From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

* Book: Non-Zero: the Logic of Human Destiny. By Robert Wright, 2001.


"Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny is a 1999 book by Robert Wright, in which the author argues that biological evolution and cultural evolution are shaped and directed first and foremost by "non-zero-sumness" i.e., the prospect of creating new interactions that are not zero-sum." [1]


1. Michel Bauwens:

"The author of Non-Zero sees Darwinian evolution as only partly determined by the struggle for life. Indeed, competition is a zero sum game, but it is not only individuals that are competing but in fact teams (such as nations, etc.. ). And the latter have discovered that integration and cooperation is a non-zero sum game that makes them win.

He also confirms that evolution has indeed a direction, towards more integration and that the human invention of cultural evolution has placed us in the unique position to play a conscious role in evolution. Suh is our power, that the whole of the world evolution has now become a zero-sum-game (as doing the opposite would be destructive) but it still requires a conscious cutlural shift to effectively go down that road." (

2. From the Wikipedia [2]:

"The principal argument of Nonzero is to demonstrate that natural selection results in increasing complexity within the world and greater rewards for cooperation. Since, as Wright puts it, the realization of such prospects is dependent upon increased levels of globalization, communication, cooperation, and trust, what is thought of as human intelligence is really just a long step in an evolutionary process of organisms (as well as their networks and individual parts) getting better at processing information.

Through this lens, and an overview of human and global history, Wright typifies the argument against the views of noted paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Gould wrote that "Humans are here by the luck of the draw." Wright acknowledges one aspect of Gould's argument—that the evolutionary process was not such that it would inevitably create humans as we know them today ("five fingers, five toes, and so on") but that evolution would almost certainly result in the creation of highly intelligent, communicating organisms, who would in turn develop tools and advanced technologies.

Evidence for natural selection driving improvements in information processing is given throughout, including the case of the bombardier beetle, an insect that developed the ability to spray its attackers with harsh chemicals. This, in turn, favored predators via natural selection who had techniques to avoid the spray. As Wright puts it, "complexity breeds complexity." This is the often referred to evolutionary phenomenon of the "arms race," wherein competing organisms stack up their developments in competition with one another.

Via this increasing complexity, according to Nonzero, higher intelligence was thus destined to happen, perhaps even "inevitable"." (


Part I: A brief history of Humankind

This section is a sound summary of human cultural development, fairly conventional, except for his references to game theory and the occasional interjection of metaphysical speculation.

Part II: A brief history of Organic Life

This section is again a broadly conventional overview of current understanding of the development of life on earth. He argues from game-theory that increasing complexity is inevitably going to result from the operation of evolution by natural selection. More controversially, he argues that intelligence, social co-operation and cultural development are also bound to emerge sooner or later.

Part III: From Here to Eternity

This brief section is the most controversial part of the book, which he admits is speculative and presents with a degree of humility. The main thrust of his argument is that we may be on the threshold of a new phase of development involving the creation of a unified global consciousness, along the lines suggested in the writings of Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

More information