Yuval Noah Harari thinks that the worst idea that we humans had was when we decided to become a single cell organism back in the primordial soup to eventually evolve into homo sapiens. Or at least when we invented agriculture.
It’s hard to say whether the author is optimistic about our species or not. He has an interesting way of putting his ideas into words. I have to admit that a few concepts and hypothesis have caused me to rethink the way I have perceived some aspects of history. Of course, it’s impossible to fit all of human history in one volume, so Harari focused on what he thought were the main game changers: the Cognitive Revolution, Agricultural Revolution, the unification of humankind and the Scientific Revolution.
The author argues that what sets us apart from other animals is our ability to believe in our myths and fantastic stories.In turn, we developed a highly complex way of communicating to share information and trade gossip which strengthens our social bonds. It’s one of our best and worst features because “You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”
The part that I especially enjoyed in the books is how the concept of social constructs was explained. Just because something is a product of the social consciousness doesn’t make it any less real. We give something power by believing in it, thus making it very much real, LLCs or genders.
The Agricultural Revolution was highly romanticized, the way authors who write about this topic usually do. It reminded me of a novel by Daniel Quinn, Ishmael, in which the author urges readers to go back to our roots in order to save the planet. Since it’s too late for us to go back to frolicking in savannahs, picking berries, I think we’ll just have to think of a way to fix what we messed up.
Sapiens are pretty good at messing up things. Slavery, atomic bombs, raping and pillaging are all products of the civilisation, but we are also good at fixing things. We have come this far, making today’s society objectively the best time to be alive in the whole of our history. We’re on brink of something big though, a huge change that will completely revolutionize the way we live and experience.
We’re a bunch of genocidal wizards who harness the power of nature for our purposes who are on our way to becoming gods in the next generations. And there’s no doubt that we’ll get there.