Recommended reading: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

tl;dr: "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari describes the rise of humanity to the predominant species, but always with a critical eye. It is an extremely readable book in every respect, from which one can learn a lot, and which raises many exciting and interesting questions.

In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari subdivides the history of humanity into three major changes: the cognitive revolution around 70,000 years ago, the agricultural revolution around 12,000 years ago and the scientific revolution around 500 years ago.

The cognitive revolution transformed man from one insignificant animal among many into an outstanding species that could claim Earth supremacy. The basic element here was the development of an abstract language that is capable of more than just describing the things that actually exist in the physical world.

Only this made it possible to create common myths, fairy tales and ideals that helped people to unite in ever larger groups. Such common ideas and convictions still form the basis for uniting millions of people in nations and religions, among others.

Man is domesticated

The agricultural revolution led to wild catchers becoming local farmers. Interestingly, the author describes this process not as domestication of wheat by man – but as domestication of man by wheat.

He also points out that agriculture has not been a blessing, but above all has led to new diseases, more work and more injustice. However, man no longer had a choice, as the new food supply led to an ever increasing population, so that one could no longer return to the way of life of hunters and gatherers.

The scientific revolution finally marked the beginning of modern (natural) sciences, whose discoveries and inventions have accelerated evolution ever faster and faster up to the present day. With current developments, for example in the fields of bionics and genetics, man is on the verge of turning himself into a god.

The Gilgamesh Project

An essential aspect the book deals with is the fight against mortality, which may be won one day. If so, this could lead to an unprecedented gap between rich and poor.

In connection with the re-creation of already extinct species, such as mammoths or Neanderthals, such future perspectives seem far more threatening than 1984 by George Orwell or Beautiful New World by Aldous Huxley.

Harari does not claim, however, that it has to happen this way. His aim is to encourage the reader to reflect critically and he succeeds in doing so very well. The book is therefore a pleasant and necessary counterweight to the belief in technological progress conveyed in books such as Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future or Zero to One.

Résumé

Even though Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is anything but an IT technical book, it also provides interesting impulses for IT, especially in ethical and moral terms. The questions on the future of research and development in particular raise highly relevant questions for IT, to which we urgently need answers.

For me personally, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is one of the best books I have ever read.

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Susanna Roden

Founder and managing partner

To be open means to regularly question and throw away yesterday's work, and to acknowledge your faults. In our team, we help each other to strive for the courage required for that.