by Yuval Noah Harari

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future.

Our thoughts on Sapiens

Yuval Noah Harari blends historical, economic, and biological principles to describe the tale of Homo sapiens in his book Sapiens. We begin 2.5 million years ago, when the first Homo sapiens appeared, and we conclude in the future, when the emergence of a superhuman race would spell the end of the Sapiens genus. We discover along the road how our capacity to conjure up imaginary worlds contributed to our dominance over other animals. We observe how the Industrial Revolution, Imperialism, Capitalism, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Scientific Revolution have all had a lasting, and not always favourable, impact on our species.

We are left with just one decision to make as we plan our future: Who do we want to become? Finding the proper answers may not be as crucial as asking the right questions. Read this book to learn more about the evolution of our species; you'll have a completely different perspective on the world as it is today.

Our favourite quote from Sapiens

You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.

53 recommendations for Sapiens

53 recommendation for Sapiens

Book Summary

Here are the three most fascinating insights about our species that this book teaches:

  1. Early humans developed language as a result of their ability to think, which led to agricultural advancements that allowed them to expand exponentially.
  2. Only the introduction of money and writing allowed for advancements in commerce.
  3. Scientific progress provided our race with the abilities needed to get to where we are today, thanks to improved economic and communication means.

Lesson 1: After early humans developed the ability to think and talk, exponential population expansion began with agricultural breakthroughs.

Homo sapiens enjoyed a number of significant advantages over other human species on the planet. The distinctions in our brains are the most important. These dates back to roughly 70,000 years ago, when the Cognitive Revolution occurred. This was a period when brain growth accelerated dramatically, distinguishing our forefathers.

Homo sapiens may be able to outperform other human species thanks to their improved brains. Creating settlements, improving hunting gear, and establishing rudimentary trading networks made life and survival simpler.

The population rose in lockstep with the ability to communicate. Language distinguished our species from others by allowing us to freely transmit information. This allowed early people to teach one other about predators and food. Because people could collaborate and adapt as a community, ideas diffused, allowing for even greater advancement.

The Agricultural Revolution, which occurred not long after, provided mankind with still another significant benefit. Mankind improved their circumstances even more by abandoning ancient hunting and gathering tactics in favour of farming. Although sluggish to start, this new approach was significantly more efficient than the old methods, allowing population growth to soar.

Things were beginning to look better, but there was a snag. To cope with this wider society, humanity would have to make considerably more progress than it has thus far.

Lesson 2: The development of money and writing made it easier for humans to trade, opening the stage for future expansion.

Humans become more efficient with their time and energy as a result of agriculture. Some individuals were able to start performing other things, such as weaving or blacksmithing, as a result of this. These folks would then exchange or barter their commodities for food with farmers. This new system was superior at first, but it gradually became inefficient.

Let's pretend you're alive at the time and you've decided to pursue a career as a blacksmith. Your collection of knives and swords makes it easy to barter for food, such as pork. Making the deal appears to be simple enough. But what if your town's farmer already possesses a knife? Perhaps he hasn't yet found a pig to slaughter for you. He can make you a promise, but how do you know he'll keep it?

From then, Homo sapiens progressed at a breakneck pace. Soon after, rules were enacted to assist control everything in order to make it safer. Economies and governments might benefit from the capacity to write. Society started to grow, and science was the next stage.

Lesson 3: Our society today is the result of rapid technological and scientific advancements that occurred after our forefathers were able to trade and communicate more effectively.

Our forefathers could think more now that they had efficient food, commerce, and writing systems. This sparked a scientific revolution, with many individuals looking for methods to better their lives. Experimentation and exploration were commonplace, and huge advances in astronomy, physics, and medicine improved people's lives dramatically.

Take, for example, the child mortality rate. We may take having children that do not die early for granted, but this was not always the case. Even the wealthiest households used to have two or three children who died early before medical improvements. Today, conditions are significantly better, with just one child dying in childhood out of every 1,000.

Humans also regarded global expansion as a possibility. Governments that aided explorers and scientists saw their empires grow significantly. The voyages of Christopher Columbus to America and James Cook to the South Pacific are only two instances. Many investigations sparked rapid expansion in these sectors, laying the groundwork for today's globalisation.

Although there have been moments of conflict, humanity's history has now reached a point of immense peace and prosperity. While some may regard our union as monotonous and uninteresting, the absence of war in recent years is unparalleled. And, while we may be dealing with other modern issues, we can thank each of our forefathers for the pleasant place we now find ourselves in.

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You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.

— Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens