Adds more to knowledge than the time it takes to read.,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Non-Zero is an excellent book, because it shows an arc to human (and physical, biological, natural) history. That arc is complexity, and cooperation, through the additive effects of cooperation.
The book is readable, almost chatty. The author fleshes out a truth long known by sociologists. Emile Durkheim stated the thesis most cogently -- the sum of social facts (human society) is greater than their individual parts (given persons). In other words, people who cooperate do big things, like go to the moon, or raise hundreds of bushels of corn, or make movies. The author brings clarity and readability to this thesis. I do not think that the book is terribly original -- the author cites authoritative sources for nearly every insight he presents. What this book gives is scope, a view that has taken a step back from encrusted academic language and simply communicates it's message.
The book is too hopeful. An example: the author describes the social insurance that comes from potlatch and similar ceremonies, the sharing of material wealth. But surely burning the wealth is a degenerative form of this useful insurance ritual? The author could have explored the entire idea of degeneration in non-zero-sumness -- in other words, when cooperative beneficial behavior becomes perverse -- in better detail. He writes off degenerative social behavior as social dead ends -- which does not particularly help 20 million dead kulaks in Soviet Russia, and won't help 200 million dead Americans if there is a smallpox related terrorist incident.
For his next book, or article, I think Wright should explore counter-examples to his thesis in greater detail. But this book is excellent, because it communicates so well, a thesis that is particularly important today: the globalization of nonzerosumness -- cooperate or die!
The most important line in the book, comes when Wright calls for more love, more cooperation, a greater supply of spiritual well being -- as an antidote to terrorists, angry men, those persons alienated from modern society. Isn't this what the Pope fosters by apologizing? If making Serbians feel a bit more appreciated prevents ambushes, murders, a holocaust, why not?
Why not? Well, Wright needs to examine the difference between cooperation and placating the evil, between Neville Chamberlain with the Nazis and Churchill with Stalin. His hopefulness in some ways is an artifact of willful historical ignorance --- or to be kinder, one book cannot cover all possibilities, and a good futurist who wants to make money must stick to his rosy scenarios --- but I grow mean.
It is a compliment to an author that his writing raises these questions. This is the sort of book that entertains, but leaves the reader thinking. That is a high compliment. Wright has gone exploring among the dross and over-written tomes of sociology and anthropology, and mined the gold. The result is a book that is better than the sources it uses. One is left feeling that the author is a bit smug about the analytical wedge he uses to make his points, a bit unwilling to expose the weaknesses his game theory incorporates.
But the reader is also left feeling better educated about, and more aware of, of the questions left on the table. Given that these questions are cetnral to the survival of human kind, the book is a good start to thinking about human survival, spiritual growth, and what humans can do when they embrace complexity and cooperate.