Nataka Books Review: Sapiens

Updated: Feb 22

10 Lessons from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by YN Harari, and my own interpretation.

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 austrolopethicus 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) You need no invitation to hold the view that early hunter gatherers and nomadic people slowly became domesticated societies and farmers. You do though need proof to back up the view (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 would call this books, or songs, or culture.

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 and cooperation, growth of families and societies. Enter the beginnings of beliefs, myths, legend and stories "only sapiens speak of things that don't really exist at breakfast" There is a purpose to common beliefs.

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

7. Perception changes over time. We have seen leaders who were considered dangerous jiki jiki they are invited to state dinners, 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 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 I took from this book.

10. Why did I say I had 10 lessons. Struggling now. People like manageable wholes they tell us: ten, a dozen, 360. Given the complexity we failed to fully characterise above, how can a study suddenly capture it all through a survey of 100 people? Read as many stories as you can.

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