Yuval Harari’s brief history of humankind, weighing in at a meaty 400 pages, is enjoyable, provocative and very worrying. The wide-ranging, scholarly story is easy to read and sensible. I enjoyed the book from beginning to end, though I had to restrain myself from skipping to the last chapter: The End of Homo Sapiens.
For the first few chapters, the irony of our vain self-naming “sapiens” (wise in Latin) is palpable on every page . We wiped out at least six other species of hominid, not because we were better, stronger or smarter, but because we believed in things that didn’t exist, imagined collaboration and ran amok.
Skipping to the end of the book, the stories that we’ve imagined (like a bearded man in the clouds) stand in the way of common sense. We believe what we want to believe, not what we know to be true. We believe advertisements instead of our own personal senses and experiences. We believe in the virtue of power despite evidence that it is corrupt. And everyday, with increasing speed, we choose a virtual reality of thinking machines and media devices which lead to a life without nature and the inevitable rise of cyborgs which are stronger, smarter and more emotionally astute that homo sapiens. That time, presaged by the approaching technological singularity, is happening now. In a few decades, humankind will be on the way down … unless we choose to live within the laws of nature.
Buy Sapiens and enjoy the story. It’s about you!