Totally non-curated and merely a collation of the team's diversity and diverse reading habits.
Civilized to Death
- BY Buddhi Jayatilleke
- DATE: April 14, 2020
Author: Christopher Ryan
Why we love it
Christopher Ryan raises the question, is life really “better” or are we “happier” than our pre-modern hunter-gatherer ancestors? Better and happier might be relative terms, but at least with regard to our health, wealth, longevity, work and leisure, are we in a better state today?
What I learnt from it
The takeaway is not to undo life as we know it and become foragers, but to question some of the driving principles of modern civilization that has led to some clearly undesirable outcomes. For example, why are lot of us unhappy and unengaged with the work we do? Ryan coins the phrase “Narrative of Perpetual Progress” (NPP) to explain the shared belief we have on the superiority of civilization and to take as given that “progress” makes the future better.But if we put “progress” under a microscope, would we find this to be the case? Using forager life as a reference point in answering that question creates a renewed sense of appreciation for our forager ancestors, which most us think of as “primitive”. There clearly are lessons to be learnt from them.
For example, I found the following explanation of how hunter-gatherer survival activities (what we today call work) can be seen more as “play” than some reluctant activity most of us want to trade-off with leisure or “life” as in work-life balance.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we can say the same about work today? Maybe then we wouldn’t look forward too much to the weekend or for that matter Monday might excite us more than Friday!
Why it’s a must
For anyone interested in answering the question “can we make things better?”, it is a great starting point. Ryan focuses mainly on the perils of modern civilisation and how forager way of life can help us understand our true nature. I find that it also brings to light the value of advanced technologies such as AI and automation, how those can help people focus on more enjoyable work or gain more leisure time for example.
Who should pay attention?
Business leaders, Anyone who values human well-being