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Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,021 ratings  ·  246 reviews
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 of our inventions -- our tools, farms, machines, cities, nations - ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by Little, Brown Spark
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Bill Gates
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Why do I love my wife, Melinda?

The sociologist Nicholas Christakis would probably give way more practical answers than I would. He’d argue that our emotional connection gives us a greater incentive to work together to ensure the survival of our kids (and our bloodlines). If we’re ever attacked, our larger, combined family unit is more likely to successfully defend ourselves. We’re also more likely to share food and supplies with one another, upping our chances of living through a tough winter.

Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've had a lot of love and interest in the social sciences over the years. I thought I was really into psychology until I fell in love with sociology. This led me to be a huge lover of SF in general, but concurrently, I read all about utopias, planned communities, shipwrecked sailors building their own natural communities, and all the kinds of political, social, and even biological foundations that any of these could arise from.

And then I read this book.

Christakis, a man with titles galore, has
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blue
There is a long tradition of writers attempting to say how human society could or should be structured, going back at least as long as Plato's "Republic". No doubt, in most or all of them, the author believes themself to be learning from the past, from what has worked and not worked. Rarely, however, do they have access to enough data to be able to say how human societies prosper, or fail to. Even if they had real knowledge of their own society's history (as opposed to royal propaganda and mytho ...more
Ryan Boissonneault
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Social scientists can approach the study of human culture, broadly, by either focusing on differences or similarities. All too often, they choose to accentuate the differences, elaborating on what divides us and on our more aggressive and sinister behaviors. Since cultural differences are so obvious, the countless cross-cultural variations in human behavior would seem to dispel the possibility of cultural universals.

In Blueprint, Nicholas Christakis makes the opposite case: that our genes code
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a competent, user-friendly breakdown of how evolutionary biology works with evolutionary psychology to modify society (and culture). Christakis constructs his argument by stringing together anecdotes from psychology experiments, interspersing ethnographic data, and tossing in a dash of personal observation. The book bangs around through time, hopscotches across scientific disciplines, dabbles in philosophy, refutes anticipated objections, runs through cultural comparisons, and generally ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is among the better evolutionary theory books of late. It includes the author's own research, which is fascinating. I don't think the book is quite what it says it is--it's not a theory of why we are good--but it is a theory of society, friendship and marriage from an evolutionary perspective. ...more
James Marriott
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. He's already answered something that has always puzzled me: why do intelligent people believe obvious untruths? Because the very fact it is nonsense is a signal to the group of your loyalty. Anyone can believe something that is true, but to collude in believing a lie is costly and commits you to defending that lie against attack from outsiders binding you to the group. ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Christakis is no stranger to mobs and had suffered as an American boy in Greece shown to the mob by his own mother. He was attacked by student activists for supporting his wife who said that students, and not Yale administrators, should determine what Halloween costumes were acceptable. Still, he believes in the good of humanity, which is similar across many cultures.

1. People likes their own groups, from childhood, even if randomly assigned at the start. However there are also universal social
Vadim Polikov
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I was hoping for more from this book. The thesis of the author is that we contain a "social suite" of four features: capacity for love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. He doesn't say it, but these for him are human nature.

As evidence there is an interesting discussion of unintentional communities shipwrecks), intentional communities (communes, Antarctic scientists), and artificial communities (in lab settings). He maps the social networks with people as nodes as friendships as connection
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my view of the role of genes in our social life. Now I agree with Nicholas when he answers the question, "is it nature or nurture?" with an emphatic "yes!"

Reading this at the same time as Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's "The Evolving Self" has tangled me in the web of knowing how much humans are "good" and able to survive this complex world and how much we are tying our own shoelaces together as we run forward.

I lean more towards Csiks' view that our human needs, and xenophobia a
Paula Lyle
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
"How do people collaborate to protect shared meadows where their livestock roam? Classical models that assume all people are purely self-interested predict that lands will be overgrazed, seas overfished, and air polluted because individual incentives are contrary to what is best for the group." (page 310)

Isn't that exactly how we find our world today? Christakis lays out the problem clearly, but his answer that humans will innately turn away from that behavior doesn't seem to be supported by his
Simon Eskildsen
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
The premise is: What is natural about society? What arises independently? What is more nature than nurture? When thinking about questions like this, I am always reminded of Herodutus' powerful example of 'social constructs':

> One might recall, for example, an anecdote of Darius. When he was king of Persia, he summoned the Greeks who happened to be present at his court, and asked them what they would take to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. They replied that they would not do it for any mone
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A complementary volume to Yuval Harari’s explorations of behavioural/ideological evolution. It’s not 100% convincing of humanity’s genetic goodness, but it’s an interesting starting point.
Jan 08, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
I had hoped to begin the year with a book that broadens my thinking, and Blueprint most definitely does. It is in different ways related to two books that I read recently - Behave, and The Dawn of Everything. The former was about why we behave the way we do, starting from neurotransmitters and hormones right back to evolution even before we became a species. The latter was about why our linear way of seeing the evolution of humanity is inherently flawed, and how that is increasingly being proved ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I won this in a goodreads giveaway. Well thought out! Very interesting I learned a lot
Jordan Fenske
Jan 24, 2022 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Christakis took such a different approach to analyze human and animal behaviours and connections. This book was slow but never difficult to pick up. Also, I find with non-fiction that they can be quite repetitive however this took so many different angles on similar issues. Def recommend if interested in sociology, anthropology, or even biology.
Athan Tolis
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Author Nicholas Christakis spells out the main claim of this book on page 397: “The social suite is founded on human evolutionary biology and is therefore a universal feature of our societies.” In other words, the way we behave versus one another, the structure of our society, is built-in and it’s gotten to where it is now through natural selection.

I read the whole thing, carefully, and my feeling is that “the jury’s out,” but I truly enjoyed this (epically discursive) exploration regardless.

Robert Kortus
Jul 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Fascinating book that dives into the background of human societies and what drives them. This book differs from books like "Sapiens" and "Guns, Germs, and Steel" in that it specifically looks at the way in which evolution and human genes shape how societies are created. A good summary of the book can be found at the end of chapter 3:

"When you put a group of people together, if they are able to form a society at all, they make one that is, at its core, quite predictable. They cannot create any o
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nicholas Christikas does an excellent work of presenting the state-of-the-art knowledge in social sciences regarding evolutionary foundations for social organization. His theory boils down to claiming that our genome encodes the so-called "social suite", the characteristics of stable human societies towards wich we are biologically inclined. These include allowance for individual identity, love for partners and children, friendship, social networks and cooperation, preference for your own group, ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci
A wonderful, thorough, and compassionate overview of how societies develop from the perspective of genetics, culture, and adaptation to environment. The author is quite cool at network analysis and thus adds a perspective of an overview - instead of simply creating compartments of groups and ideas, he zooms out to look at the patterns between the compartments as much as seeing into them. He believes societies have more things in common than not, just like if you're comparing two giant mountains ...more
Ana Pajkovska
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The more people from around the globe I meet the more I get the feeing humans are very much the same, no matter how different we might appear, and how distinctive our cultures are. This book rests the whole case for this, in a great research supported writing.
Roozbeh Daneshvar
The title somehow explains well what this book is about. It is a fairly long book (it took me one year to finish it). The concepts were interesting for me and overall, I enjoyed it. I just had a feeling that the chapters were somehow disconnected (or the transition between the different chapters could have improved).

I am bringing some quotes I found interesting in this book (and they might tell you if you'll like to read this book or not).

People in crowds often act in thoughtless ways—shouting p
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nicholas Christakis' new book is a delightful look at why cooperation is hardwired in human society. He has the rare ability among academics to reach the common educated reader. Its clear prose and fascinating examples (e.g., what accounts for the vastly different results of 19th century shipwrecks) remind me of Jared Diamond's books. Christakis explains the riveting science that backs up his surprising conclusion that the evolutionary process favors cooperation rather than conflict in human soc ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essais
Excellent review of where we stand on the relationship between evolution and human society.
The author is a sociologist with a focus on social networks and he shows that our number of friends and relationships depend on our genes (for humans as well as for elephants!). Consequently, it is possible that natural selection selected for pro-social genes/behaviours which made us friendlier.
One of the best things about Blueprint is the feeling you get that we are at the dawn of very interesting times w
Baal Of
Sep 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spaghetti, salsa, bulgogi
Read the review by my friend rossdavidh for an in depth opinion about this book, which is what prompted me to buy and read this book. It left me with a lot of thoughts swirling around, and weeks later I'm still assimilating. I've even got this book selected for one of my book clubs next month, so I'll be looking forward to hearing what they think. ...more
Sean Goh
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: relating, science
Lengthy and spanning a range of topics, from evolutionary biology to sociology.
TL;DR: friendship (non-reproductive long-term bonds amongst non-kin) is almost unique to humans, and Maslow's hierarchy might be inverted (the social needs help to satisfy the basic needs).
The desire for social connection and interpersonal understanding is so deep that it is with us to the end.
Even though people may have varied life experiences, live in different places and look superficially different, there are
Otto Lehto
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Christakis's book is good and thorough introduction to evolutionary psychology and its impact on social life. Its "blueprint" refers to the set of evolved characteristics that underlie every human society despite the diversity of social expression in their customs and laws. The word "blueprint" is a bit of a red herring, however, since it does not entail a set of clear-cut instructions that determine the social construction of rules. It is simultaneously something less and more than that.

From th
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book. Author Nicholas A. Christakis writes with an interesting and engaging style, that easily holds the reader's attention. "Blueprint" also features many pictures, illustrations, graphs and other figures that help convey his points, and the relevant research.
Christakis lays out his "Social Suite" early on, of which he says:
"At the core of all societies, I will show, is the social suite:
(1) The capacity to have and recognize individual identity
(2) Love for partners and
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I set about reading this scholarly tome in order to find a counterpoint to my increasingly gloomy appraisal of human nature. Christakis makes a convincing case that human beings have developed a "social suite" of behaviors that are key to the success of groups: capacity to have and recognize individual identity, love for partners and offspring, friendship, social networks, cooperation, preference for one's own group, mild hierarchy, social learning and teaching. Through animal studies as well as ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This informative book delves into the intricacies of human nature, shedding light on the evolutionary adaptations acquired by humans over time that have in turn led to beneficial innovations in our genetic makeup that have shaped our contemporary societies.

Factors that range from the environmental to the intrinsic are explored by Christakis's sagacious mind, and the reader is bestowed with a feeling of immense fascination with the complexities of human nature and the aspects of our genetic backg
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Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, with appointments in the departments of Sociology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Statistics and Data Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Medicine.

Previously, he conducted research and taught for many years at Harvard University and at the University of Chicago. He was on Time mag

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