A Brief History of Humankind

Influential, exciting and ingenious: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, is one of the books which will be remembered for a long time. For me this book was clearly a “Quake-Book”. The need to share the chapters I just read was hard to stop. As a result, I kept telling the people around me what chapters I had just read.

In the book, Yuval takes you on a journey from the origins of mankind to modern man. He deals with great historical events. This extreme zoom out causes a good view of the circumstances of social, ecological, religious and political nature.

Yuval provides a view of the past, the future and the present considering all possible opinions and interpretations. This helps immensely to see facts through the eyes of others, but most of all to question his own point of view.

History repeats itself over and over again. The human being, who today has to find his way in the modern world, still functions under the operating system of the hunter and collector. The time of the modern society is a wink compared to the time we already lived through as hunters and gatherers. So most of our brain still runs on the stone-age human system. That explains many character traits that have been formed over thousands of years as a result of evolution and are still present in modern society today. Whether in politics, business or private life. The “free” will is often not as “free” as you would like it to be viewed through evolutionary glasses.

The journey through the history of mankind is always filled with facts and figures and sometimes disturbs the view of the world:

The last 60 years are the longest period of peace for mankind. There is always a warning against “resources that are coming to an end”. However, history shows that with technology resources can be used more efficiently and new resource can be found. So these are clearly growing rather than diminishing.
If you sum up the happiness and emotional well-being of all living beings (not just humans), modern society does not perform well. Why? Because of all the farm animals that we exclusively use to satisfy our needs. (As a meat lover this makes me personally question my meat consumption…)
The philosophical questions and the prospect of the future gave me goosebumps several times. After illuminating different points of view, opinions and motives, questions are asked again and again, which make you think about and question your own actions and those of modern society.

  • How is happiness measured?
  • Who defines what is morality?
  • How do cultures develop and how do these stereotypes and trends form?
  • How did humans get to the top of the food chain?
  • Would we be where we are today if there were no disagreements at all and human beings were ” peaceful ” by nature?

The last chapters deal with the near future and the exciting time we are living in. The danger of new technology, genetic engineering and the “God play”, that this cannot be stopped, because there are just as good reasons for it and therefore we go further and further in this direction. He describes how fast development takes place and how much faster it will do it in the future. This exponential development often makes you anxious and curious at the same time. The example that in my mid-twenties I had already experienced much more technological progress than someone who was born in 1890 and lived for 100 years shows how fast (and faster) development takes place. Back then, only retirees were allowed to say “At your age we still have …”. Nowadays I find people in their thirties using this opening sentence.

By the way, it is also mentioned that in 50-100 years humans will be immune to natural death through modern medicine, one of the many goosebumps moments in the book. The justification and the information provided by current studies (as of 2013) confirm statements of this kind time and again. The social-psychological aspect associated with these theories is almost even more exciting. The common denominator of all people in the world is that everyone is equal before death. This generality would then no longer be one. Death would be something from which we could “buy our way out” with first-class medical treatment. These privileges would be kept only to the elite for a very long time. The world would be affected by an unprecedented feeling of inequality.

As you can see, I really like the book. Please excuse the very jumpy theme of the paragraphs. Perhaps some readers will be convinced to read the book. Writing the review is more of a “scratch my own itch”, since ignoring the desire for it became more exhausting than actually writing the article.

A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari has held a mirror up to me – and continues to hold it up to me constantly (again: Quake Book) – by not only seeing myself, with my little void problems but mankind as a collective. I see our origins in why modern society and western civilization, despite the highest standard of living, do not always bring the most satisfaction. Above all, it has helped me to prioritize social bonds and relationships because these things are in our genes and satisfaction and well-being in the absence of them are almost impossible. Especially in a society in which an individual is popularized like never before, a blindness often creeps in resulting from the not infrequently self-relationship.

Disclaimer:┬áThis article was written in my on old blog on the date shown above. I didn’t adjust or updated any of these except for the thumbnail.

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Maruan has founded marumedia, a small digital product design agency based in Hamburg, Germany. Furthermore, he does consult in UX/UI design and development. He created to share his journey, learnings, pains, and lessons he encountered while doing so.

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