Robert Wright challenges the conventional view that biological evolution and human history are aimless. Employing game theory - the logic of "zero-sum" and "non-zero-sum" games - he isolates the impetus behind life's basic direction: the impetus that, via biological evolution, created complex, intelligent animals, and then via cultural evolution, ...
Robert Wright challenges the conventional view that biological evolution and human history are aimless. Employing game theory - the logic of "zero-sum" and "non-zero-sum" games - he 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 towards deeper and vaster social complexity. In this view, the coming of today's independent global society was "on the cards" - not quite inevitable, but, as Wright puts it, "so probable as to inspire wonder". Wright takes on some of the past century's most prominent thinkers, including Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins, arguing that a coolly specific appraisal of humanity's three-billion-year past can give new spiritual meaning to the present and even offer political guidance for the future.
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Publishers Weekly, 2000-01-24 Evolution meets game theory in this upbeat follow-up to Wright's much-praised The Moral Animal. Arguing against intellectual heavyweights such as Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper and Franz Boas, Wright contends optimistically that history progresses in a predictable direction and points toward a certain end: a world of increasing human cooperation where greed and hatred have outlived their usefulness. This thesis is elaborated by way of something Wright calls "non-zero-sumness," which in game theory means a kind of win-win situation. The non-zero-sum dynamic, Wright says, is the driving force that has shaped history from the very beginnings of life, giving rise to increasing social complexity, technological innovation and, eventually, the Internet. From Polynesian chiefdoms and North America's Shoshone culture to the depths of the Mongol Empire, Wright plunders world history for evidence to show that the so-called Information Age is simply part of a long-term trend. Globalization, he points out, has been around since Assyrian traders opened for business in the second millennium B.C. Even the newfangled phenomenon of "narrowcasting" was anticipated, he claims, when the costs of print publishing dropped in the 15th century and spawned a flurry of niche-oriented publications. Occasionally, Wright's use of modish terminology can seem glib: feudal societies benefited from a "fractal" structure of nested polities, world culture has always been "fault-tolerant" and today's societies are like a "giant multicultural brain." Despite the game-theory jargon, however, this book sends an important message that, as human beings make moral progress, history, in its broadest outlines, is getting better all the time. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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