The OG Cloud; human imagination

Homo sapiens conquered the world thanks above all to its unique language (Harari, 19).” According to Harari, the Cognitive Revolution happened about 70,000 years ago, and was when language emerged in humans. His argument is that our language is why we are where we are, because physically alone, we were never near the top of the food chain. Language allowed humans to communicate not only for present dangers but also, past tense and future tense dangers in a way other animals can’t. This communication system allowed humans to organize, plan, and make decisions with extra information which led to more successful hunts, less accidents, and probably stronger tribes. 

The Agricultural Revolution, according to Harari happened about 12,000 years ago. This was when plants and animals were first being domesticated, and humans shifted from being hunter-gatherers to farmers. Harari claims “The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud (Harari, 79).” Though on an individual basis, the Agricultural Revolution lowered the quality of life for people around the globe, it led to population explosion and pampered elites (Harari, 79). This is the basis of how our cultures still function today.

Harari argues that the imagination is the most powerful force we have as humans. I like thinking about it in these terms because on an intellectual level, he is right. Peugeot doesn’t actually exist, the U.S. Government doesn’t actually exist, but we still perceive them as very real, making them real. I agree that our ideologies, stories, and religions set us apart from other animals and is why we are the top of the food chain now. These ideas allow us to justify anything we please, killing the last mammoth, and cutting the hands off a thief. Collective imagination is used as a form of mass control, and is the basis of our religions and political systems today. I think it’s dangerous to think of our imaginations as not real, however. Just because human rights are a made up idea in our heads, doesn’t mean they don’t exist in our realities.

2 thoughts on “The OG Cloud; human imagination”

  1. Hi, Anna. I fully agree with both you and Harari that imagined orders are a vital component of social cohesion in human culture. Reading through this section (as well as the blog posts) brings to mind another book I’ve read called “The Truth About Stories” by Thomas King. Although it’s been well over a year since I’ve read King’s book, there’s one line from it that has stuck with me ever since:

    “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” (pg. 2)

    Anything we do is attached to some sort of narrative, whether we think about it or not.

    You mention that viewing ideas as pure imagination is dangerous, and I think you’re right. How many people were burned at the stake because they were accused of being a witch? What about people of color, twins, left-handed people, redheads, the disabled, or homosexuals? Nothing in nature denotes any of these people as evil or inferior, but they were all at some point (in the case of homosexuals, still are) mistreated or even killed because imagination ruled there was something wrong with who they were.

    I think imagination is more of a double-edged sword than anything else. Humans can use our brains in cruel ways, but the fact that we can even attach the word “cruel” to anything in the first place demonstrates our capacity for empathy and enables us to use our cognitive abilities for the betterment of others. Charities technically don’t exist, but they are just as powerful as any other imagined state because we as a collective species believe in the need to help our fellow man.

  2. You make a great point at the end of your post, although we may not see the link to our imaginations and what we put into practice the connection is definitely there. Think of a time when you made a decision you really regret, I know in my experience it has been because my imagination has gone too far. We have certainly made leaps and bounds in our knowledge of the human brain, but I don’t think we fully understand elusive human motivations. The only way we can grow individually and as a species is to be at peace with ourselves and have compassion.

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