SAPIENS BY YUVAL NOAH HARRIS- BOOK REVIEW

Image resultAn awardee of the annual Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in the Humanities Development, Yuval Noah Harari has encapsulated the idea of Evolution of Humankind in his book SAPIENS: A Brief History of Humankind.

Harari, writes in the preface, “I encourage all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world, to connect past developments with present concerns, and not to be afraid of controversial issues.” He tells that we need to question whether justice prevailed during ancient history.

The title of the book SAPIENS enshrines that Homo sapiens were not the only sapiens that existed. There was other kind of Sapiens which coexisted with HOMO – SAPIENS. He talks about 6 different species and how Homo-sapiens dominated them.The book spans around the origin of the Species and a transformation of human from an irrational person to a radical person. It widens your horizon about the history of humankind.

The interesting factor about the book is how Harari has managed to divide the Evolution process into Cognitive Evolution, Agricultural Revolution and Scientific Revolution . The main themes of all the Revolutions speak about how one species started gaining prominence than the other. The trajectory processes involved are captivated in these evolutions.

The narrative used by Harari is very contentious. The chapter encloses a positive aspect of each evolution and then brings in the gloomy side of the evolution. This provocative nature of Harari’s writing invokes the readers mind to think about the history once again. The insights of the author are represented through his vivid language.  The book not only speaks about the historic nature of human evolution, but also enclosures biological aspect in creating human species.

The part which fascinated me was that of AGRICULTURE REVOLTUION and subsequent unit – UNIFICATION OF HUMAN MANKIND. The provocative writing in this chapter made me think about the history of Agricultural Revolution. It made me question whether it was a boon to the humankind or bane or an opening to a new era of chaotic society. The farming and the permanent settlement of people resulted in domestication of animals and plants. These abandoned the culture of hunter gatherers. He also speaks about the victims of Agricultural Revolution as the animals who became submissive to Homo sapiens. It created a conundrum in me, when Harari said, “We did not domesticate wheat, but the wheat domesticated us.”

The Agriculture Revolution was an advantage to the humankind rather than the human itself. It benefited the evolution process by increasing the DNA of human species, but the individuals suffered as they had to adapt to a new lifestyle. The shift into Agricultural Revolution created a sense of attachment to my house and separation from the neighbours which had an impact on the psychological ingrain of human.

The concept of the imagined order and everything is just an imagination provokes one’s thought. The idea of co-operation was due to imagined order. “The human imagination” as Harari has pointed out “was building astounding networks of mass cooperation unlike any other ever seen on Earth”.   He explains how the Code of Hammurabi and the Declaration of American Independence has served an example for the idea of co-operation. The concepts of myths, religion and empires are all embedded into the imagined order.

The book further conceptualises about different tools devised by Humans to work in the realm of co-operation. How language, trust, transforming their memory into a form of writing, culture were the artificial instincts to operate in co-operation. The gender issues prevailed in those days, where women were considered to produce baby and look after the household chores whereas men worked in the field to substantiate his family.

Money, religion and empire played as great unifiers as well as divisors. Money, for example, brought together many people to trade objects but it ultimately discriminated with people who couldn’t afford those things. Religion led to co-operation of people, but different sets of communities started to follow other religion which became divisive.

Hence, the discrepancy between the evolution success and the individual suffering is an important lesson to draw from the Agricultural Revolution. He ends the book by saying that the Era of Homo sapiens will end and new sapiens will be created.

The main flaw in this book according to me was that he implicitly said that Agricultural Revolution was the reason to the chaos or distortions which is established in today’s world. But it makes us think if there was no Agriculture wouldn’t we be in a state of foragers or hunter gathers without any development? This question of ambiguity of what would have happened is not answered by Harari. The main positive aspect of the book is that Harari has managed to contemplate all the aspects of evolution in one single book. The writing is very persuasive, provocative and thought invoking whether everything including you is imaginary.

Well, It is a must read to all those who are keen in researching and dwelling deep into the aspects of the evolution of Mankind. And At the end of the book, you will gain a thought and it leads you to question things which have happened in the history.

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