By: Yuval Noah Harari
In Sapiens, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical - and sometimes devastating - breakthroughs of the cognitive, agricultural, and scientific revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology, and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behavior from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Sapiens that follows the history of humans, basically a condensed version of Anthro101. It has been recommended to me by many people and ended up on my “must read” list of books. After reading it, I loved the book and also hated it for different reasons. As I have never taken an anthropology class before, the book skimmed through a history’s worth of information in a brief book. In a short period of time, Yuval Noah Harari provided me a brief summary of human history from his own perspective. Although the book is an informative one, I took every statement the author made with a grain of salt. His writing style is an aggressive and very strong, in a “matter-of-fact” way. He often presents alternative perspectives and dismisses them to lead on to his own perspective. Which does make a good lead in to his point, but typically his reasoning incorporates words with negative connotations. Pushing opinions aside with such words only makes me more skeptical with the points he is making.
Despite this, Yuval Noah Harari provides a comprehensive list history of human-kind. He breaks it into 4 parts: The Cognitive Revolution, The Agricultural revolution, The Unification of humankind and The Scientific Revolution. Human dominance on Earth is rooted in the “Cognitive Revolution”, where humans begin to develop and possess technologies, organisational skills and ambition that allowed them to travel out of their homes. The next breakthrough is when these foragers decide to settle. Forager societies slowly converted into settler communities, where agriculture became the main supply of food. Eventually these agricultural communities outgrew the foragers. Larger communities came together joined together forming kingdoms and empires. Yuval Noah Harari argues that humans were able to unify because of three factors: commerce, empires and universal religions. Finally, the advancements of human kind is attributed to “The Scientific Revolution”. Yuval Noah Harari suggests that The Scientific Revolution started as humans began to accept the fact that there is very little that is actually known. This paradigm shift opened the doors to revisit questions that were once answered by legends and religious stories.