As I sit and type this post, I do not think about the millions of years of human evolution that have come before me to allow for the use and production of computers and other technology. Though we may share a name, Noah Harari has clearly put more conscious into the development of Homo sapiens than I probably ever will. In Part I of Sapiens, Harari details how modern humans came to have the most unique ability in the animal kingdom: collective communication on a larger scale than any other species can possibly muster. Starting many thousands of years ago, modern humans began to have the ability to convey complex ideas through means beyond sound; they began to communicate through symbols, such as the lion figurine found in Stadel Cave in Germany. This small figure represents not just an increased ability to communicate, but also the beginnings of spirituality, which is something found only in Homo sapiens. These capabilities have come to be called the “Cognitive Revolution,” and are the reason that modern technology and communication are able to exist.
One issue I found with Harari’s assessment of cognitive function in the Homo genus is his quick dismissal of Homo neanderthalensis. Within Part I of Sapiens, he is quick to dismiss the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals in comparison to that of Home sapiens, using indirect evidence and assumptions, neither of which have a place in science. While I have no doubt that sapiens had certain advantages, the fact of the matter is that Neanderthals and humans were not as diametrically opposed as Harari would have us believe.