Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate's Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. He lives in San Francisco.
This biography was last updated on 12/26/2010.
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An Interview with Dr. Robert Sapolsky
In the book you touch on some of the cultural and societal changes you have
witnessed in your over twenty years of summers in Africa. What aspect of bush
life has changed the most during the years you've spent there? What the least?
I am taking "bush life" to mean Masai life, rather than that of the more westernized, agricultural tribes. Probably most broadly, there has been one big shift; when I got there, ambition, hope for one's kids, goals were built around being a more successful Masai -- figuring out a way to have more cows, more wives, more children. And what has shifted is that ambition now takes the form of wanting outside things: a watch, a pair of pants, a cassette player or even of wanting to be someone else (without having much of a sense of what anyone else's life is like). The Masai have realized that they are not the center of the universe, and thus not even of the Masai universe. In terms of what has changed the least, I keep thinking of the phrase, "Despite the new goals, the Masai still go about trying to achieve them with the same Masai rules and values." But I'm having trouble sorting out what exactly I mean by that.
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