Sapolsky's outstanding Stanford lecture on "The Uniqueness of Humans"

Stanford primatologist and anthropologist Robert Sapolsky scores big with this grad lecture on "The Uniqueness of Humans," a humbling, inspiring and sweet 30 minutes on what it is about humans that makes us unique from our animal cousins, and how many of the seemingly unique features of humanity can be found elsewhere.

Sapolsky make me want to go back to school, enrolling in the Stanford anthropology program, just so I can take his classes.

Class Day Lecture 2009: The Uniqueness of Humans (Thanks, Avi!)


  1. Excellent lecture! One thing is worth pointing out: people talking about “human uniqueness” very often generalize similarly to how people often talk about how “men differ from women”. As statistical averages there are some things that distinguish humans and animals. But there is no feature that all humans have that no animal has.

  2. It’s a brilliant lecture. On the other hand he constantly says this thing was thought to be unique but now isn’t, and that that is unique. Isn’t that a bit silly if it’s clear that everything he says is unique will later be discovered to be non-unique. Besides, what do we care if we are unique with regards non-reproductive sex? Nevertheless, it’s really fascinating.
    An interesting example is lying, where Ravens (Corvids) have been discovered to lie:

  3. Meeting with Sapolsky at his lab in Stanford was one of the high points of my life:) Here’s a recent lecture by Sapolsky on Depression:

  4. “Sapolsky make me want to go back to school. . . ”

    So that I can correct my grammar and/or typing skills.

    1. Just FYI, ill lich, sapolsky functions as a plural, too. There is a unique phylum of engrossing professors that engender an urge to return to school… “The sapolsky, they make me yearn for the days of term paper assignments and Ritalin-fueled cram sessions”

  5. Thanks, Cory–I’ve got the “Sapolsky Stanford Sex Lectures” in my library, thanks to you, and look forward to watching this one. You might enjoy listening to Sapolsky on the most recent episode of Radio Lab (in the first ~20 minutes), talking about his studies, some 30 years ago, of a troop of baboons whose alpha males were killed by disease, and henceforth took on a much less violent, rather un-baboony way of being with one another. Sapolsky found it inspiring, with an eye towards the possibility of humans ever, one day, ceasing to war–so much so, that he wrote up his findings in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine (free reg req’d to read full article).

  6. Most important difference: We have guns to shoot any other animal that gets out of line. Watch your backs, dolphins.

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