Grabbed this one up because a Silicon Valley genius-type said he was reading it, and looked interesting. The first chapter, was, indeed, great, but then it sort of petered out. Ever read a non-fiction book and get far enough into it that you feel you need to finish, but you’re keeping an eye on that page count the whole time? “ 60 to go, 50 to go…” And then, hooray! The last 40 pages are end notes and index. Whew! Yeah, that was this book.
Not that it was bad, or poorly written—just a bit longer than it needed to be. Perhaps this could have been condensed into a long chapter in a different book about human evolution or the history of people, or whatever.
The points he makes are good ones—homo sapiens has developed, over time, and most of that very recently, through a series of “revolutions” which, specifically, where revolutions in cognition, agriculture, social unification, and science. This is to say: we got big brains, grew crops, got religion, and invented the steam engine.
Along the way we found time to kill off the other neo-humans, invent money, and create the internet. And yet, for all of that, nothing has changed, in as much as the universe is still hostile and indifferent, there’s no right or wrong, and happiness is nice but ultimately pointless. At least, that’s what I gleaned from my reading.
But the problem with a book like this, in my opinion, when it goes a bit long, is that the author can get a little preachy. A little sanctimonious. That’s fine, I guess, since he says right off the bat there’s no right or wrong—so there’s no hypocrisy, right? The thing is: opinions are boring. (There—I just gave you my opinion. Hypocrisy achieved.)
Many of the facts were interesting, however. The most successful organism on the planet to date is wheat. People are dying from violence orders of magnitude less often than they used to. But shove that up against repeated finger shaking, like for example, that maybe we’re too cruel to animals… and that’s why I found myself counting pages, glad when it was over.
Glad I finished it, though, glad I read the thing. Something to discuss with those Silicon Valley genius types if we ever meet up.