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"Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" by Steven Pinker

Bill Gates calls it one of the most important books he's read in his life. "People often ask me what is the best book I’ve read in the last year. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined stands out as one of the most important books I’ve read – not just this year, but ever." http://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/The-Better-Angels-of-Our-Nat...

I encourage anyone who reads Pinker's book to also consider Nassim Taleb's critique http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/longpeace.pdf

... and then read Pinker's reply http://stevenpinker.com/files/pinker/files/comments_on_taleb... TLDR: The book’s structure was lost on Taleb, who blends the different chapters and then criticizes his own confusion.

I'm a bit of a Pinker fanboy, but his counter-criticism of Taleb is very well-written and hits on every point Taleb makes.

"Taleb shows no signs of having read Better Angels with the slightest attention to its content. Instead he has merged it in his mind with claims by various fools and knaves whom he believes he has bettered in the past. The confusion begins with his remarkable claim that the thesis in Better Angels is “identical” to Ben Bernanke’s theory of a moderation in the stock market. Identical! This alone should warn readers that for all of Taleb’s prescience about the financial crisis, accurate attribution and careful analysis of other people’s ideas are not his strong suits."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1Dm2ZYeA6U , "Statistics of Violence as Special Case of Fat Tails", there's been a ton of commentary on this back and forth, but not one of them thinks "Pinker is correct" if you've been paying attention. I need to start collecting resources related to this.

It seems like pinker has been conclusively refuted given recent events.


It is very long though so I'm not sure it's exactly the type of book being requested here. Not that the data is unimportant, but the inclusion of so many tables and tables and charts caused me to give up on trying to finish the book.

You can get much of the information in a quicker way by watching one of Pinker's talks eg https://youtu.be/feuq5x2ZL-s?t=3m28s

Agreed, but Pinker goes deeply into many various topics. For example:

* the Flynn Effect

* various points of human psychology (victim vs perpetrator bias)

* the crime spike in the 90's and its causes

* a critique of Freakonomics' hypothesis that abortion caused the decline of the 90's crime wave

* Sections on bullying, animal rights, gay rights, women's rights, etc.

* The various types of wars and their individual proximate causes for decline.

* An interesting section on self-control, how it works and how its lack contributes to crime. Even fascinating pragmatic information on how one's own self-control can be improved.

Also read what Pinker is reading (he basically squees over this book):


yes, I was impressed just thinking about how much work and information gathering must have gone into that book.

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