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Nicholas A. Christakis

The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

4.2 (91 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

'Blueprint' by Nicholas A. Christakis offers insights into how our genes and environment shape our behaviors and attitudes. It explores the interplay between our biology and social connections, providing a framework for understanding the complexities of human behavior.

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    Humans come ready-made with a blueprint for social behavior.

    We don’t always need words to understand one another. As a young boy, Christakis was one of the only Greek children to arrive on the Turkish island of Büyükada. Nevertheless, the author and his younger brother quickly made friends, and spent a long summer rampaging around the island with the local boys. They even waged war on rival groups, using pinecones as weapons. In later years, the author reflected on this cross-cultural friendship group. How did it work so well, despite their linguistic and cultural differences?

    As a researcher of social behavior, the author concluded that these childhood friendships were made possible by a mental manual of social skills, instincts and tendencies, which guide the behavior of every human being on the planet. In other words, there is a universal blueprint for social behavior encoded in our genes. These instincts help us form societies, which can be as small as a group of Turkish and Greek schoolboys united in their search for adventure, or as big as sovereign states composed of hundreds of millions of people. This collection of universal social tendencies, which the author calls the social suite, includes the capacity for love and friendship, as well as teaching and learning from others. 

    Unfortunately though, the social suite also includes a tendency to favor your own “group.” 

    A 2011 study, for instance, found that five-year-old children wearing a red T-shirt consequently liked and favored other children also in red T-shirts, and discriminated against those wearing different colors. This prejudice occurred even when the children were told that the colored shirts had been allocated at random. Studies like these demonstrate that humans have an affinity for “likeness” – no matter how small we perceive that likeness to be. 

    Of course, even if we identify with people similar to us, we don’t consider them all to be the same. Each of us are born with the ability to develop and recognize individual human identities. Just consider the almost universal human practice of using personal names. Although this might seem inconsequential, recognizing individuals is the bedrock of other human traits, such as love and friendship. After all, if we were unable to discriminate between two individuals, we’d have no way of preferring one person over the other, or repaying favors that our friends do for us.

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    What is Blueprint about?

    Blueprint (2019) explores the psychological traits that all humans share. Examining the evolutionary underpinnings of our social behavior, these blinks shine a light on our ancestral past and investigate how love, cooperation and friendship came to be indispensable items in our social tool kit.

    Blueprint Review

    Blueprint (2019) by Nicholas A. Christakis is an intriguing exploration of how our social networks shape our lives and influence our behaviors. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a compelling analysis of how our connections impact everything from our health to our political opinions, offering new insights and understanding.
    • By examining a wide range of scientific studies and real-life examples, the book presents a fascinating look at the hidden dynamics of our social networks.
    • Through thought-provoking questions and discussions, the book challenges readers to reassess their own relationships and consider the power of social connections.

    Best quote from Blueprint

    The presence of our fellow humans – people we must interact with, cooperate with or avoid – has been as powerful as any predator in shaping our genes.

    —Nicholas A. Christakis
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    Who should read Blueprint?

    • Budding social scientists
    • Evolutionary psychology buffs
    • History junkies looking for a fresh perspective

    About the Author

    Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. In 2009, Time magazine named him as one of the world’s most influential people. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015, Christakis also runs the Human Nature Lab, where his team researches a wide variety of social behavior.

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    Blueprint FAQs 

    What is the main message of Blueprint?

    We are influenced by genetics and our social environments, which shape our behavior and society.

    How long does it take to read Blueprint?

    The reading time for Blueprint varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Blueprint a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Blueprint is worth reading because it explores the complex interplay between genetics and social factors in shaping society.

    Who is the author of Blueprint?

    The author of Blueprint is Nicholas A. Christakis.

    What to read after Blueprint?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Blueprint, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Social Leap by William von Hippel
    • The Conscious Mind by David J. Chalmers
    • The Human Swarm by Mark W. Moffett
    • Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
    • Survival of the Friendliest by Brian Hare and Vanessa Wood
    • The War For Kindness by Jamil Zaki
    • Being You by Anil Seth
    • Know Thyself by Stephen M. Fleming
    • Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
    • Antigone by Sophocles