Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

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This summary looks at the timeline of history, starting about 13.5 billion years ago, when matter, energy, time and space came into being.  The subsequent development is what we call history and this summary tells the story.

Part One: The Cognitive Revolution

Humans first evolved in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago. About 2 million years ago, they journeyed across the world and evolved into several distinct species, such as Homo neanderthalenis, Homo erectus, Homo soloensis, and Homo floresiensis.

They were quite different, but they were all Homo, human beings. The main defining characteristics were the large brain humans developed, the use of tools, superior learning abilities and complex social structures. Humans also domesticated fire and used it to cook. More than anything else, though, Homo sapiens conquered the world due to our unique language.

The Cognitive Revolution occurred between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago. The most commonly believed theory argues that accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens, which enabled them to think in unprecedented ways and use a new type of language. Our language likely evolved in order to gossip and warn each other of nearby threats. Social cooperation is our key to survival and reproduction, so we need to be able to obtain and store lots of information. Gossip helped Homo sapiens form larger and more stable bands. Humans also share an imagined reality – something that everyone believes in and exists only as long as this communal belief persists.

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