Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Book Summary

Post Last Updated: November 22, 2021

Humans have been the dominant species on our Earth for many thousands of years. We know humans have been the dominant species, but how did they become the dominant species? How have Homo Sapiens become supreme over other species?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, examines the following fact: one hundred thousand years ago, there were six species of humans.

Today, there is just one species of humans: Homo Sapiens.

How did Homo Sapiens succeed in lasting throughout time? Why did Homo Sapiens go from groups of hunter-gathers to living in cities and nations? What makes Homo Sapiens unique to the animal kingdom?

Sapiens looks to answer these questions and more.

The rest of this post includes a summary of Sapiens, takeaways from Sapiens, and a reading recommendation for you.

Book Summary of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

In Sapiens, we get a brief history of humankind.

Sapiens is broken up into four sections:

  1. Cognitive Revolution
  2. Agricultural Revolution
  3. Unification of Humankind
  4. Scientific Revolution

The first section examines what Harari calls the “Cognitive Revolution”. The Cognitive Revolution describes the time period where humans’ brains developed and humans could now make tools and become more efficient in their work.

The second section examines the Agricultural Revolution. Many of us know what occurred during this time period: humans went mainly hunting and gathering for their food to growing crops, domesticating various animals, and becoming sedentary.

The third section is called “The Unification of Humankind”. In this section, Harari looks at the social structures which have been put in place to unify humankind. Some of these structures include religion and nations. Here, Harari introduces his concept of the “Imagined Myth”.

Finally, in the final section, called “Scientific Revolution”, Harari looks at the recent past and talks about economic constructs, such as communism or capitalism, technological developments, and how the industrial revolution transformed the world once again.

At the end of Sapiens, Harari tries to answer a few deep questions:

  • Have we become happier as history has unfolded?
  • With technological development and increases in efficiency of housing and food production, have we become happier?
  • If we wanted to, could we break free from the influence of our ancestors?

There are many other questions Harari poses for the reader to think about. It will be interesting in the future as we continue to evolve.

Why Homo Sapiens Dominate: The Concept of the “Imagined Myth”

In Sapiens, Harari introduces and discusses the concept of the “Imagined Myth”.

Harari argues the concept of the “Imagined Myth” has been instrumental to the unification of humankind.

His argument, essentially, is because humans are able to be creative and think of things that are not rooted in reality, they have became more successful, speaking from an evolutionary standpoint.

Different imagined myths throughout history have included things like religion, money, government, nations, cities, sports teams, companies, and the list goes on.

Think about it for a second, what makes a nation a nation?

It’s the common belief that all the people who reside in that nation believe the nation exists. It is only because a group of individuals believe in the imagined concept of a nation that we have nations.

Humans are the only species in the world where you can have two strangers who become friends because they share a nationality, a religion, or are fans of the same sports team.

Takeaways from Sapiens

With every book you read, it is a must to have takeaways and actionable items to implement in life.

After reading Sapiens, my main takeaway was most of our society is made up and imagined.

There are so many things which are just imaginary and in our mind. While we need to follow the rules and constructs in place, we shouldn’t get stressed over these imaginary things (i.e. nations, sports, religions, etc.)

Our Recommendation for Sapiens

Sapiens is a fantastic book, which both touched on history, but also human psychology.

To understand where we are today, it’s important to understand where we came from. Sapiens is a fantastic resource for learning where we came from, and is very thought provoking and challenging when thinking about where humans go next.