SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari was presented on Dec 19, 2021 06:30 PM India
Ravi Sonalkar was the presented the power point presentation.
Book Report: ‘Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind’
Yuval Noah Harari’s book ‘Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind’ was presented
by Ravi Sonalkar at the Book Club session on Sunday 19 th December. The book
covers a wide canvas and Ravi Sonalkar did an exemplary job of presenting its most
Harari’s book presents a reconstruction of human evolution over thousands of
millenia. The first significant milestone that Harari considered noteworthy in the
course of human development was the cognitive revolution, which took place about
70,000 years ago. Though the reasons for this development are obscure, it enabled
the human species to develop reasoning and thinking abilities and was marked by
the commencement of migration across the planet. Harari also mentions the
development of language as being of great significance in the advancement of
human development. The next significant milestone was the Agricultural revolution,
about 11,000 years ago, which transformed the hunter gatherer lifestyle into pastoral
farming and was the commencement of the settlement of human communities.
However Harari perceives the farming revolution as ‘history’s biggest fraud’ as it was
the beginning of a deterioration in the quality of human life through adoption of an
inferior diet, longer working hours, paradoxically greater risk of starvation, increased
vulnerability to disease, and the formalisation of restrictive levels of hierarchy. Harari
considers the third significant development to be the unification of humankind
through political organisation leading to the formation of empires. The scientific
revolution is much more recent, about 500 years ago, and the industrial revolution,
250 years old. Harari classifies the information revolution as being 50 years old. By
his reckoning we are now in the midst of a biotechnological revolution which may
well result in the end of sapiens as we know ourselves to be, as we ominously hurtle
towards a transformation into trans-human cyborgs.
Harari also traces the evolution of money, the growth of trading, and the advent of
capitalism. It is this extensive coverage which is at once the strength of the book and
also perhaps its weakness, as it cannot do justice to and does not attempt to present
a penetrating analysis of many of the developments it tracks. Perhaps one of the
most contentious views expressed by Harari, and one which has been the most
widely commented upon, if not the most contested, is his view about the
development of religion, and the transformation of polytheism to what he considers
are noxious forms of monotheism. Harari can also be accused of the occasional
Following the presentation there was a lot of animated discussion on the possible
reasons for the supremacy of the human race over other species. In fact a
distinguishing feature of the human mind according to Harari is its ability to
conceptualise the abstract. But his assessment of the reason for the inexorable
dominance of the human species is because of its ability to cooperate on a large
scale and work towards a coordinated common goal. The discussion by the book
club members explored whether this perceived superiority may have led to the
callous disregard and indifference to environmental degradation that is so evident
today, as well as the diminishing space for coexistence with other living creatures.
Harari’s comments about religion were also discussed. There was also a question
about whether this book was perhaps much too western-centric in its outlook.
But whatever its drawbacks, there is no denying the extremely interesting and
informative coverage of the growth and evolution of the human race by this very
ambitious book, and its very competent presentation by Ravi Sonalkar.