Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse
- The Washington Post, on Guns, Germs and Steel
Dr. Jared Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse. In his new book, The World Until Yesterday, Diamond compares life in modern, industrialized societies with traditional ways of life and argues that traditional societies have much to teach us about conflict resolution, care of elders and children, risk management, multilingualism, and nutrition. The World Until Yesterday debuted in the top three of the New York Times bestseller list.
With a unique blend of anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary biology, Diamond depicts a way of life that is startlingly different from the way we live today. Focusing on how we can improve contemporary society by learning lessons from the past, Diamond’s message is both urgent and persuasive: With some thought and effort, we can have the best of both worlds. The New York Times calls Diamond's writing "one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual of our generation."
The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?
Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday—in evolutionary time—when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.
Jared Diamond provides a mesmertizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years—a past that has mostly vanished—and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today. This is Diamond's most personal speech to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. He doesn't romanticize traditional societies—after all, we are shocked by some of their practices—but he finds that their solutions to unversal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining talk, The World Until Yesterday is essential and delightful for all audiences.
Today, in Western democracies, we take for granted the idea that all humans enjoy certain universal rights—at least in theory. Those rights include the right to vote, to receive fair justice, to be treated decently as prisoners of war, not to be enslaved, and not to suffer group-based discrimination in applying to jobs or schools. Specifically, those rights are supposed to be shared by men and women, rich and poor, young and old; all people, regardless of family connections or social role or ethnicity or religion.
Although these rights now seem natural, we forget how absurd they would have seemed throughout most of human history, and how recent their acceptance even in Western democracies has been. Why, after tens of thousands of years in which it was taken for granted that different people have different rights, should the notion have arisen, just within the last couple of centuries, that all humans share basic rights? Why should this view have arisen first in Western Europe and its overseas daughter societies, rather than somewhere else, such as in India or China or among Native Americans, Africans, or Australians? Will there be even further broadening of human rights in the near future? What about rights of older people, prisoners, animals, and poor people in the developing world?
Business, The Environment and The Future of Human Societies
When conditions are altered, smart business leaders adapt—they look for more efficient processes, source out new markets, or even take on a whole new strategy. But what is the appropriate response when the changes are as far-reaching and devastating as climate change, environmental degradation, and societal collapse?
In this forward-looking talk, Dr. Jared Diamond explores the state of human societies and the role that business can and should play in ensuring prosperity. One of the world's great minds and a successful non-fiction author, Diamond interweaves strands of ecology, history, anthropology, commerce, group psychology, and geography to describe our collective problems and responses.
This talk is not anti-business. It is a big-picture glimpse of the human condition from a Pulitzer Prize-winner with the scientific credentials to convey how we damage the environment, express repercussions and find solutions. Diamond's examinations of individuals and societies which, when confronted with crises or changing conditions, reappraise core values and survive, are inspirational. His examples of businesses adapting to changing circumstances while staying profitable, gaining clients, and taking the lead on environmental stewardship will enlighten you.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
The ruined cities, temples, and statues of history's great, vanished societies (Easter Island, Anasazi, the Lowland Maya, Angkor Wat, Great Zimbabwe and many more) are the birthplace of endless romantic mysteries. But these disappearances offer more than idle conjecture: the social collapses were due in part to the types of environmental problems that beset us today.
Yet many societies facing similar problems do not collapse. What makes certain societies especially vulnerable? Why didn't their leaders perceive and solve their environmental problems? What can we learn from their fates, and what can we do differently today to help us avoid their fates?
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Dr. Jared Diamond's blockbuster Guns, Germs, and Steel won him a Pulitzer Prize and a place as one of the most influential thinkers of our time. His lecture of the same name takes audiences on an intellectual odyssey that challenges our assumptions about the rise and fall of civilizations. Why did Europeans and Asians conquer the indigenous peoples of Africa, the New World, Australia and the South Pacific, instead of being conquered themselves?
The answer touches on technology, genetics, genocide, zebras, pestilence, weather, geography, and luck. It also unconditionally refutes racist dogma that claims biological superiority for Eurasians. Geographical accidents, not intelligence, seem to be the reasons for Eurasia's success. Audiences will walk away with profound insights into how we got where we are and what this may mean for where we are going. Entering an intellectual maelstrom, they will be discussing and debating these ideas for months to come.
Globalization: For Better or For Worse
Until September 11th of 2001, we equated globalization mostly with 'us' sending 'them' our modern accomplishments: the Internet and Coca-Cola. Now, we are painfully aware of the unpredictable and reciprocal nature of global contact: AIDS, terrorism, unstoppable illegal immigration and diabetes epidemics. What will globalization really bring the world, and how can we minimize its negative impact while continuing to benefit from the advantages of shared cultures and resources?
Globalization means that remote societies can no longer collapse without influencing the rest of the world (as with Easter Island and the Anasazi societies of many centuries ago). We are the first society in history who have the chance to develop using a comprehensive, contemporary and historical understanding of our collective path.
The World Until Yesterday
Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond's first book in over five years, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? offers an important and engaging comparison of modern, industrialized culture and traditional societies. The New York Times praised Diamond's previous bestsellers thus: "taken together, Guns Germs, and Steel and Collapse represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual in our generation." In this newest endeavor, which is also his most personal book to date, Jared Diamond offers a fascinating study of traditional cultures and reveals some of the things we moderns have lost along the way in our mad dash toward industrialization, globalization, and technological innovation.
Traditional societies—pre-industrial, low-density, non-state cultures—truly encapsulate the world of just "yesterday." Homo sapiens progressed past hunter-gatherer societies only 11,000 years ago, a mere tick of the second-hand in evolutionary terms, and although modernization has taken us far away from this primitive mentality, our bodies and social and familial practices are often better adapted for these traditional ways of life. Because of this, Diamond urges us to re-examine our contemporary system of values and way of life in order to distinguish some of the advantages that traditional societies enjoy when it comes to conflict resolution, care of elders and children, management of risks, multilingualism, and nutrition.
With his unique blend of anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary biology, Diamond paints a picture of our past that is startlingly different from the way we live today, but entirely relevant and with much to offer for improving our lives and our world. Focusing especially on how we can improve contemporary society by learning lessons from the past, Diamond's message is both urgent and persuasive: with some sincere thought and effort, there is still time for us to have the best of both worlds
The World Until Yesterday draws from the kind of wide-ranging research that Diamond is best known for as well as from his own personal observations in the field. We are also privy to some of his most exciting stories: his terrifying, near-death experience when his boat capsizes off the coast of Indonesian New Guinea, the mysterious and recurring illness he experiences when studying birds in the New Guinea Highlands, and instances of the "constructive paranoia"—the extreme cautiousness that is essential to the survival of traditional people—that he witnessed among the New Guineans and eventually came to deeply appreciate.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
In his million-copy bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. Now in this brilliant companion volume, Diamond probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives.
Moving from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking colony on Greenland, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe. Environmental damage, climate change, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of these societies, but other societies found solutions and persisted. Similar problems face us today and have already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are trying to cope in innovative ways. Despite our own society's apparently inexhaustible wealth and unrivaled political power, ominous warning signs have begun to emerge even in ecologically robust areas like Montana.
Brilliant, illuminating, and immensely absorbing, Collapse is destined to take its place as one of the essential books of our time, raising the urgent question: How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?
Guns, Germs and Steel
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.
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