Israeli History Professor, Author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari
Israeli History Professor, Author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
The Industrial Revolution that swept through Europe in which the bankers and capital owners, but condemned millions of workers to a life of abject poverty.
Today, the most important humanist sect is liberal humanism, which believes that ?humanity? is a quality of individual humans, and that the liberty of individuals is therefore sacrosanct. According to liberals, the sacred nature of humanity resides within each and every individual Homo sapiens. The inner core of individual humans gives meaning to the world, and is the source for all ethical and political authority. If we encounter an ethical or political dilemma, we should look inside and listen to our inner voice ? the voice of humanity.
Homo sapiens evolved to think of people is divided into ?us? and ?them?? But beginning with the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens? Began to cooperate on a regular basis with complete strangers, whom they imagined as ?brothers? or ?friends?.
Most people don?t appreciate just how peaceful and era we live in. In the year 2000, wars caused the deaths of 310,000 individuals, and violent crime killed another 520,000. Each and every victim is a world destroyed, a family ruined, friends and relatives scarred for life. Yet from a macro perspective these 830,000 victims comprised only 1.5% to 56 million people who died in 2000. That year 1.2 6 million people died in car accidents (2.25% of total mortality) and 815,000 people committed suicide (45%). These figures for 2002 are even more surprising. Out of 57 million dead, only 172,000 people died in war and 569,000 died a violent crime (a total of 741,000 victims of human violence). In contrast 873,000 people committed suicide. It turns out that in the year following the 9/11 attacks, despite all the talk of terrorism and war, the average person was more likely to kill himself and to be killed by a terrorist, a soldier or a drug dealer? The decline of violence is due largely to the rise of the state.
Telling effective stories is not easy. Difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe. Much of history revolves around this question how does one convince millions of people believe particular stories about gods, ordinations, limited liability companies? White succeeds, it gives sapiens immense power, and enables millions of strangers who operate and work towards common goals.
The last 500 years have witnessed a breathtaking series of revolutions. The earth has been united into a single ecological and historical sphere. The economy has grown exponentially, and humankind today enjoys the kind of wealth that used to be the stuff of fairytales. Science and the Industrial Revolution have given humankind superhuman powers and practically limitless energy. The social order has been completely transformed, as have politics, daily life and human psychology. But are we happier? Did the wealth humankind accumulated over the last five century translate into a new-found contentment?... Historians seldom ask such questions.
Trade cannot exist without trust, and it is very difficult to trust strangers. The global trade network today is based on our trust in such fictional entities as the dollar, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the totemic trademarks of corporations.
Capitalists maintain that only the free market can ensure the greatest happiness of the greatest number, by creating economic growth and material abundance and by teaching people to be self-reliant and enterprising? Some challengers? Argue for a reverse correlation between human Capabilities and happiness. Power corrupts, they say, and as humankind gain more and more power, created a cold mechanistic world ill-suited to our real needs. Evolution molded our minds and bodies to the life of hunter gatherers. The transition first to agriculture and then to industry has condemned us to living unnatural lives cannot give full expression to our inherited donations and instincts, and therefore cannot satisfy our deepest yearnings.
How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism first, you never admit to match. Staining Zaidi objective reality created by the great gods or by the laws of nature? Immutable laws? You also educate people thoroughly. The moment they are born, you constantly remind them imagined order, or printed into anything and everything. They are incorporated into fairytales, dramas, paintings, songs, etiquette, political propaganda, architecture, recipes and fashion? Though the imagined order exists only in our minds, the woven into the material reality around us, and even set in stone most Westerners today believe in individualism they believe that every human is an individual, is worth does not depend on what other people think of him or her. Each of us has been ourselves a brilliant ray of light is value and meaning to our lives.
Most people who produce and consume eggs, milk and meat rarely stop to think about the fate of the chickens, cows or pigs whose flesh and omissions they are eating? They not only feel physical pain, but can also suffer from emotional distress.
The agricultural revolution is one of the most controversial events some partisans proclaim it said humankind on the road to prosperity and progress. Others insist that it led to perdition. This was the turning, they say, were sapiens cast off its intimate symbiosis with nature oriented towards greed and alienation. Whichever direction the road led ? there was no going back. Farming enabled populations increase so radically and rapidly complex agricultural society ever again sustain itself if it returned to hunting and gathering.
The last 500 years have witnessed a phenomenal and unprecedented growth in human power. In the year 1500, there were about 500 million Homo sapiens in the entire world. Today, there are 7 billion. The total value of goods and services produced by humankind in the year 1500 is estimated at $250 billion, in today?s dollars. Nowadays the value of the year of human production is close to 60 trillion. In 1500, humanity consumed about 13,000,000,000,000 cal of energy per day. Today we consume 1500 trillion calories a day. (Take a second look at those figures ? human population has increased 14 fold, production 240 fold, and energy consumption 115 fold.)
Understanding human history in the millennia following the Agricultural Revolution boils down to a single question: how did humans organize themselves in mass cooperation networks, when they lack the biological instincts necessary sustain to such networks? The short answer is that humans created imagined orders and devise scripts. These two inventions fill the gaps left out by our biological inheritance. However, the appearance of these networks was, for many, a dubious blessing. The imagined order sustaining these networks were neither neutral nor fair. They divided people into make-believe groups, arranged in a hierarchy. The upper levels enjoyed privileges in power, while the lower ones suffered from discrimination and oppression.
Conscious effort has to be made to sustain laws, customs, procedures and manners, otherwise a social order quickly collapse.
Human communities and families have always been based on belief in ?priceless? things, such as honor, loyalty, morality and love... Money has always tried to break through these barriers, like water seeping through cracks in a dam? Money has an even darker side. For although money builds universal trust between strangers, this trust is invested not in humans, entities or sacred values, but in money itself and in the impersonal systems that back. Do not trust the stranger, or the next-door neighbor ? we trust the coin may hold.
Most scholars agree that animistic beliefs were common ancient fortress. Animism (from animus, soul spirit in Latin) is the belief that almost every place, every animal, every plant and every natural phenomenon awareness and feelings and can communicate directly with humans? Animism believe there is no barrier between humans and other beings. All communicate directly through speech, song, dance and ceremony? Don?t know which spirits they pray to, which festivals celebrated, which taboos they observed. Most importantly, we don?t know what stories they told. It?s one of the biggest holes in our understanding of human history.
The American founding document promises that if humans act according to its sacred principles, millions of them would be able to cooperate effectively, living safely and peacefully in a just and prosperous society. The American Declaration of Independence was not just a document of its time ? it was accepted by future generations as well.
The laws of nature? Jainism in Buddhism in India, Taoism and Confucianism in China, and stoicism, cynicism and Epicureanism and the Mediterranean basin, were characterized by their disregard of gods. These creeds maintained that the superhuman order governing the world is the product of natural laws rather than of divine wills and wins.
We are living in a technical age. Many are convinced that science and technology hold the answers to all our problems. She just let the scientists and technicians go on with their work, and they will create heaven here on earth. But science is not an enterprise that takes place on some superior moral and spiritual plane above the rest of human activity. Like all other parts of our culture, it is shaped by economic, political and religious interests.
Despite its proclamation of the equality of all men, the imagine order established by the Americans in 1776 also established a hierarchy. It created a hierarchy between men, who benefited from it, and women, whom it left disempowered. It created a hierarchy between whites, who enjoyed liberty, and blacks and American Indians, and who were considered humans of a lesser type and therefore did not share the equal rights of men? All distinctions between free persons and slaves, between whites and blacks, which in rich and poor ? are rooted in fictions.
Human history shows that there is often an inverse relationship between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it?s the lower classes who do the manual labor.
Of all mankind?s ostensibly insoluble problems, one has remained the most vexing, interesting and important: the problem of death itself. Before the late modern era, most religions and ideologies took it for granted that death was our inevitable fate. Moreover, most states turn death into the main source of meaning in life? Disciples of progress do not share this defeatist attitude. For men of science, death is not an inevitable destiny, but merely a technical problem? Our best minds are not wasting their time trying to give meaning to death. Instead, they?re busy investigating the physiological, hormonal and genetic systems responsible for disease in old age. They are developing new medicines, revolutionary treatments and artificial organs that will lengthen our lives and might one day vanquish the Grim Reaper himself.
The brief golden age of the last half-century may turn out to have sown the seeds of future catastrophe. Over the last few decades, we have been disturbing the ecological equilibrium of our planet. New ways, with what seems likely to be dire consequences. A lot of evidence indicates that we are destroying the foundations of human prosperity in an orgy of reckless consumption.
The only God that the Romans long refused to tolerate is the monotheistic and evangelizing God of the Christians. The Roman Empire did not require the Christians to give up their beliefs and rituals, but it did expect them to pay respect to the empires protector gods into the divinity of the Emperor. This was seen as a declaration of political loyalty. When the Christians vehemently refused to do so, and went on to reject all attempts at compromise, the Romans reacted by treating what they understood to be a politically subversive faction. And even this was done halfheartedly. In the 300 years from the cruise vacation of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, polytheistic Roman emperors initiated no more than four general persecutions of Christians? Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians in contrast, over the course of the next 1500 years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion. The religious wars between Catholics and Protestants that swept Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries are particularly notorious.
Were it not for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America, James Cook would not have reached Australia, and Neil Armstrong would not have taken that small step us of the moon.