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Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari - 3 Big Ideas

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Transcription Below


An incredibly smart and insightful book that will rock your paradigm of humanity forever.

Quick Intro

This book is 464 pages paperback and 15 hours 18 minutes audible.

It is described on Amazon as follows,

"One hundred thousand years ago, at least six human species inhabited the Earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism?

Bold, wide ranging, and provocative, Sapiens integrates history and science to challenge everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our heritage...and our future."

Soooo... What are three things we can use from this book?

3 Things You Can Use from Sapiens

1. The Luxury Trap

The agricultural revolution brought about domestication, relaxation and a reliable source of food...

But what it brought with it was hard manual lab0r, back-breaking work that the human body was not designed for which brought about injuries to spines, necks, knees and arches that were previously unknown. It caused us to have less nutritional variety, because there was usually only one reining crop around.

It caused more violence, because of the immobility of agricultural tribes, it created a social dynamic of the hardworking farmers and the pampered elite and it essentially domesticated humans -- not the other way around.

This is what Yuval calls the luxury trap. Humans traded a relatively good life as hunter-gatherers for a miserable life as farmers, trading away nutrition and options. He notes that "luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations."

He uses an example of one modern luxury trap with the invention of email. Before email you would have to write letters. You would be careful with what you wrote and it would take a few weeks before you ever heard back. With the invention of email now you can send the mail right away. But it's not a better circumstance. Now, since you get the message immediately, people don't have to think about what they will write, so you get the first inclination of a concept shot at you and you are expected to respond right away. We created a totally new anxiety with our supposed improvement.

What you can get from something like this is to recognize that adopting a new luxury usually brings about more things to worry about and take care of. Like a bigger house with more rooms to clean or a new car to keep shiny and waxed.

Enjoy what you have and find the peace and relaxation that comes from a less "luxurious" lifestyle.

2. The Discovery of Ignorance

In the year 1500, the total value of all goods and services in a year $250B -- Nowadays the value of a year of human production is closer to $60T.

In 1500, humanity consumed about 13T calories of energy per day, today we consume 1,500T calories a day

These figures were brought about thanks to the unprecedented growth of the scientific revolution.

Thanks to cultural changes that tangentially rewarded curiosity, people began to realize that there was more to know.

Before 1500, humans doubted their ability to obtain new medical, military and economic powers. All that they needed to know was in the religious books of the past. The quality of life was practically static.

The whole foundation of the scientific revolution was the realization of ignorance.

Only when you realize that you don't know everything, can you make progress.

3. Expectations

We would have been absolutely miserable, living in the olden times of never showering and never changing clothes -- working the fields and living is straw huts... right?

They were miserable then weren't they?

Well no. With everyone else living in those conditions, that was the norm. There was no reason to be upset because by comparison, they were living just like everyone else.

The feelings of happiness and misery are completely subjective and have more to do with our expectations and comparisons than our actual objective experiences and circumstances.

Our lives may actually be worse nowadays than they were before.

"Our expectations of ease and pleasure and our intolerance of inconvenience and discomfort have increased to such an extent that we may well suffer from pain more than our ancestors did."

The way to solve this riddle and find actual satisfaction is to recognize and reduce your own standards of comparison.

Maybe train and condition your standards, as some of the stoics did, by experiencing harsh conditions like hunger and poverty. Something like this can bring about the realization of the absolute bliss that we live in as our standard. And bring about a gratefulness about our current lifestyles while dampening the fear of losing them.


Be conscientious of how new things in your life, poised as luxuries, will affect your responsibilities, your day to day and your overall well-being and ask yourself if it is actually worth it.

Until you start entertaining the idea that you may be wrong or not know everything -- you will never truly be able to grow and develop.

Happiness and misery are subjective and have little to do with our objective surroundings. Comparison and expectation are the rulers of satisfaction -- relieving them of command is the best way to experience long-lived satisfaction.

This book is a game-changer.

Going over the history of humanity, societies, happiness and meaning, and then into a brief portrait of the future, this book was an all encompassing look at what it is to be human. What we have to be proud of and what we have to be ashamed of.

Yuval brings a multi-faceted description from start to finish that puts together humanity piece by piece in an insightful and intelligent way.

Go get this book.

Want to Read it?

Audible Free Trial (get this book for free!)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Audible Version)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Physical Copy)

(disclosure: ^^^ these links give me a commission -- at no extra cost to you! They just give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)


Punching Sounds (in video) by: Mike Koenig

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