Made You Think Podcast

Apr 17, 2018
An Animal of No Significance: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – Part I
Part of

Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different. This book tells the story of how these three revolutions have affected humans and their fellow organisms.

Sapiens by Yuval Harari is one of those books that shapes how we think, as another lenses through which we can look at reality. It’s central theme is the evolution of Human History, and gives special importance to myths and shared ideologies. It explains how shared myths underlie human narrative and everything we find meaningful. There’s a lot of power in these shared ideas because they end up regulating how a society and people function.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • The power of shared myths and their impact in Human History
  • The Cognitive, Agricultural, and Writing Revolutions
  • Why Sam Harris and Jordan B Peterson quarrel each other
  • Why Agriculture counterintuitively fucked us up
  • Self-perpetuating ideas and cultures
  • Ideas to reduce the wealth gap

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari!

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show

Books mentioned

People mentioned

Show Topics

[1:29] The mechanism of shared myths where you end up doing what other people tell and reinforce about you scales very well to micro (relationship disputes) and macro levels (political movements).

[5:48] How meaningless we humans are as a species. Being just like another animal. The path to genetic and technical advantages. The role of fire that helps us consume less energy when digesting food. Energy that can go to our relative big brains.

[11:08] Agriculture seems to have sprung out all around the globe at the same time. The increasing pace of progression between ages. Domestication of wild plants and animals did not increase in the last 2000 years.

[16:12] Tolerance and the extinction of Neanderthals. Two theories about the extinction of Neanderthals. The first based on the intolerance trait of Sapiens, leads to think they were the target of the most significant ethnic-cleansing campaign in history. The second, less probable, talks about interbreeding and mingling. French vestiges in Vietnam.

[21:39] Cognitive, the first revolution, defined by language. We switch by chatting about resources or danger, to be able to communicate richly about abstract ideas. Shared methodology becomes our main competitive advantage in nature, with the ability to pass out knowledge. Poetry as a mnemonic technique (ability to remember more).

[24:26] Challenges in interpretation of spoken languages. The Bible example. Jesus walking on water can be translated to walking by the water. There exist some evidence that The Big Flood really existed.

[27:08] Why there’s a limit to the size a community can bond together and the the role of religion or “shared myths and methodology” to get past this number. The fact that Sapiens were able to cooperate in larger groups may be one of the reasons they wiped out Neanderthals, despite their physical and mental superiority.

[33:30] What reality means for Harris, Peterson, Taleb, and Hirari. The roots of the Sam Harris and Jordan B Peterson disagreement may lie on the definition of reality. Porcupine example: a lot of people believes porcupines shoot their quills, which is not true, but helps us not to get injured. There are too many variables to consider when interpreting our environment, but our minds can feel something is odd even if we can’t rationalize it.

[40:11] How some Cultures are able to self perpetuate. Islamism vs Judaism.

[43:10] The omission of evidence does not mean omission in reality. The only evidence that has survived is the one recorded in physical devices. All immaterial things went lost. Stone Age should be called the Wood Age.

[45:31] Agriculture. History’s biggest fraud: The agricultural revolution didn’t led to a better life, but to an explosion of population and diseases. Agriculture societies are more fragile. Introduction of the concept of private property. Differences between hunters and gatherers, and losing skills. In Social Media, as in Agriculture, is difficult to see the end game. Successful Evolution is generally counted by numbers, not quality of life. We think that we domesticated other species, but it seems we domesticated ourselves.

[54:53] As gatherers we are more prone to less Black Swans, but more variability. History of yeast and weed domestication.

[59:45] Pyramids as objects of cult. Past and modern pyramids. Multiple levels of games to conquer pyramids. Nomadic Lifestyle as a cult.

[1:02:52] The Writing Revolution. The first use of writing was financial accounting records. The origin of different bases for counting. Base 6 or 24 for hours in a day, base 10 related to our digits, base 2 as a valid alternative.

[1:05:09] Writing originated because of agriculture. Phoenicians were prolific writers, but their main support was papyrus which went lost. On the contrary, Egyptians wrote less but on walls, so we have much more records from them. Ways to codify an idea understandable by every creature and the NASA experiment. Would aliens look to us as annoying spiders or cute kittens?

[1:12:40] The idea of justice is alien to history. Theories of male dominance in human history. Comparisons to other mammals that form non-male societies.

[1:20:34] Institution of family related to the concept of private property. Marriage is thought to be beneficial for women, but there’s a theory that states is much more beneficial for (loser) men

[1:24:05] The role of shared myths to perpetuate the status quo. Wealth goes to wealth, poverty back to poverty. The correcting mechanism trickle and stop. Ideas to stop wealth differences should reduce the compounding effect of each situation. Taxing more capital gains and less income tax, or distinguishing between founder’s capital from investor capital may level the ground between rich and poor and stop self-perpetuating statuses.

[1:32:06] Here ends Part 1 of Sapiens. Pick the book and read the rest before Part 2 comes out. Sponsors! Buy a Canon EOS D5 through Amazon and help us support the show. Kettle & Fire is our provider of fine bone broth. They’ve got beef, chicken, chicken with mushroom. It cures disease, or at least there’s no side effect when trying to cure from sickness with it. Get up to 33% OFF with our link. Four Sigmatic make great mushroom drinks, elixirs, coffee, and chocolates. We suggest the Adaptogen, and the Cordyceps to picnic up later in the day. Get 10 to 15% discount with our link. Perfect Keto is for all your ketosis needs. Really good products to get into and sustain ketosis. They have keto friendly protein powder, MCT oils, and nice pre-workout boost.

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