Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. Much of history revolves around this question: how does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies? Yet when it succeeds, it gives Sapiens immense power, because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work towards common goals.
What are some stories we believe?
One of the best things in Sapiens is that it points out the stories we believe that we don’t even realize are stories at all.
Bitcoin is a hot topic right now. Most people don’t actually know how it works. (Not that I do, either.) Most people can wrap their head around the idea that Bitcoin is a story. If you’ve followed along you’ve seen it’s value rise from nothing other than the belief that it will someday be used widely. (Or just the belief that enough other people believe in it.)
What you might not wrap your head around as quickly is that currencies around the world are also just stories. That $1 bill in your wallet is only worth anything because the world collectively believes in the story.
The world economy is built on the stories of debt and credit.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane points out that he doesn’t believe in the story of money. His financier has zero power over him.
You might believe that the month you’re born in has an effect on your personality and place in life. That’s because of a story.
But which story?
Is it the story told by horoscopes tying birth months (roughly) to different personalities? Or is it the story Gladwell tells where birth month determines how big you are when you start competitive sports? (Slightly older kids are also slightly larger, get more of a coach’s attention, and then become part of a reinforcing cycle.)
What stories do you believe in?