SAPIENS – A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND
By YUVAL NOAH HARARI
Book review by Vipul Murarka
Sapiens is one of the most thought provoking books. It is a thrilling account of how we have transformed ourselves from apes to what we are today and in
this process, Harari has not only looked at how humans have transformed but also briefly touched the fact that how we have transformed those around us
as well such as domesticated animals, nature, vegetables, etc.
Since the book is about everything related to human, it begins from Big Bang to atoms, molecules, life on earth and eventually moving to humans. He also
acknowledges the fact that earlier there were a dozen species of human and now only we, homo sapiens are left. This book talks about nearly each and everything
that has helped us to reach this far…..he discusses this in detail while explaining the three revolutions: Cognitive (70,000 years ago), Agricultural (10,000
years ago) and Scientific (500 years ago).
The book I would say is a mix of history and philosophy. Harari believes that nearly everything about human is work of imagination. He goes on to explain
how rules of football, limited liability companies and many others are works of imagination. One interesting argument that he made and stuck with me is
that world today is much more peaceful place than it was back then. It would have been great to back it up with some facts but I guess there is not much
archaeological data about this.
One thing that I didn’t like about the book is that I found the author to be pessimistic about everything that is going on today and since cognitive era.
I felt that the author wanted the sapiens to be foragers only and not evolve to be farmers, industrials, set up an empire, etc. yes not many activities
that we are doing are in some way or the other detrimental to others but that is the inherent nature of humans to use brain and explore more. I believe
that Humans, back in the agricultural revolution time, didn’t destroy the planet on purpose. They were just trying to find security in terms of food,
shelter that led them to the agricultural revolution. I felt that he took a very dim view of the agricultural revolution describing it detrimental to the
happiness of humans.
I found the ending particularly interesting as he claims that we have the potential to reshape our species again and that too at a much swifter pace owing
to the development of genetic engineering, cyborg development and by changing the way we communicate (a monkey inside US Lab can move its robotic hand
(which is in Tokyo) just by using its thoughts. Overall I think it is a must read for all those who want to understand our development but take the things
that he is saying with a pinch of salt.