Book Review – Sapiens


First published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011, Sapiens, by Professor Yuval Noah Harari, was released in English in 2014. Incredibly well-received book, receiving 4.5/5 on Goodreads, 90% approval through Google Ratings, and 4.5 stars with 3.5k reviews on Amazon at my time of writing. It races through the evolution of the Homo Sapiens to present day. The novel spans millions of years, discussing everything from the establishment and spread of religion to gender differences within the species.

Breakthroughs in Humanity

Harari discusses the 4 major revolutions: The Cognitive Revolution (70,000 BC), the Agricultural Revolution (11,000 BC), the Scientific Revolution (1500 AD), the Industrial Revolution (1750 AD), the Information Revolution (1970 AD), ending with the Biotechnological Revolution (in progress). This follows Klaus Schwab’s prediction in his 2016 novel, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, that we are entering a new revolution powered by inexpensive sensors and exponentially increasing abilities to process large amounts of data efficiently.

Each revolution follows more quickly the previous one. In Peter Thiel’s 2014 book, Zero to One, he proposes 4 different ways humanity may progress in the near future. Because of the rapidly occurring revolutions, we have 3 viable solutions: 1) Society will plateau once we reach a certain level of comfort and achievement 2/3) Society will continue to progress until we reach a singularity which causes the 2) extinction of our species or 3) The exponential increase in Sapiens’ evolution.  I believe the last option to be the path where we’re headed, but I’m also an optimist, shoot me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Assumptions and Normality

Throughout history, Sapiens have made assumptions to create and maintain stable social structures. While they may temporarily solve our problems, they also lead to longstanding impediments in our society such as secularism, sexism, racism, ageism, etc.

In Originals (2016) Adam Grant discusses the difference between conceptual and experimental innovation. While conceptual innovators like Einstein developed breakthroughs in relativity, these same concepts inhibit innovators ability to adapt their concepts to new information (such as quantum physics). In contrast, experimental innovators, like Leonardo da Vinci, spend time in trial and error, constantly refining their practice until they create beautiful works such as the Last Supper and Mona Lisa.

Most societies are founded on concepts rather than experiments. This has prevented us from modifying our current structures and governance to account for the developments in technology and changing understanding of the universe.

Eternal Life

Harari argues “Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so.” I have to agree. We have a new ability as a species to be able to repair, upgrade, and modify ourselves with the help of technology through biotechnology and artificial intelligence. While I am hopeful to be included in the society of amortal Sapiens, my goal is to add value to this field of study to bring it’s inevitable manifestation to life in time for my children and their descendants.

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