Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Finished Reading: July 12, 2023

Number of Pages: 420

I'm going to try something new with Sapiens and write my thoughts as I'm reading the book rather than after. I had this idea when beginning part 2: The Agricultural Revolution

Harari finishes part 1 with the idea that causing the extinction of animals isn't new to the human species and that we've been doing it for many millenia. Not only that, but he leaves us with an ominous expectation of the future:

Among all the world's large creatures, the only survivors of the human flood will be humans themselves, and the farmyard animals that serve as gallery slaves in Noah's Ark.

This quote is what made me jump to my computer and decide to write my thoughts on the go and not after completing the book. Harari doesn't even point his finger at a particular industry or society in which human-induced animal extinction is prevalent. Instead, he reveals the bitter truth that it is human nature to drive other animals extinct and that there is no sign of us stopping anytime soon. What's more, he paints this twisted image of gallery slaves in Noah's Ark, referring to our everyday cows, dogs, and sheep etc.4 We entered this ecosystem as mere participants but have emerged as gamemasters who've forever changed the face of our planet. To make matters worse, there doesn't appear to be a solution on the horizon. Harari cites most extinction as a product of hunting for food, but this isn't quite the story of today's eminent extinctions. In this sense, lab-grown meets and plant-based diets might not be the solution to this issue. Entire rainforests are collapsing to meet our material needs, which is the very idea James Cameron tried to shed light on through his Avatar franchise. That said, I could be entirely wrong. My limited frame of reference is the Seaspiracy documentary that cites the fishing industry as the main driver of dwindling marine populations, whether it be killing off our dolphin competitors or destroying these aquatic ecosystems through bottom trawling.

On the agricultural revolution:

We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us. The word 'domesticate' comes from the latin domus, which means 'house'. Who's the one living in a house? Not the wheat. It's the Sapiens.

On high mortality rates in villages:

Why did people make such a fateful miscalculation? For the same reason that people throughout history have miscalculated. People were unable to fathom the full consequences of their decisions.

It's easy to think of these events from 2000+ years ago to be an era governed by different beliefs and behaviors when, in reality, the people of those times fell victim to the same tendencies and biases that we fall to today.

The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.