Game developer and VFX industry vet.
Yes, this book is so in depth and well researched that reading it once simply wouldn't do it justice. To understand the author's thesis you must understand the evolutionary and modern influences on violence, and that is exactly what Pinker explains in this book.
The chapter on the uptick in violence caused by the cultural revolution of the 1960's was told in a way that painted a vivid and nuanced vision of the author's thesis on the subject and was my favorite single moment of the book.
If I had to pick another "scene" it would be the chapter on the neuroscience of violence and the picture it painted of the brains wiring for violence.
Your Brain in 36 Hours....
This is simply put my new favorite book on evolutionary psychology and human anthropology. If you are on chapter three or four and disagree with something or feel something is not explained, just keep reading because nothing is left out of this book. I'm going to listen to all of Pinker's other books just to see what else could possibly be left to learn and am fully expecting to be pleasantly surprised.
Reading this book was like taking a graduate course in the historical psychological and sociological causes of violence.
The title clearly summarizes what the book is about. The science was the most interesting part of the book. The statistical analysis of wars, the difference in perspective between victims and perpetrators, the explanation of reduction in violence using the framework of the pacifist's dilemma etc. were very interesting. The historical narrative was hard to listen to because it is hard to come to terms with the violence that is a part of our past. I am glad that violence is coming down, but wish it would decline more rapidly. I hope listeners will better understand how to alter payoffs in order to create conditions that favor peace and do what they can, after listening to this book. Understanding, reason, enlightened thinking and empathy will hopefully reduce unnecessary suffering faster in the future.
The narration was very good making it easier to finish this long book.
If you fear the human race is spiraling toward barbarism and self destruction, this book might be your first glimpse of humankind's dawning new age of peace. Pinker uses fascinating historical examples and brilliantly illustrates research and facts to state his case that we are living in the most peaceful time in the history of the world.
Pinker's pace is as perfect as his storytelling. Beginning with the most damning and detailed history of human violence you might ever read, from the oldest known fossil records of our ancestors to today, the author examines the breadth and depth of our violent potential. Pinker enlightens and entertains the reader with shocking and revealing discoveries in human behavior, using stories, statistics and experiments. Finally pushing his conclusion, that our future is a hopeful one, with a plausible and extraordinary set of examples and explanations for the world's gradual trend toward less violent behavior.
I found this riveting. It's beautifully narrated, exquisitely researched and builds an incredibly nuanced and well-argued thesis. It challenged many of my assumptions and changed my views across a number of topics. He somehow manages to do this whilst maintaining an element of levity and humility that makes the 38 hours a pleasure.
After finishing it I bought a copy of the book for a friend and my father joined Audible just to listen to this. I couldn't recommend this more.
This book is absolutely GREAT, but it's very, very, VERY long.
By all means, you should read this book. The material presented here is fascinating and will revolutionize the way you look at history, and at current events.
However, you may have trouble (as I did) finishing it. It's very long. Did I mention that it's long? It's very, very long.
After a while you might start thinking "Ok, Mr. Pinker, I get it! You have transformed the way I think about history, and about current events as well! Your research is vast and deep and very much appreciated. Can I move on to the next book now?"
Retired software entrepreneur, caring for disabled wife (MS) keeping her well supplied with listening material.
Pinker is a great author, and this was well performed. It seems also to be his longest book by far. My interest started to peter out after about 20 hours. I will return to it in due course.
I'm a hardcore reader and art student. ;)
What I liked about the book was how the author explained in detail why violence has gone even when people think that is goes up.
I didn't have a favorite character. This is a non-fiction book.
Comparing the differences between now and then.
It made me laugh and I didn't cry.
This book is wonderful look at how far humans have progressed ethically. Steven Pinker eloquently tells the story of how we escaped the amoral, nasty, brutish Hobbesian state of nature to now be at a place ethically where we are considering the rights of other species. And of course the potency of the story comes from the myriad facts and statistics Pinker provides throughout. As a beautiful vindication of the idea of progress, the argument perfectly refutes the delusional Rousseauians' idea of the "good old days." I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It's a true reason for optimism.
Bucking all of the 'common sense' misunderstandings of our time, Pinker mounts a flawless defense of modernity and enlightenment in a non-partisan, simple to understand, and very thorough manner. This book should be mandatory reading for all human beings; that way, we could skip past the time wasting pontifications on the good ol' days and get right to the substance. It's a LONG read, but a good one. The narrator does an excellent job of reading such a long and substantive book; I had zero complaints.