In our last +1, we talked about Yuval Noah Harari and the fact that studying history allows us to reimagine a better future by seeing that a lot of the things we take for granted are neither natural, inevitable nor immutable.
… Like all those lawns you might see today. 🤓
Today we’re going to talk about an idea from his first book Sapiens. If you want an astonishing, mind-boggling look at the history of humankind, read the book. Seriously. It’s epic.
Over the next little stretch of +1s, we’ll have fun unpacking a few of my favorite ideas from Harari’s big brain and great books.
Today I want to chat about the virtue of being an ignoramus.
An ignoramus? Yes.
Do you know what the word ignoramus literally means? It’s Latin for “we do not know.”
And, Harari tells us, that willingness to say “we do not know” is what has changed humanity the most.
But… Let’s back up for a second and give it some context.
Harari tells us that we can look at the history of humankind through the lens of THREE big revolutions.
First, we had The Cognitive Revolution. This occurred about 70,000 years ago when we (Homo sapiens) separated ourselves from the other species of humans living at the time. (Which, btw, is nuts when you think about it. 100,000 years ago, there were at least SIX other species of the genus Homo cruising around!) The key differentiator? Basically: Our ability to communicate, tell stories and create complex, cooperative relationships with a lot of people.
Then we had The Agricultural Revolution. Of course, this occurred about 12,000 years ago and shifted us from being hunter-gatherers to being herder-farmers. Harari calls this shift “history’s biggest fraud” as the trade-offs we unwittingly made in our health and well-being were, to say the least, sub-optimal. We’ll save that for another discussion.
Finally, about 500 years ago, we had The Scientific Revolution. That’s when things started to get real. Now, most people think The Scientific Revolution was about KNOWLEDGE and all the things we learned. Which, of course, to an extent, is true.
But do you know HOW we gained so much knowledge?
We admitted our ignorance.
We willingly embraced the idea of being “ignoramuses”—declaring “we don’t know” a LOT about the world. THEN we went out with an astonishing ambition to FIGURE IT OUT.
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
Do you ever act like you’ve got it all figured out in your life? (Yah? How’s that working for you? Hah. I can laugh because, of course, we ALL act like that way too often.)
Let’s embrace the idea of being an ignoramus and joyfully (!) step back from our know-it-all perspective and say, “I don’t know…”
Specifically, what’s one area of your life that you KNOW you need to admit you DON’T know enough about?
Maybe how to Optimize your emotional stability? Or your sleep? Or your nutrition? Or how to boost your energy and effortlessly get to your optimal weight while rocking that athletic event you don’t think you can do? (<- Notice the interconnection of all those things, btw…)
Well… What is it?
Let’s have fun gaining knowledge by being willing to admit what we DON’T know, my Ignoramus-Optimizing friend!