I’ve long been curious about why humans do things. In most cases, the material found was too academic or biased for me to appreciate fully. This book seemed to do the exact opposite by dispensing the content through vivid language from an objective perspective. I was hooked by the first page.
Have you ever had a teacher that made the most boring subject matter exciting and easy to grasp? Such was my experience with Sapiens, by Yuval Harari. This book has made a lasting impression and has undoubtedly influenced my perspective.
“Seventy thousand years ago, Homo sapiens was still an insignificant animal minding its own business in a corner of Africa. In the following millennia it transformed itself into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem. Today it stands on the verge of becoming a god, poised to acquire not only eternal youth, but also the divine abilities of creation and destruction.”
The perspective feels so unbiased that it’s almost alien. For example, we do indeed rule the planet and are “Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company…” but can another organism, let’s say wheat, be seen as just as successful? Without lifting a finger, the wheat plant has become a global species by enslaving us for thousands of years of backbreaking labor to ensure its success. Maybe it has domesticated us, instead of the other way around. Perhaps we’re not as exceptional as we think we are.
The entire history of humankind is explored. From our start as an insignificant animal, in competition with other human species, to god-like rulers of the world, Sapiens attempts to answer why we are the way we are. It makes the case that we are the only animal on the planet that can create and subscribe collectively to an imaginary world, where constructs like culture, religion, economics, politics, and money are made real. But it’s not only about us. It explores our ecological impact, as well. And as a species? Ooooh, it does not look too good for us. The way we treat our fellow animals on this planet is described as “the worst crime in history.”
I found this to be a good look in the mirror. It’s an incredibly honest self-reflection. Having our brief history laid out in such a way, I gathered that maybe we just don’t live long enough. Perhaps if individual lives spanned over hundreds of years, we would realize just how meaningless it is to fight over something imaginary and how devastating of an impact we’re having on other species. Coincidentally, the book does explore the subject of life expansion, as humans will use technology to upgrade themselves into something entirely different. Wild.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Book by Yuval Noah Harari
Published May 15th 2018: HarperCollins Publishers