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  • Writer's pictureArjun Patel

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Part 2

Hi everyone! I have continued reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which is extremely enjoyable. I highly recommend it to all readers interested in anthropology and how humans came to be, starting about 2.5 million years ago. Today, I will be talking about “Part 2: The Agricultural Revolution,” which, in my opinion, is one of the most fascinating things I have ever read.

When the Agricultural Revolution happened about 12,000 years ago, humans began gathering around areas where crops grew in the wild. They soon began planting more crops and forming more permanent settlements around them. Many scholars think this was a giant leap forward for humans, forging who we are today, but Harari disagrees, calling it “history’s biggest fraud.” He says that humans did not domesticate wheat; it domesticated us, causing life for humans to become miserable. He said that longer lives were the product of poorer conditions. Moreover, Harari mentions that many animals suffered from domestication and mass murder to feed humans.

Around 2,000 years ago, there were 250 million farmers worldwide. Harari notes that myths are fragile in that if only people believe in them, they will continue to work. Again, he ponders how people get others to feel in these “imagined orders,” which made me think deeply about it. How can I convince someone about an idea that is not concrete? How can I convince a whole population to follow an abstract religion? To conclude, Harari adds that myths are like prisons—hard to escape.

Harari thinks the evolution of new and massive societies demands retaining vast amounts of data even though remembering and recalling specific social rules is virtually impossible. Harari then discusses different scripts, including Incan, Egyptian, Sumerian, and Chinese. These stood out to him because of their efficient way of communicating data that they wrote down. With human language came computer language—binary code, which he thinks will take over the world.

Harari dismisses racist views in society, claiming that there is no biological difference between people, only the “imagined orders” of the human imagination. Racism started as a coincidence that enslaved people from Africa were the cheapest to import, making white people seem superior and of higher class, even though this may not have been the case. These hierarchies are myths, and so are the differences between men and women and the differences between heterosexual and homosexual people. It is the culture that creates these differences, not biology.

The Agricultural Revolution brought many changes that will live on even today. Still, Harari thinks people in farming societies suffered tremendous anxiety about their crops and were generally more miserable overall. He feels that all this effort to make life easier made life harder for most of humanity, and I agree with his reasoning. Until next time!

- AnthroManTalks

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