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Blueprint

Blueprint

The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

A cutting-edge exploration of the ancient roots of goodness in civilization, arguing that our genes have shaped societies for our welfare and that, in a feedback loop stretching back many thousands of years, societies have shaped, and are still shaping, our genes today.

For too long, the scientific community has been overly focused on the dark side of our biological heritage: our capacity for violence, cruelty, prejudice, and self-interest. And in a world of increasing political and economic polarization, it’s tempting to ignore the positive role of our evolutionary past. But natural selection has given us a suite of beneficial social features, including our capacity for love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. Beneath all our inventions — our tools, agriculture, cities, nations — we carry with us innate proclivities to make good societies.

In Blueprint, Nicholas A. Christakis introduces the compelling and controversial idea that our genes affect not only our bodies and behaviors, but also the ways in which people everywhere make similar societies. With many vivid examples ranging from diverse historical and contemporary cultures, to societies formed in the wake of shipwrecks, online gaming communities thrown together by design, commune dwellers seeking utopia, and groups of people interacting with artificially intelligent bots, Christakis shows how we can never fully escape our social blueprint.

Drawing on recent advances in social science, evolutionary biology, genetics, neuroscience, and network science, Blueprint shows how and why evolution has placed us on a humane path — and why we are united by our common humanity far more than we are divided.

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Genre: Nonfiction / Science / Life Sciences / Evolution

On Sale: March 26th 2019

Price: $30 / $39 (CAD)

Page Count: 496

ISBN-13: 9780316230032

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews

Praise

"A magnificent achievement. If you think you understand human nature, think again; Christakis will open your eyes and make you gasp. A special bonus: His book is inspiring and deeply optimistic. The perfect book for our time."—Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University, author of The Cost-Benefit Revolution, and coauthor of Nudge
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"Tribalism is all around us, but it does not have to be. After all, we are all human. In lively, engaging prose, Christakis shows what is possible, and what we must do."—Eric Schmidt, former chairman of Google
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"In this wisely optimistic book, Nicholas Christakis explores the evolutionary imperative of forming bonds that are both cultural and genetic. His writing is colorful, personal, and often exuberant."—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree
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"A remarkable achievement! Christakis explains, in the most lucid and accessible way imaginable, how our genetic and cultural heritages are deeply intertwined. The story of human nature is no fairy tale, but it nevertheless reveals our potential, and our proclivity, for good."—Angela Duckworth, author of Grit
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"Blueprint is an extraordinarily readable and entertaining book that is also one of the most profound among recently published books on evolution. It brings to bear a long history of research to show that cooperation and pro-social traits of humans are genetically based and are the result of evolution by natural selection. By doing this, Christakis corrects one the most frequent misperceptions about biological evolution, namely that inter-individual competition is a law of nature. I only wish this book would have been published decades earlier."—Gunter Wagner, Alison Richard Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University
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"Blueprint is highly original and engrossing. Christakis is a fluent and lucid writer with an arresting personal voice. At the heart of the book is what he describes as 'the social suite' -- a set of cultural universals that constitute the core and the 'blueprint' of all societies. Integral to the universality of the social suite is his contention that these key features of all human societies are shaped by natural selection and encoded in our genes. Christakis calls into question a false dichotomy between cultural and genetic evolution. Rather, he regards the two as co-existing in ways that recurrently intersect and influence one another. He shows that the similarities that exist between the social attributes of human and animal societies bind humans together in a way that heightens our common humanity. Blueprint is a richly interdisciplinary, deeply documented, brilliant opus on how our long evolutionary history bends toward a good society."—Renée C. Fox, Annenberg Professor Emerita of the Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania
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"Blueprint is a timely, powerful, and riveting demonstration of the inherent suite of sensibilities that drive our social life and cultural evolution. An authoritative integration of the social and evolutionary sciences, this engrossing work's great achievement is to definitively shift the focus of social inquiry from what differentiates us to our common humanity, and to show that, while we may be primed for conflict, we are also hard wired for love, friendship and cooperation, inviting us, should we choose, toward a humane society."—Orlando Patterson, author of The Cultural Matrix
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"Blueprint is an exciting volume that constitutes a major scientific contribution of broad interest. It is a fascinating account of how genes and culture interact and how this knowledge provides the foundations for establishing a Good Society."—Ernst Fehr, University of Zurich
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"In a book of great wisdom and unusual breadth, Nicholas A. Christakis pulls together philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, genetics, and evolutionary biology to make an extraordinarily optimistic argument: evolution has pre-wired us for goodness. At a moment when the dark history of the early twentieth century suddenly seems relevant again, it's a relief to be reminded of why so many efforts to re-engineer human society have failed -- and of why the better side of human nature often triumphs in the end."—Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gulag, and Washington Post columnist
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"One of the world's leading social scientists is on the hunt for the biological bounds of human culture, for what we are capable of as a species, and for society's generic tendencies. In this eloquent, wide-ranging book Nicholas A. Christakis finds what turns out to be the good news about what it means to be human."
Gary King, Weatherhead University Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University
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"A blueprint for constructing a good society arrives when we most need it. Christakis has outrageous optimism, rooted firmly in biological and social science, that we will prevail. With a voice that is joyous and uplifting, he teaches us about the core of our nature -- this obligatory patterning of ourselves into units called society, with the building blocks being love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. What an enlightened house this blueprint will build if we, the occupants, heed his message about the possibilities that lie within us."—Mahzarin R. Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard University, author of Blindspot
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"In the media and online, we live with a daily barrage of the things that divide us -- the differences among individuals, groups, and whole societies seem to define the ways we interact with one another. With a broad sweep of history and a deep knowledge of genetics and social science, Nicholas A. Christakis takes us along a different path, one that is as important as it is timely. Whether in hunter gatherer societies, small bands of people brought together by chance, or Silicon Valley corporations, our societies are linked by the common bonds of humanity. In Blueprint, Christakis shows how we are much more than divisiveness and division, we are programmed to build and thrive in societies based on cooperation, learning, and love."
Neil Shubin, evolutionary biologist and author of Your Inner Fish

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"As he explores human nature and its possibilities, the author touches on all sorts of fascinating anthropological matters, such as the evolution of monogamy and the relative friendliness of affluent vs. working-class people. A refreshingly optimistic view of our kind."—Kirkus
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"At a time when it seems that nothing can unite us, Christakis cuts through our divisions to reveal a rich and poignant look at our shared human nature. Christakis' trademark passion and broad scholarship are full-throttle as he lays out the ancient recipe for our shared humanity. Compelling, absorbing and chock-full of delightful examples of what humans can do when they band together, Blueprint is a must read."—Coren Apicella, University of Pennsylvania
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