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A Brief History of Humankind


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

This fact-filled meditation on the contradictions of evolution and history says Homo sapiens may be a prologue to an entirely new species.

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Yuval Noah Harari’s 400-page history of mankind is a timely meditation on the nature of Homo sapiens’ fickle path: a history not made by great leaders, determinism, guns, germs or steel, but by unexpected nuances of existence. Harari concludes that Homo sapiens prevailed by happenstance, a capacity for language and socialization, curiosity, mercantile fervor and technological prowess – which may yet destroy everything. Harari’s perspective moves among the telescope, microscope and stethoscope, hailing the synchronicities of capitalism, religion and technology. He tracks happiness as a measuring stick of progress. Harari is uneasy about humanity as the intelligent designer of a new “superhuman” – a cyborgian, a machine whose inorganic longings may not include happiness. While always neutral on matters of personal belief, getAbstract recommends this roiling, off-the-beaten path tour de force to readers with patience and open minds, even those who might disagree along the way.


Between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, Homo sapiens invented boats and sewing needles, expressed artistic talent, and saw the benefits of business relationships.

Landmarks punctuate human history, including these major transitions: the “Cognitive Revolution” beginning 70,000 years ago; the “Agricultural Revolution” of 12,000 years ago and the “Scientific Revolution” of 500 years ago. A fourth revolution is now unfolding, and it may mark the end of Homo sapiens and the beginning of new creatures altogether.

The human continuum began with a handful of six similar species. They gradually refined their abilities, followed their curiosity and won out against each other, largely by happenstance. The leading candidate, Homo sapiens, had a large brain that needed a large bone box to protect it and a sound skeletal structure to carry it on two legs. It had fine hands with an intricate weave of muscle and nerve, the ability to gossip, and the desire to socialize and raise offspring.

From East Africa, these Sapiens flowed into Europe and, one theory says, intermarried with the Neanderthals. A more popular theory holds that Sapiens eradicated the...

About the Author

Oxford-educated historian Yuval Noah Harari teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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    M. F. 6 years ago
    This is the best short summary and analysis of Homo Sapiens I have seen.Thank you getabstract for explaining the author’s view of human history and development and a uncertain future ie Will we become cyborgs and live forever or destroy ourselfs because we can’t decide what we want or want to be.Happiness may not be enough! Mario Falisi
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    M. F. 6 years ago
    You can get A summary of Sapiens with detailed analysis from Amazon for about 3 dollars .Then you should attempt to buy or borrow the 400 page from your online library .It comes in both audio and text version on Overdrive the app I use in the U S.This book is a part of a new genre called Big History.If you like a more positive version of Mankind you should look upDavid Christian who popularized Big History and introduced it to high schools with The help of Bill Gates.Good Luck to all of us Sapiens!
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    Y. L. 7 years ago
    somewhat informative but I think these summaries should be more detailed and methodical
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      4 years ago
      Yes. I still want to know what happened on page 47! Guess I need to get the book.....

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