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First reactions to A Theory of Everyone
Experts from biology, psychology, economics, anthropology, behavioral science, history, archeology, philosophy, business, policy, and more
A Theory of Everyone is coming out in the UK next month and things are heating up fast:
Tomorrow I’ll be starting the 5 day Audible audiobook recording process. I decided to use my own voice for the audiobook. I hope I made the right decision! I’ll try to take some photos.
We have a new pre-order website that should localize links to many different markets: https://www.atheoryofeveryone.com/
Podcasts are calling, talks are confirming, media interviews are being scheduled, and the first early reader reactions and blurbs are flooding in!
One of life’s great joys is seeing your work recognized by those you deeply respect. Honestly, I’m floored by the universally and overly positive reaction. Experts from biology, psychology, economics, anthropology, behavioral science, history, archeology, philosophy, business, policy, and more👇
Harvard human evolutionary biologist, Joseph Henrich said:
Deftly wielding newly-honed ideas and insights unsheathed from the rapidly emerging science of cultural evolution, Muthukrishna confronts and analyzes some of the major challenges facing humanity, from rising energy costs and accelerating climate change to growing economic inequality and declining democracies. Rooted in a new theory of human nature, A Theory of Everyone flavorfully mixes a stunning breadth of scholarship with an impressive knowledge of pop-culture and current issues, boldly going where most social scientists fear to tread. Lucidly discussing ideas surrounding IQ, race, sex differences, inheritance taxes, religion, Microsoft and even monogamy, readers are treated to a fascinating intellectual flight that thoughtfully offers many new perspectives on old issues. Buckle up!
– Joseph Henrich, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University and author of The WEIRDest People in the World and The Secret of Our Success.
Stanford psychologist and business professor, Michele Gelfand said:
A Theory of Everyone is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the forces that shape all of our lives. Full of scientific discoveries, revolutionary insights, and delightful storytelling, you will not only see the world differently, you’ll have the tools to create a brighter future.
– Michele Gelfand, Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World
Harvard psychologist, Joshua Greene said:
If you hear the engine of human prosperity sputtering and see the world going dark, Michael Muthukrishna is knocking on your door with a lantern and a toolbox. With wisdom and precision, A Theory of Everyone makes sense of our historical moment and gives credible hope that, after some retooling, human energy and ingenuity can prevail.
– Joshua Greene, Harvard University, author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them
Oxford historian, Peter Frankopan described A Theory of Everyone as:
A big, bold and ambitious look at the world around us in which nothing is off limits. Wonderfully refreshing and thought-provoking.
– Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History, Oxford University, author of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
Stanford archeologist and historian, Ian Morris said:
This hugely enjoyable book, stuffed with surprising facts, shows how we can turn the social sciences into real sciences. Michael Muthukrishna’s new “theory of everyone” reveals alarming threats to humanity’s future—but also shows that once we understand the science behind society, we do have the power to produce permanent systemic solutions.
– Ian Morris, Professor, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University, author of Geography Is Destiny – Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History
MIT Sloan School of Management’s, Andrew McAfee said:
Muthukrishna has a heart as big as his intellect, which is saying something. In this original, fascinating, and provocative book he dives deep into who we humans are and what makes us tick. His hopeful message is that once we understand ourselves better we’ll coexist better. Let’s prove him right.
– Andrew McAfee, MIT Sloan School of Management, author of The Geek Way and coauthor of The Second Machine Age
Duke philosopher, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong said:
Do you know your own species? You might think so, but Muthukrishna will make you think again. With clarity, humor, and energy, he opens new vistas on how genes and cultures shaped who we are and how we can improve our lives together. A Theory of Everyone is for everyone.
– Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics, Duke University, Author of Think Again: How to Reason and Argue
Duke primatologist, Brian Hare said:
One of today’s most brilliant minds weighs in on what ails us and how to fix it. Muthukrishna breaks life’s biggest questions into their component parts, then reveals how artificial intelligence, physics, history, evolutionary biology and psychology can together answer them, in a way that will keep you up at night. The most important book you will quickly read this year – good luck not telling your friends about it!
– Brian Hare, New York Times Bestselling author, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University.
MIT economist and behavioral scientist, Erez Yoeli said:
A Theory of Everyone is your guide to some of the most important advances in the social sciences, written by a foremost researcher, beautifully illustrated, and positively overflowing with cocktail-party worthy factoids.
– Erez Yoeli, Research Scientist and Director, Applied Cooperation Initiative, MIT, co-author of Hidden Games: The Surprising Power of Game Theory to Explain Irrational Human Behavior
Harvard economist, Moshe Hoffman said:
Michael brings the reader up to date on this powerful theoretical framework–including much of his own innovative work on corruption, cooperation, and collective intelligence–and thoughtfully discusses how this framework can be applied to address pressing societal issues, ranging from diversity to taxation to free speech.
– Moshe Hoffman, Visiting Lecturer on Economics, Harvard University; co-author of Hidden Games: The Surprising Power of Game Theory to Explain Irrational Human Behavior
SUNY energy scientist and inventor of the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) metric, Charles Hall said:
This book, which I read with great fascination, shows how we can move beyond neoclassical economics with a firmer foundation in the natural sciences and energy. This is extremely important as the world soon, and Europe now, increasingly faces critical energy shortages. I hope this book helps more people understand the critical importance of energy in generating our current affluence, and its diminution as a probable root cause of future inflation. A failure to understand these relations is likely to cause our societies to become impossible to govern.
– Charles Hall, ESF Foundation Distinguished Professor at State University of New York, & author of Energy and the Wealth of Nations
University of St Andrew’s behavioral and evolutionary biologist, Kevin Lala (formerly Laland) said:
“The world is breaking” and society is becoming ever-more polarized – yet, a better realm is around the corner, if only we can stimulate our collective brains. In his magnificent A Theory of Everyone, polymath Michael Muthukrishna teaches us how to govern in the twenty-first century, how to address inequalities, and how to trigger creative explosions, improve the internet, and become brighter – all by harnessing the power of cultural evolution. A marvellous rich and entertaining read.
- Kevin Lala (formerly Laland), Professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology, University of St Andrews, author of Darwin's unfinished symphony: How culture made the human mind
SUNY evolutionary biologist, David Sloan Wilson said:
A Theory of Everyone delivers both an overarching theory and a practical toolkit for understanding and improving the human condition. What could be more important than that?
– David Sloan Wilson, author of This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution
UCL evolutionary biologist and psychologist, Nichola Raihani called A Theory of Everyone:
An astonishing book that will change the way you think about human history and our future.
–Nichola Raihani, Professor of Evolution and Behaviour, UCL and author of The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World
Moving from academia to policy, Claremont professor and renowned anticorruption policy advisor, Robert Klitgaard called A Theory of Everyone:
The best book I’ve read in a decade. A sprightly page-turner that entertains with specifics, astonishes with universals, and reframes the big issues facing humanity.
– Robert Klitgaard, author of Controlling Corruption and Tropical Gangsters
Science writer and journalist, Matt Ridley said:
There is a truly wonderful idea at the heart of this book: that by exchanging things and thoughts, human beings became capable of doing and knowing far more than their meagre brains would have otherwise made possible. It is not an entirely new idea, but Michael Muthukrishna explores its extraordinary and hopeful implications with rich and thrilling energy.
– Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything
CEO of zolar and former head of Uber, Northern and Eastern Europe said:
A Theory of Everyone uses the latest social science research to answer the critical question of how all human communities can be made to work better. Magisterial in scope and practical in application, this book should be required reading for CEOs, community organisers, Head Teachers, and Presidents.
– Jamie Heywood, CEO of zolar and former head of Uber, Northern & Eastern Europe
Journalist, Matthew Syed described A Theory of Everyone as:
Mind expanding – this book will change your view of the world forever. Michael Muthukrishna is one of our greatest and most creative thinkers.
– Matthew Syed, author of Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth about Success and Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking
Author, David Bodanis said:
Buzzing with ideas, A Theory of Everyone encourages us to rethink what it is to be human. A compelling and essential read for anyone interested in building a better, more sustainable future.
– David Bodanis, author of The Art of Fairness
And Kurtis Lockhart, Executive Director, Charter Cities Institute, wrote the first review of the book:
I loved this book. A Theory of Everyone is a ‘big book’ bustling with ‘big ideas,’ taking on some of humanity’s most intractable issues — securing energy abundance, fostering innovation, increasing human cooperation between different groups, and figuring out how to leverage god-like technologies for good. The book lays out a path, along with various evidence-based strategies, for us humans to resolve these wicked problems so together we can create a more prosperous, abundant, and flourishing future.
Michael Muthukrishna is clearly a polymath – marshaling evidence and research from a dizzying array of human knowledge including anthropology, archeology, psychology, and economics on the one hand, to engineering, biology, and computer science on the other. The book is both bold and balanced, concerning itself with ultimate causes and ultimate solutions (not proximate causes and band-aid solutions) in achieving human flourishing and progress. Refreshingly, Muthukrishna refuses to shy away from some more controversial topics if they have important things to say about how humanity can bolster learning, cooperation, innovation, and ultimately bring about a brighter, more energy-rich future. In a less capable author’s hands, coverage of these more heated topics can tend to polarize or come off as polemical, but Muthukrishna deftly manages to remain the adult in the room – clearly reviewing the latest and best evidence on these questions and objectively laying out the implications for human progress.
The book tackles the key questions of our time: How can human beings as a species cooperate at greater scales? How can we foster more innovative societies where all get to partake in the fruits of new ideas? How can new technologies like AI and ‘programmable politics’ complement human cooperation rather than hamper it? And ultimately how can humanity reach the next level of energy abundance?
The book takes a welcome middle ground in an era of extremes. On the one hand, there are common (and unrealistic) calls from de-growthers, minimalists, and other well-intentioned groups to “consume less” in order to save the species and our planet. On the other hand, refrains coming from technologists and others in Silicon Valley can quickly turn into unthinking techno-boosterism. Muthukrishna’s book is set on achieving nothing short of abundance while taking the constraints of the real world seriously.
The best section of the book was its lucid policy recommendations. At the Charter Cities Institute, Muthukrishna’s thoughts on the potential of charter cities (or startup cities, as he calls them) have not only been widely discussed, but are already being acted upon. Debates about charter cities have overwhelmingly focused on the centrality of institutions and governance to long-run prosperity, but Muthukrishna rightly shows how charter cities aren’t just about improving codified laws and formal policies. He illustrates how charter cities can have beneficial effects on ‘software’ – on our social norms, trust in one another, cultural traits, and on our willingness to cooperate, effectively expanding our moral circle. Our work at CCI whole-heartedly aligns with Muthukrishna’s ultimate message: “Often, we cannot design the right rules, but we can create conditions for the right rules to evolve.” The book is now required reading for everyone here at the Institute, as well as our partners building charter cities in the real world. And it should be required reading for anyone interested in the most important questions of our time. Definitely recommended.
– Kurtis Lockhart, Executive Director, Charter Cities Institute
I am so grateful that so many early readers from so many disciplines took the time to read the book - and enjoyed it!
I hope you do too. A Theory of Everyone: Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going can be pre-ordered here: https://www.atheoryofeveryone.com/
Wish me luck with tomorrow’s Audible recordings!