15 min read ⌚
MicroSummary: Sapiens presents a work on the evolution of humanity. In it, the author Yuval Noah Harari rewrites the history of the human being through time. Turning to striking facts such as the development of communication, the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution and the scientific revolution, the book addresses the central points of our evolution and explores the positive and negative points of these developments. Also, Sapiens also addresses the future of humanity, where these revolutions will lead man and what we will become. Let’s together understand our origins and where do we go in this microbook?
A Brief History of Humankind
From all kinds of creatures, humans were the ones that rose to the top. Why? What is so special about them?
From the dusk of our species, up until present day – our summary of “Sapiens” tells you the story of humankind.
Who Should Read “Sapiens”? and Why?
We are so small, a fraction in the universe, and yet, we have come to dominate the planet.
How and why were we able to do this?
“Sapiens” explores all aspects of human history that brought together made us who we are at present.
We recommend this book to readers interested in evolution, and most of all to readers who want to understand how we wound up living in a capitalist community.
About Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari is an author and a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He specializes in world and military history.
You know, us humans are pretty unique.
From all species, we were the ones that survived, transformed and ultimately dominated the whole planet. Now, we are even moving further and trying to colonize space.
So, whenever you feel like we are not much, think about that.
However, how did we manage to get this far?
We will start at the very beginning, from the dusk of our species.
Humans first appeared in East Africa, about 2.5 million years, and, as far as we know, evolved from Australopithecus.
These early humans, such as Homo erectus and Homo rudolfensis started migrating and moved from East Afrika to other more suitable environments.
This migration led to the need for adaptation and thus, humans evolved into more types of Homo, including Homo neanderthalensis in Asia and Europe.
Homo sapiens of what we know as modern humans appeared later, around 300 000 ago.
The Different Species Of Humans
When people think of their ancestral species, they imagine a linear evolution. According to this idea, one species of one genus evolves into another species, which results in a third – until it reaches Homo sapiens.
That is an easy way to think about evolution, but it is not 100% accurate. In fact, many species of the same genus lived in the same period, evolving and changing to adapt to their ages.
A “genus” is a group of species that share a common ancestor, and for humans, this common ancestor is Australopithecus – a type of monkey that lived about 2.5 million years ago.
The roots of humankind are in the eastern regions of Africa, but after 5 million years in this area, some humans, for unknown reasons, have decided to wander to other African regions, as well as parts of Asia and Europe.
Several new species began to emerge with the dispersion of humanity around the world. The dwarves Homo floresiensis lived on an Indonesian island.
The island they chose was deficient in food and other resources, and so the smaller ones who lived among them (and needed less food) lived more comfortably, while the higher members of the species died.
On other islands, there were more tropical species, some of which we are still discovering today.
The Ice Age made it very difficult for any species to survive in Eurasia. To survive in these temperatures and climates, humankind needed to be stronger and more durable than its brothers and sisters who lived elsewhere.
That generated the evolution of the most resilient individuals of the species Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus.
Homo erectus evolved to be very resistant and durable and managed to survive for 2 million years – a record for any human species.
East African humans, however, continued to evolve into multiple new species, but no human species has been as successful in the world as the East African species known as Homo sapiens.
They have thrived to this day and have spread all over the world.
Pros And Cons Of Human Beings
What differentiates Homo sapiens from other members of the genus? What made them what they are now and what made them reach the top of the animal kingdom?
When we look at the ancient history of humankind, some important evolutionary observations appear.
One of the most important things that differentiated the ancient human from the other four-limbed animals was their ability to stand.
That gave all Homo genus members capacity to see farther than other species, giving them a better chance of observing prey or potential dangers.
Standing walking also meant that human hands were available for other tasks, giving humans great versatility that other species did not have.
Humans also had bigger brains than most other animals. To illustrate, the average mammal of 60kg has a brain of 200 cubic centimeters. Sapiens, on the other hand, has a brain of 1,200 to 1,400 cubic centimeters, which gave it incredible cognitive power.
This brain power has a high cost. The brain needs the energy to work, and the great brain of human species spends about 25 percent of the body’s total energy when i is resting.
Compared with the other apes that spend around 8%, you can begin to understand why humans were not as strong physically compared to other species.
Since our bodies spend so much energy to keep the brain active, less energy remains for all other functions.
As for other mammals, humans are born prematurely. A human newborn is frail and helpless against predators looking for a meal.
Other mammals, on the other hand, are born weak, but they can move and think. They also need care, but not as much as human newborns.
These differences have weakened humans as a species, but have also differentiated them. The power of the brain was a debilitating aspect in the beginning, but over time it became one of the greatest advantages of the human being.
Cognitive Revolution And Power Of Human Communication
Humans began to rise in the ranks of the animal kingdom around 70,000 years ago when revolutionary methods for sharing information began to emerge between them.
Developing languages shared by human groups allowed species to gather, exchange, and receive information in ways that other animals were not able to do, leading to a major change in the way of life of humankind.
This change is known as the Cognitive Revolution.
The idea that humans thrived because they were the first animals to discover how to communicate is false. Language was shared by other species; it was common in the ancient world and even today.
Using gestures, noises, and other actions, animals communicate general information with their relatives, such as information about nearby predators or mating.
However, although this type of communication is efficient, it is also very basic. An animal can use its language to make other animals aware that there are good fruits to eat, but it can not give the location of the fruit without going there.
An animal can learn that a hungry tiger is close but can not know where or when. The power of human language, on the other hand, lies in its complexity.
Humans can use their language to communicate specific information such as the exact location of a predator, the best time to find food, the dangers of traveling alone in an area, and so on.
Another difference in human language is that it is commonly used to argue about other people – a behavior that is not seen in the language of other animals.
Humans are by nature social creatures and need communication and community to thrive.
The ability to refer to other humans brought a sense of community to the ancient sapiens. Also, humans could retain the information communicated, allowing them to record the stories, the world around them and even completely fabricated things.
Humans have built a society around this communication, forming bonds and increasing their chances of survival.
Changes Brought By The Revolution Of Agriculture
The ancient world was rich in resources waiting for men. Fleshy animal herds, abundant edible vegetation, and even nutritious insects were only part of the quest.
Humans used to gather food and natural resources as they were found, eating what they needed and putting together or leaving the rest.
The earth’s resources were numerous, so a change was not necessary. This changed drastically 10,000 years ago when the agricultural revolution began.
We do not know what brought about this change, but sometime between 9,500 and 8,500 BC, humans in the world began cultivating edible plants and domesticating animals, which led to the farmer’s lifestyle.
This may sound positive, but it was a dangerous change for humans in general, completely altering their daily life and incorporating more work and stress.
The amount of food and resources increased, but this led to the development of social hierarchies in which hardworking farmers were at the base of the pyramid.
Moreover, as the human body was evolved for hunting, climbing and other similar tasks, the alternative tasks of agriculture required large evolutionary changes in several species.
Farming and resource gathering helped humans thrive and led to greater organization and concern for the future, but it also fostered greedy behavior.
The still nature of the farm made humanity much more territorial, fighting against predators, plagues and even against other humans to protect their land.
Moreover, the population boom was so great that humanity could not return to its old habits even if it wanted to. There was no turning back.
With the development of society, humans began to organize their hierarchies and put the top decision-making leaders and the workers at the bottom.
By 8,500 BC, large villages began to form and, by 2,200 BC, the first empire was formed with one million people and an army of about 5,000 soldiers.
The Development Of Human Societies
The construction of today’s world has demanded much learning from the human being. Humanity did not need much knowledge when it survived only by collecting food.
Attitudes such as gathering food, climbing trees and making basic tools were very simple or even innate to the ancient man. In the developed and hierarchical world of the Agriculture Revolution, actions have become much more complicated.
The body naturally knows how to yawn, how to cough and how to climb, but does not know how to respect its leaders, cook meat or how to find information. People needed to learn to live in the new society that humans had created.
To help teach people to live in society, humans have gradually developed ways of storing information. The solution was a series of significant symbols, which later became known as ‘the first writing’.
Along with the hierarchy, this made the government an important tool to ensure that society functions as it should.
In the last centuries of the Before Christ years, humanity was beginning to cluster into empires, which were spreading.
An empire is a political order that governs a large and diverse group of people, with a continually expanding frontier and a thirst for conquest.
There were many empires, but there were still more groups of people to be ruled. However, as these people were conquered by greedy emperors, they began to mingle. This has led to a great reduction in the diversity of human beings in that period.
We will never know whether these changes in society were good or bad for human evolution, but each advance has carved out human culture to this day. Still, it is undeniable that the most shocking revolution was yet to come.
The Scientific Revolution And The Transformation Of The World
The most radical change in the way of living and working of human beings is not so old.
In fact, it started only 500 years ago. Incredible advances in the areas of technology, military power, innovation, and breakthroughs have led to a new way of promoting the breakthroughs.
These factors resulted in the Scientific Revolution.
Under the Scientific Revolution, humankind has consolidated its dominance over the planet. Over the past 500 years, humans have increased their production levels from $ 250 billion to $ 60 trillion. They have increased their daily calorie intake from 13 trillion to 1,500 trillion.
Humans also went through another population boom, rising from 500 million Sapiens to 7 billion. What caused these changes?
A large part of the progress of the Scientific Revolution can be attributed to the change in scientific thought – or, more specifically, to a willingness of the scientific community to admit ignorance.
This allowed scientists to search for truths, rather than simply constructing ideas based on assumptions that might be wrong.
Modern science also tries to observe the world around it, more than ancient science did. It uses these observations to create theories about how the world works. But possibly the most obvious difference in scientific thinking is the pursuit of power.
Theories of modern science are no longer developed solely for the sake of research.
Now humanity is investigating things with the intention of using them, developing new technologies to help us learn even more about the world and aid human life.
The scientific advances achieved by this revolution have changed the planet for better or worse, as well as all the species that live in it.
Thanks to scientific progress, there is now enough weapons in the world to eradicate humanity.
However, modern science has also given us the power to feed the poor, provide help to those in need and respond to global crises quickly.
Modern science is also more than an institution of discovery. It can be used to drive the industry by developing more efficient ways of working in many areas.
The impact of the Scientific Revolution has been felt throughout the world, making the world we live in entirely different from that of only 500 years ago.
The Future Of Humanity
From the beginning, humanity has used its advantages to overcome other creatures. But perhaps the greatest achievements of humanity lie in their ability to overcome their natural barriers.
The future of humankind could progress naturally, as it always did, but when it reaches its limits, the future may follow in different directions.
Humanity can extend its life and find solutions to its natural defects using robotic engineering, something that is already happening.
Today we already have experimented with small animals and insects involving computer implants created for the improvement, creating organic hybrids and perfect bionic beings.
Humans already use similar technology to help prolong or improve life, such as pacemakers and hearing aids.
However, new technologies will go even further. Humans now have technology that allows amputees to control robotic arms operated by thought.
Technologies like these can go even further and be used in the future to correct any physical problem.
Advances in artificial intelligence are also proliferating. Work began in 2005 on a revolutionary project that recreated the human brain inside a computer.
By using circuits and metals instead of neural networks and fats, humans may be able to explore the inorganic.
The most exciting advances are in biology. Bioengineering has allowed great feats of genetic personalization.
Sex changes, human parts developed in the laboratory and many other issues are already healthy in the world, but the possibilities of genetic combinations can achieve great deeds.
What if there was a genetic modification that would make a person stronger or smarter? What if two human beings with these modifications had children? The baby would be stronger and smarter as well, but would not be more a result of man’s natural evolution.
In the future, bioengineering could give us the power not only to observe the next steps of human evolution but also to protect them.
Our ancestors – a brief explanation
Yet, they were the ones that preserved and spread all over the world, while the other species disappeared.
You might be asking yourself: why?
Scientists have come up with two theories to explain this.
The first one is the interbreeding theory which argues that Homo sapiens merged with other species by starting to mate with them.
Conversely, the replacement theory suggests that Homo sapiens had superior skills and technology, and thus pushed other species toward extinction. How? By violence, of course.
Both of these theories are likely, and most probably the truth lies somewhere in between.
Okay, but if other species went extinct because of Homo sapiens and the advantages they had, how did it come to the point when humans were superior to others?
The answer to this question is logical: the human brain. Humans have a uniquely structured brain, which, around 70 000 years ago got transformed through an evolutionary leap otherwise known as cognitive revolution.
This transformation made them more advanced and gave humans a sudden improvement in cognitive reasoning and brainpower.
So, humans used their improved brain capabilities to outperform and surpass their rivals.
They began forming more sophisticated communities, they improved their hunting tools and techniques and even started a primitive form of trade.
These developments, although they might seem simple from a modern point of view, were very significant. Being advanced like that meant that Homo sapiens could survive even in the harshest of environments since they could find food and resources for sustainable unlike other species of human.
Another thing that the cognitive revolution made possible was the journey to unknown places, i.e., it made humans travel and colonize even the most remote areas in the world.
Starting from Africa, humans spread out all over the world.
Soon we will move to successfully colonizing space.
Key Lessons from “Sapiens PDF”
1. The Importance of Language
2. The Creation of Agricultural Societies
3. The Future of Humanity
The Importance of Language
Language is the best symbol of human sophistication. Human language is far more complicated than communication forms that other species use.
The development of language is one of the most significant points in human history.
Language allows people to pass on valuable lessons, dangers, and most significantly – abstract concepts and ideas.
Hence, they can create myths, and as you know, myths are the basis of human culture, and therefore, identity.
The Creation of Agricultural Societies
Societies changed to agricultural communities for two reasons.
First, the change to agriculture was not overnight, and by the time people learned that farming was slow and not immediate as hunting it was already too late.
Second, agriculture has one big advantage which erases most of its faults – it is more efficient. Efficiency was crucial when the population grew.
Turning to agriculture conditioned the emergence of trade and later, money.
The Future of Humanity
We know our past, but how about what we can expect in the future?
Technological and scientific developments are moving toward finding the cure for aging and discovering eternal life.
So what are the limitations that we encounter?
At the moment are mostly of legal and ethical nature. However, such barriers cannot last long, so it is possible that soon, we will no longer exist as Homo sapiens. Instead, we will become superspecies, part human, and part machine.
Like this summary? We’d Like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Sapiens Quotes”You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. Click To Tweet How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined. Click To Tweet One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Click To Tweet The romantic contrast between the modern industry that “destroys nature” and our ancestors who “lived in harmony with nature” is groundless. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for… Click To Tweet History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Yuval Noah Harari tells the history of humankind in a fun and entertaining way. His focus is on the three types of revolution: cognitive, agricultural and scientific, and how those points in evolution changed humankind.
He does not write about facts only, he also explores and discusses topics to which there is no real answer at the moment. Hence, he explores not only what happened, but what could have happened if some things were different.
Humans are born small, weak, and helpless. Without the force of a gorilla or the speed of a leopard, we were initially bred to harvest fruits and plants. But one day, a spark of progress began within that small genre.
Somewhere between our first rudimentary tools and the present time, humanity has grown from the bottom of the food chain to become the dominant force on the planet.
Now, humans are looking to the future that is under their control. No longer dependent on natural evolution, fate is in the hands of Homo sapiens.