"SAPIENS" by YUVAL NOAH HARARI
*i only started taking notes at chapter 15, so that’s what will be here :(
CHAPTER 13: THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
The Hindsight Fallacy
So why study history? Unlike physics or economics, history is not means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. For example, studying how Europeans came to dominate Africans enables us to realize that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the racial hierarchy, and that he world might well be arranged differently.
CHAPTER 15: THE MARRIAGE OF SCIENCE AND EMPIRE
From trying to predict the transit of Venus, Europeans sent people from many corners of the world to observe if their prediction of Venus passing between the sun & Earth in 1761 & 1769 is accurate.
1761 was correct
1769 they sent people further, and the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge even sent Charles Green to the Pacific Ocean is Tahiti. They thought simply observing wouldn’t be enough, so they sent Green with a whole team of scientists to discover new things. The trip was a success.
From that trip came a cure for scurvy, which is a disease that killed many sailors after experiments and found out that Vitamin C was what the sailors were lacking.
The exhibitions also allowed Britain to gain more power from conquering new lands (Australia, New Zealand). NATIVE POPULATION DROPPED BY 90%.
Tasmanians suffered even more. They got killed and some got forces to adapt to the “modern” culture. They didn’t wanna learn, so they died off. The British held on to their corpses, dissecting and running experiments on them. They held onto their skulls & put them on display.
The Scientific Revolution & Modern Imperialism were Inseparable. The scientific improvements were matched with conquest for power.
Before 1850s, Europe was not the strongest & most dominant in the world in terms of power & economy, what changed. They managed to surpass China and takeover. This is because they adapted to things put them at an advantage: Modern Science & Capitalism.
The Chinese didn’t lack the technology, they lacked the Values, Myths, Judicial Apparatus & Sociopolitical Structures.
The Mentality of Conquest
Europe is responsible for a lot of the flourishment of modern science. They got this advantage because of their willingness to admit ignorance, and desire to “cure” it. Most empires assumed they knew everything about the world & only conquered in order to spread their ideologies, not to spread anything new. Europeans had a thirst for knowledge.
1831, Royal Navy sent HMS Beagle to explore and conquer South America, Falklands Islands & Galapagos Islands. They wanted to know these territories in order to be better prepared for war. They decided to throw in Charles Darwin to accompany the captain.
Europeans made a lot of progress because of their desire to conquer new land & acquire new knowledge. Most Chinese sailors, even though their ships were way bigger, only explored & visited territories, but they never tried to claim them as their own once discovered.
Europeans would draw large, empty maps, which stood as a representation of their mindset: that they didn’t know everything.
When Christopher Columbus discovered America, he thought was the coast of East Asia. His stubborn ass didn’t wanna admit that he was wrong so he didn’t change it. Amerigo Vespucci was the one who confirmed that it was indeed not East Asia, but a completely new land. A geography drew a new map & named the new land based on Vespucci name: America.
Invasion from Outer Space
When Hernan Cortés discovered the Aztec Empire, his advantage was the technology his advantage was the technology his en and the ignorance of the Aztec’s on the massacres of neighboring empires. When Cortés arrived, it was to the Aztecs likes aliens arriving from outer space. Cortés asked to see the leader and after a little time, captured him and started to colonize the land, killing 90% of the population (diseases & violence). By the time the Aztec knew what was going on, it was too late. Their ignorance and lack of desire for knowledge was the root of their demise.
Exact same thing happened to the Inca Empire when Pizarro arrived. They thought nothing of the outside world so they never learned about what happened to the Aztecs.
Europeans repeated that until they invaded about everything. Other places never did the same thing because they weren’t as interested to conquer the outside world. Europe started to lose, its power once the other Empires started adopting the same mentally.
Rare Spiders and Forgotten Scripts
For Europe, building an empire was a science project and scientific shit was an empirical project. both could not be without each other. A lot of Europeans travelers like William Jones & Henry Rawlinson managed to make crucial discoveries about foreign lands, and learned shit that even the people form those lands didn’t know. (old languages from Archaic populations)175,000 British could take over 300 Million Indians. Although the European empires have done a lot of horrible things to certain populations, they are also the reason why his species has managed to evolve as much as it has. They’ve made crucial discoveries in the science and geographical fields that have helped us learn more about this planet. Therefore they cannot strictly be labelled as good or evil. Things have shifted from racism to culturism. Modern science wouldn’t have evolved as much if they didn’t have the support of big empires.
CHAPTER 16: THE CAPITALIST CREED
The invention of credit (an imaginary thing that depends on trusting the future) has been one of the big reasons why the economy has grown so much. “founded on the principle that our future resources are sure to be far more abundant than our present resources.”
THE ENTREPRENEURS DILEMMA
No Bakery > No Cake > No Money > No contractor > Repeat
THE MAGIC CIRCLE OF THE MODERN ECONOMY
Trust in the Future > Credit > Paying Contractors > New Bakeries > Cakes that Pay Back Loans > Repeat
THE PREMODERN ECONOMY
Production > Profits
THE MODERN ECONOMY
Production > Profits > Repeat
The more money an entrepreneur has, the more they can re-invest it into their business, which in turn helps the growth of the economy. that’s the basic principle of capitalism.
A Growing Pie
Over the last few years, banks and governments have been frenziedly printing money. Everybody is terrified that the current economic crisis may stop the growth of the economy. So they are creating trillions of dollars, euros and yen out of thin air, pumping cheap credit into the system, and hoping that the scientists, technicians and engineers will manage to come up with something really big, before the bubble bursts. Everything depends on the people in the labs. New discoveries in the fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology could create entire new industries, whose profits could back the trillions of make-believe money that the banks and governments have created since 2008. If the labs do not fulfil these expectations before the bubble bursts, we are heading towards very rough times.
Columbus Searches for an investor
Even a small investment in the right ship could turn you into a millionaire.
The Capitalist Hell
At the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Christian Europe. During the early modern period, the rise of European capitalism went hand in hand with the rise of the Atlantic slave trade.
From the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, about 10 million African slaves were imported to America. About 70% of them worked on the sugar plantations.
When growth becomes a supreme good, unrestricted by any other ethical considerations, it can easily lead to catastrophe.
According to the most moderate estimates, between 1885 and 1908 the pursuit of growth and profits cost the lives of 6 million individuals (at least 20% of the Congo’s population). Some estimates reach up to 10 million deaths.
In 8500 BC one could cry bitter tears over the Agricultural Revolution, but it was too late to give up agriculture. Similarly, we may not like capitalism, but we cannot live without it.
CHAPTER 17: THE WHEELS OF INDUSTRY
Counter-intuitively, while humankind’s use of energy and raw materials has mushroomed in the last few centuries, the amounts available or our exploitation have actually increased.
The Secret in the Kitchen
About 600 years passed between the invention of gunpowder and the development of effective artillery.
An Ocean of Energy
At heart, the Industrial Revolution has been a revolution in energy conversion. It has demonstrated again and again that there is no limit to the amount of energy at our disposal. Or, more precisely, that the only limit is set by our ignorance. Chemists discovered aluminum only in the 1820s, but separating the metal from its ore was extremely difficult and costly. For decades, aluminum was much more expensive than gold.
Life on the Conveyor Belt
For the first time in human history, supply began to outstrip demand: And an entirely new problem was born: who is going to buy all this stuff?
The Age of Shopping
Consumerism sees the consumption of ever more products and services as a positive thing. It encourages people to treat themselves, and even kill them selves slowly by overconsumption. Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions – and buy more and more.
CHAPTER 18: A PERMANENT REVOLUTION
Global warming, rising oceans and widespread pollution could make the earth less hospitable to our kind, and the future might consequently see a spiralling race between human power and human-induced natural disasters. Many call this the process ‘the destruction of nature. But it’s not really destruction, it’s change. Nature can not be destroyed.
The Industrial Revolution turned the timetable and the assembly line into a template for almost all human activities. Shortly after factories imposed their time frames on human behaviour, schools too adopted precise timetables, followed by hospitals, government offices and grocery stores. The first commercial train service began operating between Liverpool and Manchester in 1830 [...] Finally in 1880, the British government took the unprecedented step of legislating that all timetables in Britain must follow Greenwich.
The Collapse of the Family and the Community
THE PREMODERN CYCLE
Strong family and community > Weak state & market > Weak individuals > Repeat
THE MODERN CYCLE
Weak family and community > Strong state and market > Strong Individuals > Repeat
The state, too, keeps a sharper eye on family relations, especially between parents and children. Parents are obliged to send their holden to be educated by the state. Parents who are especially abusive or violent with their children may be restrained by the state.
In the last two centuries, the intimate communities have withered, leaving imagined communities to fill in the emotional vacuum. Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. I bake a cake from flour, oil and sugar, all of which have been sitting in my pantry for the past two months, it does not mean that the cake itself is two months old.
The Internet, for example, came into wide usage only in the early 1990s, hardly twenty years ago. Today we cannot imagine the world without it.
Peace in Our Time
In 2002, out of 57 million dead, only 172,000 people died in war and 569,000 died of violent crime (a total 741,000 customs of human violence). In contrast, 873,000 people committed suicide.
For real peace is not the mere absence of war. Real peace is the implausibility of war. There has never been real peace in the world. The price of war has gone up dramatically. The threat of nuclear holocaust fosters pacifism; when pacifism spreads, war recedes and trade flourishes; and trade increases both the profits of peace and costs of war.
CHAPTER 19: AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
If economic growth and self-reliance do not make people happier, what’s the benefit of Capitalism?
Given the proven human propensity for misusing power, it seems naïve to believe that the more clout people have, the happier they will be.
International wars became rare only after 1945, largely thanks to the new threat of nuclear annihilation.
If we accept a mere tenth of what animal-rights activists are claiming, then modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest crime in history.
Even the freedom we value so highly may be working against us. We can choose our spouses, friends and neighbours, but they can choose to leave us. With the individual wielding unprecedented power to decide her own path in life, we find it ever harder to make commitments.
But the most important finding of all is that happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations…If you want a brand-new Ferrari and get only a second-hand Fiat you feel deprived.
Nobody is ever made happy by winning the lottery, buying a house, getting a promotion or even finding true love. People are made happy by one thing and one thing only — pleasant sensations in their bodies.
Some scholars compare human biochemistry to an air-conditioning system that keeps the temperature constant, come heatwave or snowstorm. Events might momentarily change the temperature, but the air-conditioning system always returns the temperature to the same set point.
Even if our gloomy friend wins $50,000,000 in the morning, discovers the cure for both AIDS and cancer by noon, makes peace between Israelis and Palestinians that afternoon, and then in the evening reunites with her long-lost child who disappeared years ago – she would still be incapable of experiencing anything beyond level seven (out of ten) happiness.
In addition, most biologists are not fanatics. They maintain that happiness is determined mainly by biochemistry, but they agree that psychological and sociological factors also have their place. Our mental air-conditioning system has some freedom of movement within predetermined borders.
However, mud huts, penthouses and the Champs-Elysées don’t really determine our mood. Serotonin does.
Today, when we finally realize that the keys to happiness are in the hands of our biochemical system, we can stop wasting our time or politics and social reforms, putsches and ideologies, and focus instead on the thing that can make us truly happy: manipulating our biochemistry.
*Read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley & 1984 by George Orwell
The Meaning of Life
As far as we can tell, from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning.
Hence any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion. The other-worldly meanings medieval people found in their lives were no more deluded than the modern humanist, nationalist and capitalist meanings modern people find.
Most males spend their lives toiling, worrying, competing and fighting, instead of enjoying peaceful bliss, because their DNA manipulates them for their own selfish aims. Like Satan, DNA uses fleeting pleasures to tempt people and place them in its power.
According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state on tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Buddha’s recommendation was to stop not only the pursuit of external achievements, but also the pursuit of inner feelings.
CHAPTER 20: THE END OF HOMO SAPIENS
The implication has been that, no matter what their efforts and achievements, Sapiens are incapable of breaking free of their biologically determined limits. But at the dawn of the twenty-first century, this is no longer true: Homo Sapiens is transcending those limits. It is now beginning to break the laws of natural selection, replacing them with the laws of intelligent design.
Eduardo Kac, a Brazilian bio-artists, decided in 2000 to create a new work of art: a fluorescent green rabbit.
If the potential Alba (fluorescent rabbit) signifies is realized in full – and if humankind doesn’t annihilate itself meanwhile – the Scientific Revolution might prove itself far greater than a mere historical revolution. It may turn out to be the most important biological revolution since the appearance of life on earth.
At the time of writing (2014), the replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen in any of three ways: through biological engineering, cyborg engineering (cyborgs are beings that combine organic with non-organic parts) or the engineering of inorganic life.
Of Mice and Men
Biological Engineering is deliberate human intervention on the biological level (e.g. implanting a gene) aimed at modifying an organism’s shape, capabilities, needs or desires, in order to realize some preconceived cultural idea, such as the artistic predilections of Eduardo Kac.
[…] The process (ears on mice) may soon enable scientists to manufacture artificial ears, which could then be implanted in humans.
Many atheists are no less shocked by the idea that scientists are stepping into nature’s shoes.
E. coli and several species of fungi have also been engineered to produce insulin, thereby lowering the cost of diabetes treatment.
The pig industry, which has suffered from falling sales because consumers are wary of the unhealthy fats in ham and bacon, has hopes for a still-experimental line of pigs implanted with genetic material from a worm. The new genes cause the pigs to turn bad omega 6 fatty acid into its healthy cousin, omega 3.
The Return of the Neanderthals
A team of Russian, Japanese and Korean scientists has recently mapped the genome of ancient mammoths, found frozen in Siberian ice. They now plan to take fertilized egg-cell of a present day elephant, replace the elephantine DNA with a reconstructed mammoth DNA, and implant the egg in the womb of an elephant. after about twenty-two months, they expect the first mammoth in 5,000 years to be born.
Professor Church of Harvard University recently suggested that, with the completion of the Neanderthal Genome Project, we can now implant reconstructed Neanderthal DNA into a Sapiens ovum, thus producing the first Neanderthal child in 30,000 years. Church claimed that he could do the job for a paltry $30 million. Several women have already volunteered to serve as surrogate mothers.
There's an ethical reason, too – some have argued that if Homo Sapiens was responsible for the extinction of the Neanderthals, it has a moral duty to resurrect them.
Lots of industrialists would be glad to pay one Neanderthal to do the work of two Sapiens.
The Cognitive Revolution that turned Homo Sapiens from an insignificant ape into the master of the world did not require any noticeable change in physiology or even in the size and external shape of the Sapiens brain. It apparently involved no more than a few small changes to internal brain structure. Perhaps another small change would be enough to ignite a Second Cognitive Revolution, create a completely new type of consciousness, and transform Homo sapiens into something altogether different.
Tinkering with our genes won't necessarily kill us. But we might fiddle with Homo sapiens to such an extent that we would no longer be Homo sapiens.
Cyborgs are beings which combine organic and inorganic parts, such as a human with bionic hands. In a sense, nearly all of us are bionic these days, since our natural sense and functions are supplemented by devices such as eyeglasses, pacemakers, orthotics, and even computers and mobile phones (which relive our brains of some data storage and processing burdens).
Retina Implant, a government-sponsored German company, is developing a retinal prosthesis that may allow blind people to gain partial vision.
At present, technology allows patients to orientate themselves in space, identify letters, and even recognize faces.
One monkey, named Aurora, learned to thought-control a detached bionic arm while simultaneously moving her two organic arms.
Another rhesus monkey, Idoya, won world fame in 2008 when she thought-controlled a pair of bionic legs in Kyoto, Japan, from her North Carolina chair. The legs were twenty time Idoya's weight.
Yet of all the projects currently under development, the most revolutionary is the attempt to devise a direct two-way brain-computer interface that will allow computers to read the electrical signals of a human brain, simultaneously transmitting signals that the brain can read in turn. What if such interfaces are sued to directly link a brain to the Internet, or to directly link several brains to each other, thereby creating a sort of Inter-brain-net?
What happens to concepts such as the self and gender identity when minds become collective? How could you know thyself or follow your dream if the dream is not your mind but in some collective reservoir of aspirations?
The third way to change the laws of life is to engineer completely inorganic beings. The most obvious are computer programs and computer viruses that can undergo independent evolution.
Imagine another possibility – supposed you could back up your brain to a portable hard drive and then run it in your laptop. Would your laptop be able to think and feel just like a Sapiens?
Our ability to engineer not merely the world around us, but above all the world inside our bodies and minds, is developing at breakneck speed.
Mapping the first human genome required fifteen years and $3 billion. Today you can map a person's DNA within a few weeks and at the cost of a few hundred dollars.
The road to near-perfect medicine stands before us.
Could an employer favour a candidate because his DNA looks better? Or could we sue in such cases for 'genetic discrimination'?
What might happen once medicine becomes preoccupied with enhancing human abilities? Would all humans be entitled to such enhanced abilities, or would there be a new superhuman elite?
What is a spaceship compared to an eternally young cyborg who does not breed and has no sexuality, who can share thoughts directly with other beings, whose abilities to focus and remember are a thousand times greater than our own, and who is never angry or sad, but has emotions and desires that we cannot begin to imagine?
Indeed, the future masters of the world will probably be more different fro us than we are from Neanderthals. Whereas we and the Neanderthals are at least human, our inheritors will be godlike.
We may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that give meaning to our world – me, you, men, women, love and hate – will become irrelevant.
The Frankenstein Prophecy
The Frankenstein Myth confronts Homo Sapiens with the fact that the last days are fast approaching. Unless some nuclear or ecological catastrophe intervenes, so goes the story, the pace of technological development will soon lead to the replacement of Homo sapiens by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds.
History teaches us that what seems to be just around the corner may never materialize due to unforeseen barriers, and that other unimagined scenarios will in fact come to pass.
[...] Few of these forecasts came true. On the other hand, nobody foresaw the internet.
What we should take seriously is the idea that the next stage of history will include not only technological and organizational transformations, but also fundamental transformation in human consciousness and identity.
As already mentioned, some say that by 2050 a few humans will already be a-mortal.
If the curtain is indeed about the drop on Sapiens history, we members of one of its final generations should devote some time to answering one last question: what do we want to become?
The only thing we can try to do is to influence the direction scientists are taking. Since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, perhaps the real question facing us is not 'What do we want to become?', but 'What do we want to want?' Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven't given it enough thought.
AFTERWORD: THE ANIMAL THAT BECAME A GOD
Seventy thousand years ago, Homo sapiens was still an insignificant animal minding its own business in a corner of Africa. In the following millenia it transformed itself into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem. Today it stands on the verge of becoming a god, poised to acquire not only eternal youth, but also the divine abilities of creation and destruction.
Time and again, massive increases in human power did not necessarily improve the well-being of individual Sapiens, and usually cause immense misery to other animals.
Moreover, despite the astonishing things that humans capable of doing, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as disconnected as ever. We are more powerful than ever before, but have very little idea what to do with all that power.
Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?