Sapiens: The Accidental Powerhouse

According to Harari, Homo sapiens have dominated almost since they came to be. “The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive revolution,” (Harari 21). This new way of thinking, that set Sapiens past Neanderthals, is the ability to think fictionally. This fiction included everything from religion and the spiritual world, to something not as obviously fiction like a nation or corporation. Fictional thinking gave Sapiens the ability to unite and work together, helping them overcome other species including other Homo species. Harari states that this happened simply by chance as a gene mutation is a closely related species. The Agricultural Revolution was exactly what it sounds like, the time in history where people developed farming abilities and techniques. This was mostly on small scale to start but it had a massive impact on Sapiens way of life. “The vast majority of farmers lived in permanent settlements; only a few were nomadic shepherds,” (Harari 98). People quickly turned from moving all the time, hunting and gathering, to settling down and spending their days tending to the crops. This made them build small permanent shelters out of wood that was harvested. Some say this is when the first idea of a house and neighbors were introduced.

When describing why Sapiens became dominant, Harari spends a lot of time focusing on the Cognitive Revolution, I feel for good reason. The ability to have a thought outside concrete reality is immensely powerful. Being able to believe, and convince people to believe, in something resembling a religion or corporation can create a powerful existence. One that I can see easily uniting and overcoming many obstacles. Something I am hesitant about, which Harari admits to, is the lack of proof of how Sapiens spread to different parts of the globe, i.e. Australia.

1 thought on “Sapiens: The Accidental Powerhouse”

  1. Nice post Nick! I agree with your descriptions of both the Cognitive and Agricultural Revolutions, and I think your analyses were spot on. One thing I felt was missing from your response was the discussion of the evolutionary versus individual effects of the Agricultural Revolution. Harari claims that this may have been the most important lesson or outcome of this period of time in Sapiens history. I really like your title, as it points to the “stumble” down the evolutionary path that Sapiens experienced when transitioning to an agricultural species. Additionally, I appreciate your critique of Harari’s explanation of Sapiens rise to power. It is important that we look at these arguments in great detail to help understand all aspects of history. Often, a small gap in our knowledge may lead us to discovering a truth about history that diverges completely from what was previously accepted as fact.

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