Steven Pinker on the History of Violence: A Happy Tale

In July, the held its annual “Master Class” in Napa, California and brought together some influential thinkers to talk about “The Science of Human Nature.” The highlights included:

Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman on the marvels and the flaws of intuitive thinking; Harvard mathematical biologist Martin Nowak on the evolution of cooperation; Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker on the history of violence; UC-Santa Barbara evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides on the architecture of motivation; UC-Santa Barbara neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga on neuroscience and the law; and Princeton religious historian Elaine Pagels on The Book of Revelations.

The has now started making videos from the class available online, including, this week, Steven Pinker’s talk on the history of violence. You can watch Pinker’s full 86 minute talk here (sorry, we couldn’t embed it on our site.) Or, if you want the quick gist of Pinker’s thinking, then watch the short clip above. In five minutes, Pinker tells you why violence is steadily trending down, and why some things are actually going right in our momentarily/monetarily troubled world.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.