Meet the author of Bill Gates’ favorite 500-page book

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We all know that Bill Gates loves to read. His latest pick is “Blueprint: the Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society,” by Nicholas A. Christakis, a sociologist and physician and a professor at Yale University.

“Blueprint” shies away from humans’ dark side. Instead, Christakis says, natural selection has given us a host of positive features that are well worth concentrating on: love, friendship, cooperation, learning.  His thesis is that our genes affect not just our bodies and how we behave, but the way we build societies, which are actually similar everywhere we go – like a blueprint.

blueprint
Little, Brown Spark

“Humans have evolved to work together and be social,” Gates explains of the book. “…A lot of people are fascinated by the differences between us—but the differences are actually pretty minor compared to the similarities. In that regard, ‘Blueprint’ is a fundamentally optimistic book.”

Here’s what else there is to learn about Gates’ new favorite book – as explained by the author.


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1. When it comes to our current society, Christakis is an optimist, as he told USA Today. “I would say that the awful features of our current world (which, incidentally, are not even as bad as they have been in human history — just think of the World Wars, for instance), delude us into overlooking the more fundamental positive qualities all around us.”

2. Wherever you go… there will always be people around you, he told Merion West. “The interesting thing about these social environments that we make is that we take them with us wherever we go. Wherever we live, no matter all the variation in all the natural environments —from the Arctic to the deserts—the thing that is a constant about our environment is the presence of other people to whom we must respond and with and whom you must get along.”

3. Our ability to be individuals is crucial to the ability to function in groups, as he tells the Rubin Report. “It’s very paradoxical. Because you need the capacity to tell, who’s my offspring? Who’s my friend? Who do I reciprocate kindness to? Who do I cooperate with?  Who’s my enemy? So all of these capacities of individuality are crucial to our ability to live together.”

4.  You can’t do certain things by yourself, Christakis told Skeptic. “I’m interested in human nature, but I’m interested in those features of human nature that are expressed between individuals… those parts of our nature that are expressed between people, like love, and friendship, and cooperation.”

5. Creating societies is in our DNA. Says Christakis, “The human ability to construct societies has become an instinct. It is not just something we can do—it is something we must do.”