The Flaw in Sapiens
A brief note on where we differ on one major conclusion
Harari seems convinced about changes in our climate and imminent catastrophe. To counter this assumed existential threat, in the book Harari sees no alternative other than to organize a world government.
Harari asks some good questions in the book. But I differ with him on several of his major conclusions. For instance, he seems convinced about changes in our climate and imminent catastrophe. To counter this assumed existential threat, in the book Harari sees no alternative other than to organize a world government.
It isn’t clear how Harari sees no alternative. (Harari wrote this book some time ago, he may have changed his view.)
For one, the tragedy of the commons is often brought up, in my view, to undercut the natural collaboration of which human beings are more than capable. Few other animals, if we want to speak crudely, work together across family, lineage, or larger groups.
In short, the tragedy of the commons is a demoralizing wrench. Throw the wrench into the assembly of an organic engine (people working together on hard problems, carefully, not crudely). An observer sees that this projectile diverts the collective and positive attention away from actively seeking solutions toward a kind of despair at the linguistic and supposedly immovable logic that is the “tragedy of the commons.”
If one momentarily considers open source projects, there are plenty of positive examples of goods shared freely among community members. Or watch kids, even those who’ve just met for the first time, organically develop rules of the game, almost spontaneously, on the playground or field of play. If one kids acts out, there may be a creative evolution in the rules. Or, if the others don’t see it that way, he either gets ignored (at which point, he can re-enter play) or shunned (if his creative idea was damaging to the game). The kids do not first create a world government. So, why enforce collaboration?
My view is something like this. Natural law and individual sovereignty is intuitively understood by all men and women, and even children of a certain age.
There is real work to be done to organize around numerous threats manifesting in the political, social, cultural, educational, economic, agricultural, health, and financial arenas. And the necessity to therefore work hand in hand, aligned on shared values, for good. But the vote to establish a world government is a mistake and as I recall, a significant conclusion of Sapiens. Not only for its obvious dangers, but also because few desire this. The ones most pushing for total world governments have already been shown to be corrupt.
Originially published on All the Books — “All the books, or just the best ones over and over?”