PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON'S
REMARKS ON NONZERO
at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, May, 2001:
Last year I read a book which
influenced me greatly by a man named Robert Wright.
It’s called Nonzero, and, did you ever read a book where
somebody says what you’ve been thinking, and you immediately decide
the author is a genius? We’ve
all done it. Because this
person puts something, that you’ve been thinking and feeling but could
never quite say, in the way you wish you could have said it.
at the anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, Nov., 2001, on
“Last year I read a book that described the way the world
works in ways better than I can, but I completely agree with it.... The
title of this book is Nonzero.
The author is Robert Wright.
And if you haven’t read it, I urge you to get it and read
at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC, Sept., 2000:
There is an astonishing new book out, been out a few months, by a man
named Robert Wright, called Nonzero--kind of a weird title unless
you're familiar with game theory. But in game theory, a zero-sum game is
one where, in order for one person to win, somebody has to lose. A
non-zero-sum game is a game in which you can win and the person you're
playing with can win, as well. And the argument of the book is that,
notwithstanding all the terrible things that happened in the 20th
century--the abuses of science by the Nazis, the abuses of organization
by the communists, all the things that continue to be done in the name
of religious or political purity--essentially, as societies grow more
and more connected, and we become more interdependent, one with the
other, we are forced to find more and more non-zero-sum solutions. That
is, ways in which we can all win.
And that's basically the message I've been
trying to preach for eight years here...We have to have an expanding
idea of who is in our family. And we in the United States, because we're
so blessed, have particular responsibilities to people not only within
our borders who have been left behind, but beyond our borders who
otherwise will never catch up if we don't do our part. Because we are
all part of the same human family, and because, actually, life is more
and more a non-zero-sum game, so that the better they do, the better
we'll do. (Applause.)
with Wired magazine, December, 2000:
"But I basically buy the argument of Robert Wright's new book, Nonzero.
. . . [It's] sort of a reverse social Darwinism: the more complex
societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence
within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people
are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That
is, win-win solutions instead of win-lose solutions."
at the Hay Adams Hotel, Washington, DC, Sept., 2000
The best book I read in the last few months is a book
called Nonzero, by Robert Wright. He wrote another book a few
years ago called The Moral Animal that was a bestseller. I will
oversimplify, at the risk of being criticized by the author, the
argument of the book... As societies grow more complex in their
inter-relation, and more interdependent both within and beyond their
borders, people in positions of authority and citizens at the
grass-roots level are forced to look constantly for more non-zero-sum
solutions, hence the title of the book... It's a very interesting book,
and not naive. I mean, he acknowledges, even in the most sort of
cooperative societies, you've got an election, one person wins the
presidency, the other one doesn't. One person gets to be head of AOL,
But the argument of the book is far more
sophisticated. It is that to succeed, even in positions of leadership,
where there is a competition for the position, the measure of success is
not so much whether you won at somebody else's expense, but
whether you got what you wanted because you enabled other people to
achieve their dreams and to do what they want.
And I think the idea that we are moving toward
a world where more and more, we will find our own victories in other
people's victories, because our interdependence forces us to seek non-zero-sum
solutions--is a very helpful way to think about dealing with most social
problems; and frankly, some economic challenges, like global debt relief
and things like that.