UCSB Arts & Lectures will present Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond in a talk titled “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond

Books will be available for purchase at the event, and a book signing will follow the talk.

In his new book, The World Until Yesterday, Diamond, the mega-bestselling author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, takes us on a mesmerizing journey into our rapidly vanishing past. He reveals how traditional societies offer an extraordinary window into how our ancestors lived for millions of years until virtually “yesterday,” in evolutionary terms.

This is Diamond’s most personal book to date — and his first trade book in seven years — as he draws extensively on his four decades of fieldwork in New Guinea and adjacent Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian, Kalahari and other cultures. He explores how traditional peoples approach universal problems — from child rearing and elder care to dispute resolution and staving off disease — and discovers that we have much to learn from these cultures.

Praised by Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer as “the Charles Darwin of our generation,” Diamond does not romanticize traditional societies; he recognizes that some of their practices are shocking to contemporary people, and that it’s important to acknowledge modern improvements in human behavior and society. But while highlighting crucial lessons in his characteristically provocative, enlightening and entertaining way, his message is clear: It’s possible for us to have the best of both worlds.

Diamond is a professor of geography at UCLA. Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan’s Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Lewis Thomas Prize honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by The Rockefeller University.

His previous books include Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1997), The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1991), Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) and Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997), which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Diamond’s lecture is presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures, as well as community partner the Orfalea Foundation and public lecture support from Yardi.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for UCSB students with a current student ID. For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535 or click here to purchase online.

Arts & Lectures thanks lynda.com for its major support of the 2012-13 season.

— Karna Hughes is a senior writer and publicist for UCSB Arts & Lectures.