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Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,284 ratings  ·  163 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
Sean Goh
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, relating
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
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
Felipe Leite
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loads of fascinating stories and research. Some chapters are far more boring than others. I'd recommend skipping a chapter if it gets too dull, I think the last few chapters were the most valuable in the book
Jim Robles
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What to do when five stars is not enough? This book pellucidly addresses a why we are the way we are from a dazzling number of perspectives. This is a deeply philosophical work that addresses the persistent questions: What can I know and how can I know it? What kind of being am I and what form of life is best for beings like me? How should beings like us organize ourselves? "The universals of the social suite . . . are essential to the ability to judge which social arrangements are good for huma ...more
Juan Rivera
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lecturas-2020
In general, all the books recommended by Bill Gates are very good, and "Blueprint The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society" by Nicholas A. Christakis is no exception.

What builds a good society? Why does it exist? How to promote it? They are the main questions of this book.

The first thing to understand is that man is a social animal, and this makes society within us.

The author begins by talking about some "unintentional" societies that arise from shipwrecks or just by "trying" to build societie
Jessica Kuzmier
3.5 out of 5.

Not a bad book, I enjoyed Christakis' writing and his long scope. I'm not all that sure if he proved his theory that society had a genetic component, as his evidence seemed to be very random and anecdotal, although the examples he used came from a wide variety of paleontology, zoology and anthropology. In other words, I believe he relied more on circumstantial evidence, albeit a great deal of it, more than actual genetics, which he does refer to but mostly with regards to physical a
Kirk Johnson
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a pretty damn impressive book, wide-ranging and thoughtful. Stars all around.

The immensity of its bright blue footprint on your shelf might distress you, but the physical experience of reading it is pleasant.

The only real complaint I have - and how bitter I am! - is that it chooses to place its footnotes, along with quite a bit of valuable text, in the back of the book, so that one is constantly flipping back and forth - exhausting, and when I rule the world with an iron fist this sort
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This well researched and interesting book comes to the conclusion that despite efforts to re-organise society (either utopian or authoritarian), or to infer humans are inheritely bad due to the evil doings in the world, that humankind is fundamentally good and have evolved that way.

The spirit of friendship and cooperation is not a uniquely human trait, it is found in some animals. The author discusses how humans have evolved to cooperate and develop friendships and culture as it has a survival
Kathryn Bashaar
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This book makes the case that human social behavior is evolved, and gives good evidence for how that happened. The author uses examples of how our behavior is similar to behaviors observed in other mammals, and of how certain aspects of human social behavior is consistent across cultures.

The topic is interesting to me. As a writer, I’m always interested in human behavior. And I really enjoyed reading about animal social behavior. For example, elephants form friendships; that touched me deeply.
John Stepper
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
An exhaustively researched book on the evolution of our social behaviors, this is a good companion to the work of Dunbar and Sapolsky. It offers a range of insights into why we do what we do and how we might use that knowledge to actively shape culture and society for the good of ourselves and others.
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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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