Quora question: Was the agricultural revolution in 10,000 BC really bad, as explained by Yuval Noah Harari in the book sapiens? In my view, the agricultural revolution was the Genesis of the contemporary world.

Yes and yes.

The issue is that the immediate impact of agriculture was a reduction in the quality and length of life – shortened life expectancy, an increase in disease (from living closely together) a decrease in the variety of foods consumed, the beginning of social stratification, slavery, war and the oppression of women. Archaeologists and anthropologists have puzzled over why people abandoned hunting and gathering for agriculture.

Hunter/gatherers (H/Gs) perceive the world as plentiful – that there is enough to support life and that it is all there for the taking. Farmers and herders perceive a world of scarcity where one has to guard against hard times by planting and tending crops or keeping animals.

H/Gs know more about plants than most botanists they know when a certain plant is ready to be used and where plants grow – it is part of gathering. They know about how animals reproduce and what their needs are – it is part of hunting.

My theory is that the extinctions at the end of the Ice Age introduced the notion of scarcity.

Once scarcity had been invented first people would plant a bit of wild grain, pulses (lentils and similar crops) that could be stored. They stored them and did their regular round coming back to the stored food when times were hard. Over time they put more and more of their energy into the planted crops and spent more and more time in one place – became more sedentary. This eventually led to two things.

First, that the gathered food and hunted meat in the area of the settlements became depleted.

Second, as things became depleted they put more energy into planted crops and husbanded animals they experienced a reduction in the quality of life which increased their perception of scarcity.

As to the second part of your question –

Of course, the perception of scarcity is the genesis of our modern world because it was the beginning of what we have today. However, we don’t know what would have happened if scarcity and agriculture hadn’t been invented.

What I would hope is that we are embarking on a world where we can do away with actual scarcity. If we can also do away with the perception of scarcity we can perhaps base our lives on less labor, more sharing and better conditions of life for all. If we hold on to scarcity we won’t share and we won’t ever get back to the perceptual Eden of Hunter/Gatherers.

Original Quora question