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In Conversation: Jared Diamond talks to Robert Rowland Smith by Jared Diamond

In Conversation: Jared Diamond talks to Robert Rowland Smith

by Jared Diamond


Title Details

Running Time
1 Hr. 13 Min.


In the affluent West there is a tendency to assume that we know more about how to live well than traditional cultures. But the Pulitzer Prize-winning researcher and thinker Jared Diamond argues that, while the West has achieved global dominance due to specific environmental and technological advantages, Westerners do not necessarily always have better ideas about how to raise children, care for the elderly, or simply live well.

Diamond's hotly debated and highly influential books include Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Tonight's event focuses on his latest book, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? This is his most personal work to date, and draws on his fieldwork in New Guinea over nearly five decades, as well as evidence from other cultures around the world.

The philosopher Robert Rowland Smith joins Diamond to explore his argument that tribal societies offer first-hand picture of how our ancestors lived for millions of years -- until virtually yesterday, in evolutionary terms -- and as such can offer important, often overlooked or forgotten insights into human nature. Here they discuss how possible it is to take on the better aspects of another culture (like its attitudes to family), but not its worse (for example, gender inequality). And they address the argument that we only turn to 'traditional wisdom' out of nostalgia or even post-colonial guilt.

Diamond shares his research and findings on how tribal peoples approach essential human problems, from conflict resolution to health. These include why modern afflictions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension are largely non-existent in tribal societies, and the surprising cognitive benefits of multilingualism. Here he presents what he believes are the profound lessons that tribal peoples can offer for how we all live today.


This event took place at Conway Hall on 30th September 2013.

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