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What Happened Before History | Human Origins

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updated 03 Aug 2023

What Happened Before History? Human Origins

Lets go on a journey through the history of humanity, revealing how the world we inhabit today is vastly different from the past. Though our present seems normal and comfortable, it represents the pinnacle of human sophistication and engineering, unlike any other era before. The story begins six million years ago, tracing back to the split of the hominini tribe from the apes. Over time, around 2.8 million years ago, the genus Homo emerged, marking the first appearance of humans. However, when Homo sapiens sapiens arrived on the scene 200,000 years ago, they were not alone. At that time, there were at least six other human species coexisting alongside them, a fact often overlooked in modern narratives.

An essential milestone in our development was the discovery of fire, which occurred much later in human history. This transformative event allowed early humans to cook their food, improving its nutritional value and contributing to the development of their brains. Fire also offered warmth, light, and protection from predators. In addition to these physical advantages, humans' ability to communicate and cooperate set them apart from other creatures. Around 50,000 years ago, this capacity for cooperation led to an explosion of innovation, resulting in more sophisticated tools, complex cultures, and the advancement of language, making us uniquely different from any other living beings.

The shift from hunter-gatherer societies to an agricultural lifestyle around 12,000 years ago was another significant turning point. Agriculture provided a stable and predictable food source, allowing humans to settle in one place and form communities. With the rise of agriculture came the dawn of civilization, as villages grew into cities, and humans began organizing themselves more efficiently. Progress became exponential, with scientific and industrial revolutions further shaping the trajectory of human civilization.

Today, humanity stands at the zenith of prosperity and impact on the planet. We have transformed the Earth in various ways, from its atmosphere to large-scale changes in its landscape. Our accomplishments include venturing into space, putting robots on other planets, and gaining profound insights into the universe's past. Our knowledge and the methods we use to acquire and store it have grown exponentially.

Despite all these advancements, it is vital to acknowledge that our current lifestyle has only existed for an infinitesimal fraction of human history. We are still not fundamentally different from our ancestors who lived 70,000 years ago. Uncertainty looms as we look to the future, unsure if the foundation on which we are building our "skyscraper" of progress is solid or precarious.

In conclusion, reflect on the uniqueness and fragility of the human world we inhabit today. As we go about our daily lives, we are reminded of how far we have come and the extraordinary progress achieved throughout our history as a species.

Key Points

This video is based on Yuval Noah Harari's novel Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind