Life is Short, Become an Historian

Harari argues that the Industrial Revolution ultimately allowed state and markets to trump family and communities by weakening the bonds created by families and communities and replace them with new techniques to make decisions that once lay within the family and community members (Harari, p. 357). Harari goes on to argue that this transformation was able to occur so quickly and effectively thanks to the glorified promises states and markets made, giving people the opportunity to become individuals that could make their own choices regarding every aspect of their lives, including occupational and marriage choices (Harari, p. 357-358). Harari best sums up this transformation with his ‘Modern Cycle’ that moves from weakening families and communities to strong states and markets to strong individuals, finally looping back to weak families and communities with each ultimately resulting in the next (Harari, p. 358). Individuality pushed out old standards of community and introduced a new foundation of freedoms while maintaining a sense of safety with imagined communities.

I believe that historians play an extremely significant role when considering the future and possible demise of homo sapiens. Specifically, historians have the power and ability to broaden the view of possibilities and analysis within an interdisciplinary team of engineers, scientists, historians, philosophers, psychologists, and onwards. Historians are adept at breaking the mold of directed agendas and introducing new perspectives, new criteria that take many more factors into consideration, including environmental and socio-environmental (following the idea of a socio-trophic cascade), economic and political (following Harari’s cycle linking Empire, Economy, and Science), and others. Scientists may be fascinated by the technological progress being made and more specifically, the pace at which progress is being made, without considering what the progress is leading towards or how it will directly and indirectly impact society soon. Historians can play the role of informant to help scientists understand these implications, thus directing progress that takes all the factors mentioned above into consideration.