Importance of Intelligence in Homo Sapiens

The cognitive and agricultural revolutions gave homo sapiens a huge competitive edge over other species. On page 37, there is a useful table describing some of the new abilities gained in the cognitive revolution. The most important one in my opinion is “The ability to transmit larger quantities of information about Sapiens social relationships. (37)” This, according to Harari, allowed for larger and more cohesive groups to form. This was a major step in human history, because it created history as we know it by allowing culture to rise and flourish. The next giant leap, was the agricultural revolution, which mostly occurred between 9500 and 3500 BC. Animals and plants were domesticated, including most of the major sources of calories of humans today (wheat, rice, maize, potatoes, millet and barley. I thought it was very interesting that Harari says “No noteworthy plant or animal has been domesticated in the last 2,000 years. (78)” While these revolutions lead to increased intelligence and more advanced social structures, they were not without their share of consequences. One point made by the author is that the human body is not made for farming, with all the bending and lifting being too hard on joints and the neck and spine. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a world without agriculture, and we certainly wouldn’t have the technology we have today without domesticated plants and animals.

 

Harari argues that myths are stronger than anyone could have imagined.”While human evolution was crawling at its usual snail’s pace, the human imagination was building astounding networks of mass cooperation, unlike any other ever seen on earth. (103)” Imagined Orders, according to Harari, are sustained by social norms based on belief in shared myths. While the idea of imagined orders is a persuasive argument towards the dominance of homo sapiens, I don’t agree entirely with how influential Harari believes it to be. I generally like to think scientifically about history, although we have already discussed the shortcomings of reductionism. I am more persuaded by the earlier parts of the book which mention increased intelligence as a reason for homo sapien dominance. The cognitive and agricultural revolution were largely responsible for our dominance, and I think any kind of empire or community that rose from that would be successful to some extent. In other words, increased cognitive ability set humanity on a speeding train that could have landed us on any number of societal tracks, and not just the exact path we have taken as a species.

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