Raaid Reads - Humankind

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What is it?

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman is, in a word, uplifting. Adopting lenses of history, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy, it is a vast yet intimate investigation (and rebuttal) of human nature. Bregman spotlights events, stories, studies (both flawed ones and reproducible ones), and more to argue that deep down, at our core, humans are good.

Why do I like it?

It reads like an investigation, like a mystery book where someone who is deemed guilty has to be proven innocent through the efforts of a determined person or team (I read a lot of The Hardy Boys as a kid). It's gripping, I want to find out what he's getting at.

Bregman provides evidence of people reverting to their good, friendly, social natures, particularly in moments where we'd least expect it (like immediately post-WWII-bombing London or a real life instance of Lord of the Flies). He also, one by one, addresses popular (though seemingly inaccurate) studies done in the last century (think the Stanford prison experiment) or so to dismantle our modern "proof" that people are selfish, violent, and generally bad at their core. All to say, it reads very thorough and methodical, and I appreciate that he had to directly address these universally-accepted theories to make his point compelling.

I also like his reframing of realism, saying that cynicism is inaccurate (because we overweight the bad things and underweight the good things) and the grander implications of thinking about human nature differently. If we design our world for people we expect to behave in a certain way, it impacts how they behave, and he is very conscious of this. I think this is incredibly powerful.

Why should you read it?

It's a feel good book! It's really wonderful to read an argument that people, that you, me, almost everyone around us, are good people. And just because bad things happen, and that some people truly do bad things, doesn't mean we have to live like everyone is out to get us. It is, as the book says, hopeful.

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