We know from last time that there are at least 6 species of human 50,000 years ago. Human today belongs to a species called Sapiens. Actually, the first time Sapiens met another species, Neanderthals, we lost. Around 70,000 years ago, Sapiens started spreading everywhere around the whole world. They came up with so many inventions like boats, oil lamps, bows and arrows, and needles. Research said that it is the revolution in Sapiens cognitive ability that made those happened, and especially the ability to communicate and work together in large numbers, even with strangers.
In some ways, we are similar to Chimpanzee. Chimps show submission to the dominant member, Alpha Male, by bowing before him. Just like human kneeling before a king. When two males are contesting the dominant position, they usually establish extensive coalitions of supporters, like hugging, touching, kissing. Just like human politicians on election campaigns. But rarely will Chimpanzee troop numbers exist 50 individuals. Sapiens, nowadays, has corporations with thousands of employees. What makes us different?
I summarize them as follow:
- We can communicate a limited number of sounds and signs to produce an infinite number of sentences that describe things.
- Sapiens is hunger for social information and good at gossiping
- Sapiens is capable of creating and believing fictional stories
While Chimpanzee can communicate with each other to warn their friends, for example, “there is a lion”. They cannot decompose and construct new sentences and meaning from those “sounds” or “sign”. The language we used today is amazing. We did not learn to express a particular meaning through a bunch of words. We learnt maybe a thousand vocabulary in primary school, and we can combine words into a sentence that allows us to describe what is happening. This is the essential foundation of cooperation since information can be exchanged efficiently.
Having the linguistic ability, it is easier for Sapiens to gossip with each other. It sounds like a bad idea to gossip about others but actually, it is essential for cooperation in large numbers because we need information about who could be trusted (credibility). Reflecting on your own communications, you will find that most of your communication is still gossip. It mainly focuses on wrongdoings since it helps enforce social norms and maintain group cohesion. However, even gossip has its limit. There is not enough time for you to gossip with everyone, and it is impossible for you to know everyone.
When the author said being capable of creating and believing fictional stories is one of the most important reasons why Sapiens can work in huge number is enlightening. I reflect on the current society. Indeed, what makes people work together is because we believe in some common values/ goals (some fictional things). For example, company values, laws, money/ credibility of a country, democracy, environmental concern, god, or even science. We work together because we believe in the same or similar set of principles. I know it is a bit difficult to understand why money or science is fictional stuff. A simple test is that can they suffer? Money is something created by human. Science is also created by human. Numbers, in my opinion, do not exist if the human did not create the number system. And politicians nowadays, when persuading people to take the Covid vaccine, will say BELIEVE in Science. People went into wars because they could not agree on some stories.
After the cognitive revolution, Sapiens invented lots of fictional stories, like god, establishing what we call Culture, and history begins.
Although Sapiens is less muscular, we finally win Neanderthals since we cooperate more efficiently.