I just finished one of the best books I have ever read: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, written by Yuval Harari in 2011. It was recommended to me by a friend and I also read about it on Albert Wenger’s blog. As the title suggests, the book gives readers a very compact and coherent overview about how humanity and civilization came to be, and why it ended up where it is today.
Most importantly, the book helps to better get the big picture. To understand how and why certain movements, ideologies, religions and memes have evolved; why individuals, groups and societies act in their sometimes strange and even destructive ways.
Sapiens is not a history book, even though it follows a chronological order, from the first life on earth until the present, eventually offering an outlook of what might come in the future. Rather, it is a book about humanity and life itself.
My biggest realization after finishing the book is how incredibly rapid and extensive the changes of the past 200 years have been compared to the total existence of Homo Sapiens. The consequences of the scientific revolution have been dramatic for individuals, civilization as a whole and planet Earth. Meanwhile, biologically and neurologically, we are still pretty much the same as people thousands of years ago. The conflicts and confusion arising from this must not surprise anybody. We are basically part of a large-scale, real-life social experiment, which at the moment (= meaning the past 100-200 years) is being altered more significantly than at any time before.
I see the book as an important contribution to a better understanding of our past, our present and – last but definitely not least – of our possible future. Right now, humanity is at the most critical point in its history. It has the technological means to completely destroy itself. But it also has the theoretical knowledge to achieve an unprecedented level of collective intelligence, well-being and expansion. We decide. At least that’s what we think we are capable of doing. It still needs to be proven.