The Human Swarm Book Summary - The Human Swarm Book explained in key points
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The Human Swarm summary

Mark W. Moffett

How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

4.4 (79 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

The Human Swarm by Mark W. Moffett explores how our innate need to belong drives us to form groups, and how these groups shape our society and culture. With fascinating insights on ants, humans and other animals, this book reveals the power of collective intelligence.

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    The Human Swarm
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    Knowing your neighbor is a big advantage for most animals, but it also limits how big societies can get.

    Ever taken a job as a babysitter? Then you’ve got something in common with meerkats. Meerkats care for infants outside their immediate families, too – and they even go the extra mile while doing it, tidying each other’s burrows and offering delicious insect snacks to the babies in their care.

    Just like humans, meerkats live together in societies, where they benefit from mutual cooperation. Many other vertebrates do, too – societies such as those of wolves, or birds like the Florida scrub jay, are based entirely around cooperative child-rearing. Cubs in a wolf pack even help their parents and other adults raise newborns.  

    Cooperation can also bring powerful benefits when it comes to protection and security. Living in a society means more eyes and ears for spotting rivals and threats, and more paws and claws for fighting back against them. Elephants, for example, work together to safeguard their young by forming a shield to protect them against lions, while horses encircle their foals and kick outward when wolves approach.

    So society offers benefits to its members – but these benefits are offered only to that exclusive, bounded group, and it’s obvious to group members when an outsider is in their midst. Vervet monkeys in Africa, for example, can tell not only when individuals are foreign to their group – they can even tell to which tribe the foreigner belongs!

    Most animal societies are built around this individual recognition – recognizing and knowing each individual in a tribe in the same way that humans recognize everyone in their office or class. This feature limits the size of most societies; that’s why we don’t see thousand-strong prides of lions roaming the plains, felling herds of wildebeest. Nor will we ever see apes rising up, Planet of the Apes-style; the animals’ brains are too small to recognize all the individuals in such a large group. That’s why ape societies max out at around 200 members.

    Humans manage to live in far, far larger societies, because we’ve broken free of the need to recognize each individual member of our own group. To understand how we’ve done this, let’s take a look at a species that resembles us more than we may care to imagine: ants.

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    What is The Human Swarm about?

    The Human Swarm (2019) is a groundbreaking exploration of human society, from its origins to the huge civilizations found on the planet today. Drawing on psychology, anthropology and biology, it shows how humans have managed to create and maintain societies of a size and complexity unrivaled in the animal kingdom.

    The Human Swarm Review

    The Human Swarm (2019) explores the fascinating world of human societies and the countless ways we interact with each other. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Unveiling the mysteries of social behavior through in-depth research and compelling case studies, it offers valuable insights into why we do what we do.
    • From the impact of social media to the power of collective action, the book examines the complex dynamics that shape human swarms, enlightening readers along the way.
    • Through a blend of scientific knowledge and captivating storytelling, Mark W. Moffett manages to make the study of human societies a fascinating and accessible subject.

    Who should read The Human Swarm?

    • Those interested in how society works
    • Armchair psychologists who’d like to understand our relations better
    • People curious about the evolution of human behavior

    About the Author

    Mark W. Moffett is a scientist and real-life adventurer who was once called the Indiana Jones of entomology – the study of insects. A research associate in the Entomology Department at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History, he has shared his passionate interest in bugs, animals and human behavior on shows like The Colbert Report and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

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    The Human Swarm FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Human Swarm?

    The Human Swarm explores the fascinating and complex nature of human societies.

    How long does it take to read The Human Swarm?

    The reading time for The Human Swarm depends on the reader, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Human Swarm a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Human Swarm is a captivating read that offers unique insights into human behavior and society.

    Who is the author of The Human Swarm?

    The author of The Human Swarm is Mark W. Moffett.

    What to read after The Human Swarm?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Human Swarm, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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