"A Short History of Almost Everything", "Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind", Bill Bryson, Biological Engineering, Cyber Engineering, Cyber Revolution, Dualistic Religions, Engineering of In-organic Life, Gilgamesh Project, Human Enhancement, Industrial Revolution, Monotheisms, Natural Law Religions, Yuval Harari
I have already written a post on this extraordinary author’s extraordinary book (January 2, 2017 : “Self-Evident Truths”). It’s almost 500 pages of easy, fascinating, enlightening reading, written by a young Oxford Ph.D., now a Professor of History in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To give it the high praise it deserves, I suggest that it is as essential reading as Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Almost Everything” (2004). Though different in content and style, “Sapiens. A Brief History of Humankind” is just as good, the most readable and most recent account of mankind’s past and present, accompanied by a profound reflection on its – our – future.
The 30-page chapter, “The Law of Religion”, is a highly original insight into the central theme of this Blog. It is not a militant atheist’s attack on and ridiculing of religious beliefs, rules and rituals – atheism is taken for granted by the author – but a surprising, fact-filled, objective account of the phenomenon of religion, “often considered a source of discrimination, disagreement and disunion”, now seen as “the third great unifier of mankind, alongside money and empires”. Readers of this Blog will be enriched by this analysis of the origin of the three monotheisms and offered fresh insights into both Buddhism and the “natural law” religions such as liberalism, Communism, capitalism, nationalism and Nazism, as well as of the dualistic religions of Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and Manichaeanism.
But the book is not just a “brief history of mankind”, of its evolutions and revolutions, of its discoveries and developments, of its ideologies and religions. Its final chapters offer updated information on the latest features of our history from the Industrial Revolution through the Cyber Revolution we are already living, and what we can expect of the mind-blowing human and post-human (!) adventure in the decades before us. From the Gilgamesh Project – the ambition to make man “a-mortal” – to biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of in-organic life, unimagined but real transformations of Homo Sapiens have already begun to force us to face the “Human Enhancement Question” : what do we want to become, now that we are capable of actually choosing what sort of beings we want to be ? This, the author insists, is not science fiction. Readers of this Blog and the world at large are challenged by one of the visionary professor’s final statements : “The Human Enhancement question dwarfs the debates that currently preoccupy politicians, philosophers, scholars and ordinary people . . . Today’s debate between today’s religions, ideologies, nations and classes will in all likelihood disappear with Homo Sapiens.” For once, the book’s back-cover blurb does not exaggerate : “Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, ‘Sapiens’ challenges everything we thought we knew about being human : our thoughts, our action, our power … and our future.”