Sapiens: A Breif History of Humankind

2 Jun 2022

sapiens a brief history of humankind

by yuval noah harari

there is a question that follows us

throughout our existence

who are we and what does it mean to be


the mechanism that pushes human

knowledge forward is fueled by curiosity

israeli historian yuval noah harari

brings insights from science and the

humanities together

to answer the curiosity of what it means

to be human

with his book sapiens a brief history of


the book is drawing on insights from


anthropology paleontology and economics

the author explores how our cultural

history has shaped our human societies

and why we engage in certain behaviors

the way we do

the book covers sociology history

anthropology biology and more

but it's far more complex than that it

tells the story of how homo sapiens came

to be the dominant species on earth from

evolution to present day

this is an ambitious attempt to capture

the complexities of human existence

all explained in fine lines of print

as the book portrays human history has

been shaped by three major revolutions

firstly there was the cognitive

revolution which happened more than

seventy thousand years ago

the cognitive revolution allowed humans

to maintain free will

while creating common systems such as


that required only belief in order to be


when the cognitive revolution occurred

sapiens were able to imagine

and describe things which do not exist

in the real world

this fictive language has enabled all


culture religion and politics in the

millennial sense

the ability to believe in an afterlife

can lead to a belief in morality

which can lead to a belief in human


none of these concepts exist in the

natural world

they are all collective imaginations of


yet they all shape the destiny of our

species and our planet

more than our genetic code ever has

this period was followed by the

agricultural revolution that took place

ten thousand years ago the author is

referring to this period by building

narratives from some of the first known


to the first major agricultural

civilization that led to the beginning

of globalization

this was a period of technological

improvement and increased crop

productivity that occurred in europe

during this period the sapiens developed

and implemented major inventions that

spurred a shift in agricultural


and therefore improving our life


ultimately the scientific revolution

brought forward the period when humans

made the transition to a scientific and

factual approach towards life

according to the book this period

started 500 years ago

and is constantly improving these

revolutions serve as proof that humans

were able to form

ideas that no other life form was able

to do such as politics

religion and capitalism furthermore the

scientific revolution which emphasized

systematic experimentation as the most

valid research method

resulted in developments in mathematics


astronomy biology and chemistry

these developments transformed the views

of society about nature

also those concepts contributed to the

humans process

of overcoming the forces of natural


interestingly enough the author accepts

the common view that our basic emotions

and desires weren't influenced by these


here the author is referring to our

fundamental sexual

and romantic needs the author also

refers to our eating habits

that haven't changed much however this

aspect can be argued by recent


and nutritional discoveries that lead to

significant changes in our diet

for example more and more people are

shifting away from meat and sugar-based


due to scientific discoveries that prove

they do not contribute to a healthy


in contemporaneous times sapiens

represents the only remaining species of


a very long time ago one hundred

thousand years ago to be more precise

at least six human species inhabited the

earth today there is just one us the homo

sapiens according to the book homo sapiens rule

the world because

it is the only animal that can believe

in things that purely exist in its own


such as gods states money and human


and that shows the power of our thoughts

and how this can manifest into

compelling concepts that define our


furthermore harari believes it was our

unique cognitive abilities that made the


this aspect is strongly linked with the

cognitive revolution mentioned above

hirari writes this gave them the edge

over their rivals to spread from east


across the planet most humans assume

that we were always the ones in charge

naturally we feel entitled to everything

given our superior knowledge and

intelligence when compared to animals

however yuval noah harari and his book

serve as a reminder to us that long

before we built the pyramids

wrote symphonies or walked on the moon

there was nothing special about us our

greatness as humans can be defined by

achievements and milestones the

successes that we had in our endeavors

the most important thing to know about

prehistoric humans

harare writes is that they were

insignificant animals

with no more impact on their environment

than gorillas

fireflies or jellyfish it is important

to note that other species

also have big brains and certain

intellectual capabilities

but the homo sapiens were successful due

to their ability to cooperate on a large


humans have learned how to organize as

nations companies

and religions this gave us the

opportunity to act more efficiently


and to accomplish complex tasks and

achieving greater things by working


other literary sources refer to this

concept as collective learning

apart from science and intellectual


capitalism is undoubtedly another force

to which humans identify with

the author argues that capitalism is

different from wealth

capitalism is when you take earnings

from a venture and reinvest into

production by opening more factories

hiring more laborers investing etc

in other words when money is hoarded

into a chest

that represents wealth and not capital

the book offers great expletive examples

by referring to emperors who are unable

to find capital to fund risky


and a group of wealthy people came

together to fund projects

this led to the foundation of joint

stock companies and the establishment of

major stock exchanges

where stocks of these companies could be


centuries ago the concept of capitalism

was unknown to the human world

today we cannot imagine the world

operating without its capitalistic


the reality is that whether we like it

or not our human existence is greatly

influenced by finances

the author also goes into discussing the

notorious relationship between money and


harari brings forward well documented

research that shows that a person's


has little to do with material


but there is a catch money can certainly

make a difference on a person's


but only when it lifts us out of poverty

any more than that it is proved that

money has little to no

influence on someone's happiness and

having more money after a certain point

doesn't mean anything money doesn't

bring happiness

but it can make the problems that make

you unhappy go away

happiness is a persistent theme in the

book sapiens

and that is only natural considering

that it's a book about humans

and humans are obsessed with the idea of


hirari is suggesting in the book that

the lives lived by sapiens today

may be worse than the lives lived 15 000

years ago

however this argument seems absurd

considering the comfort

technological capabilities medical


only to name a few that we can enjoy in

our present times and which are

facilitating an easier and happier life

differently from the material worlds the

author also talks about religion

and makes some interesting observations

he goes on explaining the concept of

dualism and monism monism refers to the concept

of one

omnipresent and all-powerful god

but dualism argues that if god were


why does evil exist in our society

dualism hence talks about the good and

the bad the god and the devil

it argues that these two forces are

always active and keep each other in


this can be interpreted as the universal

balance of spiritual forces

whether we choose to believe or not the

aspects that dick takes our spiritual


we must admit that sometimes there is

more to life than simply what walks the

earth's surface

towards the end of the book the author

starts asking some pertinent questions

that are relevant to the destiny of our


one of the main questions is what is the

next chapter for sapiens

for us humans this question is difficult

to answer

because no one can foresee the future

but a certain trajectory for humans can

be anticipated

taking into consideration our journey so


humans are destined for great things and

nothing less

our complexities are what make us

special and we should be proud of that

certainly there are things that we can

improve upon but life is a process

and a beautiful one so sit back and

enjoy the ride

all in all the author builds narratives

from some of the first known


to the first major agricultural

civilization to the beginning of


the latter half of the book is dedicated

to predictions

sifting through human history to extract

likely themes for the future

harare makes no claims regarding the

longevity of the human race

making sapiens at once powerful and


sapiens subtly introduces broader ideas

about cultural evolution until the

reader is forced to question their most

basic assumptions about our society

and its origins artfully crafted

anecdotes blend together

with sweeping rhetorical questions

making it easy

almost necessary for a reader to doubt

their views and start asking questions

about their existence

and the human's existence overall

although the book is billed as a short

history it is just as much a

philosophical meditation on the human


one great overriding argument runs

through it

that all human culture is an invention

the rules of football the concept of a

limited liability company

the laws related to property and


the character actions and notional

edicts of deities

all are examples of what harare calls

imagined order

sapiens a brief history of humankind

provides a wonderful framework and


for guiding and interpreting what we do

and how we act as humans

bold wide-ranging and provocative

sapiens challenges everything we thought

we knew about being human

our thoughts our actions our challenges

and our achievements our past and most


our future

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