Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 285

Themes of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari include technological change, human society, and abstract ideas.

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In Sapiens, the author argues that humans are the most successful species in history. One of the reasons for that success is that we can create and discuss abstract ideas. Other animals don't have concepts of things like religion, freedom, or industry. He says that the way these ideas work to unite people together lead to larger groups than animals can maintain. This helped humans dominate the world and become what we are today.

While he argues that humans were originally no more important than other animals and insects, we evolved. We were able to work together in groups on a large scale which enabled us to accomplish things that other groups and animals could not. That alone is the major factor that led to human success. Society allows us to function as a unit rather than just an individual and we can make a correspondingly large impact on the world around us. Language is one thing that allowed us to create religion, he says, which helped create communities of people working together.

Technological change is another theme in Sapiens. Harari explains that we go through periods of technological change. We developed imagination, agriculture, industry, and biotechnology. He says that eventually we will engineer our own decline and be replaced by technology that lets us live forever through things like genetic engineering. He says that we will be more amoral than immortal, though, because there are always ways to die due to accidents or violence. Harari also says that amorality and immortality won't guarantee happiness and may actually make people less happy in the end.

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