The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely...more
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Here, Diamond focuses more on a social/cultural context, comparing pre-agricultural societies, such as those from his beloved New Guinea, to our WEIRD societies. WEIRD is not solely a sly dig at our lifestyles, but instead shor ...more
This is from the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel. I liked that book for the content and insight it presented, but thought that it's too verbose (i.e. lots of repetition of the same idea to get the point across). This book suffers the same issue. Ideally the information can be presented via a series of long form magazine article instead of a tome, but I guess books makes more money..
One difference about this book to his previous is that this work is a co ...more
The main argument: The onset of agriculture and farming some 11,000 years ago (termed the Neolithic Revolution), is arguably the most significant turning point in the history of our species. Agriculture induced a major population explosion, which then led to urbanization; labor specialization; social stratification; and formalized governance—thus ultimately bringing us to civilization as we know it ...more
There are hundreds of "tribes" living in New Guinea. Many of these tribes ha ...more
There is a lot here - warfare, language, diet, disease, family units. I was most intrig ...more
If I ever get round to reviewing again, ie. if I ever get over being pissed off at Goodreads for turning into an authors' marketplace, for deleting and censoring reviews and shelves, for sharing my reviews, all of them, with Google ...more
This book, however, was a vague disappointment. Not because the book was bad, but because I had such high expectations of it. It seemed to me that he had a bunch of notes and journal entries left over that ...more
Among these was the best discussion of social justice I have ever heard. And some very good points about how diet contributes to diabetes, with research among tribe ...more
There's an interesting chapter on diet -- heart disease and diabetes and similar Western world causes of death are unheard of in hunter-gatherer societies -- and that really brings home how we are literally killing ourselves with our food choices. I can see what the "Paleolithic diet" boosters are g ...more
I've always greatly enjoyed Jared Diamond's books and grabbed a copy of each one that I've run across. He does an excellent job of conveying a lot of information in an easy-to-read format and is normally fabulous at bringing together lots of information to make his case.
But The World Until Yesterday ...more
I was initially excited to read this book as the subject interests me. The premise is to understand how humans lived before modern civilization and to compare that to our lives now. Should we try to be more like "traditional" people in order to solve some of our problems?
However, the more I read, the more irritated I became with the author's liberal attitude and sweeping claims. Many of the so-called 'facts' ...more
Read it in Hardback at 512 pages.
Jared Diamond, you are a man of many talents and educational degrees who has travelled the world for a variety of reasons and are able to take many interesting conjectures from so many different points and spin them into a comprehensive and unique vantage point that dissect human history and aim to improve the human experience. This is why I read your books, despite the handy-cap of an unequal margin of intelligence. Last yea ...more
The problem remains that observations of traditional socie ...more
By learning how other human societies have chosen particular paths and pondering the reasons why they chose them, perhaps we can come to see our own "givens" as choices which made sense (i.e. were "functional.") O ...more
The book is divided into chapters by topic--territories and trade, peace and war, treatment of young and old, danger and response, religion, language, and health. Rather than romanticizing traditional societies, in each category Diamond points to things that he's glad have gone the way of history, and other things that we mig ...more