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The bestselling author of Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel
surveys the history of human societies to answer the question:
What can we learn from traditional societies that can make the
world a better place for all of us?
Most of us take for granted the features of our modern
society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and
obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of
existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf
that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem
unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in
those largely traditional societies still or recently in
existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders
remind us that it was only yesterdayin evolutionary timewhen
everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and
social practices often better adapted to traditional than to
modern conditions.The World Until Yesterday provides a
mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been
for millions of yearsa past that has mostly vanishedand
considers what the differences between that past and our present
mean for our lives today.
This is Jared Diamond’s most personal book to date, as he
draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific
islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians,
Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn’t romanticize
traditional societiesafter all, we are shocked by some of their
practicesbut he finds that their solutions to universal human
problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution,
risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. Provocative,
enlightening, and entertaining, The World Until Yesterday is an
essential and fascinating read.