December 7, 2018

Book Reflection: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This book was published in 2011 but if the hold waiting list at the Toronto Public Library is any indication of a books popularity or interest level, then this book continues to have quite the following.

I finally got my hands on a copy after waiting a few weeks and I made sure to start reading it right away. I wasn’t disappointed at all.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This book gives a fresh POV on our past -- both recent history and our evolutionary past.

A few things that stood out to me:
  • The shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural society is often painted in history books as good. While agricultural societies enabled human numbers to explode and provided a steady supply of food, it shifted humans from having a healthier lifestyle with a varied diet that had a sustainable impact on the environment to relying on a few crops and livestock that had a catastrophic impact on the environment. Humans arguably had a better quality of life as hunter gatherers!
  • Money is the one shared fiction we all believe in. The currency doesn’t matter. We all work, exchange goods and services and put faith in money. Money is nothing more than a piece of paper (and today nothing more than numbers in the cloud as we barely carry any actual cash anymore) and a promise that it can be exchanged for something we want. What will happen to society as we know it if people lose faith in this system of exchange?
  • Are we nearing the end of Sapiens and the world as we know it? Sapiens have had a huge impact on the world and the environment. Already, we are arguably the most destructive species in history. Sapiens show up and mass extinction essentially follows. But we are also the most creative and we push the boundaries of creation with the help of technology. What happens next?

Yuval Noah Harari has written two follow up books to this - “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” talking about the future and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” which talks about the present. I can’t wait to get my hands on both books!