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How Human Evolve from Insignificant Apes to Become the Rulers of the World The must-read summary of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” by Yuval Noah Harari. In Sapiens, Professor Yuval Noah Harari focuses on the three great revolutions of human history: Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific. He presents a hypothesis how Homo sapiens transforms from an animal of no significance 70,000 years ago to become the rulers of the Earth. Earlier human species such as Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia had climate and environment adaptations that sapiens did not have. The Cognitive Revolution between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago enabled the sapiens to form elaborate cultures and communicate in fictions. Myths, religions, moral codes, nations, corporations, and money are fictions that shape human societies, allowing them to speak the same language and share the same customs, beliefs, rituals, and dreams. Fictions also allowed them to cooperate in groups, giving them a military and security advantage and encouraging specialization which eventually gave them a technological advantage. This book tells the story of how these three revolutions have affected humans since the start of the Cognitive Revolution. This guide includes: Book Summary—The summary helps you understand the key ideas and recommendations. Online Videos—On-demand replay of public lectures, and seminars on the topics covered in the chapter. Value-added of this guide: Save time Understand key concepts Expand your knowledge This book challenges everything we thought we knew about being human.
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Summary &Study Guide
A Brief History of Humankind
Title: Summary & Study Guide - Sapiens
Subtitle: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Lee Tang
Publisher: LMT Press (lmtpress.wordpress.com)
Copyright © 2018 by Lee Tang
All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
First Edition: June 2018
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN: 9781988970110 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 9781720438083 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 1720438080 (paperback)
Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and author make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of these contents and disclaim all warranties such as warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. The website addresses in the book were correct at the time going to print. However, the publisher and author are not responsible for the content of third-party websites, which are subject to change.
To my wife, Lillian, who is the source of energy and love for everything I do, and to Andrew and Amanda: watching you grow up has been a privilege.
For a complete list of books by Lee Tang and information about the author, visit Lee Tang’s site.
Books by Lee Tang
Timeline of History
Part One: The Cognitive Revolution
1. An Animal of No Significance 1
2. The Tree of Knowledge
3. A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve
4. The Flood
Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
5. History’s Biggest Fraud
6. Building Pyramids
7. Memory Overload
8. There Is No Justice in History
Part Three: The Unification of Humankind
9. The Arrow of History
10. The Scent of Money
11. Imperial Visions
12. The Law of Religion
13. The Secret of Success
Part Four: The Scientific Revolution
14. Discovery of Ignorance
15. The Marriage of Science and Empire
16. The Capitalist Creed
17. The Wheels of Industry
18. A Permanent Revolution
19. And They Lived Happily Ever After
20. The End of Homo Sapiens
About the Author
Plea from the Author
‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’, by Yuval Noah Harari
The book focuses on the three great revolutions of human history: Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific. It presents a hypothesis how Homo sapiens transforms from an animal of no significance 70,000 years ago to become the rulers of the Earth. Earlier human species such as Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia had climate and environment adaptations that sapiens did not have. The Cognitive Revolution between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago enabled the sapiens to form elaborate cultures and communicate in fictions. Myths, religions, moral codes, nations, corporations, and money are fictions that shape human societies, allowing them to speak the same language and share the same customs, beliefs, rituals, and dreams. Fictions also allowed them to cooperate in groups, giving them a military and security advantage and encouraging specialization which eventually gave them a technological advantage. This book tells the story of how these three revolutions have affected humans since the start of the Cognitive Revolution.
Yuval Noah Harari is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has a Ph.D. degree in History from the University of Oxford and was awarded the annual Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in the Humanistic Disciplines in 2012.
This guide is a summary and not a critique/review of the book. The summary may not be organized chapter-wise but summarizes the book’s main ideas, viewpoints, and arguments. It is NOT meant to be a replacement, but a supplement to help you understand the book’s key ideas and recommendations.
Years Before the Present
The Big Bang. Matter and energy appear.
Formation of planet Earth.
Organisms appear on Earth.
Last common grandmother of humans and chimpanzees.
Evolution of the genus Homo in Africa. First stone tools.
Humans spread from Africa to Eurasia. Evolution of different human species.
Neanderthals evolve in Europe and the Middle East.
Daily use of fire.
Home sapiens evolves in East Africa.
The Cognitive Revolution. Beginning of history. Sapiens spread out of Africa.
Sapiens settle Australia. Extinction of Australian megafauna.
Extinction of Neanderthals.
Sapiens settle America. Extinction of American megafauna.
Homo sapiens the only surviving human species.
The Agricultural Revolution. Domestication of plants and animals. Permanent settlements.
First kingdoms, script and money. Polytheistic religions.
First empire—the Akkadian Empire of Sargon.
Invention of coinage. The Persian Empire. Buddhism in India.
Han Empire in China. Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Christianity.
The Scientific Revolution. Europeans begin to conquer America and the oceans. The rise of capitalism.
The Industrial Revolution. Family and community are replaced by state and market. Massive extinction of plants and animals.
Humans transcend the boundaries of planet Earth. Nuclear weapons threaten the survival of humankind. Organisms are increasingly shaped by intelligent design rather than natural selection.
Intelligent design becomes the basic principle of life? Is Homo sapiens replaced by superhumans?
Source: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION
AN ANIMAL OF NO SIGNIFICANCE
Matter, energy, space and time came into being 13.5 billion years ago after the Big Bang. The planet Earth came into being 4.5 billion years ago. Organisms emerged on planet Earth 3.8 billion years ago.
Biologists classify organisms into species. A species is the largest group of organisms in which two individuals can produce fertile offspring. If two individuals of different species mate, many factors can prevent successful fertilization or successful birth. Sometimes, the offspring might be sterile, as when a donkey and a mare mate and produce a mule which is sterile.
Homo sapiens belongs to a large and noisy family called the great apes. Sapiens and chimpanzees evolved from a common ancestor 6 million years ago. Our closest living relatives include chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
We used to think of ourselves as the only humans. Yet the real meaning of the word human is ‘an animal belonging to the genus homo’. The first humans evolved in East Africa 2.5 million years ago. From 2 million years ago until 10,000 years ago, over six human species coexisted on planet Earth. Humans in Europe and western Asia evolved into Homo neanderthalensis. Homo denisova lived in Siberia, Homo erectus in eastern Asia, Homo soloensis in Java, Indonesia, and Homo floresiensis (Hobbits) on the small island of Flores, Indonesia. Humans in East Africa evolved into Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster, and Homo sapiens. Some of these species were massive and others were dwarves. Neanderthals were bulky and muscular, well adapted to the cold climate of Ice Age western Eurasia. The Hobbits had evolved into dwarves after trapped on the island with poor resources for generations. Some species were fearsome hunters, others gentle plant-gatherers.
One unique characteristic of humans is they have larger brains compared to other animals. Mammals weighing sixty kilograms have an average brain size of 200 cubic centimeters. The earliest human had brains of about 600 cubic centimeters. Modern Sapiens have brains averaging 1,200–1,400 cubic centimeters. Neanderthal brains were even bigger.
Another characteristic of humans is they walk upright on two legs. This allows them to scan the savannah for game or enemies and free up their hands to do other things. The more things their hands could do, the more successful they were. So evolutionary pressure increases the nerve concentration and fine tunes the muscles in the palms and fingers. As a result, humans can perform intricate tasks with their hands. They can produce and use sophisticated tools. The manufacture and use of tools are the criteria used by archaeologists to recognize ancient humans. The first evidence for tool production dates from 2.5 million years ago.
Walking upright has its downside, especially for women. An upright gait required narrower hips, constricting the birth canal. Women who gave birth earlier, when the infant’s brain and head were still small and supple, fared better and lived to have more children. So natural selection favored earlier births. Humans are born when many of their vital systems are still underdeveloped. This has contributed to humankind’s extraordinary social abilities and to its unique social problems. Raising children required constant help from family members and neighbors. Evolution favored those capable of forming strong social ties. Since humans are born underdeveloped, they can be educated and shaped to a far greater extent than other animals.
A large brain, the use of tools, superior learning abilities, and complex social structures are big advantages to humans. But humans’ position in the food chain was, until now, in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures while being hunted by larger predators. It was only 400,000 years ago that several species of human hunted large animals, and in the last 100,000 years, they jumped to the top of the food chain.
Although some human species had used fire as early as 800,000 years ago, it was not until 300,000 years ago that they used fire as a dependable source of light and warmth, and a deadly weapon against predators.
Cooking enabled humans to eat foods—such as wheat, rice, and potatoes—that they cannot digest in their natural forms. It also enabled humans to devote less time to eating and to make do with smaller teeth and shorter intestines. Because shorter intestines use less energy, humans can devote more energy to power their jumbo brains.
When humans domesticated fire, they gained control of an obedient and limitless force. They could choose when and where to set a flame. A single person with a flint or fire stick could burn down an entire forest in a matter of hours. This enabled humans to jump to the top of the food chain.
About 70,000 years ago, the Sapiens from East Africa spread into Eurasia, overrunning the rest of planet Earth. There are two conflicting theories on what happened to the other humans already settled in those areas. The ‘Interbreeding Theory’ suggests that Sapiens bred with other human populations and people today are the outcome of that interbreeding. Today’s Eurasians are a mixture of Sapiens and Neanderthals, and the Chinese and Koreans are a mixture of Sapiens and Erectus.
The ‘Replacement Theory’ suggests that the populations remained distinct because Sapiens and other humans had little sexual interest in one another. Sapiens replaced all the previous human populations without merging with them when the other human population died out,
In 2010, Geneticists found that 1–4 percent of the DNA of modern humans in the Middle East and Europe is Neanderthal DNA. Up to 6 percent of the DNA of modern Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians is Denisovan DNA. Since Neanderthals and Denisovans contributed only a small amount of DNA to our present-day genome, interbreeding seems implausible.
Every two species that evolved from a common ancestor were at one time just two populations of the same species. Individuals from these populations could still have sex and produce fertile offspring before they evolved into separate subspecies. 50,000 years ago, Sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans might be at that borderline point for them to interbreed and produce fertile offsprings. The Replacement Theory takes over after that borderline point.
But if the other human species didn’t merge with Sapiens, why did they vanish? One possibility is that Sapiens were more proficient hunters and gatherers so they multiplied and spread while the other species couldn’t feed themselves. Another possibility is that competition for resources flared up into violence and genocide.
The Homo soloensis and Homo denisova disappeared about 50,000 years ago. Neanderthals disappeared 30,000 years ago, and the Hobbits vanished from Flores Island about 12,000 years ago.
Origin of Humans - National Geographic Documentary 2016
What Happened Before History? Human Origins
8 Strange Extinct Human Species!
Best Theories about Why the Neanderthals Died Out
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