Sapiens

It’s been long time since I wrote something about a book I have read. I feel it is a high time for that, especially because Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, written by the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, is in my opinion a must read for everyone who is interested in the history  and the progress of humankind.

Harari takes his reader on a journey almost to the beginning of time or 13.5 billion years ago, when the Big Bang occurred. However, his focus is on Homo sapiens, a peculiar species of great apes that existed around 150,000 years.

Reading this book is so interesting, everything is so fast-paced and extremely informative, that it feels like binge-watching a quality TV-series. Harari is very entertaining, a great educator and a guy with a lot of humor.

He divides human history in three distinct eras or revolutions: The Cognitive Revolution (about 70,000 years ago), The Agricultural Revolution (12,000 years ago) and The Scientific Revolution (500 years ago).

The book is chock-full with interesting information, assertions and  proclamations, such as:

  • “[…] myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers” (27),
  • “Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, there hasn’t been a single natural way of life for Sapiens” (51),
  • “Domesticated chickens and cattle may well be an evolutionary success story, but they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived” (104f),
  • “The discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering is perhaps the most important lesson we can draw from the Agricultural Revolution” (109),
  • “[Capitalism] is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do” (391).

I like how Harari treats all ideologies, such as national socialism, fascism, communism and all other -isms, but also economic systems as capitalism to be almost  some kind of of religion (see for instance page 260 where he calls various forms of humanisms downright humanist religions).  Furthermore he concludes rightfully that before the Scientific Revolution the largest part of humankind didn’t believe in progress. It all changed with capitalism.

I warmly recommend Sapiens and regard it as a very import educational literature, and a good starting point for all those who are interested in history (that is, a history of humankind). This book gives a holistic, yet detail-rich insight into the mind of a peculiar species that reigns on a little blue planet we call the Earth.

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