Summary of Wired for Survival

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  • For Beginners
  • Engaging


This book’s short length is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, neuroscientist Margaret M. Polski’s brevity and clarity make the book an accessible overview of how contemporary cognitive science views thinking and decision making. On the other hand, it is so brief that Polski leapfrogs through a great deal of material very quickly. Some readers may seek a more fully developed explanation of how economic events – like the power struggles between energy producers and energy consumers – relate to research in neuroscience. Issues such as how rationality affects cultural systems like liberal democracy deserve more attention. This lack of connective tissue makes this slender volume pretty episodic, but it also is rich with illustrations drawn from sources ranging from contemporary politics to the classic comedy of Monty Python. The result is enjoyable and useful, if a bit disjointed. getAbstract recommends Polski’s book to strategists who are planning for times ahead, to leaders who seek to understand their organizations, and to people who want to understand themselves.

About the Author

Margaret M. Polski, PhD, is an Affiliate Fellow at George Mason University’s Center for Neuroeconomics.



Can We Hope?

After World War I, many thinkers despaired of deriving meaning from the world. Poets such as T.S. Eliot saw the world as a “senseless” wasteland and viewed humanity as “hollow.” Society now faces a similar crisis of confidence. The globe can seem like a terrible place in light of ongoing conflicts and global traumas like climate change, terrorism and food shortages. However, Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling sees a different world. He sees a human race that has had the capacity to blow itself up since nuclear weapons were developed – but has managed not to do so. Rather than facing certain destruction, could humanity be “wired for survival”?

Adaptation, Survival and Change

Unlike animals, humans have the ability to rise above instinct and adapt to shifting situations. If humanity wants to survive, people must be adaptable. To take one challenging area of turmoil and change, look at economic growth. Since 2000, the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased an average of 3.2% per year. That number doesn’t sound impressive until you compare it to past growth. From 1870 to 1913, a time of great economic growth, global GDP grew...

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