Nicholas A. Christakis, MD

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Renowned Physician, Epidemiologist, Public Health Expert, and Social Scientist Whose Work Helps Organizations Positively Influence Group Behaviors; Authority on Pandemics and the Future Effects of COVID-19; Professor and Director, The Human Nature Lab, Yale University; New York Times Bestselling Author, “Blueprint” (2019); Author, “Apollo’s Arrow” (2020)

Biography

Is it possible to organize groups in a way that generates high levels of innovation, cooperation, and productivity? And how can the science behind influencing group behavior assist in the pandemic recovery process?

For decades, renowned Yale social scientist, physician, epidemiologist, public health expert, and bestselling author Nicholas A. Christakis has studied the evolution of human social networks. As director of the Human Nature Lab and co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science, he and his team research patterns of human social interactions and uncover ways to move group behavior in positive directions.

“Our research shows that groups of people have special properties that do not exist in the individuals themselves,” explains Christakis. “Like carbon, which can be transformed by arranging atoms into the forms of graphite (which is soft and dark) or diamond (which is hard and clear), new properties can arise in a collection of atoms that are distinct. It’s the same with humans. You can take a group of people and connect them one way, and they are creative, cooperative, healthy, and happy. Connect them another way and they have none of those properties. It’s not just the attributes of each person that matter. It’s how they are connected.”

Christakis and his team have studied influencers for over a decade. They discovered it is possible to influence offline and online social networks in ways that generate desired behaviors in such areas as health, wealth, cooperation, coordination, and learning. During his popular “Working Together” workshop, he shows participants how network science, game theory, and artificial intelligence highlight specific challenges groups face, and how to solve them. Using his lab’s breadboard software as a teaching tool, he actively demonstrates the science behind grouping people together in ways that generate optimal outcomes.

COVID-19: The Long View

In February 2020, when COVID-19 began spreading across the world, Christakis realized the epidemiology of the pathogen was not being taken seriously. In response, he began writing his latest book, “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live” (October 2020), which follows the likely path of the pandemic to its end. His early paper analyzing the pandemic’s threat was published in the prestigious medical journal Nature; the magazine later highlighted the importance of “Apollo’s Arrow” in its year-end book review.

Christakis’ long view on the pandemic – informed by his thorough understanding of the social and public health implications of past pandemics – gives organizations and individuals a valuable and much-needed window into what the future of work and life may be. An electrifying speaker and prolific writer heralded for breaking down complex concepts with clarity, Christakis takes audiences on a journey to the forefront of innovation and understanding.

# # #

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University where he is appointed in the Departments of Sociology; Medicine; Data Science; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Biomedical Engineering; and the School of Management. He is the author of over 200 articles and several books. His influential 2009 book, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives,” documented how social networks affect our lives and was translated into over 20 foreign languages. His most recent work has used artificial intelligence (AI) agents (“bots”) to affect social processes online and in person.

His 2019 book, “Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society,” which detailed the evolutionary science behind the inherent goodness in human society, was a New York Times bestseller. It was later translated into 20 languages. His most recent book, “Apollo’s Arrow,” was longlisted for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards and will be translated into over 10 languages.

In 2009, Christakis was named to Time magazine’s annual list of 100 most influential people in the world. In 2009 and in 2010, Foreign Policy magazine named him to its annual list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.

Christakis received his BS from Yale, his MD from Harvard Medical School, his MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2006; the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

Nicholas A. Christakis is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops, and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

The Economist logo

The Long Goodbye to Covid-19 ($)

July 3, 2021

This Plague Next Time: Public Health Scholar Nicholas Christakis On The Pandemic's Harsh Lessons

June 28, 2021

Pandemic Impacts and Contagious Behavior (Audio)

June 22, 2021

Human Nature & COVID with Dr. Nicholas Christakis (Audio)

May 20, 2021

Plague Times: A Conversation with Nicholas Christakis (Audio)

May 11, 2021

The Legacy Of Covid-19 (Audio)

April 26, 2021

The World COVID Will Leave Behind (Audio)

April 21, 2021

Life In The Roaring 2020s: Young People Prepare To Party, Reclaim Lost Pandemic Year

April 17, 2021

Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live

March 22, 2021

Nicholas Christakis and Understanding Our Year With COVID-19

March 21, 2021

Living Through the Pandemic: A Review One Year Later

March 16, 2021

The World After the Coronavirus: What a Greek-American Yale Professor Envisions

March 4, 2021

CNN logo

Opinion: Why the Pandemic Won't be Over Until 2024 (Video)

February 3, 2021

Why Don’t Americans Trust Public Health Agencies?

February 2, 2021

Epidemiologist Looks to the Past to Predict Second Post-Pandemic 'Roaring 20s'

December 21, 2020

The Great Acceleration The Virus Isn’t Transforming Us. It’s Speeding Up the Changes Already Underway

December 18, 2020

The Year of Covid-19

December 16, 2020

Digital Salon with Nicholas Christakis: Pandemics and Human Nature (Audio)

November 17, 2020

The Pandemic Is as Much About Society, Leaders, and Values as It Is About a Pathogen

November 17, 2020

Wall Street Journal logo

How the Swiss Cheese Model Can Help Us Beat Covid-19

November 13, 2020

'Apollo's Arrow,' by Nicholas A. Christakis

November 13, 2020

Understanding the Enduring Consequences of Covid-19

November 9, 2020

The Pandemic’s Future — and Ours

November 3, 2020

Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live

November 2, 2020

No More Handshakes | The History of a Pandemic and Its Possible Future

October 30, 2020

A Welcome Assessment of the Reality of the Epidemic That Has Changed Our Lives

October 27, 2020

Wall Street Journal logo

The Long Shadow of the Pandemic: 2024 and Beyond

October 16, 2020

The Economist logo

Nicholas Christakis on Fighting Covid-19 by Truly Understanding the Virus

August 10, 2020

Coronavirus Expert Discusses Long-Term Implications (Audio)

May 18, 2020

Opinion: Compassion in the Time of Coronavirus

March 11, 2020

Greed is Dead

December 6, 2019

CNBC logo

Bill Gates Has a New Favorite Book That is ‘Optimistic and Terrific’

July 27, 2019

Dumb Robots That Make Mistakes Actually Help Humans Solve Problems

May 17, 2017

The Benevolent Power of Other People

May 10, 2019

TIME Magazine logo

The Surprising Link Between Cooperation and Individuality

April 4, 2019

The Atlantic logo

How AI Will Rewire Us

April, 2019

A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel

April 10, 2017

Does the Secret to Social Networking Lie in the Remote Jungle?

October 4, 2015

Nicholas Christakis: The Science of Social Connections (Video)

October 20, 2013

Navy Yard Shootings: What Role Does Social Isolation Play in Mass Killings?

September 19, 2013

Let’s Shake Up the Social Sciences

July 19, 2013

Americans Need to Leave Deadbeats Behind

March 28, 2012

Tapping the Power of Social Networks

September 2011

The Bad News First

August 24, 2007

A-Z Name

Christakis, MD, Nicholas A.

Biography

Is it possible to organize groups in a way that generates high levels of innovation, cooperation, and productivity? And how can the science behind influencing group behavior assist in the pandemic recovery process?

For decades, renowned Yale social scientist, physician, epidemiologist, public health expert, and bestselling author Nicholas A. Christakis has studied the evolution of human social networks. As director of the Human Nature Lab and co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science, he and his team research patterns of human social interactions and uncover ways to move group behavior in positive directions.

“Our research shows that groups of people have special properties that do not exist in the individuals themselves,” explains Christakis. “Like carbon, which can be transformed by arranging atoms into the forms of graphite (which is soft and dark) or diamond (which is hard and clear), new properties can arise in a collection of atoms that are distinct. It’s the same with humans. You can take a group of people and connect them one way, and they are creative, cooperative, healthy, and happy. Connect them another way and they have none of those properties. It’s not just the attributes of each person that matter. It’s how they are connected.”

Christakis and his team have studied influencers for over a decade. They discovered it is possible to influence offline and online social networks in ways that generate desired behaviors in such areas as health, wealth, cooperation, coordination, and learning. During his popular “Working Together” workshop, he shows participants how network science, game theory, and artificial intelligence highlight specific challenges groups face, and how to solve them. Using his lab’s breadboard software as a teaching tool, he actively demonstrates the science behind grouping people together in ways that generate optimal outcomes.

COVID-19: The Long View

In February 2020, when COVID-19 began spreading across the world, Christakis realized the epidemiology of the pathogen was not being taken seriously. In response, he began writing his latest book, “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live” (October 2020), which follows the likely path of the pandemic to its end. His early paper analyzing the pandemic’s threat was published in the prestigious medical journal Nature; the magazine later highlighted the importance of “Apollo’s Arrow” in its year-end book review.

Christakis’ long view on the pandemic – informed by his thorough understanding of the social and public health implications of past pandemics – gives organizations and individuals a valuable and much-needed window into what the future of work and life may be. An electrifying speaker and prolific writer heralded for breaking down complex concepts with clarity, Christakis takes audiences on a journey to the forefront of innovation and understanding.

# # #

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University where he is appointed in the Departments of Sociology; Medicine; Data Science; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Biomedical Engineering; and the School of Management. He is the author of over 200 articles and several books. His influential 2009 book, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives,” documented how social networks affect our lives and was translated into over 20 foreign languages. His most recent work has used artificial intelligence (AI) agents (“bots”) to affect social processes online and in person.

His 2019 book, “Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society,” which detailed the evolutionary science behind the inherent goodness in human society, was a New York Times bestseller. It was later translated into 20 languages. His most recent book, “Apollo’s Arrow,” was longlisted for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards and will be translated into over 10 languages.

In 2009, Christakis was named to Time magazine’s annual list of 100 most influential people in the world. In 2009 and in 2010, Foreign Policy magazine named him to its annual list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.

Christakis received his BS from Yale, his MD from Harvard Medical School, his MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2006; the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

Nicholas A. Christakis is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops, and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live

Unleashing new divisions in our society, as well as opportunities for cooperation, this 21st-century pandemic has upended our lives in ways that will test, but not vanquish, our already frayed collective culture. Drawing on momentous (yet dimly remembered) historical epidemics, contemporary analyses, and cutting-edge research from a range of scientific disciplines, Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis’ new book, “Apollo’s Arrow,” explores what it means to live in a time of plague — an experience that is paradoxically uncommon to the vast majority of humans who are alive today, yet deeply fundamental to our species. “Apollo’s Arrow” offers a riveting account of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as it swept through our society in 2020 and 2021, and of how the recovery may unfold in the coming years. Featuring new, provocative arguments and vivid examples – ranging from medicine, epidemiology, and data science to history, sociology, economics, and genetics – this presentation offers a deeply informed account of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and envisions what happens when the great force of a deadly germ meets the enduring reality of our evolved social nature. Dr. Christakis’ thorough understanding of the social and public health implications of past pandemics gives organizations and individuals a valuable and much-needed window into what the future of work – and life – may look like so they can better plan ahead.

Social AI: How Artificial Intelligence Agents Can Help and Hinder Human Performance

A key challenge of artificial intelligence (AI) in coming years will be not so much how to optimize human-machine interactions, but rather how to optimize human-human interactions within what Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis calls “hybrid systems” of humans and machines. Christakis has shown how the careful yet simple programming of AI agents can enhance the performance of human groups, making people within such groups better able to cooperate, coordinate, and share information, ultimately contributing to their superior performance. In this presentation, he takes audiences behind the scenes of his groundbreaking, cutting-edge work on how AI agents can affect human social processes and performance. Christakis decodes his latest findings on the interactions between humans and AI and reveals what the disruptive introduction of AI in our work and lives could mean for the future of human social behavior.

Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

The current climate of social upheaval and polarization can cause us to lose sight of the inherent goodness in people and society. But Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis’ research offers a more optimistic view. In this bold, innovative talk, based on his New York Times bestselling 2019 book “Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society,” Christakis reveals how our evolution has positively shaped our societies and provided us with a suite of beneficial social features — including our capacity for cooperation, friendship, love, and learning — that comprise our common humanity. Brimming with fascinating research and anecdotes drawn from history, philosophy, anthropology, genetics, sociology, economics, epidemiology, statistics and more, Christakis takes audiences on a captivating journey – from South Pacific shipwrecks to rural African tribes, from ancient civilizations to modern-day online communities – to reveal our inescapable social blueprint for goodness. He infuses his remarks with tangible and inspiring takeaways on how to improve cooperation, innovation and performance.

Social Networks for Good: Assembling Groups That Work Better Together

Human beings choose their friends, and often their neighbors and co-workers, and we inherit our relatives. Each person to whom we are connected does the same. In the end, we humans assemble ourselves into face-to-face social networks. Why do we do this? And how might a deep understanding of human social network structure and function be used to intervene in the world to make it better? By taking into account people’s structural embeddedness in social networks, and by understanding social influence, Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis says it is possible to intervene in social systems to enhance desirable population-level properties as diverse as health, wealth, cooperation, coordination, and learning. Drawing from research in his lab, he reveals three classes of interventions – involving both offline and online networks – that can bring about positive outcomes: (1) interventions that rewire the connections between people; (2) interventions that manipulate social contagion, facilitating the flow of desirable properties within groups (or decreasing the spread of undesirable properties like viruses or fake news); and (3) interventions that manipulate the position of people within network structures. He illustrates the variety of ways these interventions can be used to, for example, foster cooperation in networked groups online, facilitate the diffusion of innovation and coordination in groups, and change health behaviors in developing world villages or firms. He also focuses on recent experiments with “hybrid systems” comprised of both humans and artificial intelligence (AI) agents interacting in small groups. His work offers organizations in every sector a dramatic opportunity to improve key areas of business from marketing, customer service, and health care delivery, to innovation and team performance.

Media

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Books & Research

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Workshops

EXECUTIVE WORKSHOP: Working Together

Using vivid examples, customized software developed by his laboratory (breadboard.yale.edu), and the active participation of workshop participants, Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis shows how groups of people in firms can work better together. Based on scientific discoveries published by his lab in journals such as Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Christakis explains how groups can be structured in ways that enhance their ability to cooperate, coordinate, innovate, and share information. Participants will also learn about the impact of network science and artificial intelligence on team performance.

Recommendations

“Nicholas was absolutely terrific. The room was at capacity – 3,000+ or so and everyone was engaged, enlightened, enriched and entertained by his talk. No one left the room. A grand slam and excellent opening for our Annual Meeting. Numerous compliments and great post-talk questions.”

— Heart Rhythm Society

“Nicholas Christakis presented visionary ideas on how social networking can be utilized strategically to maximize business opportunities on many levels.”

— Sysco

Praise for “Apollo’s Arrow”

“Seldom have we been gifted with a study of pandemic disease marked by such scope, wit, and erudition. Still rarer is one that appears while the rest of us scramble to make sense of a rapidly evolving crisis, one shaped by the very social forces that Nicholas Christakis has studied for decades. ‘Apollo’s Arrow’ is more than history’s first draft. It will live on as a journal of the plague years, certainly, and it inspires as it instructs. Definitive, engaging, and astonishing. A tour-de-force.”

―Paul Farmer, Professor, Harvard Medical School & Founder, Partners in Health

“The world is ravenous for deep and accurate information about the most important event in the 21st century. No one is deeper than Nicholas Christakis, who ticks every box of expertise: medical, epidemiological, social, psychological, economic, historical. This is the place to go to understand the phenomenon that has turned the world, and our lives, upside down. ‘Apollo’s Arrow’ is gripping, enlightening, and vitally important.”

― Steven Pinker, author of “Enlightenment Now”

“In this brilliant and timely book, scientist, scholar, physician, and writer Nicholas Christakis shines the light of history on our dark moment, and illuminates it as no one else can. Insightful, informative, and urgently necessary, ‘Apollo’s Arrow’ is this year’s must-must-read.”

― Daniel Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness”

“Rich in psychological, sociological, and epidemiological insights, only Nicholas Christakis could write a book this comprehensive and profound and even optimistic during our national calamity.”

― Amy Cuddy, author of “Presence”

“Wow, what a feat this is — a fully developed book of extraordinary insight and superb narrative structure that was somehow written in the midst of a live-action recording of events. The journalist in me marvels. The failures Nicholas Christakis captures are so enormously discouraging, infuriating, and tragic. I can only imagine how long this book will be read for reasons beyond the obvious. I burned right through it and highly recommend it.”

― Michael Koryta, author of “If She Wakes”

“‘Apollo’s Arrow’ shoots straight and true to explain the scientific and social aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. Christakis’s background in biology, medicine, epidemiology, and sociology is a powerful formula for understanding this complex subject. I’m tempted to say that the gods created Christakis to write this book at this time. It is wise, vivid, and engaging.”

― William D. Nordhaus, author of “The Climate Casino” & 2018 Nobel Laureate in Economics

“To capture the COVID-19 pandemic requires unusually broad and deep scholarship, and an ability to integrate the too-often siloed domains of science, medicine, epidemiology, sociology, psychology, politics, and history, among other fields. In ‘Apollo’s Arrow,’ Nicholas Christakis accomplishes this challenging task as few others could, with unusual clarity and an endless array of surprising insights; this book will no doubt become essential reading for a very wide audience. A tour-de-force.”

― Jeffrey Flier, MD, Former Dean of Harvard Medical School

“A useful contribution to this initial wave of COVID books, sensible and comprehensive, intelligent and well sourced.”

― David Quammen, New York Times Book Review

“An instant history of an event that is by no means over. Exceptional. Magisterial.”

― Niall Ferguson, Times Literary Supplement

“Gripping. An indelible portrait of a world transformed.”

― Hamilton Cain, Star-Tribune

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