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  1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
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Had people been unable to hold contradictory beliefs and values, it would probably have been impossible to establish and maintain any human culture. Today, we are used to thinking about the whole planet as a single unit, but for most of history, earth was in fact an entire galaxy of isolated human worlds. But none of these foods is native to those nations. Tomatoes, chilli peppers and cocoa are all Mexican in origin; they reached Europe and Asia only after the Spaniards conquered Mexico.

Potatoes reached Poland and Ireland no more than years ago. The only steak you could obtain in Argentina in was from a llama. For the merchants, the entire world was a single market and all humans were potential customers. They tried to establish an economic order that would apply to all, everywhere.

For the conquerors, the entire world was a single empire and all humans were potential subjects, and for the prophets, the entire world held a single truth and all humans were potential believers. They too tried to establish an order that would be applicable for everyone everywhere. In a barter economy, every day the shoemaker and the apple grower will have to learn anew the relative prices of dozens of commodities. If one hundred different commodities are traded in the market, then buyers and sellers will have to know 4, different exchange rates.

And if 1, different commodities are traded, buyers and sellers must juggle , different exchange rates! How do you figure it out? Current problem in the crypto space. Some societies tried to solve the problem by establishing a central barter system that collected products from specialist growers and manufacturers and distributed them to those who needed them. The largest and most famous such experiment was conducted in the Soviet Union, and it failed miserably.

More moderate and more successful experiments were made on other occasions, for example in the Inca Empire. Yet most societies found a more easy way to connect large numbers of experts — they developed money.

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Money is not coins and banknotes. Money is anything that people are willing to use in order to represent systematically the value of other things for the purpose of exchanging goods and services. When a wealthy farmer sold his possessions for a sack of cowry shells and travelled with them to another province, he trusted that upon reaching his destination other people would be willing to sell him rice, houses and fields in exchange for the shells.

Money is accordingly a system of mutual trust, and not just any system of mutual trust: money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised. The silver shekel was not a coin, but rather 0. The legal term is lese-majesty violating majesty , and was typically punished by torture and death. The Indians had such a strong confidence in the denarius and the image of the emperor that when local rulers struck coins of their own they closely imitated the denarius, down to the portrait of the Roman emperor!

The dinar is still the official name of the currency in Jordan, Iraq, Serbia, Macedonia, Tunisia and several other countries.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

First, to qualify for that designation you have to rule over a significant number of distinct peoples, each possessing a different cultural identity and a separate territory. Second, empires are characterised by flexible borders and a potentially unlimited appetite. They can swallow and digest more and more nations and territories without altering their basic structure or identity.

The British state of today has fairly clear borders that cannot be exceeded without altering the fundamental structure and identity of the state. A century ago almost any place on earth could have become part of the British Empire. Evolution has made Homo sapiens, like other social mammals, a xenophobic creature. People who are not Dinka are not people. What does the word Nuer mean in Nuer language? The sun never set on the British mission to spread the twin gospels of liberalism and free trade.

The Soviets felt duty-bound to facilitate the inexorable historical march from capitalism towards the utopian dictatorship of the proletariat. Many Americans nowadays maintain that their government has a moral imperative to bring Third World countries the benefits of democracy and human rights, even if these goods are delivered by cruise missiles and Fs. Commercial tea farming did not exist in India until the mid-nineteenth century, when it was introduced by the British East India Company.

Humans 'fundamentally' altering Earth's systems

It was the snobbish British sahibs who spread the custom of tea drinking throughout the subcontinent. Religion can thus be defined as a system of human norms and values that is founded on a belief in a superhuman order. This involves two distinct criteria:. Animists thought that humans were just one of many creatures inhabiting the world. Polytheists, on the other hand, increasingly saw the world as a reflection of the relationship between gods and humans. In fact, most polytheist and even animist religions recognised such a supreme power that stands behind all the different gods, demons and holy rocks.

In classical Greek polytheism, Zeus, Hera, Apollo and their colleagues were subject to an omnipotent and all-encompassing power — Fate Moira, Ananke.

The fundamental insight of polytheism, which distinguishes it from monotheism, is that the supreme power governing the world is devoid of interests and biases , and therefore it is unconcerned with the mundane desires, cares and worries of humans. The Greeks did not waste any sacrifices on Fate, and Hindus built no temples to Atman.

Hence the plurality of gods.

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The insight of polytheism is conducive to far-reaching religious tolerance. Since polytheists believe, on the one hand, in one supreme and completely disinterested power, and on the other hand in many partial and biased powers, there is no difficulty for the devotees of one god to accept the existence and efficacy of other gods.

In many cases the imperial elite itself adopted the gods and rituals of subject people. The only god that the Romans long refused to tolerate was the monotheistic and evangelising god of the Christians. This was seen as a declaration of political loyalty. When the Christians vehemently refused to do so, and went on to reject all attempts at compromise, the Romans reacted by persecuting what they understood to be a politically subversive faction. And even this was done half-heartedly. Still, if we combine all the victims of all these persecutions, it turns out that in these three centuries, the polytheistic Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians.

In contrast, over the course of the next 1, years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion. The Christian saints did not merely resemble the old polytheistic gods. Often they were these very same gods in disguise. For example, the chief goddess of Celtic Ireland prior to the coming of Christianity was Brigid. When Ireland was Christianised, Brigid too was baptised.

She became St Brigit, who to this day is the most revered saint in Catholic Ireland. Zoroastrians saw the world as a cosmic battle between the good god Ahura Mazda and the evil god Angra Mainyu. Gautama found that there was a way to exit this vicious circle.

If, when the mind experiences something pleasant or unpleasant, it simply understands things as they are, then there is no suffering. If you experience sadness without craving that the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you do not suffer from it. There can actually be richness in the sadness. If you experience joy without craving that the joy linger and intensify, you continue to feel joy without losing your peace of mind. He encapsulated his teachings in a single law: suffering arises from craving; the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving; and the only way to be liberated from craving is to train the mind to experience reality as it is.

The modern age has witnessed the rise of a number of new natural-law religions, such as liberalism, Communism, capitalism, nationalism and Nazism. If a religion is a system of human norms and values that is founded on belief in a superhuman order, then Soviet Communism was no less a religion than Islam. Scientists studying the inner workings of the human organism have found no soul there. They increasingly argue that human behaviour is determined by hormones, genes and synapses, rather than by free will — the same forces that determine the behaviour of chimpanzees, wolves, and ants.

Our judicial and political systems largely try to sweep such inconvenient discoveries under the carpet. But in all frankness, how long can we maintain the wall separating the department of biology from the departments of law and political science?

This is one of the distinguishing marks of history as an academic discipline — the better you know a particular historical period, the harder it becomes to explain why things happened one way and not another. Level two chaos is chaos that reacts to predictions about it, and therefore can never be predicted accurately. Markets, for example, are a level two chaotic system.

History of science - The rise of modern science |

Most scholars in the humanities disdain memetics, seeing it as an amateurish attempt to explain cultural processes with crude biological analogies. Postmodernist thinkers speak about discourses rather than memes as the building blocks of culture. Yet they too see cultures as propagating themselves with little regard for the benefit of humankind. But the single most remarkable and defining moment of the past years came at on 16 July At that precise second, American scientists detonated the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

From that point onward, humankind had the capability not only to change the course of history, but to end it. Throughout history, societies have suffered from two kinds of poverty: social poverty, which withholds from some people the opportunities available to others; and biological poverty, which puts the very lives of individuals at risk due to lack of food and shelter. Perhaps social poverty can never be eradicated, but in many countries around the world biological poverty is a thing of the past.

Astronomers predicted that the next Venus transits would occur in and So expeditions were sent from Europe to the four corners of the world in order to observe the transits from as many distant points as possible.

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Many cultures drew world maps long before the modern age. Obviously, none of them really knew the whole of the world. But unfamiliar areas were simply left out, or filled with imaginary monsters and wonders. These maps had no empty spaces. They gave the impression of a familiarity with the entire world. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Europeans began to draw world maps with lots of empty spaces — one indication of the development of the scientific mindset, as well as of the European imperial drive.

The empty maps were a psychological and ideological breakthrough, a clear admission that Europeans were ignorant of large parts of the world.