Read: April 2021

Inspiration: What is the history (and future) of civilization? (recommended by a friend)


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“Sapiens”, published in 2011 by author and professor Yuval Noah Harari, traces the history of humankind from the evolution of Homo sapiens in Africa to the present day. It explores the various ways in which humans have developed and organized societies, including the advent of agriculture, the rise of empires, and the creation of money. The book also delves into the role of religion and science in shaping human history and the impact of capitalism on the modern world. One key concept in the book is the idea of “imagined realities,” or the stories and myths that humans have created to give meaning to their lives and the world around them. The book also examines the potential impacts of technological advancements, particularly in the fields of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, on the future of humanity. Sapiens has received widespread praise for its engaging and accessible writing style, as well as its thought-provoking ideas about the human experience.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Homo sapiens means “wise human”–one type of human in the homo genus, up until 100,000 years ago there were at least 6 different types of humans (just as there are many different pigs, dogs, etc), Cognitive Revolution b/w 70k and 30k years ago when Sapiens beat out Neanderthals as brain enable new thinking and communicating (likely random genetic mutations), sapiens managed to expand in a stable way past groups of 150 through common myths communicated through sapiens unique language ability, imagined realities of nations and corporations gain huge power (no connection to physical world, just a story), ancient sapiens were animists (everything has awareness/feelings and can communicate), foragers incredibly brilliant and skilled as individuals (more than today, range of skills), Sapiens crush ecological diversity everywhere they go (most predatorial species ever), not live in harmony with nature in the past as told (kill off thousands of species), agricultural revolution allow for more humans not better quality of life (more inequality), wheat become huge and lots of quantity but now diet less diverse, child mortality skyrocket as more born but poor health, luxury trap, 25 billion chickens globally, farming was the origin of anxiety for the future (used to be unimportant for foragers), empires are stable and have ruled most of humanity—fall apart due to external invasions or ruler family clashes, money is the largest system of mutual trust ever—though concern everything becomes cold marketplace, legacy of imperalism has shaped all cultures, increasingly though a nation cannot act independently—not wage wars, financial policies, etc (is global gvt the future?), major religions now are universal and missionary (want to spread to all) but religions used to be local with no desire to spread, protestants say must express faith in god to get to heaven vs catholics say need rituals and good deeds (prots say this quid pro quo belittles god and is self-centered), Christianity believes in monotheist god, dualist devil, polytheist saints, animist ghosts (all referred to as syncretism which all religions have, not truly monotheist), buddhism day must experience reality as it is, suffering from craving, accept things and not crave for more or something else other than what is, science is revolution of embracing ignorance (not think know everything), gilgamesh project (question for immortality)—myth of sumer strongman who saw friend die and sought to defeat death but realized could not bc destiny for all, Europeans used to be behind asia/persia but as 1700s to 1800s they bring scientists along for exploration (search for new knowledge in imperialims vs asians/persians just for wealth, think know all), imperalism and science linked in europe as explore ignorance, before europeans most conquest was to neighbors and not go to distant unknown, imperialism justified as positive bc increasing knowledge (bring new tech to natives, new info home, etc) and downplay exploitation, racism today is more culturism (not about blood but rather culture), credit is about the belief tmrw will be better than today (came with scientific rev, prior think pie fixed and just steal from others so credit pointless), capitalism is about reinvesting profits (not wealth-ism which does unproductive things with profit), credit about growth—print money bc hope new discoveries to be made (been a cycle since columbus, money to discover and when discover get more trust and trust means more money), Mississippi Company charted by France allow to invest in New Orleans areas super overhyped and bubble then collapse and lose tons of money—leave door open for British in America as Dutch struggle with wars and complacency, dutch joint stock company VOC control Indonesia for decades, Hong Kong was under British control til 1997 as a result of Opium War 1840s when China stop Brit selling opium to Chinese bc addicts and Brit go to war for free trade and win, idea heat could turn to motion was crazy early 1800s (steam engine change everything—can convert one type of energy into another), slave trade fueled by indifference not animosity (about economics, not dying, etc), obesity great for consumerism (eat a lot then buy diet stuff so buy double), society move from family and local community controlled to state and market are mother and father of individual (lose community in favor of independence), nations are imagined communities (don’t actually know everyone but feel like you do), consumer tribes increasinly important (e.g. german vegan may like french vegan over german carnivore), war used to be profitable now peace is more profitable, currently one of the most peaceful times ever but wars get more attention, happiness is a matter of expectations and comparison–biologically determined (can flux but returns to set point), humans tear apart animals/nature as progress–irresponsible gods who do not know what they want and are never satisfied

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Welcome to JeffReads, where I share summaries of the best books I’ve read on business, politics, science, technology and more.




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