Sapiens is one of the best book I have ever read and I seriously think there won’t be any other book which would keep me hooked as sapiens did.
The book Sapiens is a Treasure trove of knowledge and attempting to summarize the book in one single post is a tedious task.
About The Author
Before diving into the summary let’s first look about the magical hands who wrote this book Yuval Noah Harari.
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also the author of the popular science bestsellers Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
Outline of the Book
The simple Outline of the book Sapiens is simply this-
Atleast 6 humans inhabited the earth. Yet Sapiens only survived. Humans were also at the middle of the food chain years back. Soon it reached the top. How did humans really reach at the top of the chain? and How Humans used thoughts and actions in power to be the most powerful animal on earth?. The Book also talks about the future of humans and about what’s in store for us humans in the future.
An animal of no significance
While we used to think that we were the only human species, archeology proved us wrong by discovering various species of humans such as homo erectus which lived for 2 million years on this planet making it the most durable human species.
Yuval Noah Harari points out that Homo sapiens won’t survive for another 1000 years let alone a million.
The 3 major revolutions
There has been 3 major revolutions which shaped us human beings.
While most of us think that different human species lived on different timelines is totally absurd as many human species existed simultaneously in this planet at one point of time.
Complexity Of The Human Brain
Yuval Noah Harari details us about the complexity of the brain showing that it accounts for 3 percent of the body size but still used 25 percent of the energy intake.
All the animals in the top of the food chain made it up to the top only after millions of years in a gradual and slow manner, But Homo sapiens reached that place in a rapid pace.
Humans were actually in the middle of the food chain until about 400,000 years ago and they reached the at the top of the food chain just before 100000 years.
The Discovery of Fire
The discovery of fire by the sapiens increased the pace of us ruling the food chain, Humans used it at start for warming themselves and cooking food and slowly they used it to burn entire forests down after they started knowing the true power of fire.
The advent of fire also caused humans to evolve and have smaller intestinal track and larger brains.
The Two Theories on How Other Humans Evolved
There are two theories on how Homo sapiens evolved. They are-
The interbreeding theory tells us about how sapiens mingled and had sexual with other human species such as Neanderthals. The Neanderthals were large and muscular when compared to sapiens and sapiens merged with them when they spread out to the lands of Neanderthals.
If that’s the case most of the people in this world are not pure sapiens but a combination of the above two.
The Replacement Theory
It is altogether a different story which is more bloodier and genocidal, The sapiens might have found Neanderthals to be annoying and they were genetically different and hence could no mate. If this is the case all humans are indeed pure sapiens
Yuval Noah Harari quotes: “They were too familiar to ignore, but too different to tolerate.”
And the last human species other than us got extinct 12000 years ago.
Why Humans rule this planet?
Why do humans rule the planet instead of any other animal?
Humans were able to rule this planet because of their unique ability to communicate with a well defined language.
The most accepted theory is that accidental genetic mutations caused sapiens brains enable to think in unique ways which no other animal could.
The Power of Myths
The cognitive revolution occurred between 70000 to 300000 years ago.
While all other animals too had a language it wasn’t as sophisticated and well defined as sapiens language and sapiens are the only living things which can talk about things we have never seen heard or smelled.
The Myths, Legend and Religion are all the ideas of humans. No other animals have the concept of the above three.
Gossip theory is one of the important Element which evolved the language.
The Power of Unity
Humans could collaborate in very large numbers For example- Chimps can’t form groups more than 50 even humans can’t usually go up to 150, yet humans were able to collaborate due to common beliefs and myths.
Hence to summarize after cognitive revolution humans began to have dual realities – physical reality and imagined reality.
And humans myths were not genetically based hence humans could replace all the myths and adopt to it easily and they didn’t have to wait for years to evolve to a change!
We humans have the same physical, mental and intellect capacity as we had about 30,000 years ago and the evolution of psychology happened even before the agriculture revolution at about 10,000 years ago.
The Gorge Theory
The instinct to binge eat sweet foods is an example that we haven’t changed even after 1000’s of years. A typical forager would gorge the ripe and sweet fruits and eat them as much as they can because they know that to find such foods are rare ,hence they gorge the food whenever rarely they find them. This instinct is still wired with us that’s why we binge eat junk foods and sweets.
But One thing is different. Ancient people had a very low private life and also very little loneliness compared to today ,where we are the opposite.
Individual Human Vs. Collective Humans
As an individual we are less skillful than an ancient forager. But as a human collective we are very far powerful and advanced than the ancient humans as a whole.
The dog is said to have been domesticated about 15000 years ago. since then it has been the most favored companion for most humans.
The Travel to Australia made humans at the top in food chain.
Yuval Noah Harari says that humans traveling across the sea and landing in Australia was one of the most important expeditions of human history.
It made the humans at the top of the food chain.
Large animals such as diprotodon which flourished in Australia earlier got extinct in years due to human activities. Most of the unique flora and fauna were completely eradicated by the humans and when humans learned to start a fire, they burned the entire forests at times as it was easier for them to get dead animals for food.
The humans then spread to America then to Mexico and South America, it was so rapid and finally humans controlled the land the settled in and they became the only species to have invaded large amounts of land in such a short span of time.
AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION -The Biggest Fraud in History?
Yuval Noah Harris call the agriculture revolution as history biggest fraud in history.
Yes it allowed humans to settle in one place and population increased manifold. Humans were also able to collect more food. But this in fact was done by sacrificing some things such as leisure time and created more hard work.
The agriculture revolution was actually a suffering for a human at an individual level.
Not only humans but also cows sheep’s and chicken suffered due to agriculture revolution.All these animals population had a population boom.At an evolutionary level Agricultural Revolution was a success, But at an individual level it was simply suffering.
Agriculture also made humans in contact with animals this in turn resulted in various epidemics causing deaths in thousands.
Hence agriculture revolution was a fraud.
The Ability to Write
The myths that surround us are the ones that dictate our lives, Like the Egyptians building pyramids and the American Declaration of Independence
Writing changed the way we think, it literally changed our thoughts and the most prevailing language is numbers.
Yuval Noah Harari points out that unjust discrimination often gets worse and not better with time as of 2006 there will still 53 countries where a husband cannot be brought before law for raping his wife.
THE 3 UNIFIERS OF HUMANKIND
There are 3 unifiers which united us Humans in unprecedented ways, The 3 Major Unifiers of Humankind are-
The Power Of Money
Another example of myth is Money. the value of it only exists in our minds. In a physical reality a money is just a paper which is literally of no use. But all of our minds believe in the value of that paper, That is why money is powerful.
The Contribution of Empires
Empires often have a negative shade on them, but they also have contributed things such as music, arts and the idea of governance and the world is fast turning into one single empire .For example- Global warming and commonly accepted principles such as human rights have an touch which is beyond national boundaries.
Religion is the third great unifier after money and empires and it sprout out during the time of agriculture revolution. The dilemma with a monotheistic religion is that it has to deal with an omnipotent god even when there is evil in the world.
How can there be evil if god is good and caring?
Even there are new religions such a communism and capitalism. Like normal religions they have a holy book (example- the communist manifesto), a god (Karl Marx) who teaches the principle of each according to his ability.
The Difference Between Science and Religion
One difference between religion and science is that science is more humble and accepts the fact that humankind has still a long way to go and is ignorant of many things.
Religion, however, assumes that all the things are well known and are written on the religious text.
The religion assumes that humans are “all-knowing” whereas science assumes “ignorance”.
The Rise Of Modern Capitalism
The Per-Capita production has stayed constant for most of human history. However, since the birth of capitalism, per capita production has risen dramatically.
Creation Of Credit
The creation of credit facility is the fundamental reason why modern capitalism skyrocketed.Credit allows us to borrow money because we human collectively think that the future will be much better than the present.
Adam smith in his book “wealth of nations” suggest that increasing private profit will lead to the collective growth and prosperity of mankind as a whole.
In simple terms when you become rich, you benefit yourself and everyone. But this process happens only when you reinvest the profits. Saving the money and hoarding it will not create this cycle of prosperity.
So in order for Capitalism to work, The Profits received by a person should be invested in a new production.
Most Peaceful Times
The thing is we live in the most peaceful of times. There is no major war anywhere, More people are overfed than who live under poverty. Most People are getting access to healthcare than ever before.
The Key To Happiness
If happiness is based on pleasurable feelings, then increasing our happiness is a matter of increasing our bio chemicals. When we can alter them our moods can be changed.
Buddhism has closely studied happiness for many years. According to Buddhism, Happiness and sorrow are our own responsibility and completely within our control. “If we train our mind properly, Happiness will be the result.”
CONCLUSION – THE FUTURE?
The next part of human history will be the evolution of consciousness and human identity and due to these changes the term “Human” will have an entirely different context.
In the past 1000s of years we have crossed all barriers of nature, reached at the very top of the food chain, having leaps in genetic and scientific areas.
Yet do we know what we really want? Why are we so unhappy then?
We have become godlike. Yet we don’t know what we want and is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?
Buy the book Sapiens here- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind