In the first two sections of his book, Harari addresses both the Cognitive and Agricultural Revolutions. These two revolutions serve as important forks in the road of Homo Sapiens evolution. They are the origins of many modern habits, behaviors, and cultural staples of today’s humans. The Cognitive Revolution consists of the time between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago (Harari, 21). During this time period, Sapiens were able to harness both a unique language and advances in our technology. This allowed the species to gossip, discuss fictional ideas and myths, and coexist in large groups. The taming of fire allowed Sapiens to shape the land around them and defend themselves from predators. These new ideas and tools allowed Sapiens to become more effective hunter-gatherers, resulting in a physiological change to the species including the shortening of the teeth and intestines, and the growth of the brain.
The second revolution changed the way we interact with the animals and plants around us. Around 10,000 years ago, Sapiens switched their focus from being hunter-gatherers to becoming herders and farmers (Harari, 77). In an attempt to acquire food more easily Sapiens created new hardships resulting in less leisurely lifestyle and more work for the species. This was the price to pay for chasing an apparent luxury, a pitfall common even in today’s world. The Agricultural Revolution did have one benefit though, as Sapiens population spiked due to the ability to yield more food per livable unit around the world. Harari summarizes, “This discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering is perhaps the most important lesson we can draw from the Agricultural Revolution” (97).
After discussing the Agricultural Revolution, Harari moves to imagined orders and the rise of large, dominant societies of Sapiens. He attributes the successful organization and rule of these people to a common belief in myths. These myths gave rise to the idea of a fictional social order. Sapiens began to believe that there were rights and procedures ingrained in everyday life. Harari’s argument is clear to me, and I can see its validity when applied to many ancient societies and institutions such as a pharaoh-ruled Egypt and the Christian Church. While it was hard for me to change my perspective and to distance myself from my upbringing, it is also clear to me that the same imagined order was created by the Declaration of Independence. Through these myths and imagined orders, Sapiens have built the most advanced societies in history and become the most dominant species on the planet.