Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari is one of those books smart people love to recommend. It came highly recommended by individuals in Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans, and I’d also heard Bill Gates recommend it.
When I hear Bill Gates and a lot of these Silicon Valley types recommend a book, I become a bit skeptical. I know that these type of guys have an agenda and there book recommendations would reflect that. So how could a book about the history of Homo sapiens promulgate globalist ideas? We’ll get to that in a bit. But first I’d like to look at the book itself:
The Rise of Humans
At one point, almost 100,000 years ago, there were six different types of humans on Earth. Today, only Home sapiens have survived. What gives?
This book tells the rise of humans from “cavemen”, to wandering out of Africa, to agriculture, religion, science all the way to the present day and beyond. Harari uses his historian background and combines it with anthropology and sociology to map the rise of humans. It is a “big history” and Harari takes a lot head on. It was indeed a fascinating book and hits on a ton of interesting facts.
How “Fiction” Allowed Humans to Flourish
One of the most fascinating parts of the book is Harari’s ideas of big ‘fictions’. These are essentially artifically constructed ideas that humans create in order to allow better cooperation among individuals. Fictions include religions, money, nations, and economic systems. Essentially, any big idea that isn’t tangible, but that humans are heavily invested in and believe in. Enough so that it allows us to avoid killing each other.
For example, I avoid killing my neighbors because religion taught us it was evil. I can exchange money with someone, and even though it is just paper, it has inherent value to us. I can get along with someone 3,000 miles away in California because we are both Americans.
It is these fictions that allowed Homo sapiens to flourish.
Was the Agricultural Revolution a Bad Thing?
The “Paleo” movement has caught on quite rapidly. It touts the benefits of eating what humans ate prior to the agricultural revolution. Harari and other anthropologists support this notion, citing that agriculture had a net negative effect on humanity. There are a number of reasons for this. For one, wheat is not as healthy as fruits, meat and veggies. Harari suggests early humans had rich, nutritious and varied diets, unlike those who feasted on grains. In addition to the nutritional aspect, Harari states that humans were happier in tribal societies. Tribe by Sebastien Junger definitely supports this. Harari argues that instead of working our menial and depressing desk jobs, prior to the agricultural revolution work was easy and we spent most of our time outdoors with friends and family within our tribe.
One beef I have with this “Agriculture is Bad” crowd is that none of them have ditched their comfy homes for life in the woods. When these Paleo guys start donning loin cloths and hunting elk with spears, then I’ll take them at their word.
How Sapiens Pushes Globalism
If we take the idea of the big fictions to its natural conclusion, that means that in the future it is ideal to have one universal ideology that all people engage in, or globalism. Globalism is an ideology that all nations must work together for the interests of one another. It fits in perfectly with Harari’s thesis. This is precisely why men like Bill Gates and other top globalists recommend this book.
And quite frankly, it is hard to argue with. The European Union, for all its flaws, has allowed Western European nation states to avoid war, which was all too common before the organizations founding. Yet, organizations like the EU undermine national sovereignty and suppress national pride. The day may come when globalism is accepted by all, but I’ll be damned if it is forced upon us.
Too Much Political Correctness
I was fascinated by Harari’s description of the Homo sapiens’ journey out of Africa. I had no idea that other groups like Homo neanderthalensis were already living outside of Africa when sapiens were leaving the continent. One theory Harari discusses is that Neanderthals and humans possibly interbred. He states that, due to the larger brain size of Neanderthals, humans that retain some of that Neanderthal DNA would have higher levels of intelligence. A shocking revelation, he states. But he doesn’t give his firm opinion on the matter.
The reason being is that if he were to suggest that some humans, such as Europeans and Asians have more Neanderthal DNA, that would support the idea that some races are smarter than others. Too politically incorrect and offensive for a book that is a massive best-seller.
Political correctness also makes appearances several other times throughout the book. As a homosexual himself, he defends sodomy as “natural”. He also skirts around the reason for which men have been dominant in virtually every single society and tribe throughout world history.
These omissions are forgiven on my part. Sometimes you have to sell out a bit to become successful. All is forgiven, though a book that explores human anthropology through a politically incorrect, yet brutally honest lens would be welcome.
This work deserves the rave reviews it gets. Even in the beginning of the book where the focus is on anthropology and history, it is still highly engaging. It gets even better as the book goes on and Harari takes the reader on a journey from the agricultural revolution, early monotheistic religions, the scientific revolution to the modern world. I realize I have a a bit of criticism for the book, but that is simply what stood out the most in my memory and it is easier to extrapolate my complaints than my praise, unfortunately.
This book was indeed an audacious attempt to capture the history of Homo sapiens, but I will say he did an excellent job.