A brief history of humankind

Yuval Noah Harari - Harper Perennial - 2018 - 578 pages


2023 January 25 | by Arduino Mancini Change management - Conflict and Games Theory - Education

This book is essential for anyone who wants to understand who we are and where we are going, drawing inspiration from the history of humankind.

As you understand, we are not talking about minor issues.

Sapiens, A brief history of humankind is the summary of an immense study conducted over the years by Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian who currently teaches World History and macro-historical processes at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Reading the book, you will discover that the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was present on Earth six million years ago; later humans spread to Africa and Eurasia, evolving into different species.

Only 100,000 years ago our planet was populated by at least six distinct species of humans, whose impact on the planet was no more significant than that of birds, fishes or snakes.

Then things changed radically: today Homo Sapiens represents the only human species and is probably responsible for the extinction of all others.

Starting from Africa, the continent where he left the first signs some 300,000 years ago, Sapiens gradually spread to Asia, Australia and South America, taking over the entire planet.

What is the secret of Homo Sapiens’ success?

For Harari, the core factor in the development of our species lies in imagination, in our ability to create stories that can design and share the idea of a likely future, inventing tools that can provide structure to economic, social and political coexistence: money, laws and nations some striking examples.

Sapiens. A brief history of humankind tells us with scientific evidence how we have been able to associate in creating cities, nations as well as empires, and how the turning point in our history was not knowledge, but the discovery of ignorance.

From recognizing his ignorance, Sapiens fosters a scientific revolution in the 1500s that will lead him to acquire immense power: Europeans conquer America and the oceans, capitalism is established, the Industrial Revolution changes every social paradigm, and animals and plants become extinct on a large scale.

Until today, when global warming and nuclear weapons threaten Homo Sapiens in his very existence, the engineering of Artificial Intelligence increasingly shapes his life, giving him the feeling of boundless power.

Almost divine.

Now watch this video, in which Yuval Noah Harari introduces his book, and then we will make some further considerations.



Harari’s merit lies entirely in the questions that guide his work:

  • Who are we?
  • Whom do we want to become?
  • Will technology help us become immortal, bringing us closer to godhood?

Questions that bewilder us and that we don’t know how to answer, simply because we don’t know where we are going; and I confess that my bewilderment grew further as I read the question that closes the book:

Can there be anything more dangerous than a mass of unsatisfied and
irresponsible gods who don’t even know what they want?

Harari’s vision is overall pessimistic toward the future; as for me, I am convinced that the high road lies in the commitment of all of us to

leaving to all who will succeed us a world where
it is possible to live better than it is today.

Without giving up the pursuit of happiness.

A book that I strongly suggest you read and give as a gift.




Title Page
Timeline of History

Part One. The Cognitive Revolution

1 An Animal of No Significance
2 The Tree of Knowledge
3 A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve
4 The Flood

Part Two. The Agricultural Revolution

5 History’s Biggest Fraud
6 Building Pyramids
7 Memory Overload
8 There is No Justice in History

Part Three The Unification of Humankind

9 The Arrow of History
10 The Scent of Money
11 Imperial Visions
12 The Law of Religion
13 The Secret of Success

Part Four The Scientific Revolution

14 The Discovery of Ignorance
15 The Marriage of Science and Empire
16 The Capitalist Creed
17 The Wheels of Industry
18 A Permanent Revolution
19 And They Lived Happily Ever After
20 The End of Homo Sapiens

Afterword: The Animal that Became a God
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