Author: yuval novah harari
Originally published : 2011
egregious species of great apes, has only existed for 6% of that time about 150,000 years. So a
book whose main title is Sapiens shouldn’t be subtitled “A Brief History of Humankind”. It’s
easy to see yuval Noah harari devotes 95% of his book to us as a species: self-ignorant as we are,
we still know far more about ourselves than about other species of human beings, including
several that have become extinct since we first walked the Earth.
For the first half the existence it potter along unremarkably; then we undergo a series of
revolutions. First the “cognitive” revolution: about 70,000 years ago, we start to behave in far
more ingenious ways than before, for reasons that are still obscure, and we spread rapidly across
the planet. About 11,000 years ago we enter on the agricultural revolution, converting in
increasing numbers from foraging (hunting and gathering) to farming. The “scientific revolution”
begins about 500 years ago. It triggers the industrial revolution, about 250 years ago, which
triggers in turn the information revolution, about 50 years ago, which triggers the
biotechnological revolution, which is still wet behind the ears. Harari suspects that the
biotechnological revolution signals the end of sapiens: we will be replaced by bioengineered
post-humans, “amortal” cyborgs, capable of living forever.
This is one way to lay things out. Harari embeds many other momentous events, most notably
the development of language: we become able to think sharply about abstract matters, cooperate
in ever larger numbers, and, perhaps most crucially, gossip. There is the rise of religion and the
slow overpowering of polytheisms by more or less toxic monotheisms. Then there is the
evolution of money and, more importantly, credit. There is, connectedly, the spread of empires
and trade as well as the rise of capitalism.
I much enjoyed Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It is a brilliant,
thought provoking odyssey through human history with its huge confident brush strokes painting
enormous scenarios across time. It is massively engaging and continuously interesting. The book
covers a mind-boggling 13.5 billion years of pre-history and history.