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    Description

    At the beginning of Nonzero, Robert Wright sets out to "define the arrow of the history of life, from the primordial soup to the World Wide Web." Twenty-two chapters later, after a sweeping and vivid narrative of the human past, he has succeeded and has mounted a powerful challenge to the conventional view that evolution and human history are aimless.

    Ingeniously employing game theory the logic of "zero-sum" and "non-zero-sum" games, Wright isolates the impetus behind life's basic direction: the impetus that, via biological evolution, created complex, intelligent animals and then, via cultural evolution, pushed the human species toward deeper and vaster social complexity. In this view, the coming of today's interdependent global society was "in the cards" - not quite inevitable, perhaps, but, as Wright puts it, "so probable as to inspire wonder." So probable, indeed, as to invite speculation about higher purpose, especially in light of "the phase of history that seems to lie immediately ahead: a social, political, and even moral culmination of sorts."

    In a work of vast erudition and pungent wit, Wright takes on some of the past century's most prominent thinkers, including Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins. He finds evidence for his position in unexpected corners, from native American hunter-gatherer societies and Polynesian chiefdoms to medieval Islamic commerce and precocious Chinese technology; from conflicts of interest among a cell's genes to discord at the World Trade Organization.

    Wright argues that a coolly scientific appraisal of humanity's three-billion-year past can give new spiritual meaning to the present and even offer political guidance for the future. Nonzero will change the way people think about the human prospect.

    ©1999 Robert Wright (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

    Commentaires

    "Wright supports his view by drawing on an impressive breadth of knowledge that happily doesn't lord over the text but rather buoys it with interesting connections. Ending with a push of his thesis of progressiveness into biology, of all things, Wright caps a spritely, opinionated big-picture history of human civilization." ( Booklist)

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    • Global
      4 out of 5 stars
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    • Douglas
    • 18/12/2010

    A Nice Follow-Up...

    to The Moral Animal, though it smiles just a tad too much. One HOPES that Wright's optimistic "destiny" of human evolution is true, though there is plenty of real life mess to prove otherwise. Wright does make some wonderfully insightful observations about what drives the complexity and symbolic nature of human society, it is just the underlying eutopic hints that cause one to cringe a bit. Overall, a fine book with lots of insight and things to ponder...just don't take it's subtitle too much to heart--humans simply don't yet deserve it.

    13 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour Gary
    • Gary
    • 20/07/2012

    Hard not to learn something by reading this book

    The author's survey on early civilizations is worth the cost of the book alone. Societies tend toward more complex organization as they spread their cultural memes. The arc of history tends towards working together by utilizing win-win situations. Constructive coordination defeats the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) for the coordinators. Yes, that's a mouthful, but the author is expert at clearly explaining it all.

    The two items needed for economic development, cheap transportation and effective communication, are facilitated by higher population density leading to more growth and technological developments hence an evolving of civilizations.

    The book was originally copyrighted over 10 years ago (today is 2012). The book only lost my interest when he was topical and futuristic during about 2 hours of the second half. I was ready to give up and I'm glad I didn't. The book then got really interesting by tying together his major theme on the organization of organic processes. He got into the second law of thermodynamics, and how information and the processing of that information at its core is physical.

    His real theme is that cultures evolve by constructive coordination (win-win situations) but he supports that by educating the listener through historical narratives, fine points on economic theory and the importance of information processing for growth.

    I enjoyed this book so much I've downloaded his next book, "The Evolution of God".

    10 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      2 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      2 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      1 out of 5 stars
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    • Douglas
    • 06/02/2014

    Non-Zero (but pretty close to zero)

    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Maybe people who have never heard anything about Non-Zero/Zero sum games, game theory, etc.

    What do you think your next listen will be?

    I have no idea

    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Kevin T. Collins?

    Collins actually fits Wright well. He's nothing special. Wright has a tendency to ramble on, with minutes of pure, useless conjecture, thus I was only about 30min into the book when I realized I was gonna have to listen to the rest on double speed. And Collins isn't a bad narrator to have on double speed because his voice adds nothing.

    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment, boredom, indifference.

    Any additional comments?

    I don't give this a 1-star because it isn't a bad book. I give it 2-stars because it just isn't very good or useful. For much of "Nonzero" I couldn't help wondering what the point of the book was. There were whole chapters that could have been left out without taking anything away from the book.

    I can say without exaggeration that there were fewer than 10 moments during the reading of this book that I thought "wow. that's really interesting." Probably the only thing I'll remember from "Nonzero" was the factoid about units of Dolphin teaming up with groups from outside their main group to steal a female from another group and then take turns having sex with her. This help would later be paid back in kind. I thought that was fascinating but it was one of only a few such points in "Nonzero."

    I think I learned more about Robert Wright from this book than I did about whatever it was Wright was babbling on about. The problem with this book is that Wright is the sort of author who really needs to stick to a particular subject. In this book his scope was wide and he just went all over the place, often without saying anything of note. There are large sections of the book in which nothing interesting is said.

    Wright's book "Evolution of God" worked well because he stuck to a certain topic and wrote about that. However, towards the end of that book Wright insists on laying out his personal views and beliefs, along with all sorts of conjecture. This book contains an even longer "personal" part towards the end, and his own subjective ideas are woven throughout "Nonzero."

    Wright is a reluctant agnostic, which is to say that his knowledge won't allow him to believe in any of the world's religions, but he simply can't bear the idea of life not having some higher purpose or design, so he creates his own religious views. Wright's admiration for and rosy view of organized religion are some of his worst traits. He simply can't help from criticizing certain "new atheists" in each of his books, and one gets the sense that Wright feels guilty about not being a christian and feels scorn for those atheists who don't.

    The general gist of Wright's superfluous section on his personal beliefs is that he refuses to look at the world and civilization as something that has no direction or meaning. But his beliefs are backed by faith, not fact. Optimism about mankind isn't necessarily bad. But Wright seems to believe that a lack of belief in a higher purpose inevitably leads to a lack of feeling of purpose in one's life. This isn't at all the case, but apparently Wright needs to hold on to naive beliefs and ideas created out of thin air in order to go on.

    22 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Libby
    • 20/07/2018

    Game theory logic tackles cultural evolution

    This is a refreshing take on human history and cultural evolution, I found it very persuasive. He has a lot to say, and he says it well, with each point flowing logically to the next, making it easy to follow. He doesn't re-tread a lot of ground from his last book (Moral Animal), which is good if you've read that, but I will say it could make it difficult for someone who hasn't. For instance, he doesn't spend much time at all defining what he means in the first place by a non-zero sum game - the very heart of the point he's trying to make - and doesn't give the classic example (the prisoner's dilemma) at all in the main text. He instead directs you to an appendix, which doesn't exist at all in this audio version, so don't bother trying to look for it. Therefore I would recommend this book more to people who have already read some other book where the basic topic is treated more in depth - like Moral Animal, or Selfish Gene. If you are determined to read this anyway, at least google the prisoner's dilemma first. There are some good YouTube videos on it. There's also a fun Game Theory simulation called The Evolution of Trust that I'd recommend.

    That said, I found this book fascinating, eye-opening, and perspective-altering! Much of it has to do with long-term human history, viewed from the perspective of cultural evolution by way of "non-zero-sumness". It may make you look at history in a different light! I particularly liked his treatment of the so-called Dark Ages, and all the technological innovation that was actually taking place. A lot of people have complained about the last part of the book where he strays from strict factual interpretation to speculation and philosophy. But I think if you can get over yourself enough to listen with an open mind he has some interesting things to say in that section as well. For example there was a cool thought experiment that made me question my flippant dismissal of the "hard problem" and "mystery" of consciousness. Plus, even if you disagree with him, it's interesting to hear and think about. I do wish he'd write an update, as this was originally published in 2001. But it's still relevant, and an overall great book!

    2 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      3 out of 5 stars
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    • Ian Derrington
    • 30/01/2020

    Brilliant and dumb at the same yime

    another example of an exceptionally smart philosopher self deceiving in their vainglorious interpretation of the world and deceiptfully assertive in his leading conclusions that lack both necessary and sufficit support. replete with logical inconsistencies o Jeremy in the humanistic elements of his words, the arguments stated are often backed with false or incomplete premise or altogether do often not derive themselves from the underlying logical axioms. still so, this is impressive and powerful. you should read this only of you are willing to suspend judgement and aim to simultaneously see both the truths and fallacies that areu beautifully conveyed within this book.

    1 personne a trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      2 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      2 out of 5 stars
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    • colleen
    • 27/05/2012

    huh?

    I listen to quite a few audiobooks on science, psych and logic but this one is hard to follow. It was a very interesting topic but I think i understood about 20 present of the content.

    10 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      2 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      2 out of 5 stars
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    • Steven
    • 09/04/2021

    Repetitive and uninspiring

    The logic of the game theory principles of zero sum interactions was well stated and interesting. The other 80% of the information was drawn out, repetitive, and only mildly interesting. The final piece involving the search for a tie in to a higher power / designer of the methods of evolution by natural selection was down right painful to listen to.

    • Global
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      3 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour Felix Cavazos
    • Felix Cavazos
    • 08/03/2021

    The author bit more than he could chew.

    The whole zero/non-zero dynamics seem like an unnecessary filter through pass topics that the author talks about too casually.

    I recommend reading/listening the last 2 chapters if you're not sure about this one.
    The first half of the book contains an entertaining history lesson of the complexity of human logic but the second part of the book you cringe from time to time when the author pats himself on the back when subtly mocks religion or forces an analogy to stress a point.

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour Simone Maria Romeo
    • Simone Maria Romeo
    • 11/02/2021

    Wow

    From history to philosophy passing through biology and economics. This book is an eye opener cheaper after chapter. Definitely the best I've found in a long time.

    • Global
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      4 out of 5 stars
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    • Nik
    • 29/10/2017

    Idea is beautiful and worth ruminating.

    Idea is beautiful and worth ruminating. A lot of interesting links. Sometimes a little bit fuzzy, but still ok.