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[Book Review] Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind


It’s a burdensomely thick book. ​​At first, The far-out Neanderthal story that seemed to be on the other side of my memory when I was young, and archaeology, vague world history… For me, who is the weakest in concentration… It was very difficult to keep my eyes on the book. But it’s not that the content is difficult.

The source used in the book is really extensive, but the process of the author unraveling his opinion was also difficult to focus on. It’s good to include a lot of examples to get the viewer’s consent or understanding, but there are too many questions… I kept repeating the same words, so my concentration droped, and I wanted to read and skip only the title without realizing it. Fortunately, I had time, so I set a goal of 4 days and read it diligently.

This book seems to cover the entire human race, from before it was classified as a very old sapiens species, to the present, and to the future. The vast and wide (!, archeology, geography, biology, engineering, etc.) data used to support the author’s opinion and the author’s insight in analyzing the data were surprising.

However, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that I was driving too rapidly. When I read the book, I felt like I was being injected with the opinions of the author. The primitive story was acceptable, but when we moved on to the Agricultural Revolution, the author’s interpretation was a little frowned upon. I thought the opinion of the author who judged that the agricultural revolution made the Sapiens species more unhappy was biased.

For example, it was strange to analyze that people who became farmers due to the Agricultural Revolution lived a more difficult and miserable life than people in the hunter-gatherer era. Even if the life of a farmer was worse than that of a hunter-gatherer, the Agricultural Revolution did not make everyone a farmer. Above all, I thought that the basis that the life of a farmer is worse than the life of a hunter-gatherer is too subjective judgment of the author. Where is the absolute criterion to evaluate which is better, a life of waking up every morning to grow wheat and take care of livestock, or a life of always going out in the morning to gather food? It is important how the person feels. That person may be the author, but it could be a farmer in the past who lived that life, or one of the readers reading this book.

In other words, isn’t it up to each person to decide which one they will be more happy with? From the perspective of the author, hunting and gathering may be better, but will all mankind agree with that? And I thought that the interpretation that this was the successful result of wheat’s breeding and that wheat manipulated Sapiens was a bit exaggerated. (But it was an interesting idea.)

While I was reading it thinking it was strange, at the end, he defended it by mentioning all the doubts I had one by one. I just picked it up once and didn’t give an answer, just throwing questions.

There were some things I didn’t like, but there were also many things that surprised me while reading this book, so it’s worth recommending it. First of all, massive data! I haven’t looked for all of them myself, but I think the reference of data research is sure to write like this. As I read up to the Scientific Revolution, I thought that this man’s job covers so many fields. I thought it was great when the story of making antibiotics using E. coli came out. I also have a wide field of interest, but even if I don’t have a clear memory, I’ve heard a lot from somewhere, so the sources mentioned in this book are almost familiar, but I was surprised that I brought this much information and used it well to continue one big context. Just because there are a lot of ingredients, not everyone is good at cooking.

And with such materials, the insight that analyzed humanity from a perspective that people would have missed was amazing. (In fact, it has already been mentioned in another book, but my knowledge is short, so I feel like I’m the only one who added it here.). The most impressive content was that the biggest difference between Sapiens and other species is that they can create illusions and believe and follow them. Money, country, law, ethics, etc. All of these things are insubstantial, but the fact that they were essential and absolute to achieve the society of Sapiens.

The power of imagination.. That is the source of Sapiens being reborn as a species that dominates the earth. That’s right. When I thought about it, I wondered if it was right to believe and follow these things because these insubstantial things are in fact not absolute and immutable truths. Good and evil do not have an absolute reality. It occurred to me that I was dividing good and evil by a standard I decided to believe in. So, there are times when it is different from the standards set by each individual and social standards, so there are criminals and so-called “saints”. Criminals are, in effect, acting along the “good” they believe in.

For example, let’s say that society stipulates that “an action that a person can do is when the action is scored above 5”. At this time, if someone set their standard as 2 points instead of 5 points, they would judge that it was okay when they performed an action that was evaluated as 3 points. However, in society, it is judged as a crime because it is less than 5 points. Conversely, if another person’s standard score is set at 8 points instead of 5 points, that person will only act between 8 and 10 points, and will be evaluated as “a good person who can live without the law.”

If these standards are arbitrary, it is difficult to live in a group. So, just like setting the world standard time, we set a minimum guideline of 5 points, and that would be the law set by society. In other words, it is a baseline agreed upon and promised by all members of the group.

Going back to the starting point, the law is nothing more than a promise agreed upon by everyone to live together in society, so it is not an absolute law in fact. It doesn’t make sense to die and go to “hell” or receive “punishment” for violating this rule. After all, aren’t we just dusty beings in the natural world that only become a handful of ashes after we die? If you don’t want to abide by the law, you just have to get out of that society. However, as mentioned in this book, Sapiens is a species that is difficult to live alone, so you will have to live by the law.

Anyway, after biting the tail of this thought, I felt that everything I was trying to get and everything I was preparing was futile.

I was lost in thoughts like this, and suddenly I realized. Then I realized that this book is a good reflection of the characteristics of the Sapiens species. This book is nothing more than a story written by one of Sapiens, “Yuval Harari”, by freely unfolding his “imagination”. The existence of this book itself, which I could do as a Sapiens and wanted to do as a Sapiens, was the “evidence” that supported the contents of this book. And I thought that the reason why I didn’t get attacked even if I wrote such a little exaggeration was because this was just a book, not a “paper” published at a conference. It is supported by many reasons and written as if it were objective and credible, but in the end it is close to the author’s personal thoughts. If it was a thesis, there would be many things to attack, but who would seriously attack a novel that is just for fun? In that respect, I was reminded once again that a book is really a very good tool to see the endless imagination of one Sapiens.

I thought I would forget everything later, so I organized the thoughts that came to my mind while reading the book before that. However, since the contents of the book are so vast, I did not write down the thoughts that came to my mind while reading the book, but I seem to have forgotten all of them in the meantime.

I had more to say, and throughout the reading, there were many questions I wanted to ask and discuss with the author, but I forgot all of them. Oblivion is like a cheat key for life, so it can’t be helped. If I think of it again later, I am going to add or edit it.^^

What differentiates Science is imagination


– Title : Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
– Author : Yuval Noah Harari
– Publication Date : Feb 10, 2015
– Reading Period : Jan 5~9, 2023

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