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Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind



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A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari
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Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind

‘’I encourage all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world, to connect past developments with present concern, and not to be afraid of controversial issues’’ – Yuval Noah Harari

Even though having studied history quite a lot in the past, I have never put things into the perspective as the author did in this exact book. When reading history, one learns how and why things are the way they are now, however, the main difference with the ‘’normal’’ history books is that this encourages the readers to think and see the history more differently than ever before. It has definitely changed my point of view of humans and their behaviours.

The book focuses on the history of humanity, explaining briefly and summarising all the most important events during the past 70 000 years, starting from when human was born and how we have spread around the whole world unlike other animals. Not only does the author challenge the readers to think differently about the history as well as the modern times, but also writes the facts in an extremely truthful way. Along the whole book, it is very clear that the author has done a lot of scientific and historical research, which is obvious from the numerous sources and references found in the end of the book.

It was very interesting to read about how humans have behaved and made up different beliefs, of which many are very much believed nowadays as well. It is odd to think how humans have developed as the years have gone past, especially with the science and technology today. One thing that made me think a lot was the fact that ever since humans started to develop, the size of other animals decreased. There are many existing theories about why this happened, but I did not know before reading this book that for example when humans arrived in Australia, the size of a kangaroo was almost three times bigger than their current size. If homo sapiens would not have developed this rapidly, would the animals still be as big as they used to? – there is no direct answer, but this was my thought when reading that section of the book.

There were many historical theories pointed out and it made the reader to really think and question of which ones could be true, but then again does truth even exist? This is an example of the fact that the book encourages readers to think about what is true and not. I personally agree on the fact that things can change rapidly if people are willing and capable of believing in the change. Humans really do believe in many things and everything around us has been invented once, by us.

It is important to know about how things are the way they are now, but I have not been able to answer this simple question as well as it was mentioned in the book: Why study history? – ‘’Unlike physics or economics, history is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. For example, studying how Europeans come to dominate Africans enables us to realise that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the racial hierarchy, and that the world might well be arranging differently’’

Another interesting point the book had was the discussion about happiness. After spending time at Proakatemia for a couple months now, I have noticed that there has been many discussions about happiness, especially when linked to money. The chapter about this topic was in the very ending of the book, but it really did give me answers to many questions.

‘’Nothing captures the biological argument better than the famous New Age slogan: ‘Happiness begins within.’ Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.’’

Even though some people might consider this as boring to read in case not interested in history, I encourage people to read it due to the fact that it makes them to understand the world better. When it comes to Proakatemia and team leadership, the book gives insights on how humans used to do everything with their communities and families, rather than thinking as individuals. As many people working in a team understand that to work effectively in a team, the members have to think about the goals of the team instead of individual ones. In addition to this, the author has written about the fact on how communication is one of the main reasons why homo sapiens was able to develop further than any other animal and how the main difference between us and them is spreading rumours and believing in them. It is important to understand that communication is necessary and the more efficiently it is used among people, the better they are able to cooperate. This applies to team working skills as communication is seen one of the most important assets in a team.

I would recommend the book to every single person interested about how we got to the point we are and where we are heading next. After reading the book, I personally notice that I am questioning things now more than ever and do not want to believe everything around me.

(Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, 2011).

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