CHAPTER 1 A matter of survival

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.

Carl Sagan

Congratulations. If you are reading this book, you have descended from a proud line of selfish, scared and stupid people. Those who came before you managed to look after themselves long enough to reproduce, although back in the days when your forebears wandered the earth, this was not what we would now consider a ripe old age. In fact, back then the age of reproduction was a great deal lower, an age that most cultures today would likely consider a ‘land yourself in jail’ age.

However, it is still a feat worth acknowledging as so many generations before us failed to pass on their genetic material to our current generation. If they had not been such a selfish, scared and stupid (not to mention horny) lot, you would not be reading the book currently resting in your hands (or on your tablet, if that is your preferred medium).

In fact, your line would most likely have been erased from history in an act of over-complicated bravery or selflessness that perhaps involved a cave, a large ferocious animal or a strange-looking plant and an overly curious palate. And so, this is rather a strange book in that it begins with a happy ending — your arrival at this point in history — bravo!

Charles Darwin is often described as the first proponent of the idea of survival of the fittest. Many of us presume it was Darwin who coined the phrase, but it was actually British polymath philosopher Herbert Spencer ...

Get Selfish, Scared and Stupid: Stop Fighting Human Nature And Increase Your Performance, Engagement And Influence now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.