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Civilized to Death: What Was Lost on the Way to Modernity
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Civilized to Death: What Was Lost on the Way to Modernity

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  694 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Progress, the basic illusion of our age, is exhausted. Kids typically no longer expect their lives to be better than their parents’ were. Dystopian scenarios loom ever larger in public consciousness as fisheries collapse, CO2 levels rise, and clouds of radioactive steam billow from “fail-safe” nuclear plants that failed. Despite the technological marvels of our age—or ...more
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Published 2018 by Simon and Schuster
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  694 ratings  ·  90 reviews


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Trevor
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are a couple of things that separate me from your average loony, left-wing atheist. One is my distaste for both Pinker and Dawkins who are more generally held to be the heroes and even linchpins of modern-day rationalism. The reason why they both bother me so much is that I can’t help feeling that their genetic determinism smells a little too much like eugenics. This book criticises them on much the same terms I do. That said, if I was to offer one piece of advice about how to read books, ...more
Nina
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m conflicted about this one. It was a fun read and the “Narrative of Perpetual Progress” definitely deserves the type of debunking the author is attempting. The lives of our hunter/gatherer forbears were not as nasty, brutish, or short as the proponents of the myth of progress would have us all believe. However, their lifestyles were not as idyllic, peaceful, and sustainable as the author would have us believe either. He rightly takes scientists like Steven Pinker to task for cherrypicking ...more
Ietrio
Oct 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
An intellectually dubious argument for taking life like a buffet: Ryan would take some of the 21st century, and some from the 20th century plate and mostly from a fairy tale that exists only in his mind.
Bremer
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted.”

— Arthur Miller

Modern civilization is seen as necessary for “progress.” With every breakthrough in technology, science, medicine, and so on, with every new comfort and convenience, advancement and novelty, what is the cost?

People often assume that progress is steadily increasing, and at a linear pace, believing that the livelihoods of the hunter-gatherers were primitive, dangerous, and simple, despite their survival for
...more
Adam Bell
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m a long time listener of Dr Ryan’s podcast Tangentially Speaking so the arguments presented to me in this short and sweet treatise on why progression isn’t inherently positive, aren’t new. I’d however recommend this book to anyone that has contemplated the necessity to participate in the “rat race”, why we aren’t necessarily better off now than our ancestors and how to re-imagine a better life for yourself. I listened to this on Audible and it was read by the author which I’d highly recommend ...more
Timo
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Author Christopher Ryan has provided a clear and compelling argument against what he calls the Narrative of Perpetual Progress, or NPP.

In 2016, I dropped away from traditional life, leaving Seattle, WA to wander Mexico and Central America. It was due to many of the ailments listed in this book that I found life in Seattle so intolerable; but I wasn't ready to face the idea that Modern Life wasn't great. It took awhile for that realization to set in.

I was raised in a fundamentalist religion. I
...more
Judith
Oct 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
I read about 10% of the book. I agree with Ryan that if we started as a “wolf pack” then we are mostly poodles and pigs, and we need to look at and provide for our psychological needs in light of our origins as foragers. But I won’t get my desire for confirmation fulfilled by this book. He seems to not understand natural selection, and he lacks precision and science when considering human evolution and the human condition. There are many better popular science books out there. Start with De Waal ...more
Philip
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just finished my advance readers copy. Waited a long time for this one to finally be released. The wait was worth it. I also recommend The New Human Rights Movement by Peter Joseph and The Spell of The Sensuous by David Abram if you enjoyed this book. I love books that turn my conventional ways of thinking upside down in ways that make sense
Truly
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Watch a detailed review along with my favorite ideas and takeaways at:
https://youtu.be/LtCUeGzXpxs
Ailith Twinning
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I rather enjoyed this read, and find the ideas rather compelling.
Except one. The "sharing" economy is bad, a scam, throwing all the risk of the employer onto individuals while some tech startup rakes almost everything, and doesn't even make a profit doing it because it's dumping so much into expansion and stock buybacks to drive finance capital to just keep the damn ponzi scheme rolling. Uber, Air BNB, "Uber for dogwalkers", Task Rabbit and all the rest are vile - and Ryan bought the advertising
...more
Vetis
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've been waiting for this since 2014 when I first read Sex at Dawn. Chris has been talking about this book on the podcast since then. If you're a fan of the podcast, much of the material here will be familiar. many of the same references, stories and points are repeated.
Chris isn't saying anything new here, so much as saying it in an entertaining way that is still well researched. If you have read the works of Marshall Sahlins, Jared Diamond and Frans De Waal there is nothing new to learn here,
...more
Priyaranjan Padhi
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like the authenticity of the author.I listen to his podcast (Tangentially speaking) more often than not and share the same concerns and similar critiques. The point of divergence is the nihilistic undertone and that of impending doom in the form of large scale climate crisis that the author tends to take for granted. The future may pan out this way and we might be completely helpless but firmly believing it to be the case wont help us in whatever efforts we may be capable of mustering ...more
Steven
Nov 15, 2019 added it
The key takeaway for me: Civilization is not our natural environment. We act and live poorly within its confines.

"What fueled the Spaniards cruelties wasn't human nature. IT WAS CIVILIZATION." p 57

"Modern diseases...are largely, not total, due to misalignment between the world we've created and the one our bodies were EXPECTING TO INHABIT." p 110

Can we go back to the garden? No, but we can adopt as many foraging traits as we can, such as barefoot running shoes, spending time in nature, and
...more
Enrique Incle
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sobering and realistic

This was a great way to help us reconnect with our ancient roots, our true nature. The author used many vivid examples and sources that brought lucidity and clarity to describe the current identity crisis we are all experiencing as a species. The author and his dead helped me shaped and be able to turn a lot of this concerns and my angst into a more tangible concept. Now I have better understanding of what I been missing.
mat lee
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eye opening

Love tangentially speaking, sex at dawn and now civilized to death. Great read, very eye opening to a lot of the issues humans face today.
Benediktas Raulusonis
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book explains in detail what it states in its title - that civilization and modern lifestyle is slowly killing us. Sort of "A death by a thousand cuts".

Which is kind of true. Modern life is a novelty and neither our body nor mind is designed to live in it. Screens, sitting all day, social media - it is very, very new things.Book provides number of examples, let me list a few:
- Caesarean section, unless it's necessary, should be avoided - but it is increasingly avoided for the convenience
...more
Greg
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
First, a correction: Toads were not licked for DMT by indigenous peoples of the americas. I'm pretty sure the origin of this was in the last 50 years, as described in Michael Pollan's book How to Change your Mind.

Second, one of the best things about this book is that it is full of wry humor. Phrases such as "As with sex, drugs and decorative pillows, there can be too much of a good thing". (copied from memory)

Now, my big thoughts about this book. I read it eagerly in a few sittings. This is a
...more
Antonio
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this.
It was scary, thought provoking, interesting, and very informative albeit fairly grim at times.
It definitely kept me interested and it absolutely got my gears turning.
David Zaidain
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is basically a rant. It would have been better as a short New Yorker article. Maybe.

I fundamentally believe in the central premise- our advancing progress and industrialization has not produced healthier or happier people. But this book rants about the symptoms without really getting into a “why are we like this”....these systems were created by humans as a reaction to something. That something is not explored and seems to be because we are just selfish dicks, i guess.
...more
Amanda
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 stars
Audible

How do I review this book fairly? I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. My views on politics and society are already contradicting, so this book shakes me a little. What I liked most about this book is that Author doesn’t take sides politically. I’m a Christian, so I wasn’t particularly happy with some of his comments regarding Christianity. We ARE NOT all RADICAL.

But- his points made me think, and that’s what made this book very interesting. The research Christopher Ryan put
...more
Igor Pershin
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've always felt that our way of life doesn't feel natural and that it is simply because it isn't, but it has always been hard to put my finger on exactly what was at fault. This scathing critique of everything our society holds to be important yet what we know fails to meet our fundamental needs is both fascinating and entertaining.

Chris takes us on a journey through how we got to this point of mutually assured destruction we call development, prosperity and 'progress'. The more 'developed' we
...more
Jack Macaulay
Dec 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
i really wanted to like this book, but the popularised skeptic Michael Shermer was right, Chris cherry picks his info to the point where he distorts reality.

He trys to argue that things have gotten MUCH worse than they were before.

But what about the 60% mortality rates in children just 100 years ago?

How about the spanish flu that would wipe out 90% of the populations?

Black plague?

Or what about the fact that in the last 20 years abject poverty has been HALVED.

It seems that Chris has fetished our
...more
David Moynihan
Nov 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Ugh! I gave up after two chapters of the audiobook. The author narrates the book and his sanctimonious drone killed whatever pleasure might be found in the book.

Save hours of your life for better purposes. Here is the gist of it:

People living ‘civilized lives’ are less happy than hunter-gatherers, generally speaking.
Change is inevitable; progress is not.
Ben Rogers
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well-researched book (I read most of the books referenced in this book!). It had a parallel to Sapiens, and I really enjoyed it.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who liked Sapiens or anyone interested in civilization and its roots - and especially its effects.

I discovered some pretty groundbreaking things in this book. Such as the impacts on colonization to the "pure" natives of various countries - and what life was like before modernization. Of course, I knew this, but the way it
...more
Andrew
This is an interesting audiobook that delves in to the broad-strokes of human history and cultural studies by examining humanity’s “progress” throughout millennia.

Narrated by the author, this audiobook feels like a persuasive essay, as Ryan aggressively articulates his feelings on common misconceptions and beliefs taken for granted about human history/society. He very strongly wants the reader/listener to come to terms and agree with his take on these issues and strongly forces his views upon
...more
Robert Kenny
Jan 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Are you interested in hearing arguments based on how an author “feels” about the world, with nothing but personal biases and anecdotes supporting them? If so, this might be the book for you. But, if you’re like me, and prefer books that support a thesis with statistics and research, you probably won’t enjoy it. The closest thing to factual support Christopher Ryan offers for any of his arguments is one or two counter-examples for a generalized belief. For instance, when arguing against the ...more
Austin Raines
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is not scholarly peer-reviewed anthropology, nor should it be taken as such. It is "pop-anthropology" - easily digested, engaging, and with selectively chosen evidence - bedside reading for today's urban working professional. Still, this does not invalidate Ryan's book or claim. Ryan wrote a deeply important polemic for a return to a less technical, less analytical, more grounded and present and natural state of human society, an argument that should be understood and appreciated by ...more
Katy Koivastik
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of those books easily read annually to remind one of what is important in life.

I jotted down at least 10 of Christopher Ryan’s most salient points. Here are three:

“Our desperate peregrinations are in search of a place much like the home we left when we left The Garden and started to farm”.

“We live in a world created by and for institutions that thrive on commerce, not human beings that thrive on community, laughter and leisure”.

“We are trapped in an economy that is killing us.
...more
Wesley
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: artikelen
I really enjoyed this book. This is in many ways a pessimistic version of De meeste mensen deugen. They use the same research, the same examples. While Bregman is more concerned with human nature and how we can make the world better. Ryan focuses more on how modern society breaks human nature.
The book would be better in my opinion if Ryan would come up with more solutions for the future. How we can make a more paleo/tribal/hunter-gatherer society with the background and knowledge of our modern
...more
John Bodley
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book. Like Ryan’s first one “Sex at Dawn”, this is thought provoking and at times maddening. Maddening at civilization’s “leaders” habit of dismissing evidence in favor of the growth dogma.
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