I had been eyeing up this book for months, so I naturally picked it up during one of my book splurges. I am glad I did.
Harari poses and answers many big questions in this slightly imposing book (p.466). As with many other reviewers, I am not quite sure that I agree with every interpretation or his selection of facts. But I couldn’t resist the onward surge of history as I watched Sapiens (which means wise) evolve from the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees six million years ago into the most dangerous animal on the planet.
While the forward momentum is relentless – how else to cover six million years in less than 170,000 words – Harari describes important developments in a thought-provoking manner. These tiny sojourns are packed with information from many spheres of human learning and make a compelling case for the summary presented inside the front cover.
I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction of new (to me) concepts, such as how we imbue many imaginary things with importance (from gods to countries with companies, money and laws in between). Much less palatable is the conjecture that we are born of violence, whether you ask about the fate of the five human species sharing the planet 70,000 years ago, the mass extinctions that coincided with our arrival on each continent or the high proportions of people who died violently throughout our history.
Harari ends with the conclusion that our knowledge and skills are almost sufficient to spell the end of Homo Sapiens and usher in the age of humans as gods with the ability to genetically alter ourselves or even engineer new bodies. He makes this prediction with the caution that our lack of responsibility and inability to ever be satisfied would make us very dangerous indeed.