A book that really changed the way I view things. I haven’t found many history and historical books that I really gel with, but I liked this one.
Harari has a great writing style. Everything is so clear and simple to read. I found this much more accessible than Guns Germs & Steel (Jared Diamond).
Some points that stood out from the book:
- The fact that there were many species of human before. Sapiens just happened to be the only ones that survived. Also that you had dwarf humans on some island, bigger humans on another island etc. Makes you realise how fleeting this point is in the context of human history.
- The Agricultural Revolution happened gradually over time. It wasn’t a quick thing. It’s led to the monoculture of crops and foods we have today. It’s also destroyed the posture of humans – it’s when they started getting back and neck issues.
- The suffering of animals throughout history is intense. I already kind of knew this, but it was good to have reinforced. It’s very important now to alleviate the suffering. Fake meat and fake eggs are probably the best way to help in the long run.
- The lives of 90% of people have been brutal farm peasant lives. You never read about them in the history books, just the 10% that the 90% supported.
- We probably are one of the last generations of Sapiens before we become something else. That’s pretty cool.
- What we think of minor injuries now were fatal in historic times. Broken limbs often led to infection. Antibiotics have played a huge role in our lifespan today.
- Happiness seems to be pretty constant – within a unique range for each individual. Our ancestors were probably not unhappier than we are today.
- Myths are collective to humans. It’s amazing how many myths we believe in today that don’t exist. Like companies – what is a company, anyway? Or religions.
- Companies could hire armies and invade foreign countries to set up trade routes and to get profit. Indonesia was colonised by a Dutch company, and India was colonised by a British company. I found that amazing.
- The scientific revolution was brought about by Europeans and their values. The east and the arab world didn’t have the right values to look for knowledge as an asset in itself.
- There seems to be a human urge to “build pyramids”: structures that mark their time on Earth. Today, it’s the desire to own property and posessions that serve as our pyramids.
- There’s nothing natural about international travel. Our ancestors certainly never did it, but stayed within a certain geographical range. Travel is, more than anything, an “experience” sold to us, like the experience of visiting Paris or of visiting India.
- There’s a trend towards being a monoculture and away from diversity. We can see this today. We might even have a unification of the world into a single global state in the future.
- Our technological capabilities are expanding quicker than the ethics and morals. We aren’t moving as fast as we could be because of the moral issues. But it’s likely the future is going to look very different to Sapiens.
- The rate of change in society is getting faster and faster.