Top 10 Lessons Learned from Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Updated: Jul 5

A summary of ideas raised by the book and others inspired by connected histories described by Harari.

1. Embrace complexity and gaps in information. What we know from evolution at any point in time has shown that the process was not linear: from Australopithecus to Neanderthal to Erectus to Denisova to Sapiens. New hominids or fossils are discovered all the time.

2. Cognitive evolution came about with improvements in diets (or at least accessibility). There is always a paradigm shift. You need no invitation to hold the view that early hunter gatherers and nomadic people slowly became farmers and turned into domesticated societies. You do though need proof to back up your view (Harari offers fire).

3. A very serious claim is made above. Humans can hold any view, feeling or idea but for an idea to work it has to be repeatable (scientific experiments; my grandmother says because her grandmother said...) Some call the sources books, others art, stories and songs, and even culture is invoked by others.

4. Another important insight emerged earlier: information is carried across time through various mediums and people. Listen openly to everything but evaluate critically.

5. Ideas, imagination and stories are central to our story, cooperation, growth of families and societies. Enter the beginnings of beliefs, myths, legend and stories. As Harari puts it, "only sapiens speak of things that don't really exist at breakfast." There is a purpose to commonly held beliefs.

6. Imagining things that do not exist leads to their creation and existence at the same time (even innumerate failures, no one counts those). Too many examples to list but suffice to imagine what happens to people when their beliefs are shaken briefly or when erased permanently !

7. Perception changes over time. We have seen leaders who were considered dangerous jiki jiki (untranslatable but let us go with "all of a sudden") they are invited to state dinners. The same person. Sapiens change only when it is beneficial to them. That is, nothing changes, only perceptions.

8. Groups cooperate up to a certain number in the club (say 150 but could be any other number in different settings). Beyond that number the club breaks down. Within a club, there is always a club. Very Orwellian to the core humans. VVIP. Keep adding the Vees.

9. The clearest ideas are the simplest to convey. This is the biggest lesson from this book.

10. Why did I say I had 10 lessons. Struggling now. People like manageable whole numbers, arrangements and patterns ! They tell us: "10, a dozen, 360". Given the complexity we failed to fully characterise above, how can we suddenly capture it all in ten points? A survey of 100,1000 people, really? Read as many stories as you can.

5 views0 comments