The Atlantic Magazine

June 2018

Researchers are turning to a rare genetic condition to explore the mysterious origins of human cooperation.

Ben Monkaba’s smile stretches from one red sideburn to the other. When I recently spoke to him over Skype, his grin never left his face. He told me about the ups and downs of his childhood and how much he loves performing—as a drummer and vocalist, and also as a professional clown. He was once invited onstage to sing with the Beach Boys at a fair in Massachusetts. “That was a moment I’ll never forget,” he says. “They were really friendly.”

Monkaba, now 33, has been exceptionally sociable all his life. At elementary school, he was known as “the Mayor” for the way he would enthusiastically greet anyone and everyone walking past him, his mother, Terry, tells me. And at social gatherings, ... Read more