Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Guns, Germs and Steel,” “Collapse,” and other books, joins Tom Williams to discuss his latest: “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?” which is now out in paperback.
Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday—in evolutionary time—when everything changed, and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions. Although Diamond doesn't romanticize tribal societies, he finds that their solutions to universal issues such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, and physical fitness have much to teach us, and that by examining the differences between how we live now and how the world lived for millions of years, we can learn much of importance for our lives today. Jared Diamond is Professor of Geography at UCLA. The Salt Lake City Public Library and The King's English Bookshop are presenting Jared Diamond on Thursday, November 14, at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake Downtown Library.