This is a book of two halves. I read the first 200 pages I enjoyed and it kept me turning the pages. But they were very much the typical pop science or pop history paradigm. The author has some new or newish take on the standard view of things and explains why his ideas are better than the old ones. This is a trope that gets used a lot. To be fair, it does give the writing an edge, but it usually relies on oversimplifying the current understanding. I’d probably use it myself, to be honest, but even so, it does grate a bit.

So, we learn that humans aren’t nearly as bad as you expect from what you read about them in books and research reports. It was quite good to get things like the Milgram experiment put in context and to realise that a lot of what we hear about the general uselessness of humans rests on data that is, at best, suspect and often seriously distorted.

Halfway through, I had concluded that maybe homo sapians aren’t quite as bad as I thought. The book’s second half goes into the practical implications of all this and how this insight can be used in the real world. This was where it really picked up for me. It turns out that having a more realistic view of people can pay very real dividends. The examples this time aren’t straw men to be knocked down but actual problems. We get them tackled in the same way you’d solve a real problem in your own life. There aren’t easy solutions, but there are solutions to be had if you put in the time to understand them and allocate the resources that they need. I’ve left out details and examples because this is a book you really should read, and I don’t want to spoil it.

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