The Invention Of Yesterday

With Tamim Ansary

Join us virtually for a conversation with Tamim Ansary about his latest book, The Invention of Yesterday.

Ansary boldly looks for patterns in the last 50,000 years of human history. He argues that, since humans are basically narcissistic, for most of recorded history each successful civilization has seen the other civilizations on this planet as merely peripheral players. He also argues that the four major rivers along which large-scale human civilizations began—the Nile, the Tigris–Euphrates, the Indus and the Huang He—each had characteristic traits that contributed to the underlying cultural assumptions our ancestors made about the nature of reality, and so gave rise to the main points of cultural divergence.

Ansary’s conclusion is clear: we cannot continue to consider other cultures as peripheral if we are going to have any hope of managing those worldwide concerns that require a consensus to solve, like climate change, nuclear weapons and the spread of deadly viruses. As historians often understand, but too many politicians conveniently overlook, each human civilization has many points of similarity with every other civilization in our pursuit of happiness. The points of cultural divergence are the ones that are truly peripheral.