SAPIENS – Book Review (Yuval Noah Harari)

“The fool thinks he is wise, But the wise knows himself to be a fool.”

After a long time ,reading this book felt like a groovy conversation with my best friends at a late night that turned into early mornings – a conversation about universe, big bang , evolution, chimpanzees, humans etc..

Sapiens – A brief history of human kind was written by Yuval Noah Harari , historian and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is an author of many best sellers including Sapiens. His research includes topics related to history and biology.

This book is a chockoblock of knowledge about ‘We the Humans’. The knowledge about History,psychology and biology of humans. It is a dynamic book that moves around various façades of social behaviour, political history and biology marking the events of human evolution from animal.

Surveying through the book ,I thought we have been blessed so very much to live in the contemporary World for one minute and also how prodigious our ancestors were and how bravely have they lived around this World , have wandered to become a dominion of all the species. Again , the next minute, I felt if the Yester World can be so cold and miserable place to live . Wanting to know more about the subject, it just did not make me only a gadabout but quite made me appreciate a lot of things around us that makes us what we are today.

The author does not divulge much about astronomy and big bang theory, and the events marking the beginning of time ,organisms and animals but have gone right into Human evolution.How we “Homo sapiens – the species sapiens (wise) of the genus Homo (man”) were formed about 70000 years ago fills the first chapter of the book.

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Apparently, Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.Also, we are not the only Human species but the earth of a hundred millennia ago was walked by at least six different species of man. Homo sapiens were the physically weakest of all the human species. However, the homo sapiens have driven the rest of them to dust through wisdom and thinking. This is called the “Cognitive revolution”. Also these so called wise man have been crossing each level of brilliance at a snail space. They have toiled on earth so much to grow to be the contemporary humans. Raising children required constant help from other family members and neighbors. It takes a tribe to raise a human now and has been the same in olden days as well.

According to the author, There are three major revolutions that the history confides which rapidly destined humans for the present day Modern World. The Cognitive revolution, The agriculture revolution and the scientific \Industrial revolution.

In the wake of the Cognitive Revolution, Rapid innovation of social behaviour helped Homo sapiens to form larger and more stable bands. Fiction,Gossiping made them cooperate with thousands of the other fellow humans. The Cooperation and The ability to transmit larger quantities of information extended their phenomenal thinking about the Complex world surrounding Homo sapiens.

FOR 2.5 MILLION YEARS HUMANS FED themselves by gathering plants and hunting animals that lived and bred without their intervention. This in turn surged them into the art of tool-making. Sapiens did not forage only for food and materials. They foraged for knowledge as well. The agriculture revolution or domestication of plants and animals made the sapiens build cities and civilisation and  the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions. However, it is said that Man lost his symbiosis with nature and sprinted towards greed and alienation.

This was supposedly the start of material world. The time when Law, money, gods, nations,empires,tax came in to picture. Imagined orders were born. Writing was invented to store large data. Language of numbers, partial scripts started reigning in.

Money played a major role in the make-believe universal principles . Money is based on two universal principles:

a. Universal convertibility: with money as an alchemist, you can turn land into

loyalty, justice into health, and violence into knowledge.

b. Universal trust: with money as a go-between, any two people can cooperate

on any project.

Scientific Revolution: One of my favourite part in this book is the The discovery of Ignorance – Ignoramus. Historically, this is where the human came into terms with the ideals of progress and the realisation that knowledge is power. Both scientist and conqueror began by admitting ignorance – they both said, ‘I don’t know what’s out there.’ They both felt compelled to go out and make new discoveries. And they both hoped the new knowledge thus acquired would make them masters of the world.

Seemingly , modern science differs from all previous traditions of knowledge in three critical ways:

a. The willingness to admit ignorance. Modern science is based on the Latin injunction ignoramus – ‘we do not know’. It assumes that we don’t know everything. Even more critically, it accepts that the things that we think we

know could be proven wrong as we gain more knowledge. No concept, idea or theory is sacred and beyond challenge.

b. The centrality of observation and mathematics. Having admitted ignorance, modern science aims to obtain new knowledge. It does so by

gathering observations and then using mathematical tools to connect these observations into comprehensive theories.

c. The acquisition of new powers. Modern science is not content with creating theories. It uses these theories in order to acquire new powers, and in particular to develop new technologies.

Then begins the industrial revolution where the kings and empires colonised places around the world began to fund research and discoveries instead of war and building monuments. At heart, the Industrial Revolution has been a revolution in energy conversion.

The author does not fail to impress in connecting the contemporary World to the yester world in each and every chapter. Also, he has elaborated about Biological engineering, Bionic life, Cyborgs which will define the present and futuristic world of Homo sapiens. A fascinating read to know inside out of ourselves and more..more..more to gorge. But still I felt somewhere it is not fair to have a hammer in your hand and treat everything as if it were a nail.
Happy gorging !

Book Title : Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Author : Yuval Noah Harari

Genre : History , nonfiction, science, sociology, anthropology

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