[Book Review] Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind / Yuval Harari
[BOOK REVIEW] SAPIENS – A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND
Book Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Harari
Genre/ Category: A Brief History of Humankind
Average Rating: 4.5 Stars
Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama all recommend this book.
“It’s a sweeping history of the human race from 40,000 feet…”
Barack Obama | CNN
*Find this book from these outlets:
“Start looking at the BIGGER picture – Get out of the rut of you daily routines that are driving you mad.”
Book Review [Summary]
1. Brief History –
a. 3.8 billion years ago = Emergence of organism and the beginning of biology b. 500k years ago = Neanderthals evolve in Europe and Middle East c. 300k year ago = Daily use of fire d. 200k year ago = Homo Sapiens evolve in East Africa e. 70k year ago = The Cognitive Revolution – Emergence of fictive language – Beginning of history – Sapiens spread out of Africa f. 45k year ago = Sapiens settle in Australia – Extinction of Australian Megafauna g. 30k year ago = Extinction of Neanderthals h. 13k year ago = Extinction of Homo floresiensis i. 12k year ago = Agricultural revolution – Domestication of plants and animals – Permanent settlements j. 4250 year ago = First empire – The Akkadian Empire of Sargon k. 2500 year ago = Invention of coinage – Universal money – The Persian Empire l. 2000 year ago = Han Empire in China – Roman Empire in the Mediterranean and Christianity m. 1400 year ago = Islam n. 500 year ago = Scientific Revolution o. 200 year ago = Industrial Revolution p. Today = The present humans transcend the boundaries of the entire planet. Nuclear weapons threaten the survival of mankind. Organisms are increasingly shaped by intelligent design rather than natural selection. Homo Sapiens to be replaced by Superhumans?
2. The Cognitive Revolution: Perception is the evolution from apes to homo sapiens – Not entirely true –
a. 2 Million -10k years ago = Several humans species coexisting together – Interbreeding also occurred b. If we look at modern day DNA, we can find 1-4% Neanderthal in Homo Sapiens (Particular in Middle Easterners and Europeans) c. Over the last +-10k year, Homo Sapiens are the last existing ‘human species’ – Why? – Two theories exist:
Genocide: Extermination of other species
d. What lead to our success as a species?
Our Brain: It accounts for 1-3% of your body weight and consumes up to 25% of our total energy consumption – An Ape’s brain only consumes up to 8% of their total energy consumption
Strong Social Ties: Females had to stick with the tribe and children cared for by the tribe (Security)
Our Unique Language: More complicated language structure and comprehension among Homo Sapiens – Fictive Languages allowed us to form bigger groups than in the past – According to research, “Natural” size of group by language (gossip) bonded by +-150 individuals. Under a common language, greater cohesion can exist amongst strangers – Gods, nations, human rights, laws, and justice = Common imagination of human beings (‘Fictions’, ‘Social constructs’ or ‘imagined realities’), as shared through more complex Homo Sapien languages
The Game Changer: Homo Sapien’s ability for Fictive Languages, telling of non-fictional and fictional stories – This has allowed humans to live in huge groups (Cities etc.). Natural selection as with Apes (Alpha males fight for dominance) – With humans, Fictive Languages have developed new ways of ‘social structures’
3. The Agricultural Revolution:
a. The Fraud: The Agricultural Revolution through domesticating plants and animals to better control our environment and survival –
Over-supply has allowed for globalisation and an increase in the world population – Yes, we have more food, but it’s called a fraud as the overall quality of life for Homo Sapiens is generally worse
Increase in working hours: Instead of hunting and gathering, we sitting in front of computers all day – Our working and living conditions are not exactly ‘natural’ for our natural physiology
b. Biological Perspective on Imagined Orders: With increased population numbers in groups (i.e. Cities etc.) –
Myths or ‘Social constructs’ had to be created to better control larger groups
Beliefs are created through declarations or laws (e.g. Creating beliefs on human rights)
Any form of discrimination on racial grounds (e.g. Health care, schooling, settlement areas etc.) is considered unacceptable – However, these are normal in society as far as economic status is concerned – e.g. You have more money, you can get better health care, education, live in a better area etc.
Often economic quantities are inherited through family lines
Q: How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, Democracy, Capitalism etc.?
A:You never admit that the order is imagined – You always insist that the order is sustaining society & is an objective reality created by the great gods or by the laws of nature. Creators of these orders have used ‘god’ or the ‘law of nature’ as the reason for them implementing these doctrines (i.e. Not their idea)
*Continuation of point #3, above…
Three Main reasons that prevent people from realising that the order organised in their lives is just their imagination –
The imagined order is embedded in the material world: Society (family, teachers etc.) tell us we are unique individuals and we construct material buildings to reflect this – e.g. ‘Your own individual room’ – Your special place (*Even happens in prisons)
The imagined order shapes our desires: ‘You are apart of something bigger’ (i.e. Communist society is an extreme example) – Success in society is largely shaped by materialistic goods for status etc.
Imagined order is inter-subjective: For example, if one person said money was just paper with numbers on it and has no value, other people would continue to believe it’s worth something thus maintaining its value – Only a large group belief changes the perception and therefore will allow for a new ‘imagined order’
Imagined orders (e.g. Religion, laws etc.) have been used to control human behaviour, even if they are biologically natural – e.g. People will tell you, that’s not how it’s meant to be done; It’s not natural…!
4. Unification of Humankind: We now live in a global world, unlike a few hundred years ago when it was very much more ‘tribal’ – So what caused this unification?
a. Money: Money has no real value unless both parties who are looking to exchange/ trade, belief in it’s ‘value’ – Currently the global monetary system equates to +-$60 Trillion – Only 10% of that is hard cash, the rest is ‘digital money’ b. Empires: Another force for unification – Unification through coercion (force) c. Religion: Arguably the first global ‘imagined’ order of unification – Religious beliefs through religious philosophies –
The Agricultural Revolution changed our mindsets, due to more abundance of food etc. – Humans started to belief we could influence nature, food supply and everything existed around us (human beings) and our ‘gods’ – Things happened (e.g. major floods etc.) not as a course of nature, as humans had ‘control’ of the environment; but because the gods were trying to teach the humans a lesson of some sorts
6(+) Primary Traditional Religions: People then reached the conclusion that there was only one god (not many as believed before) and their god was the one – ‘The true god’ – This the primary idea to spread 6(+) primary traditional religions around the world
Ideologies: can also be classified as a ‘type’ of religion or cult – e.g. Natiziam, Liberalism, Communism – It’s purely a metaphoric ideological belief that our values and beliefs are superior to others – Why… Natural posturing?
Memetics: Another force of unification – The belief that culture and beliefs are nothing more than just ‘mental viruses’ that use humans as a host – Successful cultures/ memetics can influence a huge number of people, whereas others simply died out – “An IDEA, resilient, highly contagious – Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate – An idea that is fully formed and fully understood – That sticks right in there somewhere!” – There is no proof in history that the development of a cultural (memetics) has actually benefited the individuals involved in the way of their happiness and well being – Generally has nothing to do with the well being of the host (individual within a culture), ‘cultural ideals’ primary objective is to gain as much influence as possible to drive their agenda (like a parasite to a host)
5. The Scientific Revolution: The last 500 years
a. Human Population: has grown 14x (times), since the beginning of the scientific revolution (Last +-500 years)
b. Global Production: 240x in the last 500 years across species
c. Global Energy Consumption: Increase 115x in the last 500 years
The main driver of the Scientific Revolution: Simply the way of thinking – Before the scientific revolution, people based their ideas/ reasons for things on religious and other teachings
Scientific advancements: has seen various cultures gain control over others, over time; as and when they have more superior scientific innovations – This has also led to things like trade bans to try and protect local economic and social interests, which in turn has led to wars between countries – e.g. Trade of goods etc.
6. What Next? – Happiness… Everyone’s desire – Often we follow beliefs hoping it’s going to lead to our greater happiness, but there’s often little evidence/ proof to support this –
a. People are often misguided in what they belief they want for their happiness