Sapiens: Why our imaginations make us human

In a new book, the historian Yuval Noah Harari tells the history of mankind. What sets us apart from other animals? He talks to Anita Anand at Hay Festival.

It would be difficult to accuse Yuval Noah Harari of a lack of ambition: in Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, the historian covers the species from its origins to ‘the post-human era’.

In the book, which has become an international bestseller, Harari compares homo sapiens with other human species (such as homo erectus) and with animals.

What makes us special – and why do we rule the world? In this clip, Harari explains that it’s our imaginations and our ability to believe in myths and stories that enable us to communicate on a mass level – and to control other animals.

“Money is the probably the most successful story ever told” he argues. “It has no objective value… but then you have these master storytellers: the big bankers, the finance ministers… and they come and they tell a very convincing story. ‘Look this piece of paper, it is actually worth 10 bananas’… and it works. Try doing that with a chimpanzee – it won’t work!”

Talking Books at Hay Festival: Yuval Noah Harari screens on BBC World News on 13 and 14 June 2015.

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