Summary: Sapiens

[ NOTE: These book summaries are designed as captures for what I’ve read, and aren’t necessarily great standalone resources for those who have not read the book. Their purpose is to ensure that I capture what I learn from any given text, so as to avoid realizing years later that I have no idea what it was about or how I benefited from it. ]


  • The cognitive revolution started around 70,000 years ago.
  • The agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago.
  • The scientific revolution around 500 years ago.
  • The main thing humans do that other animals don’t is organize around ideas that don’t physically exist.
  • Homo sapiens means wise man.
  • Humans first evolved in Africa around 2.5 million years ago.
  • Chimp groups top out at around 50. Humans top out at around 150.
  • Humans have been living in a dual (real/fantasy) reality since the cognitive revolution.
  • We think humans were just as smart and capable 30,000 years ago.
  • Humans domesticated the dog around 15,000 years ago.
  • It’s much easier now to pass along crap genes.
  • He says there’s no evidence we’ve become more intelligent over time.
  • There’s a law that says luxuries become necessities, and then create responsibilities.
  • There’s an Inca writing system based on knots of different colors and strings for words and numbers.
  • The whole planet is moving towards one-world culture.
  • Religion is the third great unifier of humanity. The other two were money and empires.
  • Monotheism adopts the polytheist concept of patron saints.
  • Buddhism teaches that we always want more, and that suffering comes directly from craving.
  • First level chaotic systems don’t react to predictions, second level do.
  • The scientific revolution started in Europe 500 years ago, and humans have massively improved from it.
  • The best test of knowledge is not truth, but utility.
  • Military effort drives technology very quickly.
  • We used to try to give meaning to death, now we’re working to prevent it.
  • Capitalism is as much the victor in the scientific revolution as science was.
  • The European ideology of exploring and studying the world was what made it stand out as special.
  • The creation of credit spawned the growth of mankind.
  • The big idea from Wealth of Nations was that increasing profits leads to increasing wealth and prosperity for all.
  • Capitalism only works when profits are re-invested into creating new things.
  • All credit is based on the idea that science and technology will continue to improve.
  • Evolutionary Psychology says basically that we continue to feel the same drives that we had earlier in our evolution.
  • More people die from suicide and car accidents than war in modern times.
  • The costs of war continue to increase, so there is less of it. Basically, trade is more lucrative than war, so it’s winning.
  • Belief in an afterlife gives people meaning in the present.
  • Buddhism shares the belief that happiness comes from inside the body, not outside.
  • Evolution is giving way to intelligent design.
  • In the future we become the gods (cue up Homo Deus)

[ Find my other book summaries here. ]


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