Monday, 15 August 2016

Book review: Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari (2014)

Sapiens is the book to end all books. Literally. Well, almost.

It tells you everything you need to know about the history of human culture and thought, and then asks where we might be going as a species.

In the process it undermines consumerism, nationalism, the pursuit of individual happiness and the idea that mankind is shaping the planet in a positive way. Having done so, it leaves us with one question for our future: what do we want to want?

It's a question that we might well try to answer by writing books, and once we've settled on some answers we might well try to track our progress towards those answers by writing more books. Hence that "almost" earlier on. But most books have just been rendered pointless. Along with most of everything else.

I've spent my adult life looking for the answers to life's questions in books. How did we get here? Why are things the way they are? Is that how they ought to be? What kind of life should I lead? How can I do that better? Thanks to Sapiens, I now feel like I know most of the answers.

The past 500 years of unprecedented human productivity have given us Shakespeare's sonnets, Mozart's requiems, Leonardo's portraits, Manolo's Blahniks and Gangnam Style. Are we any happier or more satisfied as a result? Nope. Should I bother with them? Eh.

Only two things seem important now: community and the future of human activity. I've long struggled to foment ambitions, and now I think it's because I haven't been focusing on those two issues.

Am I focused enough to do so from now on? I guess I'll find out.

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