Written by Yuval Noah Harari
『Most researchers believe that these unprecedented accomplishments were the product of a revolution in sapiens’ cognitive abilities.
They maintain that the people who drove the Neanderthals to extinction, settled Australia, and carved the Stadel lion-man were as intelligent, creative and sensitive as we are.
If we were to come across the artists of the Stadel Cave, we could learn everything we know-from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantumphysics- and they could teach us how their people view the world.
The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70000 and 30000years ago, constitutes the Cognitive revolution.
What caused it? We’re not sure. The most commonly believed theory argues that accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of sapiens, enabling them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate using an altogether new type of language.
We might call it the Tree ofKnowledge mutation.
Why did it occur in sapiens DNA rather than in that of Neanderthals? It was a matter of pure chance, as far as we can tell. But it’s more important to understand the consequences of the Tree of Knowledge mutation than its causes. What was so special about the Sapiens language that it enabled us to conquer the world?
It was not the first language.
Every animal has some kind of language. Even insects, such as bee and ants, know how to communicate in sophisticated ways, informing one another of the whereabouts of food.
Neither was it the first vocal language. Many animals, including all ape and monkey species, have vocal language. For example, green monkeys use calls of various kinds to communicate.
Zoologists have identified one call that means Careful! An eagle! A slightly different call warns Careful! A lion! When researchers played a recording of the first call to group of monkeys, the monkey stopped what they were doing and looked upwards in fear. When the same group heard a recording of the second call, the lion warning, they quickly scrambled up a tree. Sapiens can produce many more distinct sounds than green monkeys, but whales and elephants have equally impressive abilities.
A parrot can say anything Albert Einstein could say, as well as mimicking the sounds of phones ringing, doors slamming and sirens wailing.
Whatever advantage Einstein had over a parrot, it wasn’t vocal. What, then, is so special about our language?
The most common answer is that our language is amazingly supple. We can connect a limited number of sentences, each with a distinct meaning.
We can thereby ingest, store and communicate a prodigious amount of information about the surrounding world.
A green monkey can yell to its comrades, Careful! A lion! But a modern human can tell her friends that this morning, near the bend in the river, she saw a lion tracking a herd of bison.
She can then describe the exact location, including the different paths leading to the area.
With this information, the member of her band can put their heads together and discuss whether they should approach the river, chase away the lion, and hunt the bison.
A second theory agrees that our unique language evolved as a means of sharing information about the world.
But the most important information that needed to be conveyed was about humans, not about lions and bison.
Our language evolved as a way of gossiping.
According to the theory Homo sapiens is primarily a social cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction.
It is not enough for individual men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bison. It’s much more important for them to know who in their band hates whom, who is sleeping with whom, who is honest, and who is cheat. 』