Home Thumbnail Summary Introduction Table of Contents and Excerpts Excerpts from Reviews About the Author Buy the Book


"A dazzling mix of history, theology, economics, game theory, and evolutionary biology that paints the world's increasing entwinement as a positive and possibly inevitable development." --Fortune Magazine, March 21, 2005 (Named one of the "Fortune 75": The 75 "smartest [business-related] books" of all time.)

"An original, accessible and thought-provoking view of history…full of rich detail, ingenious insight and bold argument… By examining history through the lens of non-zero-sumness, Mr Wright builds a good case for his arrow of history. He takes the reader on an original and wide-ranging tour of human cultural evolution--big-game hunting, agriculture, war, information technologies, feudalism, capital markets, environmental threats, supranational organizations--that explains and illustrates the 'logic of non-zero-sumness'."    --The Economist, July 15-22, 2000

"Wright carries his learning lightly, and his bold attempt to uncover parallels between organic evolution and the development of human cultures makes for a compelling synthesis...Wright is right about so many things: evolution is
seeded with inevitabilities, cultures have common trajectories, and human
history has seen great hopes and terrible crimes but is capable of achieving
a final destiny."  --Simon Conway Morris, New York Times Book Review
(lead review), Jan. 30, 2000.

"Robert Wright's previous book, The Moral Animal (1994), presented a highly readable overview of evolutionary psychology... In Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Wright attempts something far more ambitious: he extends the evolutionary story both backward and forward in time, arguing that human cultural evolution can be understood as an outgrowth of biological evolution, and that it should eventually lead humankind to higher levels of cooperation on a planetary scale. If this sounds like a tall order, it is--but Wright does an astonishingly effective job of finding directionality in history, not just over the past few thousand years but over the almost four billion years since the beginning of life on earth... Wright has written an extraordinarily insightful and thought-provoking book. The idea that there is directionality and purpose to history is one that has come and gone, and now may be coming again thanks to the elegant synthesis he has produced."           --Francis Fukuyama, The Wilson Quarterly, Winter, 2000.

"Wright's erudition, intelligence, and hard work are impressive... Nonzero is exciting and intellectually stimulating--well-written, witty, and quite timely as we consider the challenges of our global, interconnected future." --Harvey Shepard, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 18, 2000

"At long last, here is a 'millennium book' that is definitely worth reading... an enormously skillful summary of everything you always wanted to know about history and science but were afraid to ask." --David Davidar, The Hindu, April 30, 2000

"Wright takes us on a dazzling tour of world history, arguing the case for planetary upward mobility... Although he takes into account the tooth-and-claw battles of nations, the vanished empires, social violence and chaos, the shocks and changes of technology, Mr. Wright finds pattern and meaning in history. We are moving toward connectedness, toward one world... Does that mean we can rest on our laurels and simply let the game go on? No; Mr. Wright wants us consciously to take charge. --Tom Henighan, The Ottawa Citizen, March 12, 2000

"A must for history buffs...Wright uses game theory to explain human co-operation and evolution. And it is an ingenious, and thoroughly plausible, explanation, backed up by a surfeit of sound scientific knowledge... A highly readable book... Wright's chatty, informal style makes all the difference."        --The Singapore Straits Times, March 11, 2000

"A genuine advance in our understanding of how we came to be, and where we are headed... We---the sorry mass of humanity---have made history, but we have often proceeded blindly and without the least understanding of the great project in which we are engaged. Wright should be content that he has described, better than anyone in recent days, the nature and scope of that endeavor." --John Judis, The Washington Monthly, April, 2000.

"Nonzero is by turns evangelical and soberly academic. At all points clearly written and well researched, it gets better and better as it goes on, and finds Wright speculating near the end about the origins and role of human consciousness. Anyone with an interest in cultures, warfare, innovation, cheating, thinking and, yes, cooperation will find this book enjoyable and thought provoking." --Mark Pagel, New Scientist, April 15, 2000

"A cohesive, deeply researched retelling of history... There is plenty on
every page to provoke, whether you're a lefty, a libertarian, or a
right-winger, a scientist or a closet believer. In the end, Wright makes the
most persuasive and original case for the idea of progress you are likely to
hear. It's a great way to start a new century."
  --Kevin Kelly, Wired magazine, March, 2000

"Robert Wright sports an energetic yet easy style, wears his considerable learning lightly, and, as his subtitle indicates, his latest undertaking is nothing if not ambitious. Beginning with the hunter-gatherers, the reader is taken through the successive stages onwards and upwards: the development of basic tools and technologies, the invention of agriculture, the forging of larger social groupings from the age of the chieftains up to the nation state, the role of war, of literacy and printing, and, not least, the transformative power of money, trade and communications. It's all there, and Wright is sure-footed whether he's writing about Aztecs or Zulus, Stone Age or New Age." --The Independent, London, March 25, 2000

"Books that search for grand themes in history are almost impossible to write well, but when successful, make a lasting impression on thought. Nonzero is such a work. Brilliant, sweeping, and alive with insight, it is the first really important book of the new decade." --Gregg Easterbrook, 

"A humane and carefully written book... Among other terse amusements, [Wright] effectively challenges the anti-historicism of Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper... He also singles out for special and delighted contumely the inconsistent bloviations of Stephen Jay Gould... [Nonzero] evokes a pantheistic sense of wonder and respect for the meandering delta of life, even though--or perhaps because--there is only frail evidence of a specific clear-cut God...Readers may take or leave Wright's ruminations on a host of issues, such as the information revolution, the Internet, and the merging of states into a global political system. But they are provided with witty style, energy, and an attractive sort of bold humility. And while it seems easy to disagree with the glib U.N.-Charter-style internationalism that seems to underlie his position, in fact there is a good case to be made for his view..."                   --Lionel Tiger, National Review, March 6, 2000

"A highly original tour of human history... immensely readable as well as
immensely contentious."  --Paul Strathern, The Wall Street Journal, Jan 20, 2000.

"The Moral Animal (1994) was Wright's initial contribution to the ruckus over evolutionary psychology... For better or worse, we are moral animals, he claimed, and it is good to remember both halves of the appellation. Wright carries this double message energetically into Nonzero, which is a kind of sequel and prequel to the earlier book: a broad and erudite survey of human cultural evolution, and a brief history of prehuman organic evolution... This relentlessly optimistic and engaging book is a win-win contribution."               --Chet Raymo, Boston Globe, Feb. 6, 2000.

"No doubt you're as exhausted as I am by the countless media big-think essays cobbled together merely to occasion a year with three zeros in it. Which is why a genuinely interesting bid to explain The World, The Internet and Everything in the next millennium comes as such a relief. When it also harnesses the two most striking intellectual developments of the past 20 years -- the arrival of evolutionary psychology and the triumph of global market economics - it's all the more irresistible. I'm referring to Robert Wright's new book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny....Wright is fully aware that the porous new world has immense dangers.... But he is also clearly, unmistakably optimistic... For several decades after the second world war, such optimism seemed almost perverse... But as we get further and further away from Auschwitz and Hiroshima, the attractiveness of a new Whig version of history, fuelled by Charles Darwin, Adam Smith and Bill Gates, is surely bound to increase. And it is this version of history--a kind of Macaulay for the new America--that Wright is offering." --Andrew Sullivan, The Times of London, Jan. 9, 2000

"In his last book, "The Moral Animal," Wright brilliantly explored evolutionary psychology... Wright has done his homework here too. Well-researched chapters are devoted to the histories of agriculture, political  organization, global commerce and information technologies. All are intended to show, in some way, how human development has progressed...Wright does so with a studied, casual eloquence. It's a bit like having the author sitting just across the dining room table, chatting after a meal."  --Scott LaFee, San Diego Union Tribune, Feb. 6, 2000

"Nonzero is a zealous and often thrilling gloss of all of human history--a
work of philosophical derring-do from one of America's alpha minds."           --Virginia Heffernan, Talk magazine, February, 2000.


"I recommend Nonzero to any and all readers as a marvelous summary and interpretation of what is now known and surmised about biological and human history on our planet. For an author so well informed scientifically,
perhaps the book's most unusual feature is the fact that Wright does not
flinch from closing with a chatty, informal yet incisive argument about
cosmic meaning and purpose behind the story he unfolds... I greatly admire
the book… [Wright] knows so much and has thought so clearly; and allows his imagination to range so freely!"                                        

 --William H. McNeill, professor emeritus of history, University of Chicago, author of Plagues and People and The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community.

"This is the book to read to start off the millennium. Leaping from
mountaintop to mountaintop, this integrative and inspiring volume
is brimming with hope for a positive human future. Religions are made of
such stuff." s                                                                                                    
--Martin Seligman, professor of psychology, University of Pennsylvania, author of Learned Optimism.

"Wright's chapters on the evolution of biological complexity and intelligence--in addition to being beautifully written and scientifically sound--are a welcome corrective to current trendy views that understate natural selection's creative power. There is, indeed, as Darwin said, a grandeur in this view of life."

--James Gould, professor of biology, Princeton University, and author of Biological Science.




"A feast of great thinking and writing about the most profound issues there are... a fiercely intelligent, beautifully written, and engrossingly original book... Mr. Wright writes with a consistent, irreverent wit that does not hide a heartfelt seriousness of purpose." 

                                                   --The New York Times Book Review

"This clever and stimulating book is destined to become a classic... Like Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene, it could well change the way people think and feel about their lives--perhaps even how they behave... The book is packed with insight into many current dilemmas. It is, into the bargain, an intellectual entertainment argued with wit and style.                                                   

                                                    --The Economist