Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind

BH_Image_Thumbnail_Sapiens

The Author, Yuval Noah Harari,  pictured giving a talk at Google (Photo by Dan Gonzales)

By Dan Gonzales                                                                                                   January 14, 2019 

The Author, Yuval Noah Harari,  pictured giving a talk at Google (Photo by Dan Gonzales)

By Dan Gonzales

Bahia Verge Book Lessons

Bahía Verge Book Lessons

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Last year I made my New Year’s Resolution to read more books. No specific number in mind, but just to absorb as much knowledge as I could. As an English major at UC Riverside, I was forced to read literature and poetry based on different eras. It was only upon graduating that I started reading books that could advance my knowledge in the fields of financial investing as well as autobiographies, business, self-help, and history. My new New Year's Resolution is to take that knowledge from the books I've read and write about it in informative articles like this one. Enjoy!

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind (Rate: 12/10) Pages: 414, Book Read time: 2 months

It was during the holidays of 2017 that I was introduced to Sapiens. My former high school journalism teacher and a group of friends went out for a drink to catch up in Downtown Berkeley. We chatted about the norm; how things were going, where we were working, what we’ve been up to etc. As the night progressed, I asked my former teacher, Mr. Baer, what were some recent books he read and Sapiens came up. He spoke fondly of the book citing that it was "mind-blowing." "You guys have to read it so the next time we all meet up we can discuss it.” When Dan Baer suggests something to read it generally has something spectacular behind it.

  •  “Sapiens tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language.” -Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

So, let’s get into it; I plan to cover the valuable lessons I have learned in Sapiens, discuss his hypothesis of our coming future as well as offer my opinion on the book. First off, the book is very rich in dense information, so I have elected to pick some lessons that resonated with me the strongest as well as capture text worth noting.

             The first couple of chapters talk about how Yuval Noah Harari, the author, perceives the world was created through science. Chapter 1: An Animal of No Significance, talks about how the world came to be; through matter, chemistry, and biology. About 13.5 billion years ago the Big Bang likely happened, about 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form intricate structures, organisms. Yuval’s key points that are reiterated and covered throughout the book are the 3 revolutions that shaped the course of history.

1.   Cognitive -70,000 years ago

2.    Agricultural -12,000 years ago

3.     Scientific -500 years ago

I found it invaluable to understand that the universe was created at some point in time. Dwelling a bit on that statement helped to put things in perspective, not just in regard to my own life but the whole universe. There is more than just San Francisco, there is more than just the United States, and there is more than all people, land, and water that makes up this planet. Whether you are religious, believe in God or not, everything came from somewhere. Regardless of where on this Earth, it wasn't until we created social constructs that categorized us that we began to see each other differently.

  • Often times we humans can get caught up in our own little worlds of work, love, shopping, fantasy, and our cell phones.
  • At UC Riverside, I took a class called Rhetorical Studies that covered 2 important themes: terministic screens and visceral theory. Using the logic derived from those terms is what influenced a deeper perception of how this book summarizes our history as a species.

I think it's important to think about where we came from and I don't mean the basic what city you were born or where our parents are from. I am talking about us as a species, homo sapiens. Our immediate 100-year family history directly influences our perceptions, culture, and actions. The book goes on to reference that hundreds of years of myths, fictions, are what guide our behavior. As a species, we have progressed from hunter-gatherer to where we are today because of these three revolutions. Agriculture introduced new foods but also new work in farming, planning, and industry. The scientific revolution over the past 500 years is when things really took off.

I found Chapter 6: Building Pyramids to be extremely intriguing. The text covers how humans were able to communicate. The human imagination was building outstanding networks of cooperation. Mesopotamia,

Social norms were based on the belief of shared myths.

Needed social links.

“Abiding by shared fictions” It’s easy to see this, simply just go out to a public street and notice everyone stopped by the corner on a red light. Humans developed myths to help govern daily society over time. They know that doing x yields y. If I stand on the sidewalk long enough the walk sign will eventually come on allowing me to walk across the street safely and opposite light signaling cars to halt. This point truly honed a deeper sense of cognizance for me. In the back of mind when I walked urban settings, I had always wondered how people could walk down the street in their own little worlds, comprising a large metropolitan area sticking to their social groups and being selective with whom they interacted with. There is simply no expectation of interaction or the perceived limitation of interaction limited to a cordial "hello or nod of the head" acknowledging one's existence. This explains how humans function in big groups. We are simply guided by Hammurabi's Code and laws that prevent others from doing harm.

 Imagined orders require true believers. What maintains the military order? The myths of believing in countries

Only if large segments of the population believe in it.

One of the most resounding paragraphs I read was in chapter History's Biggest Fraud. The text goes: "The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away. One of history's few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. (Harrari, 87).

 This excerpt could not have been more relevant and summarizing of America's reality for the majority of 20 somethings. From an early age, it is inculcated in us to get good grades so we can get good jobs. Little is known that this exact paragraph captures American life in a nutshell. We all are forced to work to provide for our pending economic needs. That is capitalism 101, we can labor till we have enough money to afford our dream car, but it will never stop, the labor will never stop unless we make a significant amount or break out of the wheels of industry. Famous rapper, J. Cole, alluded to human's desire to keep chasing things, "fictions" we create to keep us motivated and happy once we can cross it off our list. Watch the interview below as J. Cole breaks it down.

 

             Last year I made my New Year’s Resolution to read more books. No specific number in mind, but just to absorb as much knowledge as I could. As an English major at UC Riverside, I was forced to read literature and poetry based on different eras. It was only upon graduating that I started reading books that could advance my knowledge in the fields of financial investing as well as autobiographies, business, self-help, and history. My new New Year's Resolution is to take that knowledge from the books I've read and write about it in informative articles like this one. Enjoy!

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind (Rate: 10/10) Pages: 414, Book Read time: 2 months

            It was during the holidays of 2017 that I was introduced to Sapiens. My former high school journalism teacher and a group of friends went out for a drink to catch up in Downtown Berkeley. We chatted about the norm; how things were going, where we were working, what we’ve been up to etc. As the night progressed, I asked my former teacher, Mr. Baer, what were some recent books he read and Sapiens came up. He spoke fondly of the book citing that it was "mind-blowing." "You guys have to read it so the next time we all meet up we can discuss it.” When Dan Baer suggests something to read it generally has something spectacular behind it.

            “Sapiens tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language.” -Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

So, let’s get into it; I plan to cover the valuable lessons I have learned in Sapiens, discuss his hypothesis of our coming future as well as offer my opinion on the book. First off, the book is very rich in dense information, so I have selected lessons that resonated with me the strongest as well as capture text worth noting.

             The first couple of chapters talk about how Yuval Noah Harari, the author, perceives the world was created through science. Chapter 1: An Animal of No Significance, talks about how the world came to be; through matter, chemistry, and biology. About 13.5 billion years ago the Big Bang likely happened, about 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form intricate structures, organisms. Yuval’s key points that are reiterated and covered throughout the book are the 3 revolutions that shaped the course of history.

1.     Cognitive -70,000 years ago

2.     Agricultural -12,000 years ago

3.     Scientific -500 years ago

     I found it very valuable to understand that the universe was created at some point in time. Dwelling a bit on that statement helped to put things in perspective, not just in regard to my own life but the whole universe. There is more than just San Francisco, there is more than just the United States, and there is more than all people, land, and water that makes up this planet. Whether you are religious, believe in God or not, everything came from somewhere. Regardless of where on this Earth, it wasn't until we created social constructs that categorized us that we began to see each other differently.

·      Often times we humans can get caught up in our own little worlds of work, love, shopping, fantasy, and our cell phones.

·      At UC Riverside, I took a class called Rhetorical Studies that covered 2 important themes: terministic screens and visceral theory. Using the logic derived from those terms is what influenced a deeper perception of how this book summarizes our history as a species.

I think it's important to think about where we came from and I don't mean the basic what city you were born or where our parents are from. I am talking about us as a species, homo sapiens. Our immediate 100-year family history directly influences our perceptions, culture, and actions. The book goes on to reference that hundreds of years of myths, fictions, are what guide our behavior. As a species, we have progressed from hunter-gatherer to where we are today because of these three revolutions. Agriculture introduced new foods but also new work in farming, planning, and industry. The scientific revolution over the past 500 years is when things really took off.

I found Chapter 6, "Building Pyramids" to be extremely intriguing. The text covers how humans were able to communicate. The human imagination was building outstanding networks of cooperation. Mesopotamia,

Social norms were based on the belief of shared myths.

Needed social links. 

“Abiding by shared fictions” It’s easy to see this, simply just go out to a public street and notice everyone stopped by the corner on a red light. Humans developed myths to help govern daily society over time. They know that doing x yields y. If I stand on the sidewalk long enough the walk sign will eventually come on allowing me to walk across the street safely and opposite light signaling cars to halt. This point truly honed a deeper sense of cognizance for me. In the back of mind when I walked urban settings, I had always wondered how people could walk down the street in their own little worlds, comprising a large metropolitan area sticking to their social groups and being selective with whom they interacted with. There is simply no expectation of interaction or the perceived limitation of interaction limited to a cordial "hello or nod of the head" acknowledging one's existence. This explains how humans function in big groups. We are simply guided by Hammurabi's Code and laws that prevent others from doing harm.

 Imagined orders require true believers. What maintains the military order? The myths of believing in countries

Only if large segments of the population believe in it.

One of the most resounding paragraphs I read was in chapter History's Biggest Fraud. The text goes: "The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away. One of history's few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. (Harrari, 87).

This excerpt could not have been more relevant and summarizing of America's reality for the majority of 20 somethings. From an early age, it is inculcated in us to get good grades so we can get good jobs. Little is known that this exact paragraph captures American life in a nutshell. We all are forced to work to provide for our pending economic needs. That is capitalism 101, we can labor till we have enough money to afford our dream car, but it will never stop, the labor will never stop unless we make a significant amount or break out of the wheels of industry. Famous rapper, J. Cole, alluded to human's desire to keep chasing things, "fictions" we create to keep us motivated and happy once we can cross it off our list. Watch the interview below as J. Cole breaks it down.

 

Last year I made my New Year’s Resolution to read more books. No specific number in mind, but just to absorb as much knowledge as I could. As an English major at UC Riverside, I was pushed to read literature and poetry based on different eras. It was only upon graduating that I started reading books that could advance my knowledge in the fields of financial investing as well as autobiographies, business, self-help, and history. My new New Year's Resolution is to take that knowledge from the books I've read and write about it in informative articles like this one. Enjoy!

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind (Rate: 12/10) Pages: 414, read time: 2 months

 

Upon returning to the San Francisco Bay Area after college, I began to notice that the city’s social and ethnic dynamics were shifting away from what I had been accustomed to as a child and teenager. The years 2013-2018 witnessed a mass migration of affluent tech workers who likely joined the Silicon Valley crew of tech companies. I mean almost everything here is either a startup or a startup. I had the question in my mind, why was it mostly white people or yuppies coming here? For proof just look at the types of businesses on Valencia Street ten years ago and compare it to today. There’s a ubiquitous sense of coffee shops and hipster eating places on Valencia that weren’t there before.

 Sapiens gave me an answer to that. In chapter 15, The Marriage of Science and Empire, the text chronicles the events in the past five hundred years that led to globalization and European dominance. It was primarily due in fact to the Scientific Revolution. Fueled through capitalism, Christopher Columbus searched for an investor to finance his voyage. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain provided the proper funds and the rest was history. The Spanish came to the New World with the myths of conquest and immediately exploited the Mesoamericans for everything they had: the food, trade goods, people, etc.

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines (which could be freely copied or bought). “They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalized rapidly. The Chinese and Persians could not catch up as quickly because they thought and organized their societies differently." (Harari, 282).

Europeans were used to thinking and behaving in a scientific and capitalist way even before they enjoyed any significant technological advances. When the technological bonanza began, Europeans could harness it far better than anybody else. I think this explains how the world is shaped today and why. Aside from having been in the United States for a longer time, minority cultures from other places than Europe in the world have different shared myths, ones that are not as strongly based in modern science and capitalism. At the end of the day, we are all homo sapiens regardless of skin color and place of birth. It is just the shared fictions we have inculcated in our brains from birth that influence how we see the world. This was referred to as terministic screens in my university Rhetorical Studies class.

 "Were it not for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America, James Cook would not have reached Australia, and Neil Armstrong would never have taken that small step on the surface of the moon." (Harari, ).

Chapter 16: "The Capitalist Creed"

            Yuval captures the birth of capitalism, credit, and GROWTH. Ultimately our society is shaped the way it is because of the continued growth of business, without growth, there is no incentive for investments, and maybe there is little reason to work as hard. 

Final Thoughts

Like many of the reviews on the book, Sapiens does well to depict human history. Literally, everything that

Enjoy the full Google talk here: Yuval Speaks at Google

Upon returning to the San Francisco Bay Area after college, I began to notice that the city’s social and ethnic dynamics were shifting away from what I had been accustomed to as a child and teenager. The years 2013-2018 witnessed a mass migration of affluent tech workers who likely joined the Silicon Valley crew of tech companies. I mean almost everything here is either a startup or a startup. I had the question in my mind, why was it mostly white people or yuppies coming here? For proof just look at the types of businesses on Valencia Street ten years ago and compare it to today. There’s a ubiquitous sense of coffee shops and hipster eating places on Valencia that weren’t there before.

Sapiens gave me an answer to that. In chapter 15, The Marriage of Science and Empire, the text chronicles the events in the past five hundred years that led to globalization and European dominance. It was primarily due in fact to the Scientific Revolution. Fueled through capitalism, Christopher Columbus searched for an investor to finance his voyage. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain provided the proper funds and the rest was history. The Spanish came to the New World with the myths of conquest and immediately exploited the Mesoamericans for everything they had: the food, trade goods, people, etc.

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines (which could be freely copied or bought). “They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalized rapidly. The Chinese and Persians could not catch up as quickly because they thought and organized their societies differently." (Harari, 282).

Europeans were used to thinking and behaving in a scientific and capitalist way even before they enjoyed any significant technological advances. When the technological bonanza began, Europeans could harness it far better than anybody else. I think this explains how the world is shaped today and why. Aside from having been in the United States for a longer time, minority cultures from other places than Europe in the world have different shared myths, ones that are not as strongly based in modern science and capitalism. At the end of the day, we are all homo sapiens regardless of skin color and place of birth. It is just the shared fictions we have inculcated in our brains from birth that influence how we see the world. This was referred to as terministic screens in my university Rhetorical Studies class.

 "Were it not for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America, James Cook would not have reached Australia, and Neil Armstrong would never have taken that small step on the surface of the moon." (Harari, ).

Chapter 16: "The Capitalist Creed"

Yuval captures the birth of capitalism, credit, and GROWTH. Ultimately our society is shaped the way it is because of the continued growth of business, without growth, there is no incentive for investments, and maybe there is little reason to work as hard. 

Final Thoughts

Like many of the reviews on the book, Sapiens does well to depict human history. Literally, everything that

Enjoy the full Google talk here: Yuval Speaks at Google