The greatest takeaway I have from this book is that humanity appears to be changing its psychological ideals toward violence and war. Pinker does allude to the possibility that we may be evolving towards a nonviolent mentality- and he rejects the common sci-fi climate catastrophe warfare of the future because humans tend not to war over food and water like they do other resources.
Our world and its people have become increasingly averted towards violence and aggression. Where it may once have been the norm to beat a man who sleeps with your wife, it is now a socially damning move to make that could involve severe punishment and isolation from future mating partners. From an Evolutionary Psychological perspective, the violent solution is increasingly becoming disadvantageous: Thanks to abortion, rape in most cases no longer provides a viable solution to lack of offspring; Killing someone, previously being a zero sum game, leads to immediate removal from society and the gene pool entirely, thus becoming a negative sum game.
Humans, with our vastly superior exposure to communication technologies, appear better able than they used to to empathize with each other. Where two thousand years ago Crucifixion was a normal punishment for crimes such as robbery, even the most hardened conservative today in the United States would agree that we should not crucify or even kill a thief. And one only needs to go to any campus to see that the younger generations are increasingly intolerant of bigotry- avoiding words like retarded and racial slurs to the point that even uttering them in an explanation elicits anger and fear responses.
While this is more of a cognitive exercise its trends are readily available to see in daily life. Our social media platforms provide us with immediate sources of people willing and open to being offended on our behalf. And PC culture has spread so far to an extreme that comedians are apologizing for jokes that sit on a particular side of the spectrum of what is deemed “offensive”. We openly and publicly ostracize those who carry beliefs we collectively agree are amoral- like that gay marriage or abortion should be legalized or vise versa.
I have to say that there is no doubt in my mind that humans are evolving not just socially but mentally to avoid the violent impulses we have. We have gone far enough to believe that natural thoughts of violence (i.e. thinking about hurting someone, which Pinker describes as a common male trend) are an abnormal unhealthy behavior that few people have. While it may be true that males are more likely to have these thoughts than females, it is also completely normal. I would argue that these thoughts, because they are de-normalized, are either suppressed (causing an individual to act out), or dealt with and somehow satiated (possibly through exposure to violence in media).
The latter option is the one Pinker agrees with. He suggests that violent video games and violence in TV and movies is a modern sort of bread and circuses that satisfy humanity’s craving for violence while juxtaposing it with the more negative and disgusting aspects of it. From what I could tell from my own research- the data is not sufficient:
Studies show mixed results about violence and videogames- though we know that violent games do not increase violence in teens, there is a trend towards children with aggressive tendencies and their likelihood of becoming more violent on exposure to violent games.