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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of Jared Diamond's million-copy-selling classic Guns, Germs, and Steel, a bold new synthesis of paleontology, archaeology, genetics, and anthropology that overturns misconceptions about race, war and peace, and human nature itself, answering an age-old question: What made humans so exceptional among all the species on Earth?

Creativity. It is the secret of what makes humans special, hiding in plain sight. Agustín Fuentes argues that your child's finger painting comes essentially from the same place as creativity in hunting and gathering millions of years ago and throughout history in making war and peace, in intimate relationships, in shaping the planet, in our communities, and in all of art, religion, and even science. It requires imagination and collaboration. Every poet has her muse; every engineer, an architect; every politician, a constituency. The manner of the collaborations varies widely, but successful collaboration is inseparable from imagination, and it brought us everything from knives and hot meals to iPhones and interstellar spacecraft.

Weaving fascinating stories of our ancient ancestors' creativity, Fuentes finds the patterns that match modern behavior in humans and animals. This key quality has propelled the evolutionary development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. It's not the drive to reproduce, nor competition for mates or resources or power, nor our propensity for caring for one another that has separated us out from all other creatures.

As Fuentes concludes, to make something lasting and useful today you need to understand the nature of your collaboration with others, what imagination can and can't accomplish, and, finally, just how completely our creativity is responsible for the world we live in. Agustín Fuentes' resounding multimillion-year perspective will inspire listeners - and spark all kinds of creativity.

©2017 Agustin Fuentes (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 05-02-17

What's new?

I’ve probably listened to about 15 books dealing with the history of humanity. One thing they pretty much all have in common is that they generally have some kind of hypothesis, or central idea, that they are trying to support. Some kind of new angle or perspective to help us to think about humanity in a new way.

This book claims to do this, but I don’t think it succeeds. Its central idea is a ‘new synthesis’ upholding the idea that human creativity is the crucial factor defining who and what we are. But really, isn’t this just another way of saying that we are big-brained, clever, cooperative creatures who have exploited the ‘intelligence’ niche in the World? I think it is. We all know that this is what we’ve done, and this author doesn’t add anything new to our thinking on this.

It’s an enjoyable enough book, retelling the story of hominids and hominins and tool-making and becoming successful at hunting, despite our lack of any fearsome body parts such as sharp claws or fangs, and our mastery of fire. I’m pretty easy to please on this front. I love going back to the savanna and imagining how our ancestors used their wits to survive in a harsh unforgiving world.

But there is no new theory in this book. And the final chapter, in which the author dishes out a load of advice on how we should live our lives, based on his now-proven hypothesis, verges on the irritating. But go ahead and listen to it. It isn’t bad, and it’s educational and entertaining, it just doesn’t, in my opinion, contain the new theory which the author claims will better explain the human journey.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • Newcastle, Australia
  • 10-27-17

Interesting book, irritating performance.

I enjoyed the substance of the book, and appreciated some ideas that had not previously been 'front and centre' in my thinking. Specifically, the idea that animals create 'niches' for themselves, modifying the environment in a way that feeds back as selection pressure on future generations, particularly as the human 'niche' expanded to include toolmaking, language, domestication of the food supply, and eventually cities. The narrator was extremely irritating - he often uses a staccato presentation that separates words into separate units, providing (often) unwarranted emphasis. In addition, he tends to commence sentences loudly, and then trail off at the end into a soft, muffled, poorly projected articulation of what is often the crux of the thought, leaving you struggling to understand the point of the sentence or paragraph. I often lost the thread of the story as I took time to realise he had said 'beads' and not 'bees', or 'Balinese' and not 'Bolognese', or 'forager' and not 'forger'. In the end I spent far too much time being irritated, trying to decipher the narrator's performance, and too little time concentrating on the author's thoughts.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wow. Accidental gem

I found this book by sheer accident and have enjoyed it so thoroughly that this will be the first review I ever took the time to write. The author tells an amazingly coherent and interesting story. He lays out the science in a very easy to understand way and gives supporting evidence in abundance. But it doesn’t read like a scientific book. It reads like a wonderful and entertaining history of humanity. Also, this is one of only a few books where the author does an excellent job of narrator. Very engaging.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Not pure Antropology but still a very good read

The book talks in a very smooth way the creative self has impacted the creation of human society the way it is and how it is bound to take shape in the future. It is a very good read if you are keen on topic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful