HSTR 207 – Science and Technology in World History
Mary Hill Young
Retelling Revolution: Cognitive, Agricultural, and Cultural
The cognitive revolution altered the way in which humans think, allowing for greater ingenuity and comprehension as well as the development of disparate languages, diverse culture and an advancement of society and its complexity. In Harari’s words, “Our language is amazingly supple. We can connect a limited number of sounds and signals… we can thereby ingest, store and communicate a prodigious amount of information.” (Harari, Sapiens, 22) That vast store of information can then be turned around to communicate so much more intra-culturally then it ever did before. It changed human culture because it created the opportunity for human culture, giving Homo Sapiens the mental tools necessary to transform disparate small nomadic family bands into a single large society.
Acquiring food has always been the driving force behind survival. Humanity requires food to survive, and a large and ready supply of it to form a society. The agricultural revolution made the shift away from hunter gatherer society possible and ushered in an era of organized land management that led to the rise of any and all significantly sized cultures. In conjunction with the cognitive revolution this was transformative of human culture, but not necessarily in a good way, “War and violence began only with the Agricultural Revolution, when people started to accumulate private property.”(Harari, Sapiens, 58)
The power of a collective mythology, or “imagined orders”, is unmatched by any other cultural factor in society today. Mythology drives human interaction, expectation and assumption. It is the primary factor in influencing society, and it drives interactions between other cultures too. Homo Sapiens, by way of a collective mythology, could gather large groups of people together in a cohesive and mostly functional society under a set of “divine” governing laws that controlled the excesses of nature and created what we now call civil society. Mythology also gives culture its identity and shapes history around itself both a part and apart from the body of historical fact, but nonetheless indivisible from humanity itself.