Sapiens Big Idea #1: Humans have humble beginnings but have an exponential development.
“A Brief History of Humankind” was one of the most interesting books a read last year. Managed to blend evolutionary history with socio-biology and philosophy. I decided to share the main ideas of Yuval, without spoiling the entire reading.
Sapiens Big Idea – in the this blog and in the next ones, you will find the book main 4 key points:
- Humans have humble beginnings but managed to move exponentially fast on the food chain
- Because of this fast elevation, we still have the brain of a hunter/ gatherer
- Humans conquered the planet based on social skills and cooperation
- One of the key powers of Humans, was the ability of being united by sharing a common belief. A belief in Gods, in Order and Laws, in Money or in an Ideal.
At the scale of history, the Cognitive Humans accounts for 0,6% from the total Mammal evolution.
At the scale of the entire life, humans are barely an accident. If we just look at the 120 million years mammals evolution, the biped work represents just 1,5% of the mammal time. While the cognitive revolution, that happened 70,000 years ago, is just a blink of 0,6% of the time.
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Moving up the food chain was impressively fast at the scale of biological evolution, starting 100,000 years ago. Humans eliminated competition, making more physical powerful but less brain powerful Neanderthals, disappear 30,000 years ago. From first fishing village to conquering the entire planet, took only 35,000 years, another blink of an eye.
Interesting, in Africa, where the big animals managed to witness the human evolution, they managed to evolve and protect themselves. However, in Australia or America, the majestic megafauna, were taken by surprise and couldn’t take a chance.
Exponential development accelerated with the written language, allowing knowledge to be shared. First arithmetical clay tables were used in Sumer, 5,000 years ago, to count the grains, Gutenberg printed his first book 550 years ago. Sir Isaac Newton wrote “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” 400 years ago. First steam engines appeared 300 years ago. Charles Darwin wrote “On the Origin of Species” 150 years ago, while the Moon landing took place 50 years ago.
What is next on this human exponential development?
Informational Technology leads to Artificial Intelligence, which represents another form of Human domination. This time is not over land, plants or other animals, but over intangible things like managing electrons in a binary sequence.
However, this fast evolution has a bug: humans brains managed survival race based on fear. This is the job of reptilian brain (the most archaic part of our triune brain), the keeper of vegetative systems and fear, fight, flight reflexes.
Due to human ration exponential development, the brain design itself was left behind. It still behaves like the brain of a specie prepared to be hunted, rather than being a hunter. Our reptilian brain (the deep layer that is the keeper of fear, fight, flight), couldn’t understand yet that we reached the top of food chain.
The next “Sapiens Big Ideas” will be the subject of the next blogs.
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Yuval Noah Harari “Sapiens” list for main human chapters:
- First Crown Mammals Fossils: 120 M years ago
- Apes: 6 M years ago
- Large brain and going biped: 2 M years ago
Conquering the planet:
- Hunting large animals: 400,000 years ago
- Fire: 300,000 years ago
- Moving up on the food-chain: 100,000 years ago
- Cognitive revolution: 70,000 years ago
- Fishing village: 45,000 years ago
- Go to Australia: 45,000 years ago
- Neanderthals disappears: 30,000 years ago
- Dogs becomes domestic: 15,000 years ago
- Agricultural evolution: 12,000 years ago: goats, wheat, maize (central America), potato (s America), rice (Asia)
- Reach America through Siberia: 12,000 years ago on ice. In 2,000 years colonized South America
- First do documented religion sights: 11.500 years ago, related to agricultural revolution
- Horses become domestic: 6,000 years ago
- Grape wines: 5,500 years ago
Arithmetic, writing, money and religion:
- First arithmetical writing in Sumer, Mesopotamia: 5,000 years ago on clay tablets, as a way of accounting the empire incomes, as an effect of agricultural progress: taxes, debts, properties; base 10 and 6. Aztecs 4,000 years ago: base 20, including 0
- Writing language: 4.500 years ago: cuneiform language in Sumer, and hieroglyphs in Egypt, China 3,200 years ago, Central America 3000 years ago (Maya). Than Hindus invented current numbers, from 0 to 9;
- Money appear in Babylon (silver shekel), than first coin in Anatolia (640 BC), Roman denarius were accepted in India and were adopted later by Muslims as dinars
- Emperor Constantin choose Christianity as official religion of Roman Empire in 306
Great Geographical discoveries and colonization:
- Europe conquered the world through technology: Columbus reached America 1492,
- Magellan circumnavigated the world, for the first time btw 1519-1522
- Spain conquered American world: 1521, defeated Aztecs, in 1532 crushed Inca.
- Company of Easter Indies: first stock company, in 1602, ruled Indonesia for 200 years, after 1800 became part of Dutch empire,
- First European in Australia, 1606, in 1788 started British colonization, in 1803, first settlement in Tasmania.
- French revolution 1789
- Liberal revolution: 1848
- Russian revolution: 1917
Technological and Science Progress:
- Gutenberg first print: 1455
- Isaac Newton: 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
- Steam engines appeared in mining areas in England: 1700
- First steam engine connected to a train: 1825; 1830 first commercial railway from Manchester to Liverpool
- first railroad in England, 1830
- Charles Darwin, Beagle trip, 1831
- First step on moon, Apollo 11: on 20 July, 1969