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In a prophetic voice that mixes admonition with hope, speaker Jared Diamond has helped millions understand humanity’s historical path. His bestselling books draw on history, anthropology, biology, and geography in unique and utterly gripping ways. Those same qualities shine forth in his popular keynote addresses, delivered at events around the world.
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In his books and keynote addresses, sociology speaker Jared Diamond illuminates the future with lessons from the past. As a popular keynote speaker, Jared Diamond galvanizes audiences around the world.
What can ancient civilizations teach us about the monumental challenges we face today? Why do some societies flourish while others crumble? How can our success in resolving personal crises inform policy at the national and international levels? Author, researcher, and storyteller Jared Diamond addresses those and other sweeping questions in his popular books and speeches. The New York Times calls his work “one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual of our generation.”
Trained as a biophysicist, Diamond turned his lifelong interest in ornithology into a parallel career as an ecologist. He later established himself as a leading historian of human society and its interaction with the natural environment. Diamond’s immensely influential books draw on his richly varied academic career.
Diamond cemented his place in the public imagination with his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. In Collapse, he explored the reasons why some societies fail while others endure. The World Until Yesterday argues that traditional societies can teach us much about conflict resolution, risk management, and nutrition.
His latest book, Upheaval, examines various types of trauma affecting both nations and individuals. People, Diamond finds, learn from trauma and develop ways to heal from it, while countries seldom do.
A graduate of Harvard and Cambridge universities, Diamond is a professor of geography at UCLA. In addition to his Pulitzer, he has won a MacArthur Genius Grant and three Royal Society Prizes.
COVID today seems to be an unprecedented tragedy and threat to world stability. What are the worst-case scenario, and the best-case scenario, for our future? The bad news is that COVID is just one of many human diseases of recent animal origins. There were others in the recent past, like AIDS and Ebola, and there will be many more in the future. The good news is that COVID is the first widely acknowledged global threat, because it catches our attention by killing us quickly and unequivocally. There are much more dangerous global threats that we don’t acknowledge, because they kill us much more slowly and indirectly. Will we generalize the lessons of COVID, and will we at last take seriously the global threats that, unlike COVID, really do threaten our human well-being and existence?
The most obvious and most debated fact of world history is that it unfolded differently for peoples from different parts of the world. Peoples of some regions became prosperous and technologically advanced, conquered other peoples, and spread around the world. Peoples of some other regions remained stone-tool-using hunter/gatherers, didn’t spread, and ended up being conquered. Why?
Historians haven’t given us a convincing answer to this biggest question of history. In the absence of an answer, many people fall back on racist exclamations – – supposed differences in human intelligence – – despite the lack of evidence for such differences.
Jared Diamond’s international bestseller Guns Germs and Steel won a Pulitzer Prize for showing how history’s biggest patterns resulted from differences between the continents in their environments, not in the brains of their peoples. These differences between the continents are fascinating – – and essential for understanding the modern world.
Many past societies have collapsed and vanished, as the result of their destroying the natural resources on which they depended. Examples include the Easter Islanders, the Greenland Vikings, and the Maya, the New World’s most advanced society before Columbus. But other societies have prospered uninterruptedly for thousands of years. In the past, isolated societies could collapse without affecting other societies. In today’s globalized world of inter-dependent societies, we face the risk of global collapse. What can we learn from the failures and successes of past societies, that could help us to deal with our current problems?
We separate living creatures into microbes, plants, animals, and humans – – as if there were an unbridgeable gulf between us and “animals”. In fact, we share almost 99% of our DNA with our closest animal relatives, the chimpanzees. Somewhere within that 1% of DNA that is different lies the explanation for art, language, genocide, and other supposedly unique human features. But those features have animal antecedents. I shall explain how, within a mere hundred thousand years – – a brief span of evolutionary history – – we evolved from just a glorified ape into world conquerors.
We humans take human sexuality for granted as the norm, and we consider the sex lives of animals weird. In fact, if you could ask your dog what it thinks of your sexual habits, your dog would consider you to be the weird one – – and your dog would be right. Human female menopause, concealed ovulation, grandparenting, and child-rearing practices are strange outliers in the animal world.
This lecture will explain the evolutionary pressures that made us so weird that we usually practice sex just for fun at times when fertilization is impossible, rather than practicing sex just for procreation like self-respecting normal animals. Learn, and enjoy!
In his talk based on Upheaval, Jared Diamond reveals how successful nations recover from crisis through selective change. In a dazzling comparative study, he shows audiences how seven countries have survived defining upheavals in the recent past—from US Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan to the Soviet invasion of Finland to Pinochet’s regime in Chile—through a process of painful self-appraisal and adaptation, identifying patterns in the way that these distinct nations recovered from calamity. Looking ahead to the future, he investigates whether the United States, and the world, are squandering their natural advantages, on a path towards political conflict and decline. Or can we still learn from the lessons of the past? Timelier than ever, you and your audience will leave this talk with a visceral understanding of how both nations and individuals can become more resilient.
We citizens of all big modern industrialized societies take for granted many features shared among those societies—such as encountering strangers every day without freaking out, living in societies of thousands or millions of people under a central government with laws and police, and eating food grown by other people. We forget that all of those shared features emerged only recently in the history of the human species. Until then, all people lived in tiny societies of just a few dozen or a few hundred people, where encounters with strangers were rare and terrifying, central governments didn’t exist, and everyone grew or hunted and gathered their own food. In the modern world today, there still remain many small traditional societies retaining many of those traditional features of human history. While tribal societies are in some respects very different from our modern industrial societies, in other respects they are similar, because they confront the same universal human problems of bringing up children, growing old, resolving disputes, staying healthy, and dealing with dangers. Jared Diamond will discuss tribal solutions to these problems, on the basis of his 50 years of experience of living and working among traditional societies. It turns out that many of the ways in which traditional peoples solve those universal human problems are ones that we can incorporate with great profit into our lives. For instance, Diamond will show you why you should stop worrying about dangers from terrorists and plane crashes, and start paying serious attention to the dangers of slipping in the shower, on the stairs, or on the sidewalk.
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