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Blueprint

The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society
Narrated by: Nicholas A. Christakis
Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Biology
4.5 out of 5 stars (34 ratings)

Non-member price: $69.59

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Publisher's Summary

Drawing on 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 how we are united by our common humanity. 

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 our inventions - our tools, farms, machines, cities, nations - we carry with us innate proclivities to make a good society. 

In Blueprint, Nicholas A. Christakis introduces the compelling idea that our genes affect not only our bodies and behaviors, but also the ways in which we make societies, ones that are surprisingly similar worldwide. With many vivid examples - including diverse historical and contemporary cultures, communities formed in the wake of shipwrecks, commune dwellers seeking utopia, online groups thrown together by design or involving artificially intelligent bots, and even the tender and complex social arrangements of elephants and dolphins that so resemble our own - Christakis shows that, despite a human history replete with violence, we cannot escape our social blueprint for goodness. 

In a world of increasing political and economic polarization, it's tempting to ignore the positive role of our evolutionary past. But by exploring the ancient roots of goodness in civilization, Blueprint shows 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. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2019 Nicholas A. Christakis (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

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Profile Image for Jonas Blomberg Ghini
  • Jonas Blomberg Ghini
  • 01-06-2019

Many interesting thoughts

There are so many interesting thoughts put forth in this work, I cannot really do them all justice in a short review like this. I will point out a few important facets, however.

For one, I think it is on the one hand obvious, and on the other, revolutionary, that human societies may have specific genetic underpinnings. Going into this, I had a slight expectation that Christakis's words could be construed to support what in the extreme would be eugenics. However, I do not believe this is the case. As far as I can tell, Christakis and the team of scientists he works with, have managed to build a solid case for the proposition that there exists some specific genetic drive to form societies, and that these genetic drives constrain what a "good" society might be. It will always be difficult to avoid the cultural bias towards ones own society, but Christakis does a good job of bringing in very different perspectives and never gives the impression of finding standard Western culture to be superior or somehow "normal". When speaking of "good", he means more as a measure of the extent to which it lets individuals thrive, how long term sustainable the model is, whether it breaks with powerful human tendencies, etc. So there is no moral judgement passed herein.

Another, very fascinating thing he brings up is that he and others find evidence in support of good and evil being codependent; if humans had no capacity for evil, we might not have a capacity for good. This can, of course, change over evolutionary time. But as it stands, it seems that we, humans, are a sort of blend of the bonobo's relaxed and favour based society, and the somewhat disturbing xenophobic tendency of the chimpanzee. Our capacity for great kindness towards "our own" necessitates a capacity for depravity against "the other". Knowing this means, as individuals, we may be able to do something about it. This is not to say that we need "balance" on the individual level, that if you help an old lady over the street one day, you have to trip some other old lady another day. It is more just an observation that it seems, as humans, we are still tied quite firmly to the somewhat disappointing idea of in- and out-groups. We have a hard time liking those that aren't us, and only by concerted effort can we overcome this undesirable trait.

Also, as a pro tip to those finding themselves stranded with many others after a shipwreck or plane crash; don't do the "every man for himself" shtick. Turns out, mercy and kindness pays off in terms of likelihood of survival, while the vileness of selfishness goes hand in hand with only a small fraction of marooned making it out alive.

42 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • Tristan
  • 22-07-2019

Great book, but skip the first few chapters.

Most of the book is deeply insightful and entertaining. Strangely, however, his first few chapters (entitled "unintentional societies" and "intentional societies") are tedious. In these, he describes the experience of small groups of humans shipwrecked around the world, of communes, and other microcosms of human social life. One might think this would be a great opportunity to tell entertaining stories, but it's mostly just a barrage of details. However, the rest of the book is truly wonderful. I suggest simply skipping the start, and getting to the good stuff.

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Domenick Zero
  • 16-06-2019

An optimist view of the human condition grounded in science

Christakis pulls together up to date knowledge of natural and social sciences without disparaging either into a very optimistic view of our future. This is something that I needed in face of what is going on around the world today. I do hope the social blueprint that he describes will right us before we destroy ourselves and our beautiful planet with us.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-03-2019

Refreshing view of humanity

A great reminder that our success as a species comes from our ability to cooperate, and in the end we actually do a really good job at it.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • ryan
  • 20-05-2019

you're going to want a notepad, lots of info!

so much information and so well explained. great book! I'll be revisiting it to further explore the concepts.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-05-2019

Phenomenal and Enjoyable Book!

Blueprint is phenomenal, enjoyable, and a must-read for anyone interested in human nature. It's fun to read and accessible to anyone, whether layman or academic. With outstanding breadth and scope, Christakis combines works from evolutionary biology, anthropology, history, medicine, and more (including original research) to create a unified theory that bridges genetics and culture, while sending a strong positive message about our future as a society. The audio book, read by the author, is also excellent.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Clif
  • 31-08-2019

Hopeful

I love the multidisciplinary approach to Christakis' thesis, drawing on biology, genetics, anthropology, and sociology to distill what is unique about homo sapiens sociality. Christakis' is broadly informed, approachable, fearless and even handed. My favorite read of 2019 (so far).

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • 09-04-2019

Thought provoking approach to human behavior

Christakis provides a thorough and thought-provoking approach to understanding society and human behavior. I enjoy this book immensely and will listen to it again to get its deeper meaning.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Gavin Watson
  • 04-08-2019

Awesome book very well presented concepts.

Everyone who is passionate about making our society better should read this book. Every leader and manager will benefit from the concepts here.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • fellow traveler
  • 12-05-2019

a long but good guide to the better parts of human

A thoughtful and well-researched book. I particularly appreciated the close study of shipwrecked groups and the authors later discussion of the controversial aspects of using science to inform one's understanding of human nature. The narrator is the author which makes the audio authentic although imperfect in spots.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Luke Humphrey
  • 14-09-2019

Excellent

An engaging look at the genetic blueprint for society encoded in our DNA. Chriatakis is a good explainer, and takes the reader through the ideas and anecdotes at a steady pace. He takes the scenic route through concepts, allowing time to explore all the avenues and implications around them. He builds any conclusions up fairly from first principles rather than demanding the reader believe anything on his authority.
The book does not shy away from exploring the data behind the science, but it never becomes overwhelming (I haven't studied biology, sociology, zoology, or anthropology beyond secondary school level and never felt that a concept was difficult to understand).
Equally, the book is always ready to delve into the wider social impacts of different theories - such as the recent shift in concensus of homosexuality being a lifeatyle choice to a genetic certainty.
Overall, an optimistic and unpatronising look at some interesting ideas, the science behind them and their implications for society at large.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-09-2019

Enlightening

An excellent informative and enjoyable read. Take a chance you will enjoy and learn from this audio book

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  • M. Whitfield
  • 22-08-2019

A scientist's Bible

Immediately on finishing the book , I purchased the hardback. This is probably the most impactful book I have ever read. Couldn't recommend it highly enough.