Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thoughts on Harari's Sapiens: An encompassing history of humankind, with non-intuitive insights - eg on our post-Neolithic quality of life)

I read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind with great interest. The book covers the broad arc of human history all the way from prehistory and prehumans to the current day. It gives one a good feeling for a lot of things that we take for granted in organizing modern life but which are of course essential. In particular, the book talks a lot about how important shared myths and ideas are with things such as what is a company, what is money and how important that is to structuring society? The book also has a fascinating take on a lot of key events in history. For instance, it does not necessarily portray the agricultural revolution and domestication of animals in an entirely positive light, pointing out that while it led to a huge population boom for humans, it made the average person much more miserable, much harder working and much more susceptible to diseases. Likewise, we have a very romantic view of the notion of domestication of animals, but in a sense, it is a cruel practice. While, of course, it led to a great multiplication of certain animal species, it provided individuals of each species a potentially awful life to live -- e.g., think of the cooped-up chicken. The book has further interesting discussions about energy and how we have been able to ever more efficiently extract it from the environment over time, culminating in the industrial and then atomic ages. There are further interesting views on colonization and so forth. Overall, I found this a great read and would highly recommend it.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (9780062316097): Yuval Noah Harari