Addictive Strategy I “Sapiens” Big Idea #4: Power of Common Beliefs

By January 19, 2018Books, Stories, Uncategorized

The first three big ideas connected our exponential fast move on the food chain, with our brain design that couldn’t adapt. Our rapid evolution left us with fears, tensions, anxieties. This made us overcompensate by being aggressive, dangerous and cruel. One of the main advantages of humans, that helped us in the competition with other species, was the ability to cooperate.

In the survival race, in large numbers, humans would thrive, against any other species.  This was developed based on subtle language and believing in common myths. Afterwards, another tool emerged to keep humans together: power of common beliefs.

Tribes clustered themselves based on common emotional perceptions.  There are three components: Love Myths, that give the tribe scope; Rational Rules, that help identify the tribe and navigate within; Fear Antagonists/ Common enemies, that keep the pressure on the tribe.

Next level is more subtle and appeals to the tribe Common Beliefs. The most powerful human unifiers were Gods, Money, Laws and Empires & Ideals.

1) The first Common Belief: Power of Gods

Religion was one of the most powerful source of unity. Managed to offer super-human legitimacy and super-human orders to our fragile structures. The role of religion should be universally and missionary.

Our Gods had a close relationship with human development.

Hunting impacted our first beliefs into animal spirits/s. Our
ancestors believed that plants and animals have feelings and awareness. There were no barriers to the world and no hierarchy.

Agricultural Revolution turned animals and plants from equal members to the spiritual table into properties and Animism started to disappear

Polytheistic gods offered solutions to everyday tensions and needs. Humans needed to put the world in order, with more strict relationships. Humans needed predictability for their agricultural work, and appealed to gods because of fear in front of the nature. They started to pray for rain to come, for sun to shine or for floods to vanish.The closest to the polytheism, is current Hinduism, and had the ability to find place for any god. In Hinduism there are 3 important gods (Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver and Shiva, the Distroyer), with their feminine counterparts, but apart of them, there are millions of another gods.

Humans clustered into empires and even more structure and authority was needed. Monotheistic started to believe that their god was the single one, and embarked in a journey to convince everybody else. Is like being confident that is a single way or idea that fits everybody. The global political order is built on monotheism. This helps the idea of a single leader that eliminates its competitors. Gives a great political strengths.

2) The second Common Belief: Power of Money 

Money represents a psychological construct. They have value only in our imagination. Is the most universal and efficient system of mutual trust, with universal convertibility. Our common perception give them the value, basically everyone wants money because everybody else wants money. I believe in them because my neighbour believes in them and the king and the state believes in them.

It is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge any cultural gap, defeated the priceless values like morality, love, honesty and peace

  • Started as barley in Mesopotamia, silver in Babylon, first coin in Anatolia (640 BC)
  • Mark of coin designated purity and the authority that issued
  • Helped unify the trade between distant countries, as a symbol for values of goods

3) The third Common Belief: Power of Laws and Order 

The order exist just in people imagination, with a difference between subjective perceived discipline. A constant effort is needed to keep the rules, customs, procedures and manners. These rules are not in the DNA genome, but in our human collective imagination of order. There is difference between the natural discipline from a bee hive, and a human city. Our collective way of living is not build in our DNA.

  • Biology is different versus the law: we have evolved differently and we are not equal
  • Hammurabi Code, form 1776 BC, had 300 judgements: grouped people on male/ female and on three levels: superior; commoner and slaves
The code was discovered in 1901. The code is inscribed using cuneiform script carved into the stele. It is currently on display in the Louvre.

We needed another 3,500 years, to coin the Human Rights, in 1776:  “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. “All men are created equal” was stated in the American declaration of Independence Act.

4) The forth Common Belief: Power of Ideals

Above rational rules, and sometimes in line with the power of gods, is the power of Ideals. Ideas evolve like viruses. That’s why history cannot be deterministic because is too chaotic. Being a living organism or virus, biological development is fractal, chaotic, exponential.

In life, you should put small bets on more viruses, that they have the potential to kill your business. Do not invest in antibiotics to protect your business but in the viruses that can transform your business. Others will do.

There are some important viruses that transformed the humanity:

Christianity: we know how Christianity took over Roman empire but we don’t know why, and like Islam, didn’t stood too much chances at the beginning. Same situation for Islam.

Capitalism: followed the Laws of Nature, relating its ideology to trust and natural progress.
This brings innovation, confidence and creates credit and economic growth. In time, was validated as the most efficient system, although imperfect. Its most important currency manages to reassure the human psychic: trust in the future.

Opposed to Capitalism, Communism and Nazism challenged the Laws of Nature. Communism proposed a religion of super-humans which are all equal. Nazism defied the law of nature, fighting against appearance of sub-humans and forcing the evolution into super-humans. These stretched and bended our collective values, which resided from Law of Nature DNA. Like other monotheistic religions, Communism and Nazism tried to eliminate competition and managed to kill tens of millions of those who resisted.

Happiness is an aim preached by all the religions of ideals. It can be reached for a short period of time, but hardly can be maintained as a state of mind.

Happiness is driven by objective and subjective factors:

  • Objective factors: dopamine and oxytocin or serotonin
  • Subjective factors: driven by expectations and the benchmark of comparison, and sometimes rely on self-illusion.
  • If you do not know yourself, how can you be profoundly happy?

Enjoy Sapiens, a wonderful book written by Yuval Noah Harari.


Leave a Reply