This book is like a journey through the New Guinean forests: full of surprises, never knowing what to expect. Unfortunately not all the surprises are good ones, neither is this chapter.
Diamond has decided, one more time, to change the structure and contents of this chapter. This time, the concept is “autobiography”: Diamonds uses it a excuse to explain with lots of detail three dangerous moments of his life.
The excuse is an interesting one: “constructive paranoia” as he calls it. The idea is powerful: repeating a lot certain activity which has a low probability of risk can be dangerous even fatal, so it is a good idea to act paranoid while you are doing certain activities that may imply dangerous risks, like hunting in a forest or changing a lightbulb.
At first it made me think of Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile, and I hoped I’d get some insight on how traditional societies perform such “constructive paranoia” and what can we learn from that.
Instead, what we got are three long anecdotes of moments in which Diamond was in danger and how they relate to constructive paranoia.
The first anecdote is before he learnt about constructive paranoia and how he was saved from a crazy New Guinea Sorcerer by the shouts of his friends. The second one describes Diamond’s epiphany on the importance of constructive paranoia and how he almost die by drowning due to the careless driving of a boat driver. The third gives us a presentation of constructive paranoia in action, how it can be too much sometimes, but nevertheless, it is a lot better to be aware of the risks and act paranoid than being killed by a rival tribe.
Finally there is a brief reflexion on how traditional societies have to accept some risks, and we got short descriptions of quite risky behavior, like the !Kung trying to steal food from lions.
It was an entertaining reading -thought i have to skip some of the details as it got too descriptive for me tastes- but I don’t feel I’ve learnt much on how traditional societies interact with danger.
Next chapter is supposed to be about that dangers and risks in traditional societies. But I’m starting to be a little worried. What it will be about? A philosophical essay? Erotic fiction? With Jared Diamond you never know…