Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”
-Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens

Harari perfectly summed up the meaning of this book, and the lens it provided me, in this quote.

Many of the history I have learned in my life is nowhere near as eclectic as this book. There have been plenty of anecdotes (and I even breezed through the “Origins” exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History) of prehistoric findings, but Sapiens is a whole new level.

Halfway through the book I realized the importance of ‘remember where you came from.’ I am astonished at the amount of information that the author (and probably with some help) collected and organized to get to this book. It was a face melting experience as the pieces of our current culture, and world, came into view through the millennia.

That is what is crazy. How many millennia this book covers.

Harari writes and produces theories and viewpoints in a very convincing way. I never caught a hint of glaring bias in the topics.

What is almost as thought provoking as the whole book is the ending. Harari writes about happiness, the future, and Homo Sapiens. It is a fantastic book. It was an easy read, and maybe I just had a heightened interest, or—most likely—it is written and organized in a harmonious way.

The notes are unedited. Typos, strange wording, and questions are abound.

“It takes a tribe to raise a human.”
7 different species of humans lived in prehistoric times
Interbreeding theory vs Replacement theory
Humans advantage was language, the cognitive revolution appeared between 70k-30k years ago. Not only language but FICTION was the big part. Art appeared here too. Part of how we were able to use language to organize comes from the idea that we are gossipers. Also with our language we have the ability to communicate with strangers in numerous ways unlike other animals that can only intimately interact with a small group. 
The idea of 150 individuals, how did we break through? FICTION. It allows us to imagine things collectively
The story of Peugeot, the blood of Christ, the lawyers. How difficult it all would have been if we only believed in real things
“The heated debates about Homo Sapiens’ ‘natural way of life’ miss the main point. Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, there hasn’t been a single natural way of life for Sapiens. There are only cultural choices, from among a bewildering palette of possibilities.”
Humans did not occupy many areas f the works except for Afro Asian landmass. There are speculations as to why and how Homo sapiens made it to the far reaches of the north or to the many islands. However the move to Australia is a famous example of what happened, repeatedly throughout history when homo Sapiens traveled to new lands. The megafauna, died off very rapidly. Many other smaller species of plants followed. This is seen in Australia, th extinction of the mammoth, the extinction of other large mammals in North America and South America and on many islands that lost diverse ecosystems when humans arrived. Climate is not a justified excuse because the extinctions of these massive and smaller creatures follows the trend of homo salient arrivals. This is the myth of harmonious natural life that foragers would have lived. 
Sabertooth tiger, mammoth, massive ground sloth, big rodents, giant marsupials, Native American horses 
Massive graves or burial sites dating back 30k years show possibility for sociopolitical or hierarchical societies. Violence, religion, anamilism, cultures probably varied greatly from human society to the next based on bone findings. 
The Agricultural Revolution is histories biggest fraud. It was a ‘luxury trap’ Why would we sacrifice so much health, diet, increase in violence, disease just for wheat. A not so awesome crop. THE ABILITY TO KEEP MORE PEOPLE ALIVE UNDER WORSE CONDITIONS. DNA wants more people, not happier people.
“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.”
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men ‘evolved differently’ (created equal), they are ‘born’ (endowed by their creator) with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure (life liberty and the pursuit of happiness).”
We live our lives through imagined orders and desires that get reflected as material things or actions in our normal lives. Depending on the imagined order (hierarchical, egalitarian, romanticism, capitalism) shapes our lives. Many of us live inter-relative imagined orders. How er imagined orders cannot be escaped. Harare uses the analogy of prison walls giving way to prison walls. You can escape one by making a bigger one yet you are only creating a larger or stronger imagined order.
The importance of imagined order is the cooperation, exploitation or congregation of large groups of people.
“Biology enables, cultures forbid.”
Natural and unnatural are imagined. Natural is literally anything the human body can do. Gender is shaped and constructed but female and male are biological. How did women get into a lesser role in the first place? Hard to know but if bonobos and elephants are matriarchixal why can’t human be? Bonobo females gang up on out of control males
How did the world unite? Not religion, or state but money. Knowing something is valuable to someone else. Bartering gets very confusing when more commodities get thrown into the mix, many exchange rates exist. Money (shells gold whatever) help regulate that and is wait transportable.
“..whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.” Using the example of trade of gold coins between the meditarranean and India
We have become now based on empires that conquered, enslaved, exploited. Language, classification, political systems all have stemmed from empires that have been handed over through time. Jews practice today differently than in Judaea. Egyptians are Arabs but that’s because Cairo was conquered in the 7th century. Zulus in South Africa talk of the great Zulu empire even when their ancestors fought against it.
Religions unite people. Bottom line. Most people believed in animism. Giving animals spirits. But even these spirits had a ruling power. This gave way to gods of things that couldn’t be represented in nature. Fertility, medicine, war. Animism put humans on a level playing field, polytheism upgraded their status with many gods but they all still have a higher power which was uninterested in humans (Moira). Things that followed were physical sacrifices to these gods. 
Romans and other empires that were polytheism didn’t destroy other societies gods they just made them recognize the emperors gods. The aztecs allowed for worship of another people’s gods and romans adopted isis and Cybele (Asian and Egyptian gods) The Roman Empire didn’t make christians not believe in their God. Christians believed in one God, and wouldn’t recognize romes gods. Vehemently refusing. There was no compromise with the Christian’s which was seen as a political faction now. In the 300 year period following the crucifixion of Christ and emperor Constantine converting, all the persecutions of christians killed no more than a few thousand christians. Over the next 1500 years, christians slaughtered christians by the millions in differing interpretations in the religion of love and compassion. Religious wars in 16th and seventeenth centuries were bad. Like the St Bartholomews Day Massacre. 5k-10k French protestants were massacred by French Catholics. The pope had a room in the Vatican decorated to celebrate the event which is off limits to visitors. 
Like Christianity, Islam began as a small sect in a remote corner of the world. Christian from Judaism in Israel, Islam from Arabian peninsula. Islam 7th century 
Monotheism comes from idea that supreme power has interests and biases
Patron saints to towns are like polytheistic gods. Or very same gods in disguise 
“So, monotheism explains order, but is mystified by evil. Dualism explains evil, but is puzzled by order. There is one logical way of solving the riddle: to argue that there is a single omnipotent God who created the entire universe-and He’s evil. But nobody in history has had the stomach for such a belief.”
Jewish, Christian and Muslim monotheism absorbed numerous dualist beliefs and practices , and some of most basic ideas of what we call ‘monotheism’ are, in fact, dualist in origin and spirit. (i.e. The devil is not in the Old Testament)
“The average Christian believes in the monotheist God, but also in the dualist devil, in polytheist saints, and in animist ghosts.. It’s called syncretism.”
Buddha encapsulates teaching in a single law. Suffering arises from craving; the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving ; and the only way to. E liberated from craving is to train the mind to experience reality as it is. This law is seen as dharma the universal law. Buddhism doesn’t deny existence of gods but they play by similar rules. The universal law and effect of gods have no effect on each other.
“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”
Talking about how science and conquest
“The ships captain, who was an amateur scientist, decided to add a geologist to the expedition to study geological formations they might encounter on the way. After several professional geologists refused his invitation, the captain offered the job to a twenty one year old Cambridge graduate, Charles Darwin.”
the moon legend of Neil Armstrong/Buzz Aldridge/and the Native America
Magellan tried to circumnavigate the globe but died on the three year expedition?
European nations did not conqueror the world because they had superior technology. China Dynasty had massive armadas with huge ships but the desire was not there. 
The Spaniards were ruthless in conquering the Americas. After the Caribbean was explored, Americans killed, slaves brought in, Cortes moved to Mexico where he kidnapped the Aztecs emperor. He eventually led an uprising of other tribes. Everyone died of diseases. Ten years later Pizarro landed in South America, deployed a similar strategy and the Inca empire was wiped out. These cultures did not know of each other and could not warn the other of impending trouble. Pretty much all this happened in a span of forty years. 
Mr. Stone, Mr. Greedy, Mrs. McDoughnut and the magical multiplication of $1 million dollars. U.S banks are legally allowed to do this 10 times. All of it based on an imaginary future that we all believe in. Money and interest will come in so Stone can have his money, the bank can have their money, and McDoughnut can continue running her business. 
Economies of the past were based on tangibles. Wealth had to be converted into tangible things. What expanded economic in modern times was ‘credit’, the belief in an abundant future. 
Manhattan used to be New Amsterdam, controlled by a Dutch company, but was lost to British in 1662
The Mississippi Bubble in the early 18th century, which collapsed frances financial system, was a major reason why Britain took control of America. France had terrible credit.
The Greek rebellion against the Ottoman Empire was traded as a bond on the London Stock Exchange. As the Turks gained an upper hand, Britains fleet mobilized and, in 1827, won the battle of narvarino, sinking the main ottoman flotilla. Then Greeks owed Britain a bunch of money for while. 
The VOC and East India Trading company controlled lands and people but they were companies.
Sugar was up and coming 16th century Europe. But it was tough to produce large quantities because the work was tough so slaves were imported from Africa to tropical climates to work on the plantations. Europe needed sugar.
The slave trade was under a free capitalistic market. Shares were sold on the stock exchanges, people made money. Hatred killed millions with Christianity and Nazism. Capitalism has killed millions with greed.
The Great Begal famine, killing 10 million was due to poor economic policy perpetrated by EITC trying to increase profits.
VOCs military campaign in Donesia financed by regular, good people of the Dutch caused the suffering of many people. It was first commercial but then it was secured militarily due to tariffs and other disputes. 
Industrial Revolution- enriching bankers, etc but meant poverty for millions. 
Belgium financed a humanitarian effort to Central Africa, European powers gave the land to them, not asking the Africans and then it turned into a business enterprise.
Capitalism positives, life expectancy, child mortality, calorie intake. 
Steam engines were invented in 1825 and work by steam expanding and pushing a piston. This fueled the industrial revolution. Petroleum had been around for centuries but was never thought of us as a use for transportation. 
In 2002, after terror attacks 9/11, the avg person was more likely to kill themselves than be killed by another human. 741000 human violence to 873000 suicides 
Industrial revolution changed the family unit to the idividual unit. Went from taught by parents to taught by teachers. Agriculture to cities changed us even more fundamentally because our communities grew to enormous sizes. 
We have been in very peaceful times compared with other centuries despite massive catastrophes. 
Are we happier than our forager ancestors? Has all this technology, medicine, culture, globalization made us happier people?
“With the individual wielding unprecedented power to decide her own path in life, we find it ever harder to make committments. We thus live in an increasingly lonely world of unraveling communities and families.”
“Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

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