Book Summary & Highlights: A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century By Heather Heying & Bret Weinstein

Book Summary & Highlights: A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century By Heather Heying & Bret Weinstein

Amazon Summary

A bold, provocative history of our species finds the roots of civilization's success and failure in our evolutionary biology.

We are living through the most prosperous age in all of human history, yet people are more listless, divided and miserable than ever. Wealth and comfort are unparalleled, and yet our political landscape grows ever more toxic, and rates of suicide, loneliness, and chronic illness continue to skyrocket. How do we explain the gap between these two truths? What's more, what can we do to close it?

For evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, the cause of our woes is clear: the modern world is out of sync with our ancient brains and bodies. We evolved to live in clans, but today most people don't even know their neighbors' names. Survival in our earliest societies depended on leveraging the advantages of our sex differences, but today even the concept of biological sex is increasingly dismissed as offensive. The cognitive dissonance spawned by trying to live in a society we're not built for is killing us.

In this book, Heying and Weinstein cut through the politically fraught discourse surrounding issues like sex, gender, diet, parenting, sleep, education, and more to outline a provocative, science-based worldview that will empower you to live a better, wiser life. They distill more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth into straight forward principles and guidance for confronting our culture of hyper-novelty.

About The Authors: Heather Heying & Bret Weinstein

Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein are evolutionary biologists who have been invited to ad­dress the US Congress, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education, and have spoken before audi­ences across the globe. They both earned PhDs in Biology from the University of Michigan, where their research on evolution and adaptation earned awards for its quality and innovation. They have been visiting fellows at Princeton University, and before that were professors at the Ever­green State College for fifteen years. They resigned from Evergreen in the wake of 2017 campus riots that focused in part on their opposition to a day of racial segregation and other college “equity” proposals. They cohost weekly livestreams of the DarkHorse podcast.

Author Interviews


Highlights Popular Among GoodReads Users

“It is important to know what the group thinks, but that is not the same as believing or reinforcing what the group thinks. In a time of rapid change in particular, then, it is important to be willing to be the lone voice. Be the person who never conforms to patently wrong statements in order to fit in with the crowd. Be Asch-Negative.
“Seek authorities who are willing to both show you how they arrived at their conclusions and admit when they have made mistakes.”
“Like all social, long-lived organisms with long childhoods and overlap between our generations, we need to learn how to be adults. That is different, however, from needing to be taught.”
“Either way, modernity is doing something to us at a deeply fundamental level, and the fact that we don’t understand it is alarming.”
“The best, most all-encompassing way to describe our world is hyper-novel. As we will show throughout the book, humans are extraordinarily well adapted to, and equipped for, change. But the rate of change itself is so rapid now that our brains, bodies, and social systems are perpetually out of sync. For millions of years we lived among friends and extended family, but today many people don’t even know their neighbors’ names. Some of the most fundamental truths—like the fact of two sexes—are increasingly dismissed as lies. The cognitive dissonance spawned by trying to live in a society that is changing faster than we can accommodate is turning us into people who cannot fend for ourselves. Simply put, it’s killing us.”
“Chesterton wrote this of a “fence or gate erected across a road”: The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
“Keep an eye out for other things that we moderns might be trying to rid ourselves of without sufficiently understanding their function—not only Chesterton’s organs, but his gods and his breast milk, his cuisine and his play.”
“So if fitness is about persistence, then the apropos question is, The persistence of what?”
“We’d mistaken our few experiences swimming in the river for the wisdom of actually knowing a place. How could we have been so wrong?”
“At no other time in history has it been possible to think that you are a local but to be so lacking the deep knowledge of a place that keeps you safe during rare events. We moderns struggle to grasp this gap in our knowledge for many reasons. For starters, we no longer rely on tight-knit communities or a deep understanding of local terrain like humans did until recently.”
“when it rains in the mountains, stay out of the river.”
“Functional systems need those advocating for both—for culture and for consciousness, for orthodoxy and heterodoxy, for the sacred and the shamanistic.”
“Science is a method that oscillates between induction and deduction—we observe patterns, propose explanations, and test them to see how well they predict things we do not yet know. We thus generate models of the world that, when we do the scientific work correctly, achieve three things: they predict more than what came before, assume less, and come to fit with one another, merging into a seamless whole.”
“It is likely that our highly geometric homes and playgrounds, which make up so much of what we see during early childhood, calibrate our eyes such that we suffer from such illusions far more than do those in the rest of the world.”
“Most people, when their culture began to run wood through sawmills and build homes out of the dimensional lumber that results, would not have thought to ask what, in our human experience and capability, might be affected by this.”
“they are, as a country, starving? It’s yet another paradox, which is, we argue, a kind of treasure map. When you see a paradox, keep digging.”
“understanding why we are susceptible to such illusions can provide insight into the risks of hyper-novelty.”
“humans deserve a night sky, a sky full of possibilities—sometimes of clouds, often the moon, occasionally planets, nearly always stars and the Milky Way in which we live.”
“Mixing up your genotype with someone else’s, possibly breaking up some bad genetic combinations that had been riding around in you, perhaps discovering new good combinations, and giving your offspring a chance at being a better fit in a landscape that has not yet occurred—these are the benefits of sexual reproduction.”
“What, then, might deodorants and perfumes have done to our ability to smell the signals emitted by our bodies? What might lives filled with clocks have done to our sense of time? What have airplanes done to our sense of space, or the internet to our sense of competence? What have maps done to our sense of direction, or schools to our sense of family? You get the point.”
“Furthermore, once we have a category, we often stop looking outside of the categories for meaning, as our formal system of carrots and sticks exists solely within the categories”
“Ultimately, Laura found sufficient resources, both internal and external, to wean herself from the medications, and to see her emotions and moods as fundamentally human, rather than as problems to be solved.”
“engaging in more ancient activities, be it walking or sports, gardening or hunting, will often integrate all aspects of physical activity without any planning or counting being required.”
“we are all distinct—what will work for one person may not work for another; this variation between individuals is perhaps the most fundamental of evolutionary observations.”
“it is the human discovery of that molecule that has elevated it to the status of being studied. It was there all along, but now we have imbued it with mystical qualities. Our discovery of it changes nothing about what it does. We often mistake an effect (e.g., of an action, a treatment, a molecule) for our understanding of the effect. What a thing does, and what we think (or know) that it does, are not the same thing.”
“the human niche is niche switching. More specifically, we argue that the human niche is to move between the paired, inverse modes of culture and consciousness.”
“We are being solidified by modernity into states that, in prior eras, would have been more ephemeral.”
“Through parallel processing of multiple human minds, our consciousness can become collective, and we can solve problems that neither we could solve as individuals nor our ancestors could have even imagined.”
“In times of stability, when inherited wisdom allows individuals to prosper and spread across relatively homogeneous landscapes: Culture reigns. But in times of expansion into new frontiers, when innovation and interpretation, and communication of new ideas, are critical: Consciousness reigns.”
“novel levels of novelty, such as we are experiencing now, are a special danger. This means that what’s needed today—and urgently—is a call to consciousness on a scale that we have not seen before.”