sapiens book summary

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari [Summary]

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The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari explains how our hunger for more is our biggest advantage and at the same time our biggest curse. The book illustrates how we evolved from hunter-gatherers – savages who have used only stone and fire – to modern citizens of the world who settle for social media browsing and a 9 to 5 job. How the agricultural revolution enslaved us. Why the creation of the church was kind of necessary. And what religion is bigger than Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam combined. Spoiler alert: It’s money.

The Core Idea:

After successfully climbing on top of the food chain, we, humans, are now responsible for maintaining the order and the balance on our planet. Unfortunately, history shows us that our actions are often harmful to our environment (and not only). This carelessness can lead to greater consequences. This book aims to be a wake-up call. Instead of hurting animals and destroying the already fragile ecosystem, we should fix what was broken and do our best to live together, along, with the other inhabitants of our world.

Highlights:

  • While farming has helped us prosper, it also enslaved us.
  • It might sound bizarre, and distasteful, but money is the thing that united us all.
  • Figuring what do we want to want is vital for the future of the planet.

5 Key Lessons from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind:

Lesson #1: What We Have We Owe It To Our Language

Our language is supple. Theory agrees that our unique language evolved as a means of sharing information about the world around us. Prehistoric people used words to alert others for possible threats ahead.

With each passing year, this simple, at that point, feature humans had, gave them unique superiority amongst other species. Thanks to the ability to clearly communicate with each other, we began to form groups, which allowed us to hunt much bigger and much stronger animals.

And although every animal uses some kind of language that allows them to communicate – even insects know how to communicate in a sophisticated way – ours is different, better. We can connect a limited number of sounds and signs to produce an infinite number of sentences, each with a distinct meaning.

Or in short, communication is important. Communication is key in every organization and relationship.

How many times your wife has mumbled you because “you don’t talk anymore to each other?” A lot, right?

Ask any business owner, and he will tell you that not his competitors are the reason they’re losing market share. The reason is much more basic: it’s internal communication. With each new employee, a company will suffer. The bigger the organization, the harder the communication gets. That’s why smaller teams are formed inside a big corporation. The smaller the unit, the faster the action.

Unfortunately, what we’re seeing nowadays is quite sad. People born after the year 2000, lack this very basic skill. They’ve grown in an era of nonverbal communication. Text, tweets and online messages are taking over. Youngsters feel much more comfortable texting someone than actually speaking to this person. And this is something quite disturbing. Teens grow up unable to clearly communicate. Incapable of expressing their own feelings. That’s why most kids today are shy and doubtful in their actions.

So, if you’re someone who lacks a vocabulary and confidence to speak with others, go out and talk. A lot. Talk with friends, with strangers on the street, with everyone around you. Do it as often as possible till you’re comfortable doing it. This skill is something you must master.

Lesson 2: Religion Helped Humanity Stay United as The Population Increased

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.” Yuval Noah Harari

According to the author’s research, data shows that the maximum “natural” size of a group bounded by a particular leader and purpose is about 150 individuals. Once that threshold is crossed, it causes a glitch. The communication inside the group becomes harder. So, how we were able to create the world as we know it now then?

What kept us together as a species, allowed us to build towns, kingdoms, shelters where thousands of people live together is called fiction. Only by believing in a common myth, people can live together and cooperate.

People started believing in gods, symbols, phenomena, and other extraterrestrial things a long time ago. At some point, someone decided to consolidate the small factions and create something bigger. This combined belief helped our ancestors unite and work together as a team.

Nowadays, we are united by three major religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism. Even though in the past we fought wars in the name of Christianity, for example. Currently, this religion and the common belief in the almighty – the one and only God – is the main reason we’re working together as a species. But, is it true? Or didn’t we make this up?

Probably our ancestors – a bit more than 2000 years ago – figured out that if different tribes continue to believe in different divinity’s, and if we continue to fight for different causes, this won’t do us any good as a species. That’s why they came up with this master plan. Or at least that’s my representation after reading the book.

Although we’ll probably never know the right answer. And to be honest, we probably should never know the right answer. The important thing is that religion did help. Even if you don’t quite believe in Christ, it’s still something that helped us work together as a group towards making the world a better place.

You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.” Yuval Noah Harari

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