Conversations with friends can quickly lead to  book recommendations. A discussion of Tom Friedman’s That Used To Be Us, resulted in  a recommendation and  a gift copy of Robert Wright’s  NON ZERO SUM THE LOGIC OF HUMAN DESTINY. 

Heavy duty subject? Yes indeed! However, Wright presents the subject matter in a logical and understandable progression.  The basic  premise is that throughout the development of civilization, Non- Zero Sum cooperation, just the opposite of  Zero- Sum with only winners and losers, is what advanced our civilization from savages, barbarians, chiefdoms and tribes to a cooperative civilization.  Take a look at this quote from Wright. “Judging by history, the current turbulence will eventually yield to an era of relative stability, an era when global political, economic and social structures have largely tamed the new forms of chaos. The world will reach a new equilibrium. Or on the other hand, we could blow up the world.”

Or, “As history progresses, humans find themselves playing non-zero-sum games. Interdependence expands, and social complexity grows in scope and depth.”

“Innovate or die! Population density drives technological and social development not by creating opportunities, but by creating problems. Problems that must be solved  for the greater good!”

Not at all unlike many of Tom Friedman’s theories so ably expressed in The World is Flat,  Hot Flat and Crowded. and That Used To Be Us. Wright, like Friedman has the ability to take sweeping concepts and break them down into logical elements. He outlines how throughout history  man has managed to turn acute need and chaos into opportunity, not with a Zero-Sum  I win you lose approach, but with the concept of working together for a common good or what he calls Non-Zero!

Non-Zero is a tremendous exploration of how we have become who we are and the implication is clearly that the evolution of our civilization as a cooperative society will play a key role in what we become. 

Zero -Sum has no winners! With Non-Zero  everyone can win.  There are  many lessons here , especially in today’s political climate domestically and around the globe. If you have a friend in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate send them a copy!


  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this books. I had a hard time opening myself to its main thesis. Did you read The Evolution of God?

  2. Pingback: Non-Fiction Book Review – NonZero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright (1999) – The Top 100 Reviews

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