Sapiens by Yuval Harari

  • Date read: April 2020.
  • How strongly I recommend: 10/10. 
  • SapiensRecommend having a copy, and read every year.

This is such a great summary of human history from the start. At the same time, Yuval addresses some of THE BIGGEST problems we face today: religion, war, consumerism, nationalism, and so much more.

Granted, he is probably a bit depressed giving the overview of the entire human history, seeing a lot of its brilliance, but also its faults, and unavoidable stupidities. See this fun interview of him by Dan Ariely here after his second book Homo Deus was published. He argues that science is about control (e.g., being able to control nature, our health, death, etc.), and religion is about order.

This book is so well written. It would be ironic and almost impossible to make a summary of a book about the entirety of human kind. Here are some quotes I love.

That spectacular leap from the middle to the top [of the food chain] had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to cooperate better, and rhinoceroses to be more bad-tempered. In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump.

How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.

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