Summary of Sapiens

Part One: The Cognitive Revolution

1.     An animal of no significance
- Three important revolutions: The Cognitive Revolution. The Agricultural Revolution. The Scientific Revolution
- Chimpanzees are the closest relatives
- Distinctive human traits: brain, walk upright on two legs
- One of the most common uses of early stone tools was to crack open bones in order to get to the marrow
- Humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust
- Best thing fire did was cook: Since long intestines and large brains are both massive energy consumers, it’s hard to have both. By shortening the intestines and decreasing their energy consumption, cooking inadevertently opened the way to the jumbo brains of Neanderthals and Sapiens.
 - Homo Sapiens conquered the world thanks above all to its unique language.

2.     The free of knowledge
- The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive Revolution.
- Tree of knowledge mutation: accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens.
- Our language is amazingly supple. Our language evolved as a way of gossiping. Our language has the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all.
- The alpha male usually wins his position not because he is physically stronger, but because he leads a large and stable coalition.
- Sociological research has shown that the maximum ‘natural’ size of a group bonded by gossip is about 150 individuals. But once the threshold of 150 individuals is crossed, things can no longer work that way.
- The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings. None of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another.
- An icon that somewhat resembles the Stadel lion-man appears today on cars (Peugot Lion)
- An imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world.
- The Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations.
- The Catholic Church has survived for centuries, not by passing on a ‘celibacy gene’ from one pope to the next, but by passing on the stories of the New Testament and of Catholic canon law.
- The immense diversity of imagined realities that Sapiens invented, and the resulting diversity of behavior patterns, are the main components of what we call ‘cultures’. The Cognitive Revolution is accordingly the point when history declared its independence from biology.
- Significant differences begin to appear only when we cross the threshold of 150 individuals, and when we reach 1,000-2,000 individuals, the differences are astounding.

3.     A day in the life of Adam and Eve
- ‘Gorging gene’ theory: Our DNA thinks that we are in savannah, even though we may be living in high-rise apartments with over-stuffed refrigerators.
- The Stone Age should more accurately be called the Wood Age, because most of the tools used by ancient hunter-gatherers were made of wood.
- Thanks to the appearance of fiction, even people with the same genetic make-up who lived under similar ecological conditions were able to create very different imagined realities, which manifested themselves in different norms and values.
- There is some evidence that the size of the average Sapiens brain has actually decreased since the age of foraging.
- The wholesome and varied diet, the relatively short working week, and the rarity of infectious diseases have led many experts to define pre-agricultural forager societies as ‘the original affluent societies’.

4.     The Flood
- The First Wave Extinction, which accompanied the spread of the foragers, was followed by the Second Wave Extinction, which accompanied the spread of the farmers, and gives us an important perspective on the third Wave Extinction, which industrial activity is causing today.

Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution

5.     History’s biggest fraud
- The Agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud: The culprits were a handful of plant specifies, including wheat, rice and potatoes. These plants domesticated Homo Sapiens, rather than vice versa. Wheat offered nothing for people as individuals. Yet it did bestow something on Homo Sapiens as a species. Cultivating wheat provided much more food per unit of territory, and thereby enabled Homo Sapiens to multiply exponentially.
- Essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions. Agricultural revolution was a trap. There was no going back. The trap snapped shut. The discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering is perhaps the most important lesson we can draw from the Agricultural Revolution
- One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.
- Temple may have been built first, and that a village later grew up around it.
- The domesticated chicken is the most widespread fowl ever. Following Homo sapiens, domesticated cattle, pigs and sheep are the second, third and fourth most widespread large mammals in the world.

6.     Building pyramids
- History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.
- All these cooperation networks – from the cities of ancient Mesopotamia to the Qin and roman empires – were ‘imagined orders’.
- We believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society.
- Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’: You never admit that the order is imagined. You always insist that the order sustaining society is an objective reality created by the great gods.
- What people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order: A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band.

7.     Memory overload
- The first recorded name in history belongs to an accountant, rather than a prophet, a poet or a great conqueror: The first texts of history contain no philosophical insights, no poetry, legends, laws, or even royal triumphs.
- Arabic numerals were first invented by the Hindus. But the Arabs get the credit because when they invaded India, they encountered the system, understood its usefulness, refined it, and spread it through the Middle East and then to Europe.
- Our computers have trouble understanding how Homo sapiens talks, eels and dreams. So we are teaching Homo sapiens to talk, feel and dream in the language of numbers, which can be understood by computers.

8.     There is no justice in history
- Humans created imagined orders and devised scripts.
- If you want to keep any human group isolated – women, Jews, Roma, gays, blacks – the best way to do it is convince everyone that these people are a source of pollution.
- Paradoxically, genetic superiority (in terms of immunity) translated into social inferiority: precisely because Africans were fitter in tropical climates than Europeans, they ended up as the slaves of European masters.
- Most sociopolitical hierarchies lack a logical or biological basis – they are nothing but the perpetuation of chance events supported by myths. Since the biological distinctions between different groups of Homo sapiens are, in fact, negligible, biology can’t explain the intricacies of Indian society of American racial dynamics.
- A truly unnatural behavior, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition. In truth, our concepts ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ are taken not from biology, but from Christian theology. The theological meaning of ‘natural’ is ‘in accordance with the intentions of the God who created nature’.

Part Three: The Unification of Humankind

9.     The arrow of history
- The first universal order to appear was economic: the monetary order. The second universal order was political: the imperial order. The third universal order was religious: the order of universal religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.

10.  The scent of money
- ‘Why Spaniards had such a passion for gold?’ : ‘Because I and my companions suffer from a disease of the heart which can be cured only with gold.’
- Even Muslim rulers who called for jihad against the infidel Christians were glad to receive taxes in coins that invoked Christ and His Virgin Mother.

11.  Imperial Visions
- Empire is defined solely by its cultural diversity and flexible borders.

12.  The law of religion
- The crucial historical role of religion has been to give superhuman legitimacy to these fragile structures.
- Religion must possess two qualities: 1) it must espouse a universal superhuman order that is true always and everywhere. 2) It must insist on spreading this belief to everyone. It must be universal and missionary.
- Polytheism is inherently open-minded, and rarely persecutes ‘heretics’ and ‘infidels’.
- Some of the most basic ideas of what we call ‘monotheism’ are, in fact, dualist in origin and spirit. The average Christian believes in the monotheist God, but also in the dualist Devil, in polytheist saints, and inanimist ghosts. : Syncretism
- ‘Suffering arises from craving’: A person who does not crave cannot suffer.
- The modern age has witnessed the rise of a number of new natural-law religions, such as liberalism, communism, capitalism, nationalism and Nazism. These creeds do not like to be called religions and refer to themselves as ideologies. But this is just a semantic exercise
- Humanist religions sanctify humanity
- How long can we maintain the wall separating the department of biology. From the departments of law and political science?

13.  The secret of success
- Commerce, empires and universal religions eventually brought virtually every Sapiens on every continent into the global world we live in today.
- History is what is called a ‘level two’ chaotic system: Level one chaos is chaos that does not react to predictions about it. Level two chaos is chaos that reacts to predictions about it, and therefore can never be predicted accurately.
- Why study history? Unlike physics or economics, history is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.
- Memetics: cultural evolution is based on the replication of cultural information units called ‘memes’. Successful cultures are those that excel in reproducing their memes, irrespective of the costs and benefits to their human hosts.
- The dynamics of history are not directed towards enhancing human well-being.

Part Four: The Scientific Revolution

14.  The discovery of ignorance
- Scientific Revolution was the discovery that humans do not know the answers to their most important questions.
- Whatever the great gods or the wise people of the past did not bother to tell us was unimportant: they did not tell us how to do calculus.
- A new branch of mathematics was developed over the last 200 years to deal with the more complex aspects of reality: statistics : Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad would have been bewildered if you told them that in order to understand the human mind and cure its illnesses you must first study statistics
- Science, industry and military technology interwined only with the advent of the capitalist system and the Industrial Revolution.
- Which one should be funded? : There is no scientific answer to this question. There are only political, economic and religious answers.

15.  The mirage of science and empire
- The Scientific Revolution and modern imperialism were inseparable
- How Europe dominate the late modern world? : modern science and capitalism
  -> Previous seekers of empire tended to assume that they already understood the world. Conquest merely utilized and spread their view of the world.
- Racism was replaced by culturism. Today’s elites usually justify superiority in terms of historical differences between cultures rather than biological differences between races.

16.  The capitalist creed
- What enables banks – and the entire economy – to survive and flourish is our trust in the future. This trust is the sole backing for most of the money in the world.
- Credit: It was that people seldom wanted to extend much credit because they didn’t trust that the future would be better than the present
- The most sacred commandment for new capitalist creed: ‘the profits of production must be re-invested in increasing production.’
- As Marx and other social critics quipped, Western governments were becoming a capitalist trade union

17.  The wheels of industry
- The modern economy grows thanks to our trust in the future and to the willingness of capitalists to reinvest their profits in production. Economic growth also requires energy and raw materials, and these are finite.
- The only limit of energy is set by our ignorance.
- The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!’

18.  A permanent revolution

19.  And they lived happily ever after
- People have seldom stopped to ask how these influence – politics, society, economics, gender, diseases, sexuality, food, clothing – human happiness.
- As Nietzsche put it, if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how.
- Perhaps happiness is synchronizing one’s personal delusions of meaning with the prevailing collective delusions.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated liberalism most classically: ‘What I feel to be good – is good. What I feel to be bad – is bad’.

20.  The end of Homo Sapiens
- Replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen in any of three ways: biological engineering, cyborg engineering or the engineering of inorganic life.
- With the help of new medical capabilities, the pretensions of the upper classes might soon become an objective reality
- “What do we want to become?”: Human Enhancement Question. And “What do we want to want?”.

Fun facts
- Biologists label organisms with a two-part Latin name, genus followed by species. For example, Panthera leo: the species leo of the genus Panthera. Australopithecus, which means `Southern Ape’.
- Gilgamesh Project: the quest for immortality