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Everything has changed but nothing has changed February 5, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in book review, thought leadership, Uncategorized.


As part of my little experiment, I’m going to read more and share more. Here’s some thoughts on Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Where years later we’re still doing the same things our ancestors did.

This staggering book is a tour of the last 70,000 years of humankind. How we came to be, why we do the things we do and how it will shape us in the future.

Sapiens follows four key revolutions. From the cognitive revolution, where we changed from an ape of no significance to the rulers of the world, through to the scientific revolution which accelerated humankind. It has us on the precipice of being able to alter forever humankind as we know it.

At almost every turn, the book blows your mind, covering an enormously broad range of topics. Starting with the fact that homo sapiens, were not the only form of human species that walked the earth. Even now we are uncovering evidence and it is said that up to 4% of European DNA is from other human species and up to 6% in Asian countries. There is no purity of form.

We evolved through fire, which enabled us to cook things we could not naturally process, decreasing the size of our teeth and shortening our intestines. This enabled more energy to go to our brains, making them jumbo-sized and accelerating humankind. With this came civilisation and then globalization, making the business world what we know today. It is evolving at a much faster pace due to the advances of technology and the efficiency needed to fit people’s lives. Food is still of the upmost importance but in the current day, food comes to us.

It used to be that food was foraged, making humans move from place to place, eating a varied diet. When we found high calorie food such as fruit, we gorged on it before other animals did. This gorging is hard-wired in our DNA and why we gorge on food now. Because it’s so much easier to get food now, obesity is the result. The action of gorging and greed has been applied to all different aspects of human life including businesses who are often being accused of monopolizing markets making it hard for smaller competitors to stake a claim. Everything has changed but nothing has changed.

The book points out that food also became the enslaver of humans. The domestication of crops and animals was a great lie. Rather than making lives easier for humans, it made it harder. Settlements require more work than foraging. In a desire to create plentiful harvests, we worked harder in ways unnatural to the body, we created more people, which required more food and more work.

It’s no different today. We work ridiculous hours in the hope that we will retire early. But by then we have huge mortgages, partners, children to school and a liking for holidays, cars and food – so, we  repeat the same mistakes from 9,500 BC. Nothing has changed while everything has changed.

Gossip was the basis of language that separated us from animals which also helped alert us to danger. Language allowed us to move beyond this, to discuss who hates us, who we like, who to trust and who not to. Gossip, which is now proxy for social media, is now global. Nothing has changed while everything has changed.

Language gave us the ability to transmit information about things that are not real. If humans increased in numbers and empires formed, our need to collectively believe in things grew. This imagined order helped maintain law and order. Fiction, myths, gods became figments of our collective imagination. So strong was this belief that they became real in people’s minds.

This imagined order started as polytheist religions – where many gods were appealed to. Over time, people favoured one of these gods and monotheist religions began to rise. This accelerated with Christianity and then Islam, both of which became fast-spreading. Interestingly, polytheism inserted itself back into monotheism in the way of saints – each of whom looks after particular areas of interest in the same way as the many gods. Everything changes but nothing changes.

Segregation is still rife in modern day but we are starting to tackle problems like gender equality. It transpires that the mythology of the imagined orders are also to blame for that; assigning roles to genders with no basis that have stuck. The only theory that suggests why we ended up in a largely patriarchal society is that while women are just as good at hatred, greed and abuse, men are more willing to engage in physical violence.

So if imagined orders enabled the unification of humankind, the highest order is money. There is nothing that comes close. Which is why our economies are accelerating and the pursuit of money is overtaking the imagined orders.

After 4 billion years of natural selection, science and money together are challenging our morals, beliefs and capabilities by engineering new paradigms in human and animal life. By 2050 some humans will have achieved a-mortal status. Bionics is already commonplace and our language is already evolving beyond words. Mathematical script is accelerating AI, and a new future of computing is becoming real.

In time, the human form will change, seeing a new species of human appearing. Will they accept the same imagined orders as us? Will they make the same mistakes? Will we view them as friend or foe? These humans may well be viewed as mutants, like us but not, the same as we were viewed 70,000 years ago. Everything has changed, but nothing has changed.



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