This week on our Masters in Business radio podcast, we speak with Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. His first book, Sapiens was on the Summer reading list of both Barack Obama and Bill Gates, and was recommended by Mark Zuckerberg and Danny Kahneman.
Our conversation covered how the belief in stories allowed humans to share specifc common “delusions.” This led to cooperation, the development of civilization, eventually making sapiens the dominant species on planet Earth.
Harari describes money as a “collective fiction.” He notes that the total value of money worldwide is $60 trillion dollars, of which a mere $6 trillion is in cash or coins. This means 90 percent of all money is nothing more than entries in a computer server. Money, says Harari, is a “faith based object,” whose value is derived by the shared narrative about its worth. The same is true for other non-utilitarian objects, such as Gold – it is also intrinsically worthless, since you can’t eat it, or fashion tools or weapons out of it.
Harari explains how agriculture led to enslavement, infectious diseases, and inequality. The life of the average person got worse as the result of the agriculture revolution. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that the average person’s quality of life began to improve.
He also references the advantages of “cognitive dissonance” was an important part of societal development.
All of the books Harari discussed can be found here.
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Next week, we speak with Derek Thompson of The Atlantic, author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction.