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* Book: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny . Robert Wright, 2000.



1. From the Wikipedia:

"Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny is a book by Robert Wright originally published in 2000. It argues that biological evolution and cultural evolution are shaped and directed first and foremost by "non-zero-sumness," that is, the prospect of creating new interactions that are not zero-sum.

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 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" (see discussion of inevitability below). Though the stated thesis is that evolution is headed in the direction of "non-zero-sumness," Wright argues that the realization of such prospects is dependent upon improvements in information processing, thus neatly carving out a reason for the creation and cultural evolution of the human species."


2. Jonathan Haidt [1]:

"Wright showed that history involves a series of transitions, driven by rising population density plus new technologies (writing, roads, the printing press) that created new possibilities for mutually beneficial trade and learning. Zero-sum conflicts—such as the wars of religion that arose as the printing press spread heretical ideas across Europe—were better thought of as temporary setbacks, and sometimes even integral to progress.

(those wars of religion, he argued, made possible the transition to modern nation- states with better-informed citizens.) President Bill Clinton praised Nonzero’s optimistic portrayal of a more cooperative future thanks to continued technological advance."

(Source: WHY THE PAST 10 YEARS OF AMERICAN LIFE HAVE BEEN UNIQUELY STUPID. It’s not just a phase. By Jonathan Haidt. The Atlantic_