they create. Using a plethora of accessible examples that range from the social behavior of dolphins and chimpanzees to the tenets that link human behavior in a myriad of settings, from reality shows to arranged marriages, along with a generous look into the author's own past, Christakis reminds us that leadership, friendship, and group tendencies are all rooted in the most fundamental mechanism of our biological sorting: natural selection. A must-read for anyone interested in how we find ourselves wholly divided into political, religious, and workplace silos, and where these separations may lead us." Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl
"A remarkable achievement! Christakis explains, in the most lucid and accessible way imaginable, how our genetic and cultural heritages are deeply intertwined. The story of human nature is no fairy tale, but it nevertheless reveals our potential, and our proclivity, for good." Angela Duckworth, author of Grit
"In this brilliant and humane book, Christakis defends an optimistic view of humanity. Human nature is not solitary and brutish -- we are social beings, capable of intimate ties and great kindness, blessed with extraordinary potential. Blueprint is clear, persuasive, and vitally important." Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy
"Christakis has found that all human cultures converge on a consistent style of social network, and in Blueprint he explores the reasons why. The answer, he boldly argues, lies in our genes. Digging widely, Christakis shows that a gene-based account does not have to challenge the impact of culture, nor does it commit the analysis to reductionism or determinism. Blueprint stakes a powerful claim for a richer incorporation of biology into the social sciences." Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire
"In Blueprint, Christakis shows that goodness has a biological purpose. More than an ideal pushed upon us by moral and religious leaders, goodness is a survival tactic demanded by our very genes. Christakis's argument about our common humanity, made in such a powerful and vivid fashion, is an important one for these unstable times. He shows that kindness and love are not merely things we can do -- but things we must do." Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York
"Tribalism is all around us, but it does not have to be. After all, we are all human. In lively and engaging prose, Christakis shows what is possible, and what we must do." Eric Schmidt, former chairman of Google
"Come for the gripping stories about shipwrecks, communes, and Antarctic outposts. Stay for the sociology of networks. As social connectivity and the pace of change both increase in the 21st century, Christakis is the essential guide, and this is the essential book. A joy to read, and a warning about the challenges of creating new societies and institutions within which real human beings can flourish." Jonathan Haidt, coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind
"The diversity of our cultures and personal identities masks the fact that we are one. In this brilliant, beautiful, and sweeping book, Christakis shows how eight universal human tendencies have bound us together, and given us dominion over our planet, our lives, and our common fate. A masterful achievement that is surely the best and most original science book of the year." Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
"Nicholas Christakis is a pioneer in bridging the conceptual chasm between the choices of individual people and the shaping of an entire society. In this timely and fascinating book, he shows how the better angels of our nature, rooted in our evolutionary past, can bring forth an enlightened and compassionate civilization." Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now
"In a book of great wisdom and unusual breadth, Christakis pulls together philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, genetics, and evolutionary biology to make an extraordinarily optimistic argument: evolution has pre-wired us for goodness. At a moment when the dark history of the early twentieth century suddenly seems relevant again, it's a relief to be reminded of why so many efforts to re-engineer human society have failed -- and of why the better side of human nature often triumphs in the end." Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Gulag: A History
"A magnificent achievement. If you think you understand human nature, think again; Christakis will open your eyes and make you gasp. A special bonus: His book is inspiring and deeply optimistic. The perfect book for our time." Cass R. Sunstein, coauthor of Nudge
"As an historian, I probably tend to overemphasize the darker side of human nature -- our remarkable capacity as a species for generating war and revolution, manias, and panics. As a physician and a social scientist, Christakis is here to tell me to lighten up. 'There is more that unites us than divides us,' he argues in this deeply erudite and engaging book, 'and society is basically good.' If, like me, you respond to that claim with skepticism, you have a treat in store. Christakis will change your view of the naked ape." Niall Ferguson, author of The Square and the Tower
"We live in a time rife with 'us' versus 'them' divisions based on class, religion, ethnicity, and politics. But in this majestic, important, and enjoyable book, Christakis rightfully reminds us that we also evolved to live together, cooperate, and thrive in complex, diverse social groups. Now more than ever we need to understand and tap into these deep and fundamental adaptations that help us live and work side by side, value each other, and pursue common cause." Daniel E. Lieberman, author of The Story of the Human Body
"Mixing brilliant insights with vivid and memorable storytelling, Blueprint is both deeply scholarly and, at the same time, a genuine pleasure read." Greg Lukianoff, author of The Coddling of the American Mind
"As he explores human nature and its possibilities, the author touches on all sorts of fascinating anthropological matters, such as the evolution of monogamy and the relative friendliness of affluent vs. working-class people. A refreshingly optimistic view of our kind." Kirkus
About the Author
Nicholas A. Christakis is a physician and sociologist who explores the ancient origins and modern implications of human nature. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, where he is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science, in the Departments of Sociology, Medicine, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Statistics and Data Science, and Biomedical Engineering. He is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science and the co-author of Connected.
- Publication date : March 26, 2019
- File size : 39344 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 441 pages
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Publisher : Little, Brown Spark; Illustrated edition (March 26, 2019)
- ASIN : B07F67B9P4
- Language: : English
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #102,255 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I read the whole thing, carefully, and my feeling is that “the jury’s out,” but I truly enjoyed this (epically discursive) exploration regardless.
The structure of the book is that the author does not get down to the business of laying out his argument straight away. You’re first taken on a number of “tours” where you get to observe behavioral traits of groups. The sundry tours include, among other things:
1. an enumeration of castaways from the nineteenth century: what binds these people is that they did not plan to form a “society”
2. a tour of utopian (American) experiments, who explicitly aimed to do so;
3. an attempt at describing a taxonomy of communities;
4. a full exploration of all the ways societies make their family arrangements (from Hazda foragers of Tanzania to the Na people in the Himalayas via the the Nuer of Sudan and the Tapirape people of Brazil)
5. a study of monogamy and polygamy in animals (including its relation to “key” genes that might potentially catalyze these behaviors)
6. an exploration of friendship in animals, including the examination of mathematical graphs of the links between animal “friends” which –amazingly, one must admit-- looks pretty much the same as it does for primitive humans
With one or two exceptions, what I took away from this tour (that takes you all the way to page 280 out of 420) is how immensely diverse all these arrangements are, which I think is pretty much the opposite of what I thought was the central tenet of the book. I mean, if the author is to believed when he says (p. 128) that “a global, cross-cultural survey found that kissing was present in only 46 percent of one hundred and sixty-eight cultures studied” I think we have conclusive proof that there ain’t no “Blueprint.” To say nothing of the castaways, some of whom looked after one another all the way to safety, when others went on to capture and subjugate women and form a child-exploitation colony that lasted generations.
So Nicholas Christakis has his work cut out to convince you there is a “Blueprint,” let alone to do so in only half as many pages as he takes you on his wacky tour. He does do a tremendous job of explaining where genes come in and he builds a nice little mini-body of circumstantial evidence, but I don’t think he quite gets to a QED, or even an “aha” moment. Not for me, at any rate.
Still, there are rewards to paying attention. It was interesting to read the argument regarding why the width and the length of a human nose --in contrast to the width and the length of one’s hand-- are uncorrelated: society rewards good people with progeny, but you need to identify those good people first and variety in facial characteristics is an aid in that quest. It was fascinating to follow the argument regarding teaching and how that can feed back into genes through the shaping of one’s environment, even if this was not the first time I heard the argument regarding fire, cooking, brain size etc. And it was intriguing to follow the argument that the pathogens make me sneeze so they can spread, much as I found it to otherwise be a non-sequitur.
But did I REALLY change my mind about the fundamental question here? Do I now think my genes have predestined me to check on Linked In to see if I have any more links? Not really, especially since I know it’s my investor Andreas who demanded I get to 500+
Blueprint has not disappointed. It was especially Chapter 11 titled "Genes and Culture" that elevated this book to "great" status in my mind. Christakis's description of "cultural evolution" triggered thoughts and ideas that were so exciting I could barely sit still. He explains cultural evolution in terms of genetical evolution, the evolution of technology, world migrations and history, language, politics, and religion. This Chapter 11 alone will likely cause you to put down the book every few sentences, look into space, and just enjoy the new concepts, thoughts, and ideas that well up in your mind.
Top reviews from other countries
If everyone understood this fundamental point the world would get better faster. This, not by coincidence, is also the theme of the book.