Science, Empire, and Capitalism: The Growth Trifecta

After a descriptive recap of the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific revolutions, Harari now explains arguably the three biggest parts of society today: science, empire, and capitalism. Harari explains that science, empire, and capitalism have become linked, mainly because people began to have faith that progress will lead to a better future. As Harari puts it, while people of the past “generally believed that times past had been better… and that the future would be worse, or at best much the same”, the people of recent centuries became motivated to expand knowledge, power, and wealth because progress has shown this led towards a better future (Harari 308). While it may not be from the text, an example of how scientific discovery shaped and was shaped by political and fiscal interest can be seen in the history of vaccines. As pointed out in lecture, there was not only political interest for states to make vaccines required, but also fiscal interests for moving away from vaccines when it was found out the big pharma could make money in more profitable drugs.

As illustrated in my previous paragraph, I agree when Harari claims the idea that progress plays a huge role in the linkage of science, empire, and capitalism. Not only is progress the main driving force behind all of them, we can see it’s the reason why they have become linked. Take for example Harari’s beginning analogy about a Spanish peasant falling asleep for 500 years. In this scenario, we see that “the last 500 years have witnessed a phenomenal and unprecedented growth in human power”, when compared to the 500 years between 1000 AD and 1500 AD (Harari 247). Why? Because the last 500 years has seen an incredible desire for human progress and to make the future a better place.