Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Go back 100,000 years and you would find six separate species of human scattered across the earth. Today there is a single one left; homo sapiens. In this book, Harari looks at how we rose not only to become the only Homo species but also the dominant creature on the planet. He considers how our genetic makeup is still closely tied to the original hunter-gatherer way of life and how our innovations in farming, civilisation and science have made us all powerful. Modern life has brought us many benefits but there is a darker side; we have enslaved people and wrought pain and misery on countless people throughout history and even now are slaves to the clock and consumerism.
It is a broad-brush book as Harari draws on economics, anthropology and palaeontology to complete the history of our species. He also considers our future as humans, looking at the medical advances that could mean we live longer than ever and other technologies like genetic modification that could make some of people life more comfortable. Sadly though, there are flaws. He seems to come up with some daft conclusions, there are sweeping generalisations concerning subjects like the economy whilst there is very little on our effects on the climate. It has immense amounts of detail in some subjects and then rushes through on others, but it is a good stab at a subject with so much history and offers the potential of so much more.
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