‘The Ten Types of Human: Who We Are and Who We Can Be’ by Dexter Dias explores the best and worst of human behaviour – how and why people can be utterly selfless and also commit terrible atrocities. Dias is a human rights lawyer and part-time judge who was presented with a case in which a 15-year-old boy died in a young offender institution when three officers restrained him. ‘The Ten Types of Human’ is the result of years of research combining psychology, philosophy and the neuroscience of decision-making in which Dias seeks to explain the factors which led this to happen.
The ten “types” are the Perceiver of Pain, the Ostraciser, the Tamer of Terror, the Beholder, the Aggressor, the Tribalist, the Nurturer, the Romancer, the Rescuer and the Kinsman. Dias emphasises that these are not neat categories people can be pigeon-holed in to easily – it would be more accurate to say these are all aspects of human drives and behaviour which overlap with each other along with the influence of many other factors, but that would make for a less catchy book title.
Comparisons to another giant non-fiction bestseller Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari will be inevitable, particularly as both books share a global view and wide anthropological scope of what it is to be human. The success of both books lies in the varied stories and examples used to illustrate the central theses and these raise all kinds of interesting questions about responsibility, empathy and the extremes of behaviour and capability. In ‘The Ten Types of Human’, the most memorable story is probably that of Dawn Faizey Webster, a woman working on a PhD who has locked-in syndrome following a severe stroke and can only move one eye. Human rights whistleblowing in Bosnia, survivors of the Haiti earthquake, child slaves in Ghana, acid attacks in Uganda, and much more are also addressed here.
‘The Ten Types of Human’ is a brick of a book clocking in at over 800 pages which isn’t too surprising given that the scope is so wide. The narrative could have been a bit tighter and it takes a long time for the overarching connections and analysis to be made, but if you stick with it then it is a very rewarding read with some fascinating content.