sapiens notes

I recently finished reading “Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. This book truly lives up to all of its acclaims and its list of powerful readers from Bill Gates, Dan Ariely to Barack Obama. Reading “Sapiens” made me feel inadequate yet inspired every single day. I was able to understand a far from in-depth, but rather critical and interesting history lesson on humankind, how we have became the last standing human species on earth and the sacrifices we made along the way. ‘Sapiens’ is a look at phenomenons and events in history, in a bigger-picture, world-leader, visionary-maker kind of perspective. 

To me at least, one of the best feelings one can get after finishing a book is that one felt small. I felt small in comparison to the vast amount of information and narratives on this big planet. I felt inferior in comparison to the pool of knowledge humans have discovered, but fortunate that I am catching up with this ever-increasing amount of knowledge we have at the present and is going to have in the future. ‘Sapiens’ gave me a license to be willing to accept my shortcomings and strive to understand more and grow as a person. I love feeling like only 12% of my brain has been filled up. 

Below are some of the notes and quotes that I wrote down while reading Sapiens. While these few bullet points will captures only a very small portion what is actually inside the book, I hope they give you enough courage to start reading this very big-brained book. After you finish reading, I hope you love the book as much as I do. 

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1.  The three universal order of the world are monetary, imperial and religions.

2.  Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not on telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. 

3.  Money isn’t a material reality, it is a psychological construct. 

4.  One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it. 

5.  We like to see underdogs win. But there is no justice in history. Most past cultures have sooner or later fallen prey to the armies of some ruthless empire, which have consigned them to oblivion. 

6.  No matter what the mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction. 

7.  When the mind experiences something distasteful it craves to be rid of the irritation. When the mind experiences something pleasant, it craves that the pleasure will remain and intensify. Therefore, the mind is always restless. 

8.  Today all humans are, to a much greater extent than they usually want to admit, European in dress, thought and taste.

9.  People dream for years about finding love but are rarely satisfied when they find it.

10.  Today’s elites usually justify superiority in terms of historical differences between cultures rather than biological differences between races. We no longer say ‘It’s in their blood’ We say ‘It’s in their culture’.

11.  Capitalism cannot ensure that profits are gained in a fair way, or distributed in a fair manner. on the contrary, the craving to increase profits and production blinds people to anything that might stand in the way.

12.  Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over the amount. 

13. Millions of years of evolution have designed us to live and think as community members, within a mere two centuries we have become alienated individuals. Nothing testifies better to the awesome power of culture. 

14. […] Any attempt to define the characteristics of modern society is akin to defining the colour of chameleon. The only characteristic of which we can be certain is the incessant change. 

15. Real peace is not the mere absence of war. Real peace is implausibility of war. 

16. Is the modern era one of mindless slaughters, war and oppression typified by the trenches of World War One, the nuclear mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and the gory manias of Hitler and Stalin ? Or it is an era of peace, epitomised by the trenches never dug in South America, the mushroom clouds that never appeared over Moscow and New York, and the serene visages of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King ? (Read the chapter ‘A Permanent Revolution’, you will find out the answer to this provocative question.)

17. […] Happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations. 

18. A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardships, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is. 

19. Nationalists believe that political self-determination is essential for our happiness. Communists postulate that everyone would be blissful under the dictatorship of the proletariat. 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.