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1 Index page Sapiens  A Brief History of Humankind

Page history last edited by Ian Kimber 3 years, 2 months ago


This is the root page for a video lecture course based on the book :-


Sapiens  a Brief History of Humankind  By Yuval Noah Harari  

Published by  Harvill Secker  Random house

ISBN  97818 4655 8328  Hardback  

ISBN  97818 4655 8245  Paperback


The course is currently suspended due to lack of interest but can be opened on request

If you are interested in following this course it would be very helpful to me to tell me in a comment to this index page.



Ian Kimber

lectures and notes or the video link pages themselves. I plan to watch the lectures again myself and revise my notes.


These notes are always available as a very brief overview of the whole course. 


We will be having regular Zoom meetings to discuss the course.  The first will be held late November. 


Introduction to the Sapiens course

Below is a short introductory video and a brief synopsis of the topics covered to watch the video follow the link and then click on the download button and the video should start playing after a short delay like a "you tube" video link you can then pause and back track and jump forward through it as you please using the control panel.


1 - 1 - Lesson 1 - The Human Family - Introduction [6_04].mp4


This short six minute video introduces you to the author and lecturer and shows you the style of presentations in the main part of the course.  The lectures are quite simply done like university lectures with words and minimal visual aids in the form of illustrations and symbolic figures and short background video clips.  


My personal opinion is that although I do not agree with all that he says I feel that it holds a great deal of good ideas and wisdom and is well worth studying. IanK 2017


There is also a TED talk available this also gives a short synopsis of the course contents  

Go to the page  Sapiens introduction TED Talks

or this link to view the video directly  by downloading it  http://vu3a.pbworks.com/w/file/119658309/YuvalNoahHarari_2015G-480p.mp4 


Ian Kimber is the page originator and maintainer of this material.

Other than this introductory material published below the notes on the pages for the lectures are may own writings and notes produced from the lecture material and so only copyright to me which means that anyone is free to use them in any way and present this course using them because I consider all my works free to all but I would appreciate a credit if you do use them.


Sapiens  a Brief History of Humankind  By Yuval Noah Harari  

Syllabus text source   https://www.coursera.org (no longer available at this site)


Part I: The Cognitive Revolution    


Lecture 1: The Human Family  page link  Sapiens 1: The Human Family     to be activated on request 

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited planet Earth. Our species, Homo sapiens, was just one among them. Who were the others? Where did they come from? And what happened to them? Why is there today only one species of humans—Homo sapiens?


Lecture 2: The Cognitive Revolution        Sapiens 2: The Cognitive Revolution   to be activated on request  

The Cognitive Revolution, about 70,000 years ago, enabled Homo sapiens to conquer the world and drive all other human species to extinction. During this revolution, Homo sapiens developed a new and remarkable kind of language. How was this language different from the languages of earlier human species and of other animals? What were the advantages that Homo sapiens gained from this unique language?


Lecture 3: Daily Life in the Stone Age     Sapiens 3 Daily life in the Stone Age    to be activated on request  

What was life like for people who lived 30,000 years ago? What did they do when they woke up in the morning? How did they organise their societies? Did they have monogamous relationships and nuclear families? Did they have religions, revolutions, and wars?


Lecture 4: The Human Flood   Sapiens 4 The human Flood    to be activated on request  

Following the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens spread all over the planet. While doing this, it drove numerous other species to extinction. In Australia, up to 95% of all large animal species vanished. In America, 84 of 107 large mammal species disappeared. Altogether, about half of the large terrestrial mammals that populated Earth became extinct. How could a few million individuals who possessed no more than Stone Age technology have caused such devastation?



Part II: The Agricultural Revolution


Lecture 5: History’s Biggest Fraud   Sapiens 5 History's Biggest Fraud  to be activated on request 

About 12,000 years ago, people in the Middle East, China, and Central America began domesticating plants and animals. In the process, Homo sapiens, too, was domesticated, abandoning a life of hunting and gathering for the pleasures and discomforts of agriculture. For most people, the discomforts outweighed the pleasures. The Agricultural Revolution made the life of the average person harder. Why, then, did it occur?


Lecture 6: Building Pyramids    Sapiens 6 Building Pyramids  to be activated on request 

For millions of years, humans lived in intimate bands of no more than a few dozen individuals. Our biological instincts are adapted to this way of life. Humans are consequently ill-equipped to cooperate with large numbers of strangers. Yet shortly after the Agricultural Revolution erupted, humans established cities, kingdoms, and huge empires. How did they do it? How can millions of strangers agree on shared laws, norms and values?


Lecture 7: There is No Justice in History     Sapiens 7 No Justice in History  to be activated on request 

A critical factor in the formation of complex societies was the division of the population into a hierarchy of groups. Agricultural and industrial societies have been built on hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, and gender. Why was it impossible to create a just and equal society? What is the deep root of prejudice and injustice? In particular, why did almost all known societies treat men as superior to women?



Part III: The Unification of Humankind


Lecture 8: The Direction of History    Sapiens 8 The Direction of history  to be activated on request 

After the Agricultural Revolution, humans created many different cultures and societies. The relations between these different societies were very complex, and involved wars and conflicts as well as trade, immigration and imitation. But as time went by, the connections between the societies became stronger and stronger, so that humankind was gradually united into a single global society. Three main forces shaped this process of unification. The first was money and trade. Money is the most universal system of mutual trust ever devised by humans. How come even people who believe in different gods and obey rival kings, are nevertheless willing to use the same money?


Lecture 9: Imperial Visions       Sapiens 9 Imperial Visions  to be activated on request 

The second force that shaped the process of human unification is imperialism. The idea of empire is seen today in a very negative light, but empires have played such a central role in human history that it’s hard to regard them as totally evil. What exactly is an empire? How have empires succeeded in uniting under their control different ecological regions, ethnic groups, and religious communities? How can we balance the positive contribution of empires with their record of violence and oppression? And what is the future of the imperial ideal? Is the world destined to be ruled by a new global empire?


Lecture 10: The Law of Religion      Sapiens 10 The Law of Religion  to be activated on request 

The third force that shaped the process of human unification is religion. The role of religion in history is extremely controversial. Some see religion as the root of all evil, while for others it is the primary source of happiness, empathy, and progress. Can we arrive at a balanced judgment? What were the main landmarks in the religious history of the world? In what ways did different cultures understand the universe, distinguish good from evil, and explain the ubiquitous presence of suffering?



Part IV. The Scientific Revolution


Lecture 11: The Discovery of Ignorance  Sapiens 11 The discovery of Ignorance  to be activated on request 

During the last 500 years the process of human unification was completed. At the same time, there has been an explosive growth in the power of humankind, due above all to the discoveries of modern science. Humankind has become increasingly convinced that the only thing that limits its power is its own ignorance, and that the discovery of new knowledge can enable it to do almost anything. How is the modern scientific tradition different from all previous traditions of knowledge? What accounts for its sudden rise and for its unparalleled achievements?


Lecture 12: The Marriage of Science and Empire  Sapiens 12 The marriage of Science and Empire to be activated on request

Modern science developed in alliance with the modern European empires. The conquest of new knowledge depended upon and made possible the conquest of new territories. What exactly was the contribution of science to the rise of the European empires, and what was the contribution of the European empires to the development of science? And why did it all start in Europe, rather than in China, India, or the Middle East?


Lecture 13: The Capitalist Creed  Sapiens 13 The Capitalist Creed  to be activated on request

The close ties between science and imperialism were in fact just one part of a more complex relationship. The third crucial member of this relationship was capitalism, which financed both science and empire, and which led to an unprecedented growth in the world economy. How does a capitalist economy function? How is it different from traditional economies? Is capitalism natural, or is it really a kind of religion?


Lecture 14: The Industrial Revolution  Sapiens 14 The Industrial Revolution  to be activated on request

During the last 200 years, the combination of science, imperialism and capitalism produced the Industrial Revolution. This revolution gave humankind control of enormous new energy resources, and enabled humankind to start manufacturing far more things than ever before, far more quickly, and far more cheaply. How did this change the global ecology, daily life, and human psychology?


Lecture 15: A Permanent Revolution   Sapiens 15 A permanent revolution     to be activated on request

The Industrial Revolution opened an era of permanent revolution. The late modern socio-political order is constantly changing, never settling into any stable pattern. The pillars of human order—most notably, the family and the intimate community—are crumbling around us. How do humans deal with the resulting vacuum and chaos? How do society and politics function without stability? Is the world becoming more violent and dangerous, or is it actually more peaceful and secure than ever before?


Lecture 16: And They Lived Happily Ever After   Sapiens 16 And They Lived Happily Ever After  to be activated on request

Have 500 years of amazing discoveries, developments, and revolutions made people happier? Are people today happier than in the Middle Ages, or in the Stone Age? If not, what was the point of all these changes? Most history books ignore these issues, yet these are the most important questions we can ask about history. New studies in biology, economics, and psychology are offering fascinating insights into the history of human happiness.


Lecture 17: The End of Homo Sapiens   Sapiens 17 The End of Homo Sapiens   to be activated on request

Over the last few decades humans have began to bend and break the laws of natural selection—laws that have governed life on Earth for the past four billion years. New technologies such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology are giving us unprecedented abilities to design not only the world around us, but also our own bodies, our personalities, and our desires. How will this influence society and culture? Does anybody know where we are heading? What is the likely future of humankind?



Notes on this page newest at the top


October 2020 note

This course is now open again and I plan to post the videos sequentially with three or four sets being available in sequence at any time.   Currently, The introductory Video,  The TED Talk  and "The Cognitive Revolution" lesson 1 are available.  and I plan to add the rest of the Cognitive revolution videos shortly.


I also plan to revise and extend my own notes which are always available during this period.  I am happy to discuss the course with anyone at any time in the form of comments on the notes pages.  


If you are interested in following this course it would be very helpful to me to tell me in a comment to this page it will encourage me to continue with this work  If I get no comments I may assume no one is interested and loose interest myself and stop updating things.  

          Ian Kimber


Note Pre 2020 comments and discussions on this page have been archived see Sapiens comments archive


Comments (6)

Ian Kimber said

at 9:57 am on Mar 26, 2021

I have suspended this course for the moment by all members, particularly new ones are welcome to request the videos to be made available

Ian Kimber said

at 9:15 am on Dec 2, 2020

Would the people who are following this course like to have a chat about the story so far. Either post your comments here or would we like to have a Zoom meeting?

Ian Kimber said

at 11:03 am on Oct 31, 2020

The Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind Study project and video course is now open and all the lectures for "Part 1 The cognitive revolution" are available for watching and comment.

These will only be available for a limited time on this site. but will remain available until after Christmas and you will get notice of their removal.

Ideally you should study each lecture in turn at a target rate of one a month. but you can go faster if you wish

The whole study right up to the future of Humankind consists of 17 lectures of about an hour and a half each
see http://vu3a.pbworks.com/w/page/93194994/1%20Index%20page%20Sapiens%20%20A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Humankind
for more details if you are interested in this study please add your name on the list in a comment on this page

You are welcome to comment on the pages related to the specific lectures and notes or the video link pages themselves. I plan to watch the lectures again myself and revise my notes. These notes are always available as a very brief overview of the whole course.

I also plan to hold regular zoom meetings to allow interested members to discuss the course as a whole and the specific lectures.
The first will be later in November to allow time for members to act on this notice and watch some of the videos.
I will post notice of these here and remind members directly who have declared their interest by email.

Ian Kimber said

at 10:59 am on Oct 31, 2020

He really knows his subject? He has written several more books on the same theme but I feel this particiular look at how and why humankind is successful is vitally important for as many people as possinle understand how our minds really work to allow us to work co-operatively and flexibly in such large numbersand the dangers we face if we are not aware of this.

Alec Smith said

at 9:15 am on Oct 24, 2020

I have been comparing the TED presentation with the one we looked at five years ago, and I am amazed how the same person can talk so confidently and completely without any prompts or hesitation. What has he been doing over that time, I wonder ?

Linda Clark said

at 5:32 pm on Oct 23, 2020

Hi Ian - I am interested in following Sapiens.

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