I just picked up Harari’s Sapiens for reading (hurray to KAUST’s library for adding this amazing book to their collection upon my request), and it’s a really fascinating read. I just touched upon the first part of the book, about the difference between Homo Sapiens and the other human species – yes, there are other human species, those with “Homo” in their name such as Neanderthals, Homo Soloensis, etc.
The argument is that after “cognitive revolution” several hundred thousands of years ago, the Sapien’s mind becomes capable of thinking beyond physical stuffs, including fictions, myths, and social constructs. This sets them apart from other animals because now sapiens can understand abstract concepts such as religion, money, and nationality. For example, I can’t teach my dog that if she’s a good girl, then she will go to doggie heaven. No, I have to go through the carrot and stick approach, reinforcing good behavior through tangible rewards such as snacks – and maybe some belly rubs – and repress unwanted behaviors through punishment.
On the other hand, sapiens, because they can understand abstract concept, have the ability to establish more flexible, complex, and larger social interactions. For example, because of the abstract concept called ‘money’ (at the end of the day the value of money is just something that everyone agrees on), individuals can quickly establish business relation with each other without personally knowing the other party. As long as the fictional concept of money is believed and agreed upon by everyone, then trust can be easily established. The same can be said for patriotism, where the fictional concept of ‘nation’ glues group of people together, even to the point where they would go to war for the sake of this so-called ‘nation’.
Will continue reading and update with what I’ve learned.