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  • Writer's pictureArjun Patel

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Part 1

Updated: May 20, 2023

Hi guys! After reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, I started reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Because the book has four parts, that is how many blog posts I will do on this book, so expect more to come! Part 1 is about the Cognitive Revolution:

Harari starts the book by mentioning that for 2.5 million years, humans were trivial little creatures. He begins by saying that our ancestors, Homo sapiens were one of the other human species that all disappeared once Sapiens settled around the globe long ago. Humans began controlling and influencing the world around them 70,000 years ago. Seventy thousand years ago, a random genetic mutation enabled Sapiens to evolve new cognitive capacities. This is the Cognitive Revolution.

Harari says that animals in nature can only respond to physical phenomena. Sapiens still learned how to make up fictional ideas and believe in things, not in the physical world. He chose an example of the car brand Peugeot, which exists as more of a concept than a thing. Many rally around the idea of Peugeot, which is to make cars and work. They cooperate because they believe in Peugeot. Harari thinks these “imagined realities” have tremendous power.

Harari considers our societies 70,000 to 12,000 years ago when humans lived as foragers in the wild. He thinks that foragers lived comfortable and content lives. He calculates they only worked around 35 hours a week to gather food. They didn’t suffer from diseases due to living in cramped quarters, and they formed friendly communities with each other. During this time, Sapiens spread worldwide, causing widespread animal extinctions wherever they went.

I truly enjoyed Part 1 of this book so far and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in anthropology or the evolution of humans. He sees humanity as a human flood killing off animal species and worries that the future may be without large mammals left. I cannot wait to see what happens next, and I especially love the pictures and illustrations in the book that help convey his inspirational message! See you next time!

- AnthroManTalks

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