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Steven Pinker Speaks at Authors@Google Event Transcript

Renowned linguist, psychologist, Harvard professor Steven Pinker talks at Authors@Google event about his about The Better Angels of our Nature and argues that violence has been in decline…below is the full transcript of the talk at the event…

Female Presenter: Today’s speaker — I’m not going to go on and on about all of his qualifications because you already know that. So I’m going to turn it right away to data because he likes data. In 2007, our speaker came here and spoke about his book ‘The Stuff of Thought’.

Now when that YouTube video went up, it rapidly ascended the charts. He has over 175,000 views now. For a talk that is an hour 15 minutes, that is a lot of eyeball time. I appreciate that. He’s in the top 15 out of 1100 plus videos. And he’s in the company of Lady Gaga, Conan O’Brien, Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky and someone we all love, Randall Monroe.

Now, today we are fortunate enough to have him come speak to us, the linguist, psychologist, Harvard professor, I’ll throw that in, to speak about his new book ‘The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined’. Please welcome Steven Pinker.

Steven Pinker – The Author, Psychologist, Harvard Professor

Believe it or not — and I know most people do not — violence has been in decline for long stretches of time. And we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence. The decline of violence has not been steady. It has not brought violence down to zero and it is not guaranteed to continue.

But I hope to persuade you that it is a persistent historical development visible on scales from millennia to years from wars to genocides to the spanking of children and the treatment of animals. I’m going to walk you through six major historical declines of violence, identify their immediate causes in terms of particular historical events of the era. And then try to tie them together in terms of their ultimate causes. That is, general historical forces interacting with human nature.

Pacification Process

The first historical decline I call the pacification process. Until 5,000 years ago, people everywhere lived in a state of anarchy without central government. What was life like in this so-called state of nature? This is a question that thinkers have speculated on for hundreds of years.

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