Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens is a must read for any homo sapien (which is to say…all of you.)
This is a truly remarkable work of history and literature. Harari’s work here is enriching and illuminative, providing us a birds eye views of humanity, from the first appearance of modern cognition 70,000 years ago to our rapidly developing society today, including Artificial Intelligence.
The questions he answers are: how exactly did our species, homo sapiens sapiens (yes, it’s in there twice), evolve into the most dominant species on earth, from an entirely unexceptional savannah-dwelling primate to the lone survivor of hominoid species? And moreover, how the heck did we manage to have exceptionally large populations when other primate species can barely keep their groups at 150 individuals? Not only is our power & influence over other species confusing, but so is our impeccable reproductive and survival rate.
In short, how the f*&! did we manage global domination???
Think this sounds boring? Think again. Though this is a history book…humans have some crazy history. I mean like a really violent, narcissistic, ambitious, albeit accomplished history. It’s WILD how much we’ve progressed, especially in recent millennia. This was truly the most adrenaline-spiking, compulsively readable history book I’ve ever picked up.
Harari starts us at the very beginning — like, 70,000 years ago beginning, when our species was just evolving into what it is today. 70,000 years ago is the time period in which we find modern cognition emerging; that is, cognition that is driven towards acquiring knowledge through both information and emotional experiences. storing it, manipulating it, and the ability to retrieve it later. There’s an added element of symbolic thinking, language, and creating art. Sounds pretty basic, but this is part of what makes our species so strong.
Harari then walks us through some major eras of our species: the Cognitive Revolution (70,000 BCE), the Agricultural Revolution (10,000 BCE), the Unification of Humankind (gradual time period, based on the slow consolidation of human political organization), and the Scientific Revolution (1500 CE). Each era proves a significant evolution for our species that continues to today, with the emergence of AI. Harari discusses in depths the future and implications of AI, and what that could mean for our race.
I will admit that this took me a while to get through — it’s dense with information (but not the kind to put you to sleep) that deserves time to truly sink in. At first I read this normally like I would any other book, but once I finished, decided to go back through and really sit on the information Harari includes and allow myself to really ruminate on each different era of history. I think that’s the best way to consume this book: slowly, taking time to reflect with the important information that Harari has put forth. Because it is truly a wonderful opportunity for informed and compelling self-reflection, both individually and as a member of this miraculous species.
More than anything, this book is humbling. Harari puts in perspective the short time we are here on this earth, and how recent our developments in science and agriculture have occurred, and where they could take our race…perhaps a little too far and not to be taken for granted. It is a remarkable thing to be a member of the sapiens species.