A speedy overview of the past 70 some millennia of humanity. Self-aware without being modest about its proclamations. Very 2014 in its optimism to dread ratio, but with enough forewarning that things might slip at any moment that it doesn’t appear naïve when being read in 2019. A few observations:
- The book’s main thesis is that civilization as we know it lies on many, many figments of our collective imagination: states, laws, human rights, religions, corporations, etc. The last hundred years have sped this up, pulling people apart from families and other tangible local communities and into fictive constructs such as nations, sports teams, organized religion, and other forms of fandom. Are Twitter and Facebook communities more or less real than these, and if more, are they why people have been having a hard time suspending their disbelief?
- Many religions are poked, proded, and pulled apart by witty turns of phrase, but Harari turns dead serious whenever buddhism is discussed. Unlike christianity and islam, buddhism gets whole running paragraphs of in-depth explanation. Did the book need a religious disclaimer?
- His go-to example for discussing nationalist myths is Serbia. It figures. Kudos for doing it respectfully.
- Another thesis is that capitalism lives by using up future resources in form of credit, which in turn produces and enlarges those very same future (now present) resources. In addition to being a very Predestination way of seeing things, does that support or conflict with Tyler Cowen’s thesis in Stubborn Attachments that we tend to — but shouldn’t — discount the future? Maybe we (or capitalists, at least) are at the same time optimists by thinking the future will be better by default, but also saying to hell with it by using those perceived future benefits now, to the detriment of future people? To this non-economist modern capitalism looks like an underbaked ideology.
- This is the best-looking and best-made soft cover edition of a non-fiction book I’ve ever read.
Written by Yuval Noah Harari, 2014