Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari) - Vintage Books - 2014 - 498 pages

Homo sapiens have conquered the world but they still do not know what they want.  That is an unfair summary of this excellent "history" book by author Hirari.  But, this is much more than a history book as it studies the effects of psychology, economics and the earth sciences on the rise of humankind.  Unfortunately, the success of sapiens has been at the expense of other animals and the general ecology.  As no other book has done for me, this volume presents a comprehensive, big-picture view of the known aspects of the history of humankind.  This is an elegant book that defies description in a short review.  For those who have not yet decided to read it, I offer a few quotes from its pages.  [JAM 1/13/2019]

"There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings."

"People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism."

"Myths and fictions accustomed people ... to think in certain ways, to behave in accordance with certain standards, to want certain things, and to observe certain rules.  They thereby created artificial instincts that enabled millions of strangers to cooperate effectively.  This network of artificial instincts is called 'culture'."

"Take a dollar bill and look at it carefully.  You will see that it is simply a colourful piece of paper with the signature of the US secretary of the treasury on one side, and the slogan 'In God we trust' on the other."

"Today religion is often considered a source of discrimination, disagreement and disunion.  Yet, in fact, religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires."

"... people agreed to represent imaginary goods - goods that do not exist in the present - with a special kind of money they called 'credit'.  Credit enables us to build the present at the expense of the future."

"Markets and states today provide most of the material needs once provided by communities, but they must also supply tribal bonds.  Markets and states do so by fostering 'imagined communities' that contain millions of strangers, and which are tailored to national and commercial needs."

"During this period [seven decades: 1945-2014] humankind has for the first time faced the possibility of complete self-annihilation and has experienced a fair number of actual wars and genocides,  Yet these decades were also the most peaceful era in human history - and by a wide margin."

"Liberal politics is based on the idea that the voters know best, and there is no need for Big Brother to tell us what is good for us.  Liberal economics is based on the idea that the customer is always right."