Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind [Book Review]

23692271This book has sat on my bookshelf for about 2 years. Bought when I was in Japan, I blame my ‘research busyness’ not to finish this book. Two years later, I regret that I didn’t finish this earlier. This book is GREAT!

Harari tells us how us, Homo sapiens, end up being the ‘king’ of the world. Apart from my religious perspective, I enjoy his arguments and data presented in this book. He divides the advancement of Sapiens in several revolutions: cognitive, agriculture, scientific, industrial, and ‘permanent’ revolutions.

For me, the scientific and ‘permanent’ revolutions are the best parts of this book. Harari explicates the close relationship between science, capital, and power; which is quite mindblowing for me. Another interesting analysis from him is on how the European ‘dominate’ our world today. He argues that this is because of European’s curiosity on 15-18 centuries that they traveled and explored (and later conquered) other continents. Had China, or Ottoman, or India ‘open’ their eyes and ignorance of the world, they would be the one who dominates the world today. It is interesting for me to know that in 18-century, Asian empires dominated the world economy. In the last part of his book, Harari argues that permanent revolution has changed the way we see family, community, and humankind. State and market are modern people’s parents. And, what is human? What does it mean being a human? With all rapid advancement in technology, it would be more complex to define our humanity in the future.

Here are some interesting notes I take from this book:

  • Biology shapes our history. Harari writes: “Biology sets the basic parameters for the behavior and capacities of Homo sapiens. History takes place within the bounds of this biological arena.”
  • The agricultural revolution was a trap. After the agricultural revolution, there was no chance of human ‘live peacefully’ with nature. Human have mastered our world by sacrificing other organisms (plants, animals)
  • An overview history of money and credit, how credit transforms our society, for worse and better.
  • The characteristics of modern science: (i) the willingness to admit ignorance, (ii) the centrality of observation and mathematics, (iii) the acquisition of new powers.
  • Surviving large wild animals are <10% in today’s world (in mass)!

Finally, this piece is a really worthy food for thought for anyone!