I recently finished Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind. Ambitious in its scope, the book is fit for anyone interested in how humans evolved and outcompeted other species. Harari’s breadth of knowledge is vast, making for a truly compelling read that leaches on to our innate inquisitiveness about our place in the universe.
Sometimes you come across a book which leaves you in awe of the authors’ knowledge. I’ve always believed that awe is a human emotion we should experience more. Being in awe of something (NOT coveting an object) or how something was produced, is a good feeling. Good shit.
More impressive is Harari’s writing style, he elucidates grand concepts such as evolution, religion, and imperialism, with enriching examples. I enjoyed the minor nuggets of information which at first seem niche, but they nicely supplemented the broader focus on humankind’s development.
Its the kind of book which could so easily crop up in everyday conversation. So if you want a digestible read that will make you sound a bit smarter now and again g e t // i n v ol v e d. TIP: Never buy a book at full price on Amazon. 2nd hand is a must. Cheap as chips.
Books are all about personal development, what one person takes from reading a text, another may not find noteworthy at all.
Here’s what was inserted into me brain.
Key points to take away from Sapiens without spoiling the whole book:
- 70,000 years ago we were just another species in one corner of Africa . How did we develop and evolved on a unique path? It rested in homosapiens ability to believe in the extraordinary, the invisible, and crucially, the future.
- The case against empire can be as easily supported as the case for it; responsible for some of the most degenerate, and simultaneously progressive aspects of human civilisation.
- The wonders of currency – essentially humans developed a monetary system based on one key principle: trust. We trust that our neighbour values their currency in relation to our own, and it is this weird concept that has allowed us to trade with others across a global network.
- Our economic system is predicated on the idea that the future will be better. Credit has been central to that proposition. Businesses will grow, we will produce new technology, our shares will improve. Never before in history have profits been reinvested in the hope that it will yielding even more fruitful returns.
- Capitalism produces deep inequalities, but we could not survive without it. With time, we might see the inequalities across the world reduce, viewing our current phase as the transition towards that end.
- We are moving in a world where intelligent design is overtaking natural selection and evolution. Animals progressed over many many years as the animals best adapted reproduced whilst the other, less developed species died out. Now, we are able to grow tissue from nothing, toy with DNA creation and create ‘cyborgs’ – part animal part electronic device.
- Science, particularly genetics, holds the key for the future.
- Harare identifies that we are coming closer and closer to achieving the desired ends of the Gilgamesh project – the goal to eliminate human death via natural causes. Amorality, for Harari, is not the idyllic concept it sounds. It does not, of course, remove the possibility of violence.
On the future, Harari believes that we need to focus on our biochemical systems if we are to become a truly ‘happy’ species. We need to divert our attention from social reform or ideology. The only lasting way to induce happiness is to re-engineer our genetic makeup to induce consistently high levels of serotonin, a partial homage to Aldous Huxley’s creation of soma . We are of course, not a million miles away from doing just that.
Fascinating to read, Sapiens will answer and ask questions in equal measure.