The Cognitive Revolution was “the appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating.” (Harari, 21) It was the rise of human language. The ability to communicate information in nearly infinite ways with accuracy and detail allowed humans to better understand their environment and themselves. Language also gave rise to belief in common myths, which allowed for larger groups of humans to cooperate and live together. These larger groups needed more food to survive than the hunter-gatherer lifestyle could produce, and thus the Agricultural Revolution began. The Agricultural Revolution was a “revolution in the way humans lived,” that saw Sapiens transition from a life of hunting and gathering to one devoted to “manipulating the lives of a few animal and plant species.” (Harari, 77) While the agricultural lifestyle was not easier than the foraging one, the surplus of food it produced allowed human populations to grow exponentially. Larger population meant more mouths to feed, but it also meant more hands and more minds. People could now do more than just farm. They could build and expand, and the creation of social hierarchies meant further development of human civilization. These revolutions opened the door for humans to cooperate in large groups, and thus civilizations were able to grow.
I agree with Harari’s assessment of the rise of Sapiens. He attributes the success of Sapiens to the “imagined order,” and that shared belief in myths is what holds together civilizations. (Harari, 105) He cites two examples, the Code of Hammurabi and the Declaration of Independence, as myths that built successful societies. However, the two myths have different imagined orders for humans. Hammurabi’s Code states that humans are split into three social groups, while the Declaration of Independence states that all humans are equal. Despite this difference, both civilizations based upon these ideas were able to prosper. This, Harari says, is why the imagined order is so powerful. Even though there are differences in imagined orders for every civilization, they are “the only way large numbers of humans can cooperate effectively.” (Harari, 110) The imagined order is the glue that binds modern civilizations together, so it no doubt played a major role in the rise of Sapiens. Without some common belief to bind groups of humans together, to create cooperation and a desire to advance, we would never have become the most dominant species on the planet.