Humanity’s Secret Weapon

What if the secret to human dominance lies not in our physical abilities, but in our shared stories?

In a groundbreaking exploration of human evolution, “Humanity’s Secret Weapon” delves into the transformative journey from our humble beginnings as inconsequential creatures to becoming the dominant force on Earth. Yuval Noah Harari, the narrator, challenges the conventional wisdom that singles out individual superiority as the hallmark of human progress. Instead, he posits that the true power of humanity lies in our unparalleled ability to cooperate in large, flexible groups, a feat unmatched by any other species on the planet. This collective prowess, underpinned by our imaginative capacity to create and believe in shared myths, from nations and religions to money and corporations, has catapulted humans to the apex of the global hierarchy.

Harari elucidates how our ancestors, armed not with extraordinary individual capabilities but with the collective might of shared beliefs, engineered marvels like the pyramids and reached the moon. This video unravels the intricate web of fictional realities we’ve spun – nations, deities, and monetary systems – that underpin large-scale cooperation and societal structures. Unlike other creatures bound by the tangible, humans navigate a dual reality, with one foot in the material world and the other in a constructed universe of social constructs and collective myths. This unique cognitive ability to believe in the intangible, to invest faith in entities like legal fictions and currency, has been our species’ secret weapon, propelling us to reshape the world in our image.

“Humanity’s Secret Weapon” presents a compelling narrative that challenges viewers to reconsider the foundations of human society and our dominance over the planet. It posits that the real strength of humanity lies not in our individual intelligence or physical prowess but in our shared stories and collective imagination. As we tread further into the future, the video invites us to reflect on the power of these shared myths and their role in shaping the fate of our species and the natural world. The story of human ascendance is a testament to the transformative power of collective belief and cooperation, revealing that the most potent forces governing our lives are not physical entities but the shared fictions that exist solely in the human mind.

70,000 years ago our ancestors were insignificant animals. 

Today, in contrast, we control this planet. And the question is , How did we turn ourselves from insignificant apes into the rulers of planet Earth?

Usually, we look for the difference between us and all the other animals on the individual level. I want to believe that there is something special about me that makes me so superior to a dog, or a pig, or a chimpanzee. But the truth is that if you take me and a chimpanzee and put us together on some lonely island and we had to struggle for survival, I would definitely place my bets on the chimpanzee. 

The real difference between humans and all other animals is on the collective level. Humans control the planet because they are the only animals that can cooperate both flexibly and in very large numbers. 

Now there are other animals like the social insects – the bees, the ants – that can cooperate in large numbers but they don’t do so flexibly.

Other animals, like the social mammals, the wolves, the elephants, the dolphins, the chimpanzees, they can cooperate much more flexibly, but they do so only in small numbers because cooperation is based on intimate knowledge of the other.

All of the huge achievements of human kind throughout history (moon, pyramids) have been based not on individual abilities, but on this ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.

What enables us alone of all the animals to cooperate in such a way? The answer is our imagination.

All the other animals use their communication system only to describe reality. A chimpanzee may say, look, there is a lion, let’s run away. Or look, there is a banana tree over there, let’s go get a banana. Humans in contrast use their language not merely to describe reality, but also to create fictional realities. 

A human can say, look, there is a God above the clouds. And if you don’t do what I tell you to do, after you die, God will punish you and send you to hell. And if you all believe this story, then you will follow the same norms and laws and values and you can cooperate. 

This is something only humans can do. You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him that after you die, you will go to Chimpanzee Heaven and you’ll receive lots and lots of bananas for your good deeds, so now give me this banana. No chimpanzee will ever believe such a story. 

I want to emphasize is that exactly the same mechanism underlies all other forms of mass-scale human cooperation.

The most important factors in modern politics are states and nations. But what are states and nations? They are not an objective reality. A mountain is an objective reality. You can see it. You can touch it. You can even smell it. But a nation or a state like Israel or Iran or France or Germany, this is just a story that we’ve invented and become extremely attached to. 

The same is true of the economic field. The most important actors today in the global economy are corporations. What exactly are these things? They are what lawyers call “legal fictions.” They are stories that invented and maintained by the powerful wizards we call lawyers. And what do corporations do all day? Mostly, they try to make money.

Yet, what is money? Money is not an objective reality. It has no objective value. You cannot eat it. You cannot drink it. You cannot wear it. But then come along these master storytellers, and tell us a very convincing story. Look, you see this green piece of paper? It is actually worth ten bananas. And if I believe it, and you believe it, and everybody believes it, it actually works. I can take this worthless piece of paper, go to the supermarket, give it to a complete stranger who I have never met before and get in exchange real bananas which I can actually eat. This is something amazing. You could never do it with chimpanzees. Chimpanzees trade of course, you give me a coconut, I will give you a banana, that can work. But you give me a worthless piece of paper and you expect me to give you a banana? No way! What do you think I am, a human?

We humans control the world because we live in a dual reality. All other animals live in an objective reality. Their reality consists of objective entities like rivers and trees and lions and elephants. We humans, we also live in an objective reality. In our world too there are rivers and trees and elephants and lions. But over the centuries, we have constructed on top of this objective reality, a second layer of fictional reality made of fictional entities like nations, like Gods, like money, like corporations.

What is amazing is that as history unfolded, this fictional reality became more and more powerful so that today the most powerful forces in the world are these fictional entities. Today, the very survival of rivers and trees and lions and elephants depend on the decisions and wishes of fictional entities that exist only in our own imagination.   

“Extremely well done.”

“This man helps us to open our eyes and see through the fog of our one dimensional existence.”

“Very interesting. Social norms, becoming traditional norms becoming underlying concepts that are “invisible” truths that guide and define our world. Very nice narrative. The question is how do you break habits. It is beautiful to understand the picture of the problem but to destroy that picture and create another that is even more splendid with an ability to override a past and rewrite a future is the trick. There are many very shortsighted brilliant people in this world. With tunnel vision brought on by repetition and resistance to change. I loved the video though. It is thought provoking.”

“Exactly, a lot of what we embrace as truths are only true on our human level, but they don’t exist objectively.”


  • “Butterflies (Nighthawk Remix)” – Tony Anderson


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