Per the usual I saw this one on Amazon and it had a ton of positive reviews, so I certainly was interested. Then I read the title and knew I was sucked in. I was very excited to read this one to learn about some insights into the meaning of human existence, or at least I wanted to hear the author’s theory about why we are all here and what the point of all this is. So I bought the book and just finished it the other day.
I am not going to do a authors bio as I took a picture of the one the author wrote himself. I figured he could tell it way better than I could, and he is quite the accomplished academic and writer. Anyways now on to the book.
This book is a little hard to talk about in terms of the plot as I normally do. It is about, at least I thought so, the social evolution of humans. Basically how we created our civilization and many of the social behaviors we exhibit and how they came into being. Funny thing is is that there are only a hand full of species that have these same qualities on the planet. I will talk more about it below but the book discusses many different interesting topics.
The thing I liked most about book is that it read like one of my Random Thought’s posts. Honestly, he covered a ton of ideas that I myself have thought of or that I have talked about in one or more of my posts. Great minds think alike, haha. Kidding, but it was interesting to read the book and see that someone else has similar thoughts and more importantly the science to back it up.
The topics in the book are all over the place ranging from religion, to biology, then from the theories of the evolution of social behavior to what beings from another planet may want to learn from us. All these topics seem like they are just randomly chosen but while reading Wilson does a great job of intertwining them together and transitioning from one point to the next with ease.
Some of the more fascinating topics the author talks about are the theories about social behavior and how they developed through evolution. They are very interesting and for me opened a new world that I was unfamiliar with. The basis of the idea is that a long time ago humans figured out that having a nest or some sort of home was safer than just roaming around the wilderness. This was important because by having a group live together in a home or nest some could watch the young while others hunted or whatever else needed to be done. The book goes into much more detail about the specifics. It is also important to note that Wilson has studied ants extensively and how they interact socially, which again are new and interesting concepts. It may seem trivial but ants are highly social creatures and have a very sophisticated system set up that makes them one of the most successful species on the planet.
The author places an extremely high importance on the humanities or the study of our culture. I would not disagree that this is highly important I do not feel that it is overly important, but I will say that eventually technology will reach a point where we as a species could branch off and at this juncture I think the humanities will playback very intrigual part in that decision. The author does make a good point about keeping the two separate as we would not want to compete with robots, and while I agree I think that that will ultimately be the fate of the human race making the transition to the mechanical and robotic realm. The author disagrees with this and thinks we should not cross that threshold. While again I understand his concern that this step could undermine who we are as human beings, I think that it is ultimately inevitable, should we make it to that juncture.
The author again states the importance of the humanities and calms that if we were to meet an alien race they would be more interested in our culture and social behavior than anything else. While I do not disagree with this in any way it still just seems strange to think about. But when you start analyzing the theory it makes sense. An alien civilization that would make contact with us would obviously have far superior technology, so I doubt they would be interested in anything technology-wise we would bring to the table. So that leaves our culture which I would imagine would be quite bizarre to an alien civilization, and if they are anything like us, and I think at the very least they would be highly inquisitive, they would want to learn about us. It could also be a reason we have not made contact with anyone as we ate still quite primitive and still have much to lean and understand about our place in the universe.
One of the main reasons I bought this book was because I thought the author would give his own opinion or insight about the meaning of human existance. However the author does not do this, which I was a little disappointed in, but despite this shortcoming Wilson does discuss many other ideas. One of the ideas is that we as humans truly need to understand who and what we are to figure out where we are going. While the author does and excellent job tracing our evolution, even discussing how our brain size more than doubled in seemingly no time at all, evolutionary speaking. Still I felt that he did not give his insight as to what our meaning was if any, at least in the way I was expecting. Although he did mention something to the effect of uniting the human race, while I think that should be a goal of ours as I think we are certainly doomed if this does not happen I would hardly say this is our meaning for our existance. But there again I think it is something that must be attained in the near future, but I still have trouble saying this is our meaning. To me it seems that this is some thing we should be striving to attain for the sake of attaining it in and of itself. I am still of the mindset that we have no purpose as you would describe it and I was hoping this book would change my mind or at least give me another option to think about. So at the end of the day I guess it did just that.
I liked this book and it is a very quick read and has so many interesting ideas in that if you are interested in anything to do with science you will like this one. The only drawback is as I have mentioned the lack of a clear answer that I was looking for, but as you can imagine such is life. So I cannot complain too much just wish the book offered clear opinion but at the end there was more offered than the single opinion I was looking for. So just be warned that if you are looking for some real answers you will be hard pressed to find them here. Still I recommend this one as it is a very interesting read with tons of new ideas.