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Echoes of our ancestors: traditional vs. modern societies

Jan 4, 2013

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“The World Until Yesterday,” by Jared Diamond

The “yesterday” in the title of Jared Diamond’s new book refers to the period 11,000 years ago when hunter-gatherer groups evolved into modern human societies.  Despite the emergence of civilization, organized religion, industrialization and mass communication, have we really changed that much as humans?  Has ordered government supplanted or protected group harmony? Have our health, diet and family life suffered or improved thanks to modern innovations? Where do agrarian and industrialized societies intersect?

These are some of the questions Diamond attempts to answer by comparing human societies both ancient and modern, drawing on his extensive fieldwork among the traditional cultures of New Guinea, the Amazon and Kalahari which are still in existence.  

What remnants of human societies past still linger in our modern DNA?  Which have been lost to us, possibly forever? What do these changes mean to our collective future?

Guest:

Jared Diamond, author of “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” and a professor of geography at UCLA;  his previous books include “Why Is Sex Fun?,” “The Third Chimpanzee,” “Collapse,” and “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

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