From chimpanzees to modern man: imagined orders and the revolutions of our ancestors

Throughout the history of planet Earth, the existence of humans–more specifically, modern humans–has occured in the relative blink of an eye. Evolution, as it turns out, is a slow but usually reliable process, as the genus Homo existed in the form of many iterations, some of them even at the same time, before eventually arriving at the species sapiens. Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration any pre-Homo species, and the species that we may someday become. This micro-evolution is by no means the only process that set us ahead of the rest of the animal kingdom; Yuval Harari argues that humans went through at least two distinct “revolutions,” cognitive and agricultural, that dramatically affected the way that the majority of humans would live forever. Harari believes the most important factor that led to the Cognitive Revolution were the vast improvements to human language and overall communication. These improvements ultimately allowed humans to “develop tighter and more sophisticated types of cooperation,” (24) which can be used to explain the vast and complex societies of today. Similarly, the Agricultural Revolution dramatically changed the way humans lived, but Harari claims that this revolution didn’t necessarily improve the lives or intelligence of Homo sapiens, but rather that this revolution “was history’s biggest fraud,” (79) since it definitely led to the production of much more food, but that abundance didn’t always lead to improved living conditions, except in the case of the “pampered elite” (79).

Harari goes on to write about a concept called “imagined orders” which basically means that human-made constructs led to the creation of cultures. For example, man isn’t inherently above the rest of the animal kingdom, but rather this common idea was fabricated entirely in our collective imaginations. I generally subscribe to these ideas out forth by Harari. This is probably highly Existentialist in nature, but since we can’t really prove otherwise, I believe that the universe is inheritance devoid of meaning, and it is up to the individual to find his/her own meaning in life–which is conceptually equivalent to the idea of imagined order.

Leave a Reply