The Worldly Wisdom Project #1

Below I present what I consider to be the five most insightful and unique worldly wisdom’s from the book Sapiens. A book that I have truly enjoyed to read and that has been endorsed by Barack Obama, Daniel Kahneman and Bill Gates to name a few.

Please comment if you have read the book and what you thought of it. Also, if you have found a worldly wisdom in the book that you think I should have included please comment on that as well. I’m very interested in what caught your eye while reading and why.

Five worldly wisdom’s from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

That spectacular leap from the middle [of the food chain] to the top had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to cooperate better, and rhinoceroses to be more bad-tempered. In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump. (Harari, 2015, p.16-17)

[A]n imagined order cannot be sustained by violence alone. It requires some true believers as well. Prince Talleyrand, who began his chameleon-like career under Louis XVI, later served the revolutionary and Napoleonic regimes, and switched loyalties in time to end his days working for the restored monarchy, summed up decades of governmental experience by saying that ‘You can do many things with bayonets, but it is rather uncomfortable to sit on them.’ A single priest often does the work of a hundred soldiers far more cheaply and effectively. (Harari, 2015, p.99)

Most people do not wish to accept that the order governing their lives is imaginary, but in fact every person is born into a pre-existing imagined order, and his or her desires are shaped from birth by its dominant myths. Our personal desires thereby become the imagined order’s most important defenses. (Harari, 2015, p.102)

Every point in history is a crossroads. A single travelled road leads from the past to the present, but myriad paths fork off into the future. Some of those paths are wider, smoother and better marked, and are thus more likely to be taken, but sometimes history – or the people who make history – takes unexpected turns. (Harari, 2015, p.205)

History cannot be explained deterministically and it cannot be predicted because it is chaotic. So many forces are at work and their interactions are so complex that extremely small variations in the strength of the forces and the way they interact produce huge differences in outcome. (Harari, 2015, p.206)

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3 thoughts on “The Worldly Wisdom Project #1

  1. Tack för bra blog och spännande projekt med worldly wisdom! Jag läste “Sapiens” och “Guns,Germs and Steel” för första gången under 2016. Jag tyckte böckerna påminner om varandra givet författarnas förmåga att syntetisera information från flera olika kunskapsområden.

    Det som jag fastnade för i Sapiens (vilket känns uppenbart i efterhand) är att alla värderingar/synsätt är imaginära och argument för att något ska vara på ett visst sätt pga. av en naturlag (frihet, jämlikhet etc) existerar inte. Dessutom ter sig dessa synsätt ändras över tid; medborgarrättsrörelsen är drygt 50 år gammal, tidigare kollektivism nu mer individualism. Vad kan vi säga om framtiden?

    En annan observation är att mycket av den utveckling som gynnade samhället var inte alls bättre för enskilda individer – t.ex. gå från jägar- och samlarsamhällen till småskaliga jordbruk. Detta möjliggjorde å ena sidan ökad specialisering men gjorde antagligen individen som var i brytpunken under denna övergång mindre lycklig…

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    1. Tack för de värmande orden och att du tagit dig tiden att skriva ner dina tankar!

      Jag håller helt med dig och fascineras även över den imaginära kraftens påverkan på de värderingar/synsätt vi har och har haft. Det enda som egentligen går att säga om framtiden tror jag är att denna kraft kommer bestå med tiden, håller du med?
      På samma tankespår, jag börjar bli allt mer övertygad om att så länge du har en bra story som spelar på våra biases så har du stor sannolikhet att kontrollera denna makt. Är du dessutom karismatisk och vältalig är du hemma med vad du än vill uppnå, hur imaginärt det än må vara. Det gäller i rättssalar för att vinna rättsmål, i VD-har ordet för att övertyga aktieägare och analytiker och inte minst för politiker som vill vinna val etc. Har några artiklar på detta ämne som jag kommer dela med mig av framöver 🙂

      Din andra punkten är även riktigt intressant. Måste erkänna att min bild innan jag läste boken var den motsatta. På detta ämne vill jag även minnas att Harari säger något i stil med att: när man övergick till jordbrukssamhälle blev konceptet att prognostisera framtiden introducerat. Min tanke från detta var att strävan av att försöka spå i glaskulan uppkom när man frångick att leva i nuet till fullo, i.e. jägar- samlarsamhället. En förståelig utveckling men också lite smått tragiskt när vi idag och många gånger historiskt har sett värdet i att försöka prognostisera framtiden…

      Guns, Germs and Steel har jag inte läst, tack för tipset! Blir nog att plocka upp denna inom kort efter din beskrivning.

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  2. I have started to re-read Sapiens. Its such an awesome book! I have now come across a worldly wisdom in the book that I somehow “missed” the first time reading. Because I find the whole notion of fiction/storytelling –> large scale corporation with strangers = success of sapiens to be so profound and brilliant I thought I share it here with you.

    Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution. Many animals and human species could previously say, ‘Careful! A lion!’ Thanks to the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens acquired the ability to say, ‘The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.’ This ability to speak about fictions is the most unique feature of Sapiens language.

    It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist, and believe six impossible things before breakfast. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. But why is it important? After all, 􀉹action can be dangerously misleading or distracting. People who go to the forest looking for fairies and unicorns would seem to have less chance of survival than people who go looking for mushrooms and deer. And if you spend hours praying to nonexistent guardian spirits, aren’t you wasting precious time, time better spent foraging, fighting and fornicating?

    But a􀉹ction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of Aboriginal Australians, and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate 􀉻exibly in large numbers. Ants and bees can also work together in huge numbers, but they do so in a very rigid manner and only with close relatives. Wolves and chimpanzees cooperate far more 􀉻exibly than ants, but they can do so only with small numbers of other individuals that they know intimately. Sapiens can cooperate in extremely 􀉻exible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

    (p.26-27)

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