Sapiens - by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens is a deeply insightful recount of humanity’s history, told from what feels like an alien’s perspective. What allowed humans to succeed is our ability to cooperate in large groups, due to our belief in shared fictions, such as money, religion, law, property, and nations. These beliefs scaffold on top of one another, creating ever larger and more complex abstractions, culminating in today’s global supply chain and society. Reading this book will make you see the world differently.

Raw Notes

Cruelty and Genocide are as old as the human race. Most large mammals disappeared from the earth shortly after humans entered their habitats.

Language likely developed to help us gossip.

Myths & imagination are critical to human survival. Without common myths, humans can really only know about 150 people max. By adopting common myths (like money), we are able to collaborate with millions of humans all around the world. Modern institutions are myths, and history is about getting people to believe things.

Everything is about telling stories. Stories form the basis of learning behaviors.

Originally genes determined behavior, and evolution was slow. Now ideas determine behavior, and evolve as fast as we can come up with them and share them. Systems evolution => teaching other things to play games

Trust = common information & beliefs = trade = prosperity

When people started thinking, the field of biology became the study of history. History is the study of evolving cultures (ideas). Culture is effectively artificial instincts.

The agricultural revolution started the pattern of growth we still expect today: that every year will be better than the last. It allowed us to change our brain programming by gorging on caloric food.

Everything is escalatory… The luxury trap -> grain domestication was a trap.

Individual freedom vs equality: cognitive dissonance

Money is the greatest conqueror, based on trust, and also the apogee of human tolerance… Universal convertibility and trust. Allowed you to trade with your enemy. Money corrodes local cultures… You don’t trust the person, but the money. You do anything for it.

Social/tribal animals think “us vs them”. But at some point we started thinking in universal order: merchants economic, conquerors empires, religion believers

Trend in history: cultures keep merging & get bigger. Empire most common form of political form over last 2,500yrs = cultural diversity + flexible borders. People don’t recover after an empire retreats… They’re fully assimilated.