Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari Book Review - Or The Review of The Humanity
Reviewing Mr Harari's works is not the same as reviewing books of any other genre. Partly because of the heavy historical argumentation and partly because of the author's definitive approach to everything - reviewing 'Sapiens' feels the same as one would have to write a book review on the Bible.
That being said, Harari has really gone for it - from the appearance of matter and energy to cyborg and bioengineering evolution - it's all there and ready to blow the readers' minds. The book begins with a quick overview of putting our existence into perspective. That 4.5 million years of Earth's existence is facing some irreversible changes, first time not caused by nature but by a being's doing - a being who has been around for only a mere second of any relative timely significance.
The book is divided into four parts that represent the sequence of humanity's evolution process. The parts go as follows: cognitive, then agricultural revolution, the unification of humankind and the last part - scientific revolution. In this way, the author is suggesting that in order to improve, one has to revolt. But how come, out of all the other billions of beings in the world, humans were the only species that evolved to revolt? Are we really that special, or just a mere accident of the primordial soup?
Cognitive Revolution happened when humans separated themselves from the animals by, instead of adapting to the environment by physical evolution, learning how to communicate to spread the knowledge of the coming changes. When we became capable of creating a story, that was when the history of humankind began. It came with the beginning of the existence of Sapiens... And the beginning of the extinction of everything else. Since then, cognitively, our brain capabilities haven't changed. We only learned how to use it. However, the following parts of the book make you seriously doubt that.
Agricultural Revolution or 'where it all went wrong 'was the time when Sapiens had already made all the other human species extinct and decided to go on a mission to enslave and slaughter all the other animals in the world, in order to create the comfort that went against their nature itself. You see, humans in origin were hunters and gatherers, thirsty for adventure (or simply starving, which is even more motivating), travelling from one location to another, always on the move, going with the flow of life. Since humans learned how to manipulate the lives of few animals and seeds, from sunrise to the sunset they would be the salves of watering plants, feeding and protecting the animals and doing other chores around the house. So why Harari has named the first chapter of the second part 'History's biggest fraud'? Because enslaved by the luxury and comfort trap, Sapiens became prisoners in their own home. Instead of being nourished by a rich gatherer's diet - they spent each day living on wheat. Instead of trusting on their endurance and skills - they started trusting myths, stories and destiny.
The unification of humankind part is filled with the history of imperialism, religion and ideologies that were meant to unite, but we all know what happened there. However, the true significance lies in the period of Scientific Revolution. Over the last 500 years, the planet has witnessed an unprecedented human power which 'made us deadly'. Deadly to the point where the destruction of the whole planet is only a few button clicks away. Deadly to all the other species and even to the laws of nature. And even more deadly, knowing that we are that close to finding the way to becoming almost to immortal.
The first part of the book is rather intriguing. Whoever is interested in philosophy or history will find that Harari's detailed tracing of the cognitive development of the first Sapiens directly leads to the processes happening in our own mind and our society. And what is more exciting than getting so close to the true human nature by getting to know the first-ever human species? More so, knowing that Sapiens were only one of the many species - what made our brain click to become superior? Did we go on a tour around the world killing all the other humans, or did we spread love and, eventually, all became one? Such a blurred line in the history of humankind, and yet, so important. Is our nature to love or to conquer, after all?
Moving forward, perhaps being only a personal preference, but the more the author dives into economy and ideologies, the pages turn longer and the time seems to stop, looping around a sentence about the capitalism and its doctrines. I appreciate all the information, facts and the way Harari connects it all by the ultimate philosophical question of our nature, purpose and moral quest. However, some parts did make me feel that I was reading a high-school history encyclopedia and had to prepare for the exam on Imperialism and the rise of global credit systems. But I must admit, I never understood the essence of credits and how it worked in the economy. I definitely did not expect to learn about it in this way, but thanks, I guess.
Finally, let's get to the juicy part. The part that I wish would have had more presence throughout the whole journey Harari takes us on. Human history has a long list of massive screw-ups, as well as incredible achievements (in a biological and scientific sense). But what is the point of all of it? Can we say that we've succeeded? Or the opposite - would it be better if we were never here?
Of course, there is no right answer. But it makes us wonder. What is the only metric that we should look into, in order to determine the meaning of it all? Is it economical strength? The growth of the population? Death rate? The majority of our time people did put all these things first. The scientists have recently introduced a new metric system and that is happiness.
But even when we analyse all Buddhist's transcripts, immerse into meditations, do the scientific researches and find the universal measure for happiness... Then we're posed with a moral question - is it fair that the success of the history of our world is determined by the happiness of human species only? The thing is that if we take into consideration all the suffering of other animals that we ruthlessly used in order to thrive, we don't stand a chance in front of the karmic judges of the universe.
All in all, Sapiens is definitely a book worth reading. Be prepared to learn more than you perhaps had wished to. Be prepared to be provoked. And, most importantly, be ready to open your mind to the possibility of it being changed. In order for us to change, as human species - for the better.