Yuval Noah Harari Money Quotes

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Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Nothing captures the biological argument better than the famous New Age slogan: ‘Happiness begins within.’ Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
First, if you want reliable information, pay good money for it. If you get your news for free, you might well be the product.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
The capitalist and consumerist ethics are two sides of the same coin, a merger of two commandments. The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!’ The capitalist–consumerist ethic is revolutionary in another respect. Most previous ethical systems presented people with a pretty tough deal. They were promised paradise, but only if they cultivated compassion and tolerance, overcame craving and anger, and restrained their selfish interests. This was too tough for most. The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum. In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money and that the masses give free reign to their cravings and passions and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How though do we know that we'll really get paradise in return? We've seen it on television.
Yuval Noah Harari (קיצור תולדות האנושות)
Fiction isn't bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can't play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can't enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make-believe stories. But stories are just tools. They shouldn't become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality. Then we begin entire wars `to make a lot of money for the cooperation' or 'to protect the national interest'. Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our life in their service.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Two Catholics who have never met can nevertheless go together on crusade or pool funds to build a hospital because they both believe that God was incarnated in human flesh and allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem our sins. States are rooted in common national myths. Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees. Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Christians and Muslims who could not agree on religious beliefs could nevertheless agree on a monetary belief, because whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Even more money is transferred to the bank accounts of fashion designers, gym managers, dieticians, cosmeticians and plastic surgeons, who help us arrive at the café looking as similar as possible to the market’s ideal of beauty.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
When Epicurus defined happiness as the supreme good, he warned his disciples that it is hard work to be happy. Material achievements alone will not satisfy us for long. Indeed, the blind pursuit of money, fame and pleasure will only make us miserable. Epicurus recommended, for example, to eat and drink in moderation, and to curb one’s sexual appetites. In the long run, a deep friendship will make us more content than a frenzied orgy. Epicurus
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Fiction isn’t bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their services?
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.1
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The slave trade was not controlled by any state or government. It was a purely economic enterprise, organised and financed by the free market according to the laws of supply and demand. Private slave-trading companies sold shares on the Amsterdam, London and Paris stock exchanges. Middle-class Europeans looking for a good investment bought these shares. Relying on this money, the companies bought ships, hired sailors and soldiers, purchased slaves in Africa, and transported them to America. There they sold the slaves to the plantation owners, using the proceeds to purchase plantation products such as sugar, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton and rum.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Though it has no intrinsic value – you cannot eat or drink a dollar bill – trust in the dollar and in the wisdom of the Federal Reserve is so firm that it is shared even by Islamic fundamentalists, Mexican drug lords and North Korean tyrants.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
People who do not believe in the same god or obey the same king are more than willing to use the same money.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Humans have this remarkable ability to know and not to know at the same time. Or more correctly, they can know something when they really think about it, but most of the time they don’t think about it, so they don’t know it. If you really focus, you realise that money is fiction. But usually you don’t focus. If you are asked about it, you know that football is a human invention. But in the heat of the match, nobody asks you about it. If you devote the time and energy, you can discover that nations are elaborate yarns. But in the midst of a war you don’t have the time and energy. If you demand the ultimate truth, you realise that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth. But how often do you demand the ultimate truth?
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Money comes to money, and poverty to poverty. Education comes to education, and ignorance to ignorance. Those once victimised by history are likely to be victimised yet again. And those whom history has privileged are more likely to be privileged again.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money is the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
most cherished desires of present-day Westerners are shaped by romantic, nationalist, capitalist and humanist myths that have been around for centuries. Friends giving advice often tell each other, ‘Follow your heart.’ But the heart is a double agent that usually takes its instructions from the dominant myths of the day, and the very recommendation to ‘follow your heart’ was implanted in our minds by a combination of nineteenth-century Romantic myths and twentieth-century consumerist myths. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, has marketed Diet Coke around the world under the slogan ‘Diet Coke. Do what feels good.’ Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let’s consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummified, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism. Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’. Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product (a car, new clothes, organic food) or a service (housekeeping, relationship therapy, yoga classes). Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better. 18. The Great Pyramid of Giza. The kind of thing rich people in ancient Egypt did with their money. Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to the infinite ‘market of experiences’, on which the modern tourism industry is founded. The tourism industry does not sell flight tickets and hotel bedrooms. It sells experiences. Paris is not a city, nor India a country – they are both experiences, the consumption of which is supposed to widen our horizons, fulfil our human potential, and make us happier. Consequently, when the relationship between a millionaire and his wife is going through a rocky patch, he takes her on an expensive trip to Paris. The trip is not a reflection of some independent desire, but rather of an ardent belief in the myths of romantic consumerism. A wealthy man in ancient Egypt would never have dreamed of solving a relationship crisis by taking his wife on holiday to Babylon. Instead, he might have built for her the sumptuous tomb she had always wanted. Like the elite of ancient Egypt, most people in most cultures dedicate their lives to building pyramids. Only the names, shapes and sizes of these pyramids change from one culture to the other. They may take the form, for example, of a suburban cottage with a swimming pool and an evergreen lawn, or a gleaming penthouse with an enviable view. Few question the myths that cause us to desire the pyramid in the first place.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
How did Homo sapiens manage to cross this critical threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths. Any large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths. Two Catholics who have never met can nevertheless go together on crusade or pool funds to build a hospital because they both believe that God was incarnated in human flesh and allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem our sins. States are rooted in common national myths. Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Most previous ethical systems presented people with a pretty tough deal. They were promised paradise, but only if they cultivated compassion and tolerance, overcame craving and anger, and restrained their selfish interests. This was too tough for most. The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum. In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions – and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How, though, do we know that we’ll really get paradise in return? We’ve seen it on television.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.’ —Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)
Matt Haig (Notes on a Nervous Planet)
One interesting conclusion is that money does indeed bring happiness. But only up to a point, and beyond that point it has little significance. For
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
tech companies often evaluate apps, products, and other companies according to the data they harvest rather than according to the money they generate. A
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Sapiens, in contrast, live in triple-layered reality. In addition to trees, rivers, fears and desires, the Sapiens world also contains stories about money, gods, nations and corporations.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. The sculptor from the Stadel Cave may sincerely have believed in the existence of the lion-man guardian spirit. Some sorcerers are charlatans, but most sincerely believe in the existence of gods and demons. Most millionaires sincerely believe in the existence of money and limited liability companies. Most human-rights activists sincerely believe in the existence of human rights. No one was lying when, in 2011, the UN demanded that the Libyan government respect the human rights of its citizens, even though the UN, Libya and human rights are all figments of our fertile imaginations.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
It is relatively easy to accept that money is an intersubjective reality. Most people are also happy to acknowledge that ancient Greek gods, evil empires and the values of alien cultures exist only in the imagination. Yet we don't want to accept that our God, our nation or our values are mere fictions, because these are the things that give meaning to our lives. We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service? In the twenty-first century we will create more powerful fictions and more totalitarian religions than in any previous era. With the help of biotechnology and computer algorithms these religions will not only control our minute-by-minute existence, but will be able to shape our bodies, brains and minds, and to create entire virtual worlds complete with hells and heavens.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We see then that the self too is an imaginary story, just like nations, gods and money. Each of us has a sophisticated system that throws away most of our experiences, keeps only a few choice samples, mixes them up with bits from movies we’ve seen, novels we’ve read, speeches we’ve heard, and daydreams we’ve savoured, and out of all that jumble it weaves a seemingly coherent story about who I am, where I came from and where I am going. This story tells me what to love, whom to hate and what to do with myself. This story may even cause me to sacrifice my life, if that’s what the plot requires. We all have our genre. Some people live a tragedy, others inhabit a never-ending religious drama, some approach life as if it were an action film, and not a few act as if in a comedy. But in the end, they are all just stories.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Meanwhile, peer-to-peer blockchain networks and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin might completely revamp the monetary system, making radical tax reforms inevitable. For example, it might become impossible or irrelevant to calculate and tax incomes in dollars, because most transactions will not involve a clear-cut exchange of national currency, or any currency at all. Governments might therefore need to invent entirely new taxes—perhaps a tax on information (which will be both the most important asset in the economy and the only thing exchanged in numerous transactions). Will the political system manage to deal with the crisis before it runs out of money?
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world. Obesity
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Trust is the raw material from which all types of money are minted.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us. How come we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
if you want reliable information, pay good money for it.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
People gave more money to the single child than to the group of eight.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
incentivise the switch to renewable energy. They can also invest more money in researching and developing revolutionary eco-friendly technologies,
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Writing and money made it possible to start collecting taxes from hundreds of thousands of people, to organise complex bureaucracies and to establish vast kingdoms.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Having accepted that life has no meaning, I find meaning in explaining this truth to others, arguing with the unbelievers, giving lectures to the skeptics, donating money to build monasteries, and so on.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Consumerism and nationalism work extra hours to make us imagine that millions of strangers belong to the same community as ourselves, that we have a common past, common interests and a common future. This isn't a lie. It's imagination. Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. They exist only in our collective imagination, yet their power is immense.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Though Toyota or Argentina has neither a body nor a mind, they are subject to international laws, they can own land and money, and they can sue and be sued in court. We might soon grant similar status to algorithms.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Archaic humans paid for their large brains in two ways. Firstly, they spent more time in search of food. Secondly, their muscles atrophied. Like a government diverting money from defence to education, humans diverted energy from biceps to neurons. It’s hardly a foregone conclusion that this is a good strategy for survival on the savannah. A chimpanzee can’t win an argument with a Homo sapiens, but the ape can rip the man apart like a rag doll.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Such vicious circles can go on for centuries and even millennia, perpetuating an imagined hierarchy that sprang from a chance historical occurrence. Unjust discrimination often gets worse, not better, with time. Money comes to money, and poverty to poverty. Education comes to education, and ignorance to ignorance. Those once victimised by history are likely to be victimised yet again. And those whom history has privileged are more likely to be privileged again.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Fiction isn't bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can't play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can't enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make-believe stories. But the stories are just tools. They should not become our goals or yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The sum total of money in the world is about $60 trillion, yet the sum total of coins and banknotes is less than $6 trillion.7 More than 90 per cent of all money – more than $50 trillion appearing in our accounts – exists only on computer servers.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The fact is, it’s not a deception, but rather a tribute to the amazing abilities of the human imagination. What enables banks – and the entire economy – to survive and flourish is our trust in the future. This trust is the sole backing for most of the money in the world.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
When Epicurus defined happiness as the supreme good, he warned his disciples that it is hard work to be happy. Material achievements alone will not satisfy us for long. Indeed, the blind pursuit of money, fame and pleasure will only make us miserable. Epicurus recommended, for example, to eat and drink in moderation, and to curb one’s sexual appetites. In the long run, a deep friendship will make us more content than a frenzied orgy. Epicurus outlined an entire ethic of dos and don’ts to guide people along the treacherous path to happiness.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Money is based on two universal principles: a. Universal convertibility: with money as an alchemist, you can turn land into loyalty, justice into health, and violence into knowledge. b. Universal trust: with money as a go-between, any two people can cooperate on any project.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In medieval Europe, aristocrats spent their money carelessly on extravagant luxuries, whereas peasants lived frugally, minding every penny. Today, the tables have turned. The rich take great care managing their assets and investments, while the less well-heeled go into debt buying cars and
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Cowry shells and dollars have value only in our common imagination. Their worth is not inherent in the chemical structure of the shells and paper, or their colour, or their shape. In other words, money isn’t a material reality – it is a psychological construct. It works by converting matter into mind.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Contemporary American politics also revolve around this contradiction. Democrats want a more equitable society, even if it means raising taxes to fund programmes to help the poor, elderly and infirm. But that infringes on the freedom of individuals to spend their money as they wish. Why should the government force me to buy health insurance if I prefer using the money to put my kids through college? Republicans, on the other hand, want to maximise individual freedom, even if it means that the income gap between rich and poor will grow wider and that many Americans will not be able to afford health care.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The value of money is not the only thing that might evaporate once people stop believing in it. The same can happen to laws, gods and even entire empires. One moment they are busy shaping the world, and the next moment they no longer exist. Zeus and Hera were once important powers in the Mediterranean basin, but today they lack any authority because nobody believes in them. The Soviet Union could once destroy the entire human race, yet it ceased to exist at the stroke of a pen. At 2 p.m. on 8 December 1991, in a state dacha near Viskuli, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords, which stated that ‘We, the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as founding states of the USSR that signed the union treaty of 1922, hereby establish that the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality ceases its existence.’ And that was that. No more Soviet Union.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Unjust discrimination often gets worse, not better, with time. Money comes to money, and poverty to poverty. Education comes to education, and ignorance to ignorance. Those once victimised by history are likely to be victimised yet again. And those whom history has privileged are more likely to be privileged again.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Whereas traditionally the family was the main matchmaker, today it’s the market that tailors our romantic and sexual preferences, and then lends a hand in providing for them – for a fat fee. Previously bride and groom met in the family living room, and money passed from the hands of one father to another. Today courting is done at bars and cafés, and money passes from the hands of lovers to waitresses. Even more money is transferred to the bank accounts of fashion designers, gym managers, dieticians, cosmeticians and plastic surgeons, who help us arrive at the café looking as similar as possible to the market’s ideal of beauty.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Similarly, the fact that another person believes in cowry shells, or dollars, or electronic data, is enough to strengthen our own belief in them, even if that person is otherwise hated, despised or ridiculed by us. Christians and Muslims who could not agree on religious beliefs could nevertheless agree on a monetary belief, because whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something. For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively. The
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
will dedicate even more money to research. With each passing decade we will enjoy more food, faster vehicles and better medicines. One day our knowledge will be so vast and our technology so advanced that we shall distil the elixir of eternal youth, the elixir of true happiness, and any other drug we might possibly desire – and no god will stop us.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Hitler wasn’t a senior officer – in four years of war, he rose no higher than the rank of corporal. He had no formal education, no professional skills and no political background. He wasn’t a successful businessman or a union activist, he didn’t have friends or relatives in high places, nor any money to speak of. At first, he didn’t even have German citizenship. He was a penniless immigrant.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
A far better model for the news market would be “high-quality news that costs you money but does not abuse your attention.” In today’s world, information and attention are critical assets. It is crazy to give up your attention for free, and to get in exchange only low-quality information. If you are willing to pay for high-quality food, clothes, and cars – why aren’t you willing to pay for high-quality information?
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
They argue that all nations today face the same enemies. The bogeymen of globalism, multiculturalism, and immigration are threatening to destroy the traditions and identities of all nations, therefore nationalists across the world should make common cause in opposing these global forces. Hungarians, Italians, Turks, and Israelis should build walls, destroy bridges, and slow down the movement of people, goods, money, and ideas.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Humans have this remarkable ability to know and not to know at the same time. Or more correctly, they can know something when they really think about it, but most of the time they don't think about it, so they don't know it. If you really focus, you realise that money is fiction. But usually, you don't focus. If you are asked about it, you know that football is a human invention. But in the heat of the match, nobody asks you about it.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
We see then that the self too is an imaginary story, just like nations, gods and money. Each of us has a sophisticated system that throws away most of our experiences, keeps only a few choice samples, mixes them up with bits from movies we’ve seen, novels we’ve read, speeches we’ve heard, and daydreams we’ve savoured, and out of all that jumble it weaves a seemingly coherent story about who I am, where I came from and where I am going.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Within five minutes – from 14:42 to 14:47 – the Dow Jones dropped by 1,000 points, wiping out $1 trillion. It then bounced back, returning to its pre-crash level in a little more than three minutes. That’s what happens when super-fast computer programs are in charge of our money. Experts have been trying ever since to understand what happened in this so-called ‘Flash Crash’. They know algorithms were to blame, but are still not sure exactly what went wrong.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
It is the responsibility of all of us to invest time and effort in uncovering our biases and in verifying our sources of information. As noted in earlier chapters, we cannot investigate everything ourselves. But precisely because of that, we need at least to investigate carefully our favourite sources of information – be they a newspaper, a website, a TV network or a person. In Chapter 20 we will explore in far greater depth how to avoid brainwashing and how to distinguish reality from fiction. Here I would like to offer two simple rules of thumb. First, if you want reliable information – pay good money for it. If you get your news for free, you might well be the product. Suppose a shady billionaire offered you the following deal: ‘I will pay you $30 a month, and in exchange, you will allow me to brainwash you for an hour every day, installing in your mind whichever political and commercial biases I want.’ Would you take the deal? Few sane people would. So the shady billionaire offers a slightly different deal: ‘You will allow me to brainwash you for one hour every day, and in exchange, I will not charge you anything for this service. The second rule of thumb is that if some issue seems exceptionally important to you, make the effort to read the relevant scientific literature. And by scientific literature I mean peer-reviewed articles, books published by well-known academic publishers, and the writings of professors from reputable institutions. Science obviously has its limitations, and it has got many things wrong in the past. Nevertheless, the scientific community has been our most reliable source of knowledge for centuries. If you think that the scientific community is wrong about something, that’s certainly possible, but at least know the scientific theories you are rejecting, and provide some empirical evidence to support your claim.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
First, if you want reliable information, pay good money for it. If you get your news for free, you might as well be the product. At present, the dominant model in the news market is “exciting news that costs you nothing — in exchange for your attention..” You pay nothing for the news, and get a low quality product. Even worse, you yourself unwittingly become the product. Your attention is first captured by sensational headlines, and then sold to advertisers are politicians.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Another example is the modern political order. Ever since the French Revolution, people throughout the world have gradually come to see both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedoms of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short-changes equality. The entire political history of the world since 1789 can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile this contradiction. Anyone who has read a novel by Charles Dickens knows that the liberal regimes of nineteenth-century Europe gave priority to individual freedom even if it meant throwing insolvent poor families in prison and giving orphans little choice but to join schools for pickpockets. Anyone who has read a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn knows how Communism’s egalitarian ideal produced brutal tyrannies that tried to control every aspect of daily life. Contemporary American politics also revolve around this contradiction. Democrats want a more equitable society, even if it means raising taxes to fund programmes to help the poor, elderly and infirm. But that infringes on the freedom of individuals to spend their money as they wish. Why should the government force me to buy health insurance if I prefer using the money to put my kids through college? Republicans, on the other hand, want to maximise individual freedom, even if it means that the income gap between rich and poor will grow wider and that many Americans will not be able to afford health care. Just as medieval culture did not manage to square chivalry with Christianity, so the modern world fails to square liberty with equality. But this is no defect. Such contradictions are an inseparable part of every human culture. In fact, they are culture’s engines, responsible for the creativity and dynamism of our species. Just
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In the Middle Ages the outbreak of a plague caused people to raise their eyes towards heaven, and pray to God to forgive them for their sins. Today when people hear of some deadly new epidemic, they reach for their mobile phones and call their brokers. For the stock exchange, even an epidemic is a business opportunity. If enough new ventures succeed, people’s trust in the future increases, credit expands, interest rates fall, entrepreneurs can raise money more easily and the economy grows.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Romantic literature often presents the individual as somebody caught in a struggle against the state and the market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state and the market are the mother and father of the individual, and the individual can survive only thanks to them. The market provides us with work, insurance and a pension. If we want to study a profession, the government’s schools are there to teach us. If we want to open a business, the bank loans us money. If we want to build a house, a construction company builds it and the bank gives us a mortgage, in some cases subsidised or insured by the state. If violence flares up, the police protect us. If we are sick for a few days, our health insurance takes care of us. If we are debilitated for months, social security steps in. If we need around-the-clock assistance, we can go to the market and hire a nurse – usually some stranger from the other side of the world who takes care of us with the kind of devotion that we no longer expect from our own children. If we have the means, we can spend our golden years at a senior citizens’ home. The tax authorities treat us as individuals, and do not expect us to pay the neighbours’ taxes. The courts, too, see us as individuals, and never punish us for the crimes of our cousins. Not only adult men, but also women and children, are recognised as individuals. Throughout most of history, women were often seen as the property of family or community. Modern states, on the other hand, see women as individuals, enjoying economic and legal rights independently of their family and community. They may hold their own bank accounts, decide whom to marry, and even choose to divorce or live on their own. But the liberation of the individual comes at a cost. Many of us now bewail the loss of strong families and communities and feel alienated and threatened by the power the impersonal state and market wield over our lives. States and markets composed of alienated individuals can intervene in the lives of their members much more easily than states and markets composed of strong families and communities. When neighbours in a high-rise apartment building cannot even agree on how much to pay their janitor, how can we expect them to resist the state? The deal between states, markets and individuals is an uneasy one. The state and the market disagree about their mutual rights and obligations, and individuals complain that both demand too much and provide too little. In many cases individuals are exploited by markets, and states employ their armies, police forces and bureaucracies to persecute individuals instead of defending them. Yet it is amazing that this deal works at all – however imperfectly. For it breaches countless generations of human social arrangements. Millions of years of evolution have designed us to live and think as community members. Within a mere two centuries we have become alienated individuals. Nothing testifies better to the awesome power of culture.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
First, if you want reliable information - pay good money for it. Suppose a shady billionaire offered you the following deal: "I will pay you $30 a month, and in exchange, you will allow me to brainwash you for an hour every day, installing in your mind whichever political and commercial biases I want." Would you take the deal? Few sane people would. So the shady billionaire offers a slightly different deal: "You will allow me to brainwash you for one hour every day, and in exchange, I will not charge you anything for this service." Now the deal suddenly sounds tempting to hundreds of millions of people. Don't follow their example.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
This is of course a logical fallacy. If you suffer because of your belief in God or in the nation, that does not prove that your beliefs are true. Maybe you are just paying the price of your gullibility? However, most people don’t like to admit that they are fools. Consequently, the more they sacrifice for a particular belief, the stronger their faith becomes. This is the mysterious alchemy of sacrifice. In order to bring us under his power, the sacrificing priest need not give us anything – neither rain, nor money, nor victory in war. Rather, he needs to take away something. Once he convinces us to make some painful sacrifice, we are trapped.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
The inter-subjective is something that exists within the communication network linking the subjective consciousness of many individuals. If a single individual changes his or her beliefs, or even dies, it is of little importance. However, if most individuals in the network die or change their beliefs, the inter-subjective phenomenon will mutate or disappear. Inter-subjective phenomena are neither malevolent frauds nor insignificant charades. They exist in a different way from physical phenomena such as radioactivity, but their impact on the world may still be enormous. Many of history’s most important drivers are inter-subjective: law, money, gods, nations.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Ask white supremacists about the racial hierarchy, and you are in for a pseudoscientific lecture concerning the biological differences between the races. You are likely to be told that there is something in Caucasian blood or genes that makes whites naturally more intelligent, moral and hardworking. Ask a diehard capitalist about the hierarchy of wealth, and you are likely to hear that it is the inevitable outcome of objective differences in abilities. The rich have more money, in this view, because they are more capable and diligent. No one should be bothered, then, if the wealthy get better health care, better education and better nutrition. The rich richly deserve every perk they enjoy.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
First, if you want reliable information – pay good money for it. If you get your news for free, you might well be the product. Suppose a shady billionaire offered you the following deal: ‘I will pay you $30 a month, and in exchange, you will allow me to brainwash you for an hour every day, installing in your mind whichever political and commercial biases I want.’ Would you take the deal? Few sane people would. So the shady billionaire offers a slightly different deal: ‘You will allow me to brainwash you for one hour every day, and in exchange, I will not charge you anything for this service.’ Now the deal suddenly sounds tempting to hundreds of millions of people. Don’t follow their example.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
In trying to comprehend and judge moral dilemmas of this scale, people often resort to one of four methods. The first is to downsize the issue. To understand the Syrian civil war as though it were occurring between two foragers, for example, one imagines the Assad regime as a lone person and the rebels as another person; one of them is bad and one of them is good. The historical complexity of the conflict is replaced by a simple, clear plot.4 The second method is to focus on a touching human story that ostensibly stands for the whole conflict. When you try to explain to people the true complexity of the conflict by means of statistics and precise data, you lose them, but a personal story about the fate of one child activates the tear ducts, makes the blood boil, and generates false moral certainty.5 This is something that many charities have understood for a long time. In one noteworthy experiment, people were asked to donate money to help a poor seven-year-old girl from Mali named Rokia. Many were moved by her story and opened their hearts and purses. However, when in addition to Rokia’s personal story the researchers also presented people with statistics about the broader problem of poverty in Africa, respondents suddenly became less willing to help. In another study, scholars solicited donations to help either one sick child or eight sick children. People gave more money to the single child than to the group of eight.6
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
In fact, even today coins and banknotes are a rare form of money. The sum total of money in the world is about $60 trillion, yet the sum total of coins and banknotes is less than $6 trillion.7 More than 90 per cent of all money – more than $50 trillion appearing in our accounts – exists only on computer servers. Accordingly, most business transactions are executed by moving electronic data from one computer file to another, without any exchange of physical cash. Only a criminal buys a house, for example, by handing over a suitcase full of banknotes. As long as people are willing to trade goods and services in exchange for electronic data, it’s even better than shiny coins and crisp banknotes – lighter, less bulky, and easier to keep track of. For
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If you buy a secondhand Fiat for $2,000, you are likely to complain about it to anyone willing to listen to you. But if you buy a brand-new Ferrari for $200,000, you will sing its praises far and wide, not because it is such a good car but because you have paid so much money for it that you have to believe it is the most wonderful thing in the world. Even in romance, any aspiring Romeo or Werther knows that without sacrifice, there is no true love. The sacrifice is not just a way to convince your lover that you are serious; it is also a way to convince yourself that you are really in love. Why do you think women ask their lovers for diamond rings? Once the lover makes such a huge financial sacrifice, he must convince himself that it was for a worthy cause.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Some air-conditioning systems are set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Others are set at twenty degrees. Human happiness conditioning systems also differ from person to person. On a scale from one to ten, some people are born with a cheerful biochemical system that allows their mood to swing between levels six and ten, stabilising with time at eight. Such a person is quite happy even if she lives in an alienating big city, loses all her money in a stock-exchange crash and is diagnosed with diabetes. Other people are cursed with a gloomy biochemistry that swings between three and seven and stabilises at five. Such an unhappy person remains depressed even if she enjoys the support of a tight-knit community, wins millions in the lottery and is as healthy as an Olympic athlete.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In theory, if some holy book misrepresented reality, its disciples would sooner or later discover this, and the text’s authority would be undermined. Abraham Lincoln said you cannot deceive everybody all the time. Well, that’s wishful thinking. In practice, the power of human cooperation networks depends on a delicate balance between truth and fiction. If you distort reality too much, it will weaken you, and you will not be able to compete against more clear-sighted rivals. On the other hand, you cannot organise masses of people effectively without relying on some fictional myths. So if you stick to unalloyed reality, without mixing any fiction with it, few people will follow you. If you used a time machine to send a modern scientist to ancient Egypt, she would not be able to seize power by exposing the fictions of the local priests and lecturing the peasants on evolution, relativity and quantum physics. Of course, if our scientist could use her knowledge in order to produce a few rifles and artillery pieces, she could gain a huge advantage over pharaoh and the crocodile god Sobek. Yet in order to mine iron ore, build blast furnaces and manufacture gunpowder the scientist would need a lot of hard-working peasants. Do you really think she could inspire them by explaining that energy divided by mass equals the speed of light squared? If you happen to think so, you are welcome to travel to present-day Afghanistan or Syria and try your luck. Really powerful human organisations – such as pharaonic Egypt, the European empires and the modern school system – are not necessarily clear-sighted. Much of their power rests on their ability to force their fictional beliefs on a submissive reality. That’s the whole idea of money, for example. The government makes worthless pieces of paper, declares them to be valuable and then uses them to compute the value of everything else. The government has the power to force citizens to pay taxes using these pieces of paper, so the citizens have no choice but to get their hands on at least some of them. Consequently, these bills really do become valuable, the government officials are vindicated in their beliefs, and since the government controls the issuing of paper money, its power grows. If somebody protests that ‘These are just worthless pieces of paper!’ and behaves as if they are only pieces of paper, he won’t get very far in life.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Romantic literature often presents the individual as somebody caught in a struggle against the state and the market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state and the market are the mother and father of the individual, and the individual can survive only thanks to them. The market provides us with work, insurance and a pension. If we want to study a profession, the government’s schools are there to teach us. If we want to open a business, the bank loans us money. If we want to build a house, a construction company builds it and the bank gives us a mortgage, in some cases subsidised or insured by the state. If violence flares up, the police protect us. If we are sick for a few days, our health insurance takes care of us. If we are debilitated for months, national social services steps in.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
It is relatively easy to accept that money is an intersubjective reality. Most people are also happy to acknowledge that ancient Greek gods, evil empires and the values of alien cultures exist only in the imagination. Yet we don’t want to accept that our God, our nation or our values are mere fictions, because these are the things that give meaning to our lives. We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another. Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories. Why does a particular action – such as getting married in church, fasting on Ramadan or voting on election day – seem meaningful to me? Because my parents also think it is meaningful, as do my brothers, my neighbours, people in nearby cities and even the residents of far-off countries. And why do all these people think it is meaningful? Because their friends and neighbours also share the same view. People constantly reinforce each other’s beliefs in a self-perpetuating loop. Each round of mutual confirmation tightens the web of meaning further, until you have little choice but to believe what everyone else believes. Yet over decades and centuries the web of meaning unravels and a new web is spun in its place. To study history means to watch the spinning and unravelling of these webs, and to realise that what seems to people in one age the most important thing in life becomes utterly meaningless to their descendants.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
We see, then, that the self too is an imaginary story, just like nations, gods and money. Each of us has a sophisticated system that throws away most of our experiences, keeps only a few choice samples, mixes them up with bits from movies we saw, novels we read, speeches we heard, and from our own daydreams, and weaves out of all that jumble a seemingly coherent story about who I am, where I came from and where I am going. This story tells me what to love, whom to hate and what to do with myself. This story may even cause me to sacrifice my life, if that’s what the plot requires. We all have our genre. Some people live a tragedy, others inhabit a never-ending religious drama, some approach life as if it were an action film, and not a few act as if in a comedy. But in the end, they are all just stories.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow By Yuval Noah Harari & How We Got to Now Six Innovations that Made the Modern World By Steven Johnson 2 Books Collection Set)
If the adoption of ploughing increased a village's population from a hundred to 110, which ten people would have volunteered to starve so that the others could go back to the good old time? There was no going back. The trap snapped shut. The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have take demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In the longer term, by bringing together enough data and enough computing power, the data giants could hack the deepest secrets of life, and then use this knowledge not just to make choices for us or manipulate us but also to reengineer organic life and create inorganic life-forms. Selling advertisements may be necessary to sustain the giants in the short term, but tech companies often evaluate apps, products, and other companies according to the data they harvest rather than according to the money they generate. A popular app may lack a business model and may even lose money in the short term, but as long as it sucks data, it could be worth billions.4 Even if you don’t know how to cash in on the data today, it is worth having it because it might hold the key to controlling and shaping life in the future. I don’t know for certain that the data giants explicitly think about this in such terms, but their actions indicate that they value the accumulation of data in terms beyond those of mere dollars and cents. Ordinary humans will find it very difficult to resist this process. At present, people are happy to give away their most valuable asset—their personal data—in exchange for free email services and funny cat videos. It’s a bit like African and Native American tribes who unwittingly sold entire countries to European imperialists in exchange for colorful beads and cheap trinkets. If, later on, ordinary people decide to try to block the flow of data, they might find it increasingly difficult, especially as they might come to rely on the network for all their decisions, and even for their healthcare and physical survival.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
Intersubjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans. Many of the most important agents in history are intersubjective. Money, for example, has no objective value. You cannot eat, drink or wear a dollar bill. Yet as long as billions of people believe in its value, you can use it to buy food, beverages and clothing. If the baker suddenly loses his faith in the dollar bill and refuses to give me a loaf of bread for this green piece of paper, it doesn’t matter much. I can just go down a few blocks to the nearby supermarket. However, if the supermarket cashiers also refuse to accept this piece of paper, along with the hawkers in the market and the salespeople in the mall, then the dollar will lose its value. The green pieces of paper will go on existing, of course, but they will be worthless.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Chapter 20 we will explore in far greater depth how to avoid brainwashing and how to distinguish reality from fiction. Here I would like to offer two simple rules of thumb. First, if you want reliable information, pay good money for it. If you get your news for free, you might well be the product. Suppose a shady billionaire offered you the following deal: “I will pay you $30 a month, and in exchange you will allow me to brainwash you for an hour every day, installing in your mind whichever political and commercial biases I want.” Would you take the deal? Few sane people would. So the shady billionaire offers a slightly different deal: “You will allow me to brainwash you for one hour every day, and in exchange, I will not charge you anything for this service.” Now the deal suddenly sounds tempting to hundreds of millions of people. Don’t follow their example. The second rule of thumb is that if some issue seems exceptionally important to you, make the effort to read the relevant scientific literature. And by scientific literature I mean peer-reviewed articles, books published by well-known academic publishers, and the writings of professors from reputable institutions. Science obviously has its limitations, and it has gotten many things wrong in the past. Nevertheless, the scientific community has been our most reliable source of knowledge for centuries. If you think the scientific community is wrong about something, that’s certainly possible, but at least know the scientific theories you are rejecting, and provide some empirical evidence to support your claim. Scientists, for their part, need to be far more engaged with current public debates. Scientists should not be afraid of making their voices heard when the debate wanders into their field of expertise, be it medicine or history. Of course, it is extremely important to go on doing academic research and to publish the results in scientific journals that only a few experts read. But it is equally important to communicate the latest scientific theories to the general public through popular science books, and even through the skillful use of art and fiction. Does that mean scientists should start writing science fiction? That is actually not such a bad idea. Art plays a key role in shaping people’s views of the world, and in the twenty-first century science fiction is arguably the most important genre of all, for it shapes how most people understand things such as AI, bioengineering, and climate change. We certainly need good science, but from a political perspective, a good science-fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.
Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)
The currency of evolution is neither hunger nor pain, but rather copies of DNA helixes. Just as the economic success of a company is measured only by the number of dollars in its bank account, not by the happiness of its employees, so the evolutionary success of a species is measured by the number of copies of its DNA. If no more DNA copies remain, the species is extinct, just as a company without money is bankrupt. If a species boasts many DNA copies, it is a success, and the species flourishes. From such a perspective, 1,000 copies are always better than a hundred copies. This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions. Yet why should individuals care about this evolutionary calculus? Why would any sane person lower his or her standard of living just to multiply the number of copies of the Homo sapiens genome? Nobody agreed to this deal: the Agricultural Revolution was a trap.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Seventy thousand years ago the Cognitive Revolution transformed the Sapiens mind, thereby turning an insignificant African ape into the ruler of the world. The improved Sapiens minds suddenly had access to the vast intersubjective realm, which enabled us to create gods and corporations, to build cities and empires, to invent writing and money, and eventually to split the atom and reach the moon. As far as we know, this earth-shattering revolution resulted from a few small changes in the Sapiens DNA, and a slight rewiring of the Sapiens brain. If so, says techno-humanism, maybe a few additional changes to our genome and another rewiring of our brain will suffice for launching a second cognitive revolution. The mental renovations of the first Cognitive Revolution gave Homo sapiens access to the intersubjective realm and turned us into the rulers of the planet; a second cognitive revolution might give Homo deus access to unimaginable new realms and turn us into the lords of the galaxy.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
The shape and size of the mark varied tremendously throughout history, but the message was always the same: ‘I, the Great King So-And-So, give you my personal word that this metal disc contains exactly 0.2 ounces of gold. If anyone dares counterfeit this coin, it means he is fabricating my own signature, which would be a blot on my reputation. I will punish such a crime with the utmost severity.’ That’s why counterfeiting money has always been considered a much more serious crime than other acts of deception. Counterfeiting is not just cheating – it’s a breach of sovereignty, an act of subversion against the power, privileges and person of the king. The legal term is lese-majesty (violating majesty), and was typically punished by torture and death. As long as people trusted the power and integrity of the king, they trusted his coins. Total strangers could easily agree on the worth of a Roman denarius coin, because they trusted the power and integrity of the Roman emperor, whose name and picture adorned it.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Have you ever reflected on the fact that, despite the horrors of war, it is at least a big thing? I mean to say that in it one is brought face to face with realities. The follies, selfishness, luxury and general pettiness of the vile commercial sort of existence led by nine-tenths of the people of the world in peacetime are replaced in war by a savagery that is at least more honest and outspoken. Look at it this way: in peacetime one just lives one’s own little life, engaged in trivialities, worrying about one’s own comfort, about money matters, and all that sort of thing – just living for one’s own self. What a sordid life it is! In war, on the other hand, even if you do get killed you only anticipate the inevitable by a few years in any case, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have ‘pegged out’ in the attempt to help your country. You have, in fact, realised an ideal, which, as far as I can see, you very rarely do in ordinary life. The reason is that ordinary life runs on a commercial and selfish basis; if you want to ‘get on’, as the saying is, you can’t keep your hands clean.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
At the beginning of this chapter we identified several practical threats to liberalism. The first is that humans might become militarily and economically useless. This is just a possibility, of course, not a prophecy. Technical difficulties or political objections might slow down the algorithmic invasion of the job market. Alternatively, since much of the human mind is still uncharted territory, we don’t really know what hidden talents humans might discover in themselves, and what novel jobs they might create to offset the loss of others. That, however, may not be enough to save liberalism. For liberalism believes not just in the value of human beings – it also believes in individualism. The second threat facing liberalism is that, while the system might still need humans in the future, it will not need individuals. Humans will continue to compose music, teach physics and invest money, but the system will understand these humans better than they understand themselves and will make most of the important decisions for them. The system will thereby deprive individuals of their authority and freedom
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
Any large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths. Two Catholics who have never met can nevertheless go together on crusade or pool funds to build a hospital because they both believe that God was incarnated in human flesh and allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem our sins. States are rooted in common national myths. Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees. Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Some scholars compare human biochemistry to an air-conditioning system that keeps the temperature constant, come heatwave or snowstorm. Events might momentarily change the temperature, but the air-conditioning system always returns the temperature to the same set point. Some air-conditioning systems are set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Others are set at twenty degrees. Human happiness conditioning systems also differ from person to person. On a scale from one to ten, some people are born with a cheerful biochemical system that allows their mood to swing between levels six and ten, stabilising with time at eight. Such a person is quite happy even if she lives in an alienating big city, loses all her money in a stock-exchange crash and is diagnosed with diabetes. Other people are cursed with a gloomy biochemistry that swings between three and seven and stabilises at five. Such an unhappy person remains depressed even if she enjoys the support of a tight-knit community, wins millions in the lottery and is as healthy as an Olympic athlete. Indeed, even if our gloomy friend wins $50,000,000 in the morning, discovers the cure for both AIDS and cancer by noon, makes peace between Israelis and Palestinians that afternoon, and then in the evening reunites with her long-lost child who disappeared years ago - she would still be incapable of experiencing anything beyond level seven happiness. Her brain is simply not built for exhilaration, come what may.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
It is relatively easy to accept that money is an intersubjective reality. Most people are also happy to acknowledge that ancient Greek gods, evil empires and the values of alien cultures exist only in the imagination. Yet we don’t want to accept that our God, our nation or our values are mere fictions, because these are the things that give meaning to our lives. We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another. Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories. Why does a particular action – such as getting married in church, fasting on Ramadan or voting on election day – seem meaningful to me? Because my parents also think it is meaningful, as do my brothers, my neighbours, people in nearby cities and even the residents of far-off countries. And why do all these people think it is meaningful? Because their friends and neighbours also share the same view. People constantly reinforce each other’s beliefs in a self-perpetuating loop. Each round of mutual confirmation tightens the web of meaning further, until you have little choice but to believe what everyone else believes. Yet over decades and centuries the web of meaning unravels and a new web is spun in its place. To study history means to watch the spinning and unravelling of these webs, and to realise that what seems to people in one age the most important thing in life becomes utterly meaningless to their descendants.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow)
follow you. If you used a time machine to send a modern scientist to ancient Egypt, she would not be able to seize power by exposing the fictions of the local priests and lecturing the peasants on evolution, relativity and quantum physics. Of course, if our scientist could use her knowledge in order to produce a few rifles and artillery pieces, she could gain a huge advantage over pharaoh and the crocodile god Sobek. Yet in order to mine iron ore, build blast furnaces and manufacture gunpowder the scientist would need a lot of hard-working peasants. Do you really think she could inspire them by explaining that energy divided by mass equals the speed of light squared? If you happen to think so, you are welcome to travel to present-day Afghanistan or Syria and try your luck. Really powerful human organisations – such as pharaonic Egypt, the European empires and the modern school system – are not necessarily clear-sighted. Much of their power rests on their ability to force their fictional beliefs on a submissive reality. That’s the whole idea of money, for example. The government makes worthless pieces of paper, declares them to be valuable and then uses them to compute the value of everything else. The government has the power to force citizens to pay taxes using these pieces of paper, so the citizens have no choice but to get their hands on at least some of them. Consequently, these bills really do become valuable, the government officials are vindicated in their beliefs, and since the government controls the issuing of paper money, its power grows. If somebody protests that ‘These are just worthless pieces of paper!’ and behaves as if they are only pieces of paper, he won’t get very far in life.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
There is only one historical development that has real significance. Today, when we finally realise that the keys to happiness are in the hands of our biochemical system, we can stop wasting our time on politics and social reforms, putsches and ideologies, and focus instead on the only thing that can make us truly happy: manipulating our biochemistry. If we invest billions in understanding our brain chemistry and developing appropriate treatments, we can make people far happier than ever before, without any need of revolutions. Prozac, for example, does not change regimes, but by raising serotonin levels it lifts people out of their depression. Nothing captures the biological argument better than the famous New Age slogan: ‘Happiness begins within.’ Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.1 In Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World, published in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, happiness is the supreme value and psychiatric drugs replace the police and the ballot as the foundation of politics. Every day, each person takes a dose of ‘soma’, a synthetic drug which makes people happy without harming their productivity and efficiency. The World State that governs the entire globe is never threatened by wars, revolutions, strikes or demonstrations, because all people are supremely content with their current conditions, whatever they may be. Huxley’s vision of the future is far more troubling than George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Huxley’s world seems monstrous to most readers, but it is hard to explain why. Everybody is happy all the time – what could be wrong with that?
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
When examining the history of any human network, it is therefore advisable to stop from time to time and look at things from the perspective of some real entity. How do you know if an entity is real? Very simple – just ask yourself, ‘Can it suffer?’ When people burn down the temple of Zeus, Zeus doesn’t suffer. When the euro loses its value, the euro doesn’t suffer. When a bank goes bankrupt, the bank doesn’t suffer. When a country suffers a defeat in war, the country doesn’t really suffer. It’s just a metaphor. In contrast, when a soldier is wounded in battle, he really does suffer. When a famished peasant has nothing to eat, she suffers. When a cow is separated from her newborn calf, she suffers. This is reality. Of course suffering might well be caused by our belief in fictions. For example, belief in national and religious myths might cause the outbreak of war, in which millions lose their homes, their limbs and even their lives. The cause of war is fictional, but the suffering is 100 per cent real. This is exactly why we should strive to distinguish fiction from reality. Fiction isn’t bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can’t play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can’t enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make-believe stories. But the stories are just tools. They should not become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality. Then we begin entire wars ‘to make a lot of money for the corporation’ or ‘to protect the national interest’. Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; how come we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow By Yuval Noah Harari & How We Got to Now Six Innovations that Made the Modern World By Steven Johnson 2 Books Collection Set)
Timeline of History Years Before the Present 13.5 billion Matter and energy appear. Beginning of physics. Atoms and molecules appear. Beginning of chemistry. 4.5 billion Formation of planet Earth. 3.8 billion Emergence of organisms. Beginning of biology. 6 million Last common grandmother of humans and chimpanzees. 2.5 million Evolution of the genus Homo in Africa. First stone tools. 2 million Humans spread from Africa to Eurasia. Evolution of different human species. 500,000 Neanderthals evolve in Europe and the Middle East. 300,000 Daily usage of fire. 200,000 Homo sapiens evolves in East Africa. 70,000 The Cognitive Revolution. Emergence of fictive language. Beginning of history. Sapiens spread out of Africa. 45,000 Sapiens settle Australia. Extinction of Australian megafauna. 30,000 Extinction of Neanderthals. 16,000 Sapiens settle America. Extinction of American megafauna. 13,000 Extinction of Homo floresiensis. Homo sapiens the only surviving human species. 12,000 The Agricultural Revolution. Domestication of plants and animals. Permanent settlements. 5,000 First kingdoms, script and money. Polytheistic religions. 4,250 First empire – the Akkadian Empire of Sargon. 2,500 Invention of coinage – a universal money. The Persian Empire – a universal political order ‘for the benefit of all humans’. Buddhism in India – a universal truth ‘to liberate all beings from suffering’. 2,000 Han Empire in China. Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Christianity. 1,400 Islam. 500 The Scientific Revolution. Humankind admits its ignorance and begins to acquire unprecedented power. Europeans begin to conquer America and the oceans. The entire planet becomes a single historical arena. The rise of capitalism. 200 The Industrial Revolution. Family and community are replaced by state and market. Massive extinction of plants and animals. The Present Humans transcend the boundaries of planet Earth. Nuclear weapons threaten the survival of humankind. Organisms are increasingly shaped by intelligent design rather than natural selection. The Future Intelligent design becomes the basic principle of life? Homo sapiens is replaced by superhumans?
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Nobody is ever made happy by winning the lottery, buying a house, getting a promotion or even finding true love. People are made happy by one thing and one thing only – pleasant sensations in their bodies. A person who just won the lottery or found new love and jumps from joy is not really reacting to the money or the lover. She is reacting to various hormones coursing through her bloodstream and to the storm of electric signals flashing between different parts of her brain. Unfortunately for all hopes of creating heaven on earth, our internal biochemical system seems to be programmed to keep happiness levels relatively constant. There's no natural selection for happiness as such - a happy hermit's genetic line will go extinct as the genes of a pair of anxious parents get carried on to the next generation. Happiness and misery play a role in evolution only to the extent that they encourage or discourage survival and reproduction. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that evolution has moulded us to be neither too miserable nor too happy. It enables us to enjoy a momentary rush of pleasant sensations, but these never last for ever. Sooner of later they subside and give place to unpleasant sensations. (...) Some scholars compare human biochemistry to an air-conditioning system that keeps the temperature constant, come heatwave or snowstorm. Events might momentarily change the temperature, but the air-conditioning system always returns the temperature to the same set point. Some air-conditioning systems are set at twenty-five degrees Celsius. Others are set at twenty degrees. Human happiness conditioning systems also differ from person to person. On a scale from one to ten, some people are born with a cheerful biochemical system that allows their mood to swing between levels six and ten, stabilising with time at eight. Such a person is quite happy even if she lives in an alienating big city, loses all her money in a stock-exchange crash and is diagnosed with diabetes. Other people are cursed with a gloomy biochemistry that swings between three and seven and stabilises at five. Such an unhappy person remains depressed even if she enjoys the support of a tight-knit community, wins millions in the lottery and is as healthy as an Olympic athlete (...) incapable of experiencing anything beyond level seven happiness. Her brain is simply not built for exhilaration, come what may. (...) Buying cars and writing novels do not change our biochemistry. They can startle it for a fleeting moment, but it is soon back to the set point.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Traditional agricultural societies lived in the awful shade of starvation. In the affluent world of today one of the leading health problems is obesity, which strikes the poor (who stuff themselves with hamburgers and pizzas) even more severely than the rich (who eat organic salads and fruit smoothies). Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world. Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let’s consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummified, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money has no intrinsic value besides the mythological value we endow it with. It's a practical solution and a store of value. Even cigarettes can be used.
ExecutiveGrowth Summaries (Summary: Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari)
The dark side of money is that the trust is in the system of money, not in human beings. Having trust tied to external objects allows us to completely sidestep irreplaceable morals and values and sell them at the price of the market.
ExecutiveGrowth Summaries (Summary: Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari)
Where other factors divided people, money was a neutral system of trust.
ExecutiveGrowth Summaries (Summary: Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari)
religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions–and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money is based on two universal principles: a. Universal convertibility: with money as an alchemist, you can turn land into loyalty, justice into health, and violence into knowledge. b. Universal trust: with the money as a go-between, any two people can cooperate on any project.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
How can we square the consumerist ethic with the capitalist ethic of the business person, according to which profits should not be wasted, and should instead be reinvested in production? It’s simple. As in previous eras, there is today a division of labour between the elite and the masses. In medieval Europe, aristocrats spent their money carelessly on extravagant luxuries, whereas peasants lived frugally, minding every penny. Today, the tables have turned. The rich take great care managing their assets and investments, while the less well-heeled go into debt buying cars and televisions they don’t really need.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We do not trust the stranger, or the next-door neighbor-- we trust the coin they hold. If they run out of coins, we run out of trust. As money brings down the dams of community, religion and state, the world is in danger of becoming one big and rather heartless marketplace.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
This trust is the sole backing for most of the money in the world.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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. It’s founded on the assumption that our future resources are sure to be far more abundant than our present resources. A host of new and wonderful opportunities open up if we can build things in the present using future income.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
This conqueror is money. People who do not believe in the same god or obey the same king are more than willing to use the same money. Osama bin Laden, for all his hatred of American culture, American religion, and American
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Without money, commercial networks and markets would have been doomed to remain very limited in their size, complexity and dynamism.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
money isn’t a material reality–it is a psychological construct. It works by converting matter into mind.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
For although money builds universal trust between strangers, this trust is invested not in humans, communities or sacred values, but in money itself and in the impersonal systems that back it
Yuval Noah Harari
This is perhaps its most basic quality. Everyone always wants money because everyone else also always wants money, which means you can exchange money for whatever you want or need. The shoemaker will always be happy to take your money, because no matter what he really wants – apples, goats or a divorce – he can get it in exchange for money.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The flowering of the consumerist ethic is manifested most clearly in the food market. Traditional agricultural societies lived in the awful shade of starvation. In the affluent world of today one of the leading health problems is obesity, which strikes the poor (who stuff themselves with hamburgers and pizzas) even more severely than the rich (who eat organic salads and fruit smoothies). Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world. Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Cowry shells and dollars have value only in our common imagination. Their worth is not inherent in the chemical structure of the shells and paper, or their colour, or their shape. In other words, money isn’t a material reality – it is a psychological construct.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Peugeot belongs to a particular genre of legal fictions called ‘limited liability companies’. The idea behind such companies is among humanity’s most ingenious inventions. Homo sapiens lived for untold millennia without them. During most of recorded history property could be owned only by flesh-and-blood humans, the kind that stood on two legs and had big brains. If in thirteenth-century France Jean set up a wagon-manufacturing workshop, he himself was the business. If a wagon he’d made broke down a week after purchase, the disgruntled buyer would have sued Jean personally. If Jean had borrowed 1,000 gold coins to set up his workshop and the business failed, he would have had to repay the loan by selling his private property – his house, his cow, his land. He might even have had to sell his children into servitude. If he couldn’t cover the debt, he could be thrown in prison by the state or enslaved by his creditors. He was fully liable, without limit, for all obligations incurred by his workshop. If you had lived back then, you would probably have thought twice before you opened an enterprise of your own. And indeed this legal situation discouraged entrepreneurship. People were afraid to start new businesses and take economic risks. It hardly seemed worth taking the chance that their families could end up utterly destitute. This is why people began collectively to imagine the existence of limited liability companies. Such companies were legally independent of the people who set them up, or invested money in them, or managed them. Over the last few centuries such companies have become the main players in the economic arena, and we have grown so used to them that we forget they exist only in our imagination.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something. For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Universal convertibility: with money as an alchemist, you can turn land into loyalty, justice into health, and violence into knowledge
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Banks are allowed to loan $10 for every dollar they actually possess, which means that 90 per cent of all the money in our bank accounts is not covered by actual coins and notes.2 If all of the account holders at Barclays Bank suddenly demand their money, Barclays will promptly collapse (unless the government steps in to save it). The same is true of Lloyds, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and all other banks in the world.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions – and buy more and more. This
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In other words, money isn’t a material reality – it is a psychological construct. It works by converting matter into mind.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Money)
More than 90 per cent of all money – more than $50 trillion appearing in our accounts – exists only on computer servers
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
To say that a social order is maintained by military force immediately raises the question: what maintains the military order? It is impossible to organise an army solely by coercion. At least some of the commanders and soldiers must truly believe in something, be it God, honour, motherland, manhood or money.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
It is even possible to convert sex into salvation, as fifteenth-century prostitutes did when they slept with men for money, which they in turn used to buy indulgences from the Catholic Church.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If the global pie stayed the same size, there was no margin for credit. Credit is the difference between today’s pie and tomorrow’s pie. If the pie stays the same, why extend credit? It would be an unacceptable risk unless you believed that the baker or king asking for your money might be able to steal a slice from a competitor. So it was hard to get a loan in the premodern world, and when you got one it was usually small, short-term, and subject to high interest rates. Upstart entrepreneurs thus found it difficult to open new bakeries and great kings who wanted to build palaces or wage wars had no choice but to raise the necessary funds through high taxes and tariffs. That was fine for kings (as long as their subjects remained docile), but a scullery maid who had a great idea for a bakery and wanted to move up in the world generally could only dream of wealth while scrubbing down the royal kitchen’s floors. The Magic Circle of the Modern Economy It was lose-lose. Because credit was limited, people had trouble financing new businesses. Because there were few new businesses, the economy did not grow. Because it did not grow, people assumed it never would, and those who had capital were wary of extending credit. The expectation of stagnation fulfilled itself.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Family and community seem to have more impact on our happiness than money and health. People with strong families who live in tight-knit and supportive communities are significantly happier than people whose families are dysfunctional and who have never found (or never sought) a community to be part of. Marriage is particularly important. Repeated studies have found that there is a very close correlation between good marriages and high subjective well-being, and between bad marriages and misery. This holds true irrespective of economic or even physical conditions.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Yet why should Chinese, Indians, Muslims and Spaniards – who belonged to very different cultures that failed to agree about much of anything – nevertheless share the belief in gold? Why didn’t it happen that Spaniards believed in gold, while Muslims believed in barley, Indians in cowry shells, and Chinese in rolls of silk? Economists have a ready answer. Once trade connects two areas, the forces of supply and demand tend to equalise the prices of transportable goods. In order to understand why, consider a hypothetical case. Assume that when regular trade opened between India and the Mediterranean, Indians were uninterested in gold, so it was almost worthless. But in the Mediterranean, gold was a coveted status symbol, hence its value was high. What would happen next? Merchants travelling between India and the Mediterranean would notice the difference in the value of gold. In order to make a profit, they would buy gold cheaply in India and sell it dearly in the Mediterranean. Consequently, the demand for gold in India would skyrocket, as would its value. At the same time the Mediterranean would experience an influx of gold, whose value would consequently drop. Within a short time the value of gold in India and the Mediterranean would be quite similar. The mere fact that Mediterranean people believed in gold would cause Indians to start believing in it as well. Even if Indians still had no real use for gold, the fact that Mediterranean people wanted it would be enough to make the Indians value it. Similarly, the fact that another person believes in cowry shells, or dollars, or electronic data, is enough to strengthen our own belief in them, even if that person is otherwise hated, despised or ridiculed by us. Christians and Muslims who could not agree on religious beliefs could nevertheless agree on a monetary belief, because whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something. For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
People who do not believe in the same god or obey the same king are more than willing to use the same money. Osama Bin Laden, for all his hatred of American culture, American religion and American politics, was very fond of American dollars. How did money succeed where gods and kings failed?
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
That evolution should select for larger brains may seem to us like, well, a no-brainer. We are so enamoured of our high intelligence that we assume that when it comes to cerebral power, more must be better. But if that were the case, the feline family would also have produced cats who could do calculus, and frogs would by now have launched their own space programme. Why are giant brains so rare in the animal kingdom? The fact is that a jumbo brain is a jumbo drain on the body. It’s not easy to carry around, especially when encased inside a massive skull. It’s even harder to fuel. In Homo sapiens, the brain accounts for about 2–3 per cent of total body weight, but it consumes 25 per cent of the body’s energy when the body is at rest. By comparison, the brains of other apes require only 8 per cent of rest-time energy. Archaic humans paid for their large brains in two ways. Firstly, they spent more time in search of food. Secondly, their muscles atrophied. Like a government diverting money from defence to education, humans diverted energy from biceps to neurons. It’s hardly a foregone conclusion that this is a good strategy for survival on the savannah. A chimpanzee can’t win an argument with a Homo sapiens, but the ape can rip the man apart like a rag doll.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money has an even darker side. For although money builds universal trust between strangers, this trust is invested not in humans, communities or sacred values, but in money itself and in the impersonal systems that back it. We do not trust the stranger, or the next-door neighbour – we trust the coin they hold. If they run out of coins, we run out of trust. As money brings down the dams of community, religion and state, the world is in danger of becoming one big and rather heartless marketplace. Hence the economic history of humankind is a delicate dance. People rely on money to facilitate cooperation with strangers, but they’re afraid it will corrupt human values and intimate relations. With one hand people willingly destroy the communal dams that held at bay the movement of money and commerce for so long. Yet with the other hand they build new dams to protect society, religion and the environment from enslavement to market forces.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The way out of the trap was discovered only in the modern era, with the appearance of a new system based on trust in the future. In it, 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. It’s founded on the assumption that our future resources are sure to be far more abundant than our present resources. A host of new and wonderful opportunities open up if we can build things in the present using future income.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In other words, money isn’t a material reality – it is a psychological construct. It works by converting matter into mind. But why does it succeed? Why should anyone be willing to exchange a fertile rice paddy for a handful of useless cowry shells? Why are you willing to flip hamburgers, sell health insurance or babysit three obnoxious brats when all you get for your exertions is a few pieces of coloured paper? People are willing to do such things when they trust the figments of their collective imagination. Trust is the raw material from which all types of money are minted. 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. What created this trust was a very complex and long-term network of political, social and economic relations. Why do I believe in the cowry shell or gold coin or dollar bill? Because my neighbours believe in them. And my neighbours believe in them because I believe in them. And we all believe in them because our king believes in them and demands them in taxes, and because our priest believes in them and demands them in tithes. 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. We accept the dollar in payment, because we trust in God and the US secretary of the treasury. The crucial role of trust explains why our financial systems are so tightly bound up with our political, social and ideological systems, why financial crises are often triggered by political developments, and why the stock market can rise or fall depending on the way traders feel on a particular morning.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The typical premodern ruler gave money to priests, philosophers and poets in the hope that they would legitimise his rule and maintain the social order.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
most people think there are only two types of realities: objective realities and subjective realities. For instance, if you go to the doctor with a pain in your head and they find a wound, the wound is an objective reality. But if the doctor runs a lot of tests and can find no cause for your head pain, then your pain becomes a subjective reality. But there is actually a third level of reality: the intersubjective level, which depends on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans. Money is a good example of intersubjective reality. As long as everyone keeps believing in money’s value, you can use it to buy all kinds of things. But when people stop believing in the value of that money, then the money becomes worthless,
GBF Summary (Summary: Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari (Great Books Fast))
money. Alas,
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
This isn’t a lie. It’s imagination. Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. They exist only in our collective imagination, yet their power is immense.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
If all of the account holders at Barclays Bank suddenly demand their money, Barclays will promptly collapse (unless the government steps in to save it). The same is true of Lloyds, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and all other banks in the world. It sounds like a giant Ponzi scheme, doesn’t it? But if it’s a fraud, then the entire modern economy is a fraud. The fact is, it’s not a deception, but rather a tribute to the amazing abilities of the human imagination. What enables banks – and the entire economy – to survive and flourish is our trust in the future. This trust is the sole backing for most of the money in the world.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Credit arrangements of one kind or another have existed in all known human cultures, going back at least to ancient Sumer. The problem in previous eras was not that no one had the idea or knew how to use it. It was that people seldom wanted to extend much credit because they didn’t trust that the future would be better than the present. They generally believed that times past had been better than their own times and that the future would be worse, or at best much the same. To put that in economic terms, they believed that the total amount of wealth was limited, if not dwindling. People therefore considered it a bad bet to assume that they personally, or their kingdom, or the entire world, would be producing more wealth ten years down the line. Business looked like a zero-sum game. Of course, the profits of one particular bakery might rise, but only at the expense of the bakery next door. Venice might flourish, but only by impoverishing Genoa. The king of England might enrich himself, but only by robbing the king of France. You could cut the pie in many different ways, but it never got any bigger. That’s why many cultures concluded that making bundles of money was sinful.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees. Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. The sculptor from the Stadel Cave may sincerely have believed in the existence of the lion-man guardian spirit. Some sorcerers are charlatans, but most sincerely believe in the existence of gods and demons. Most millionaires sincerely believe in the existence of money and limited liability companies. Most human-rights activists sincerely believe in the existence of human rights. No one was lying when, in 2011, the UN demanded that the Libyan government respect the human rights of its citizens, even though the UN, Libya and human rights are all figments of our fertile imaginations. Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We’ve already seen that money is an astounding thing because it can represent myriad different objects and convert anything into almost anything else. However, before the modern era this ability was limited. In most cases, money could represent and convert only things that actually existed in the present. This imposed a severe limitation on growth, since it made it very hard to finance new enterprises.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
the history of capitalism is unintelligible without taking science into account. Capitalism’s belief in perpetual economic growth flies in the face of almost everything we know about the universe. A society of wolves would be extremely foolish to believe that the supply of sheep would keep on growing indefinitely. The human economy has nevertheless managed to keep on growing throughout the modern era, thanks only to the fact that scientists come up with another discovery or gadget every few years – such as the continent of America, the internal combustion engine, or genetically engineered sheep. Banks and governments print money, but ultimately, it is the scientists who foot the bill.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money was created many times in many places. Its development required no technological breakthroughs – it was a purely mental revolution. It involved the creation of a new inter-subjective reality that exists solely in people’s shared imagination. 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. Money enables people to compare quickly and easily the value of different commodities (such as apples, shoes and divorces), to easily exchange one thing for another, and to store wealth conveniently. There have been many types of money. The most familiar is the coin, which is a standardised piece of imprinted metal. Yet money existed long before the invention of coinage, and cultures have prospered using other things as currency, such as shells, cattle, skins, salt, grain, beads, cloth and promissory notes. Cowry shells were used as money for about 4,000 years all over Africa, South Asia, East Asia and Oceania. Taxes could still be paid in cowry shells in British Uganda in the early twentieth century.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Like a government diverting money from defense to education, humans diverted energy from biceps to neurons.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The state and the market are the mother and father of the individual, and the individual can survive only thanks to them. The market provides us with work, insurance and a pension. If we want to study a profession, the government’s schools are there to teach us. If we want to open a business, the bank loans us money. If we want to build a house, a construction company builds it and the bank gives us a mortgage, in some cases subsidised or insured by the state. If violence flares up, the police protect us. If we are sick for a few days, our health insurance takes care of us. If we are debilitated for months, national social services steps in. If we need around-the-clock assistance, we can go to the market and hire a nurse – usually some stranger from the other side of the world who takes care of us with the kind of devotion that we no longer expect from our own children. If we have the means, we can spend our golden years at a senior citizens’ home. The tax authorities treat us as individuals, and do not expect us to pay the neighbours’ taxes. The courts, too, see us as individuals, and never punish us for the crimes of our cousins.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We do not trust the stranger, or the next-door neighbour – we trust the coin they hold. If they run out of coins, we run out of trust. As money brings down the dams of community, religion and state, the world is in danger of becoming one big and rather heartless marketplace. Hence
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Yet none of these things [laws, justice, human rights, money] exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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 easily understand that 'primitives' cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis. Take for example the world of business corporations. Modern business-people and lawyers are, in fact, powerful sorcerers. The principal difference between them and tribal shamans is that modern lawyers tell far stranger stories.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
More than 90 per cent of all money – more than $50 trillion appearing in our accounts – exists only on computer servers. Accordingly,
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let’s consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummified, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism. Romanticism
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The nation is the imagined community of the state. The consumer tribe is the imagined community of the market. Both are imagined communities because it is impossible for all customers in a market or for all members of a nation really to know one another the way villagers knew one another in the past. No German can intimately know the other 80 million members of the German nation, or the other 500 million customers inhabiting the European Common Market (which evolved first into the European Community and finally became the European Union). Consumerism and nationalism work extra hours to make us imagine that millions of strangers belong to the same community as ourselves, that we all have a common past, common interests and a common future. This isn’t a lie. It’s imagination. Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Capitalism began as a theory about how the economy functions. It was both descriptive and prescriptive – it offered an account of how money worked and promoted the idea that reinvesting profits in production leads to fast economic growth. But capitalism gradually became far more than just an economic doctrine. It now encompasses an ethic – a set of teachings about how people should behave, educate their children and even think. Its principal tenet is that economic growth is the supreme good, or at least a proxy for the supreme good, because justice, freedom and even happiness all depend on economic growth. Ask a capitalist how to bring justice and political freedom to a place like Zimbabwe or Afghanistan, and you are likely to get a lecture on how economic affluence and a thriving middle class are essential for stable democratic institutions, and about the need therefore to inculcate Afghan tribesmen in the values of free enterprise, thrift and self-reliance. This new religion has had a decisive influence on the development of modern science, too. Scientific research is usually funded by either governments or private businesses. When capitalist governments and businesses consider investing in a particular scientific project, the first questions are usually ‘Will this project enable us to increase production and profits? Will it produce economic growth?’ A project that can’t clear these hurdles has little chance of finding a sponsor. No history of modern science can leave capitalism out of the picture. Conversely, the history of capitalism is unintelligible without taking science into account. Capitalism’s belief in perpetual economic growth flies in the face of almost everything we know about the universe. A society of wolves would be extremely foolish to believe that the supply of sheep would keep on growing indefinitely. The human economy has nevertheless managed to keep on growing throughout the modern era, thanks only to the fact that scientists come up with another discovery or gadget every few years – such as the continent of America, the internal combustion engine, or genetically engineered sheep. Banks and governments print money, but ultimately, it is the scientists who foot the bill. Over the last few years, banks and governments have been frenziedly printing money. Everybody is terrified that the current economic crisis may stop the growth of the economy. So they are creating trillions of dollars, euros and yen out of thin air, pumping cheap credit into the system, and hoping that the scientists, technicians and engineers will manage to come up with something really big, before the bubble bursts. Everything depends on the people in the labs. New discoveries in fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology could create entire new industries, whose profits could back the trillions of make-believe money that the banks and governments have created since 2008. If the labs do not fulfil these expectations before the bubble bursts, we are heading towards very rough times.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Yet, in fact, religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
What enables banks – and the entire economy – to survive and flourish is our trust in the future. This trust is the sole backing for most of the money in the world. In
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Everybody is terrified that the current economic crisis may stop the growth of the economy. So they are creating trillions of dollars, euros and yen out of thin air, pumping cheap credit into the system, and hoping that the scientists, technicians and engineers will manage to come up with something really big, before the bubble bursts. Everything depends on the people in the labs. New discoveries in fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology could create entire new industries, whose profits could back the trillions of make-believe money that the banks and governments have created since 2008. If the labs do not fulfil these expectations before the bubble bursts, we are heading towards very rough times. Columbus
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Banks are allowed to loan $10 for every dollar they actually possess, which means that 90 percent of all the money in our bank accounts is not covered by actual coins and notes.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
the algorithms might actually come to own businesses instead of just managing them, and humans could end up working for and paying rent to algorithms. Before you say this could never happen, remember that we’ve already made it legal for entities such as Toyota to own land and money, sue and be sued in court, and so on. So what will people do in this kind of a future?
GBF Summary (Summary: Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari (Great Books Fast))
The trap snapped shut. The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money comes to money, and poverty to poverty. Education comes to education, and ignorance to ignorance.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Everyone always wants money because everyone else also always wants money,
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
It does not take much to provide the objective biological needs of Homo sapiens. After those needs are met, more money can be spent on building pyramids, taking holidays around the world, financing election campaigns, funding your favourite terrorist organisation, or investing in the stock market and making yet more money – all of which are activities that a true cynic would find utterly meaningless.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. They exist only in our collective imagination, yet their power is immense.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
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. Money enables people to compare quickly and easily the value of different commodities (such as apples, shoes and divorces), to easily exchange one thing for another, and to store wealth conveniently.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Everyone always wants money because everyone else also always wants money, which means you can exchange money for whatever you want or need.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money is thus a universal medium of exchange that enables people to convert almost everything into almost anything else.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Because money can convert, store and transport wealth easily and cheaply, it made a vital contribution to the appearance of complex commercial networks and dynamic markets. Without money, commercial networks and markets would have been doomed to remain very limited in their size, complexity and dynamism.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Ideal types of money enable people not merely to turn one thing into another, but to store wealth as well. Many valuables cannot be stored – such as time or beauty.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
People are willing to do such things when they trust the figments of their collective imagination. Trust is the raw material from which all types of money are minted. 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.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Romantic literature often presents the individual as somebody caught in a struggle against the state and the market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state and the market are the mother and father of the individual, and the individual can survive only thanks to them. The market provides us with work, insurance and a pension. If we want to study a profession, the government’s schools are there to teach us. If we want to open a business, the bank loans us money. If we want to build a house, a construction company builds it and the bank gives us a mortgage, in some cases subsidised or insured by the state. If violence flares up, the police protect us. If we are sick for a few days, our health insurance takes care of us. If we are debilitated for months, national social services steps in. If we need around-the-clock assistance, we can go to the market and hire a nurse – usually some stranger from the other side of the world who takes care of us with the kind of devotion that we no longer expect from our own children. If we have the means, we can spend our golden years at a senior citizens’ home. The tax authorities treat us as individuals, and do not expect us to pay the neighbours’ taxes. The courts, too, see us as individuals, and never punish us for the crimes of our cousins. Not
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens and Homo Deus: The E-book Collection: A Brief History of Humankind and A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Family and community seem to have more impact on our happiness than money and health. People with strong families who live in tight-knit and supportive communities are significantly happier than people whose families are dysfunctional and who have never found (or never sought) a community to be part of. Marriage is particularly important. Repeated studies have found that there is a very close correlation between good marriages and high subjective well-being, and between bad marriages and misery.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Many of history’s most important drivers are inter-subjective: law, money, gods, nations.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions – and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How, though, do we know that we’ll really get paradise in return? We’ve seen it on television.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away. One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away. One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
us. Christians and Muslims who could not agree on religious beliefs could nevertheless agree on a monetary belief, because whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
We do not trust the stranger, or the next-door neighbour, we trust the coin they hold. If they run out of coins, we run out of trust. As money brings down the dams of community, religion and state, the world is in danger of becoming one big and rather heartless marketplace
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. 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
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
This new religion has had a decisive influence on the development of modern science, too. Scientific research is usually funded by either governments or private businesses. When capitalist governments and businesses consider investing in a particular scientific project, the first questions are usually, ‘Will this project enable us to increase production and profits? Will it produce economic growth?’ A project that can’t clear these hurdles has little chance of finding a sponsor. No history of modern science can leave capitalism out of the picture. Conversely, the history of capitalism is unintelligible without taking science into account. Capitalism’s belief in perpetual economic growth flies in the face of almost everything we know about the universe. A society of wolves would be extremely foolish to believe that the supply of sheep would keep on growing indefinitely. The human economy has nevertheless managed to keep on growing throughout the modern era, thanks only to the fact that scientists come up with another discovery or gadget every few years – such as the continent of America, the internal combustion engine, or genetically engineered sheep. Banks and governments print money, but ultimately, it is the scientists who foot the bill.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)