Sapiens

Homo Deus (book 11 of 12)

Homo Deus (book 11 of 12)

December 26, 2019
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“I encourage all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world, to connect past developments with present concerns, and not to be afraid of controversial issues.” 

Thus Yuval Noah Harari starts Homo Deus, the book after Sapiens, followed by 21 lessons for the 21st century, a book I plan to read next year.

“The physicist Max Plank famously said that science advances one funeral at a time. He meant that only when one generation passes away do new theories have a chance to root out old ones. This is true not only of science.”

Homo Deus gave me some good tankespjärn I must admit. The historical retrospection into religion and science is thought-provoking and aha-generating at the same time, and the way Harari shines a light on the past, present and future make this a book well worth reading.

“Science is not just about predicting the future, though. Scholars in all fields often seek to broaden our horizons, thereby opening before us new and unknown futures. This is especially true of history. Though historians occasionally try their hand at prophecy (without notable success), the study of history aims above all to make us aware of possibilities we don’t normally consider. Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it.”

My copy of the book is filled with my notes in the margins, pertaining to many a different subject.
School. Religion in juxtaposition to science. Humanism. Artificial Intelligence.
Colonialism. Spirituality. Terrorism. Energy consumption.

“People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.”

Everything does change. And so I greatly enjoy reading books such as this one, that span the longer arcs of history and connects dots that I’ve not connected on my own. Helping me point out changes that I’ve not perceived.

“Fiction isn’t bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. […] But the stories are just tools. They should not become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality. Then we begin entire wars ‘to make a lot of money for the corporation’ or ‘to protect the national interests’. Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?”

Stories.
Personal stories. Communal stories. Cultural stories.
The stories I tell, the stories I listen to.
They all play a part in shaping me, making me into the person I am.

“Paradoxically, the more sacrifices we make for an imaginary story, the more tenaciously we hold on to it, because we desperately want to give meaning to these sacrifices and to the suffering we have caused.”

The greater my awareness is to their content and message, the more I am able to lead the life I want to.
I have a choice as to which stories I perpetuate, and so do you.


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind (book 16 of 26)

August 12, 2018
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“The immense diversity of imagined realities that Sapiens invented, and the resulting diversity of behavior patterns, are the main components of what we call ‘cultures’. Once cultures appeared, they never ceased to change and develop, and these unstoppable alterations are what we call ‘history’.”

Caspian has been on my back for a long time about reading Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. And I’ve been meaning to, for a long time. So when the time came to pick books for the reading challenge of the year, giving one spot to Sapiens was an easy choice. However, I’ve been putting reading it off, until I had plenty of time, so from the beginning I had my mind set for a summer read. However, my summer has gone my in a flash, with all sorts of things booked, so I finally realized I just had to start. So I did. I even gave myself two weeks to read it, as I started it at the same time I read the Swedish book of last week, which was a fairly short read.

“[…] the average forager had wider, deeper and far mot varied knowledge of her immediate surroundings than most of her modern descendants. Today, most people in industrial societies don’t need to know much about the natural world in order to survive. […] The human collective knows far more today that did the ancient bands. But at the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skillful people in history.”

Sapiens_Still. With a few days to go, I wasn’t even halfway, so I’ve been cramming it this weekend, let me tell you. Woke up this morning with 70% of the book read; approximately 120 pages to go. Not an impossible feat at all, even though I’ve been busy with work and other things all morning and well into the afternoon.

“How can we distinguish what is biologically determined from what people merely try to justify through biological myths? A good rule of thumb is ‘Biology enables, culture forbids.’ Biology is willing to tolerate a very wide spectrum of possibilities. It’s culture that obliges people to realize some possibilities while forbidding others. […]
Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural.” 

And yes. It’s now done; honest to god, I swear I’m not cheating, blogging about a book I’ve yet to actually finish. I did finish it, and I do recommend you read it. In 466 pages Yuval take me by the hand and walk me through the history of humankind, just as the title promises. Cramming in 70 000 years in 466 pages makes it brief, by default. Yet it’s far from shallow. I wouldn’t say that at all. No. Yuval both summarizes, and provides me with some startling new perspectives on the Cognitive, Agricultural, Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, each in turn.

“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. For example, studying how Europeans came to dominate Africa enables us to realize that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the racial hierarchy, and that the world might well be arranged differently.”

Yuval looks to the history of humankind in Sapiens, while his next one, Homo Deus (sitting on the shelf, unread, possibly a part of a similar challenge for next year?) is aimed forward, as far as I’ve understood it. But Sapiens isn’t solely a book that looks in the rearview mirror. He extrapolates, suggests, and fantasizes about what might be – and let me tell you, it might as well be heaven or hell, from what I understand. And the only way “to know”, is for someone to look back, many many years from now, to document the history of what is, as yet, the future.

“Science can explain what exists in the world, how things work, and what might be in the future. By definition, it has no pretensions to knowing what should be in the future. Only religions and ideologies seek to answer such questions.”

Caspian.
I am with you.
We could have a field day talking about this book, so yes, let’s record a pod about it soon, ok?

“[…] we are witnessing the formation of a global empire. Like previous empires, this one, too, enforces peace within its borders. And since its borders cover the entire globe, the World Empire effectively enforces world peace.”


 

The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

 

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