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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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  310 ratings  ·  42 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
Published 2018 by Simon and Schuster
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  310 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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,
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
The main thesis of this book is a counter argument to what the author calls “the narrative of perpetual progress” (NPP). That is the idea that civilization has been continuously improving the quality of living of the population, but according to the author: “The more we understand what human life was like before agriculture, the more civilization looks like a pyramid scheme”.

He starts by describing what we know about how foragers lived in pre-agricultural times and identifying the common traits
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.
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
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 stars

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
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
Max Peel
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Profoundly interesting throughout, not afraid of calling out bullshit, and language & audio quality is top notch.

Chris is a great fella to anyone who knows happiness comes from within, and enough means enough - in terms of enough means we don’t need more. And fucking enough means enough with climate change — we are at a cross roads for life on this small third planet from the sun. We are all responsible, it’s the problem we must solve. “There is mass ignorance parading as certainty” - it’s
Frederik Vander
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really like Mr.Ryan's writing style. As in his previous book,"Sex at dawn", it is witty, provoking and thoughtful. Rebellious even, maybe. I had a few good laughs and more thoughts on what he wrote. Eye-opening, change-your-perspective good.
I don't agree with him on everything though. Sometimes my thoughts were "communist!" (pejorative) or "we need more research on that" (e.g. alternative medicine, placebo's and such). But all in all, this is part of the change-your-perspective quality and
Iulia Iordache-Bryant
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall this is a spectacularly argued book. I loved the audio version because he is a great orator. I got a bit annoyed towards the end, right before and during the psychedelic chapter because I felt like magic mushrooms are not really a solution for the messy civilized world. But I think the ending was strong so that redeemed the book again for me. I was familiar with a lot of the concepts he speaks of but I think he did an incredible job of balancing opinions he disagreed with, and recognized ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author’s exposition of the narrative of perpetual progress and the discontents it sows resonated deeply. It’s like a fish discovering the water it’s swimming in. The unorthodox take on humanity’s prehistoric state is insightful and thought-provoking.

But I was also left deeply suspicious of that the author’s view of our prehistoric past was overly rosy, since he seems to entirely ignore anthropological information which suggests our past was indeed mostly consumed with war-making.

The author
Carlos Eduardo
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Disappointed not hear about Torrents (P2P - Peer to peer) when the author talked about peers as a solution for modern world problems. It also took a very long time to get there and the conclusion was not that satisfying. Maybe because I've already heard most of the arguments in his podcast "Tangentially Speaking". The book makes you think though, which in my opinion, is already an achievement nowadays.
PS: The chapter about drugs felt a little bit as it came out of nothing, but it was
Charles Bradley Mercer
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be very entertaining and enlightening. I feel as though this could be taken wrong in that all of modernity is wrong, and i don't feel as though that is what is being expressed.
I think that the author is trying to point out that so much of modern life makes us sick, depressed and disassociated with the world and people around us. Which keeps coming up as the author says in various studies.
Joseph Chopik
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I waited a long time for this book to come out and the wait was worth it. Anyone who listens to the podcast will read familiar stories and feel they know what's coming. This does not take away from the read at all. Deep down we all know there is something wrong with civilization. Everyone should read this book at least once.
Veronica Swan
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Eye-opening, incredibly interesting, but also harsh and terribly frank about the state of the world/society/civilization as a whole. Being so brutally honest means this book will not jive with everyone, but I don't think there's any other way to really get the point across. Ryan knocked it out of the park, highly recommend.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Five stars because this is a real mind rattler. Imagine...we were better off when we were all hunter gatherers or as Ryan calls us foragers. Sure, the whole premise may be arrant nonsense but he sure makes a good case and I found myself nodding in agreement on many occasions. This book is certainly worth the read at least once and maybe twice.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book, amazing insight into how we may have a romanticized view of modern life as opposed to our forger ancestors. Great add-on if you're a fan of books like Sapiens by Yuval Noah or Jared Diamond.
Justin Koch
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
So I don’t buy all the denials of the futurists positions, but the major premise that we’ve built a world that is killing us and making us extremely unhappy is self evident after reading this book. Worth reading if you are wondering what is wrong with the world.
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