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Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Where are we from and what are we from? Is man a social animal, the way Aristotle meant, or quite literally? Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens that spans around 600 pages attempts to walk you through a time lapse of human evolution. According to Harari, the evolution of the humans as we stand today can be broadly significant over three milestone revolutions of the ancient homo sapiens
“The Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.” 
Numerous forces, as described by Harari in the book, changed us to how we are today. Chapter by chapter, revolution to revolution, we watch the unpolished homo sapiens climb up the rung of the ladder, from being hunters and gatherers, to agriculturalists, thinkers, innovaters, discoverers, explorers, and grow into the homo sapiens who have carved a path out of the wild jungle with predators to a settlement, establishing themselves on the top of the food chain. A built up narrative, however, is quickly ended with what almost feels like a cliffhanger, with nothing but a cue opinion that the homo sapiens may just be on the verge of a dramatic, transformative and radical change.

Harari writes interesting ideas, presented in a way that is entertaining to read. He talks what distinguished homo sapiens from any other living species, and when such change was actually noticeable. It is fascinating to read as he talks about the brains of the earliest form of us, the homo sapiens, and about how the capability to commuicate descriptively is what gave the earliest men an edge over their predators. Imagination and the sense of language that can express imagination was a rare gift that the early humans got over all other animals. 
“It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist, and believe six impossible things before breakfast. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”
As enjoyable as Sapiens was, towards the second half of the book (middle-end) it gets a little stretched out as the author stagnates the time lapse narrative over his strong opinions on the early men who were agriculturalists. Although, Harari's take and critique on the social ills of homo sapiens is quite refreshing. As the title suggests, the author attempts to make it a brief history of humankind but it falls short of it, and for obvious reasons. I felt that every important aspect in aeons of evolution of humans, after all, could not be covered by a mere 600 pages. It was interesting, but ambitious task!

I remember hearing about this book from everyone, at a point. When I finally picked up the Sapiens now, I felt that is a fascinating read, at least most parts of it. And for someone who knows nothing about evolutionary history- this book is is written in an easy format that cuts out unnecessary jargon, and gives you a fair idea as to the broad sequence of events that transpired in the history of how we came to be. A nice, explorative read!

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