Monday, February 4, 2019

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari (author), Derek Perkins (narrator)

Tantor Audio, February 2015 (original publication 2011)

This is a history of humankind, or, as Harari makes clear, of Sapiens, because the other species of genus homo were humans, too. It's a fairly in-depth look at our cultural development from the first cognitively modern home sapiens about 70,000 years ago to our essentially complete dominance of the planet. He looks at our possible interactions with other human species, including the interbreeding revealed by DNA analysis, as well as the fact that, clearly, we're the only survivors, and what that might mean. The lives of hunter-gatherers, the agricultural evolution and whether or not that was a net benefit, and the major cultural and technological changes down to the present day get intelligent and opinionated analysis.

If at any point you think Harari is overlooking major issues, keep reading or listening. It's coming.

Which is not to say that I agree with him on everything. I doubt anyone will, though the particular points of disagreement will be different. I'm reasonably sure that, for the late 20th/21st century portion, when he describes every major belief system extant today except Buddhism as "delusion," he's pretty close to being an equal opportunity offender. Basically, if you find happiness and contentment by finding meaning in your life and in what you do with your life--your work, your beliefs, whether, political, religious, or philosophical, whatever--you are delusional. And he's quite certain not just that he's right about this, but that he's disclosing obvious, objective truth.

There's a lot to be frustrated with, especially in the later portions of the book, but there's also a lot of interesting, thought-provoking material. There is, usefully, overlap between those things.

Not a perfect book, but an interesting one. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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