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Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

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How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction? Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction? Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. He traces how, during eight key thresholds, the right conditions have allowed new forms of complexity to arise, from stars to galaxies, Earth to homo sapiens, agriculture to fossil fuels. This last mega-innovation gave us an energy bonanza that brought huge benefits to mankind, yet also threatens to shake apart everything we have created. This global origin story is one that we could only begin to tell recently, thanks to the underlying unity of modern knowledge. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly told, Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.

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How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction? Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction? Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. He traces how, during eight key thresholds, the right conditions have allowed new forms of complexity to arise, from stars to galaxies, Earth to homo sapiens, agriculture to fossil fuels. This last mega-innovation gave us an energy bonanza that brought huge benefits to mankind, yet also threatens to shake apart everything we have created. This global origin story is one that we could only begin to tell recently, thanks to the underlying unity of modern knowledge. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly told, Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.

30 review for Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Gates

    We all have an origin story. In some societies, they manifest as creation myths. In others, they look more like history textbooks. For example, as a kid in the United States, I grew up learning about the group of rebels who stood up to their British overlords and founded our country. It’s human nature to be curious about where we come from, and origin stories unite people through a common history and shared sense of purpose. But what if all of humanity shared an origin story? What would that stor We all have an origin story. In some societies, they manifest as creation myths. In others, they look more like history textbooks. For example, as a kid in the United States, I grew up learning about the group of rebels who stood up to their British overlords and founded our country. It’s human nature to be curious about where we come from, and origin stories unite people through a common history and shared sense of purpose. But what if all of humanity shared an origin story? What would that story look like? Historian David Christian tries to answer those questions in his new book Origin Story. As the creator of Big History—my favorite course of all time—David is well-suited to write about how we came to be. Big History tells the story of the universe from the big bang to the first signs of life to today’s complex societies. It shows how everything is connected to everything else, weaving together insights and evidence from across disciplines into a single, understandable narrative. Origin Story is essentially the Big History course condensed into a short book. It divides 13.8 billion years of existence into what David calls “thresholds”—moments in history that mark key transition points, like the formation of our solar system and the first appearance of early humans. The chapters about the early thresholds are heavy on physics and chemistry, but it skews more towards biology and anthropology as single cell life evolves into more complex beings. If you haven’t taken Big History, Origin Story introduces you to its concepts in a straightforward, understandable way. David is a very good writer, and he has a way of making complicated subjects fun. If you’re already a Big Historian, Origin Story is a great refresher. It does a fantastic job distilling the latest thinking about the origins of the universe. I learned some things that are simply too new to be included in the course. The book ends with a chapter on where humanity—and the universe—is headed. David is more pessimistic about the future than I am. He gets a little stuck on the current economic and political malaise happening in the West, and I wish he talked more about the role innovation will play in preventing the worst effects of climate change. But he nails the importance of this moment in history: “Things are happening so fast that, like the slow-motion time of a near accident, the details of what we do in the next few decades will have huge consequences for us and for the biosphere on scales of thousands of years. Like it or not, we are now managing an entire biosphere, and we can do it well or badly.” Understanding where humanity comes from is crucial to shaping where we go next. Origin Story is an up-to-date history of everything that will leave you with a greater appreciation of our place in the universe.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    David Christian's Origin Story: A Big History of Everything was my first go at 'big history' (13.8 billion years of it). Christian looked at threshold events the way futurists look at trends and singularities. These thresholds were like transitional mile markers differentiating one order (perhaps by a near extinction event) from the next. Christian looked at the numerous 'Goldilocks' conditions which allowed life to exist as it does today. Christian also brought origins myths into this history, David Christian's Origin Story: A Big History of Everything was my first go at 'big history' (13.8 billion years of it). Christian looked at threshold events the way futurists look at trends and singularities. These thresholds were like transitional mile markers differentiating one order (perhaps by a near extinction event) from the next. Christian looked at the numerous 'Goldilocks' conditions which allowed life to exist as it does today. Christian also brought origins myths into this history, especially at the beginning of his book. However, while big history is, probably by necessity, non-personal, I would have found it more compelling to have explored more mythology in Christian's final chapter of future history. Interesting read!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    loved this. Had the most wonderful sense of the sublime while reading it; I'm tiny and unimportant and my specific life could not matter less. Christian's framing of 21st-century power in terms of cell structures has made me deal better with my anxiety about how fucked the world is, and my fears for humanity in the near future. Excellent writing, about the only topic there is, really.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Arvind

    The first thing I have done after finishing the book is to unlike Bill Gates' review (4/5) of it. I also suspect if he reviewed and recommended this not because he personally found it great, but because he wanted others to read it as a good, lucid introductory book on Big History. The first half of the book is a poor cousin of "Cosmos" or "A Short history of Nearly Everything". It deals with the origin of the universe to the origin of human beings. The book has more information than insights and The first thing I have done after finishing the book is to unlike Bill Gates' review (4/5) of it. I also suspect if he reviewed and recommended this not because he personally found it great, but because he wanted others to read it as a good, lucid introductory book on Big History. The first half of the book is a poor cousin of "Cosmos" or "A Short history of Nearly Everything". It deals with the origin of the universe to the origin of human beings. The book has more information than insights and for this part, the book felt a bit better. Couldnt help comparing the second half, the story of humans, to the magnificient "Sapiens" by Harari. Instead of insights you have a lot of children's general history level facts thrown at you here. It was so uninteresting that I skimmed the last chapter. Avoid, unless this is the first book you will be reading on this subject. And my level of disappointment is bcoz I have read some fantastic books on related topics.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jaya

    This was good, definitely good but just so. Felt more of a concoction of already familiar works of some of the famous historians, scientists, biologists and anthropologists. Was hoping for something more insightful...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amir H

    این کتاب که فکر کنم هنوز به فارسی ترجمه نشده و سال گذشته نوشته شده به مرور تاریخ زمین و بشر از ابتدا تا اکنون پرداخته. مسلما قسمت های زیادی وجود داره که نویسنده تنها یکی از نظریه های موجود رو در نظر گرفته و از بحث در مورد سایر نظریه ها به هر دلیلی چشم پوشی کرده. این قسمت ها مخصوصا در اوایل کتاب در ذوق می زند. اما همه چیز بعد از آخرین عصر یخبندان که ده هزار سال پیش تمام شده به شدت جذاب میشه. همچنین به واسطه مستندات باستان شناس ها مباحث مرتبط در این قسمت قابل قبول تر و دل نشین تر شدند. مهمترین عامل این کتاب که فکر کنم هنوز به فارسی ترجمه نشده و سال گذشته نوشته شده به مرور تاریخ زمین و بشر از ابتدا تا اکنون پرداخته. مسلما قسمت های زیادی وجود داره که نویسنده تنها یکی از نظریه های موجود رو در نظر گرفته و از بحث در مورد سایر نظریه ها به هر دلیلی چشم پوشی کرده. این قسمت ها مخصوصا در اوایل کتاب در ذوق می زند. اما همه چیز بعد از آخرین عصر یخبندان که ده هزار سال پیش تمام شده به شدت جذاب میشه. همچنین به واسطه مستندات باستان شناس ها مباحث مرتبط در این قسمت قابل قبول تر و دل نشین تر شدند. مهمترین عاملی که از آغاز تا اکنون تعیین کننده بوده بحث انرژی است. انرژی بود که باعث شد انسان اولیه به کشاورزی روی بیاره و همون کشاورزی بود که اونها رو ساکن کرد و تمدن و شهر ها شکل گرفت و بعدها انرژی سوخت های فسیلی بود که به رشد بشر سرعت داد. کاملا قابل درک هست که سرنوشت انرژی در آینده سرنوشت نسل بشر رو تعیین کنه. اما همه چیز به این سادگی هم پیش نرفته و نمیره. تولید انرژی بیشتر و مصرف انرژی بیشتر یک خروجی بد داره و اون افزایش انتروپی و گرم شدن زمین است که اگر بشر مثل بقیه مشکلاتش براش فکری نکنه در آینده ای که دور نیست با مشکلات بدی رو برو میشه. در نهایت خواندن این کتاب (یا کتاب های مشابه) را برای کسانی که دوست دارند خارج از موضوعات مورد علاقه اشون کمی هم در مورد محیط اطرافشون و اینکه چگونه بشر به اینجا رسیده بدونند توصیه می کنم.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    I want to read more good nonfiction, and came across this intriguing title - it fit the bill nicely, giving me a new cautiously optimistic outlook and taking my mind off of the dreadful news headlines for a bit. First of all, I really enjoyed the dry humor and interesting observations of the author. He uses the term Goldilocks to refer to the just right evolutionary conditions planet Earth possessed which allowed life to develop. The following passage is typical of his engaging style, in which he I want to read more good nonfiction, and came across this intriguing title - it fit the bill nicely, giving me a new cautiously optimistic outlook and taking my mind off of the dreadful news headlines for a bit. First of all, I really enjoyed the dry humor and interesting observations of the author. He uses the term Goldilocks to refer to the just right evolutionary conditions planet Earth possessed which allowed life to develop. The following passage is typical of his engaging style, in which he discusses these ‘evolutionary ups and downs’: “These changes did not take the smooth, stately forms that Darwin and his generation expected of evolution. Instead, the history of big life was an unpredictable and dangerous roller coaster ride… Like the cliché about the life of a soldier, evolution in the Phanerozoic meant long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror and life-threatening violence. The violence is most apparent in periods of mass extinctions.” Or these observations on agrarian civilizations: “Viewed ecologically states and their rulers represent a new step in the food chain, a new trophic level. We have seen how energy from sunlight enters the biosphere through photosynthesis and travels from plants to herbivores to carnivores. And we have seen how most of that energy is wasted at each trophic level, in a sort of garbage tax.… Rulers and nobles and officials begin to squeeze wealth in the labor and produce of peasants, who in turn got their energy in food for farming.… Thinking about such processes in ecological terms reminds us that wealth never really consist of things; it consists of control over the energy flows that make, move, mine, and transform things. Wealth is a sort of compressed sunlight, just as matter is really congealed energy.” See? Different and intriguing, yet accessible. And I admit, when I read the above statement about nobles squeezing peasants, I thought of my favorite scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur (Graham Chapman) is treated to a lecture on human rights from a peasant! I found Christian’s Big History ideas a fascinating, clear-eyed, intelligent way of getting a big picture of where humans have been and where we may be going; maybe not always a rosy picture, but an impressive and important way to organize our history thus far. I love how beautifully he weaves together so many disciplines and narratives! So much of current news coverage is breathless and cataclysmic and, I feel, takes our eyes and minds off the real, larger issues covered here. I am going to continue to seek out well-written and well-researched non-fiction that helps me grasp the important issues and try and make sense of our world!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    Multidisciplinary look at the modern origin story of humankind. It begins with the big bang (astrophysics, quantum mechanics, etc.) and talks about star formation and planet formation. Then it goes on to discuss the history of earth and of life on earth (biology, chemistry, geology, etc.), all the way through present times (economics, history, sociology, etc.). It finishes up by looking at possible futures for us and the universe as a whole. I don't normally get as engaged with non-fiction books, Multidisciplinary look at the modern origin story of humankind. It begins with the big bang (astrophysics, quantum mechanics, etc.) and talks about star formation and planet formation. Then it goes on to discuss the history of earth and of life on earth (biology, chemistry, geology, etc.), all the way through present times (economics, history, sociology, etc.). It finishes up by looking at possible futures for us and the universe as a whole. I don't normally get as engaged with non-fiction books, but this one was fascinating and truly puts the world and the universe into a different perspective for me. I highly, highly recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Masters

    A wonderful and relatively compact history book that does its best to tell the history of EVERYTHING, from the big bang to what the future may hold for us and our universe. Christian highlights various "thresholds" that our universe and then our species crossed to take history to its next big level. I admire his ability to synthesize information and present it in an easy digestible package for the reader. Fans of Harari's "Sapiens" and Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" will find a lot A wonderful and relatively compact history book that does its best to tell the history of EVERYTHING, from the big bang to what the future may hold for us and our universe. Christian highlights various "thresholds" that our universe and then our species crossed to take history to its next big level. I admire his ability to synthesize information and present it in an easy digestible package for the reader. Fans of Harari's "Sapiens" and Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" will find a lot to enjoy here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gene

    Fascinating, well written, & full of information that you probably don’t know, but should. Makes you think, wonder, & want to learn more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Said AlMaskery

    A good topic, but written as an essay which makes it difficult to follow up. The introduction though was really nice.

  12. 5 out of 5

    MaryBeth

    I'll be honest--it was a little difficult to concentrate on this as one of my summer selections, but I'm glad I did. The author is an engaging writer and I found myself carried along once I started. History and science are fascinating. Glad I picked it up.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ron Quartel

    Scary stuff. Really scary, and important, and informational. This is science that everyone needs to understand. If you follow creationist theories, just skip over the bits on evolution. There is still some good information in here that won't go against your beliefs.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    Every culture and tradition has had its origin story, its understanding of how the world came to be as they knew it, which formed the basis for their further understanding of how to live, interact with others, get food, make clothes. Our origin stories are the basis of how we understand everything. Now, in the early 21st century, we know far more about the origin of the universe, our sun, our planet, and life on Earth. We live in a society of unparalleled complexity, and in the last two hundred y Every culture and tradition has had its origin story, its understanding of how the world came to be as they knew it, which formed the basis for their further understanding of how to live, interact with others, get food, make clothes. Our origin stories are the basis of how we understand everything. Now, in the early 21st century, we know far more about the origin of the universe, our sun, our planet, and life on Earth. We live in a society of unparalleled complexity, and in the last two hundred years, we have gained the ability not just to support more human beings, but to improve the daily lives of most humans on the planet, not just an elite 10% or so. What we haven't done yet is integrate this knowledge into a new, shared origin story that helps us cope with this new, complex, and rapidly changing world. Christian intends this as at least a first pass at a modern origin story. In a lively, highly readable or listenable style, he lays out the basics of our new knowledge of the origins of the universe, our planet, and life on Earth, as well as an overview of the evolution of our species and development of our societies, right down to how we made the transition from strictly agrarian societies to today's high-tech, rapidly changing world. And he looks at the challenges as well as the benefits of that transition and our current power to affect our planet. Christian makes the point, as others have in the last few years, that we now have, in essence, the controls for our only habitable planet. We decide what species live and which ones die, and we are playing with the climate controls. If we understand and master those controls in time, we have the potential to give our species the best and most comfortable lives we have ever had. Or we could make the planet uninhabitable for such an energy-consuming culture, and drive ourselves back to the early agrarian or even hunter-gatherer level. Or we could render the planet uninhabitable for our species altogether, and leave Earth to start over again, with other species in a climate unlike any that has existed since the first primates evolved. Despite that potential grim outcome, I found this overall a lively and interesting book, well worth the time I spent listening to it. Recommended. I bought this audiobook.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    This is one that makes you think especially the last chapters

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah (WorldOfWonders)

    I needed this book in my life! I knew most of it already, but to read the entire story as a whole was terrific!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Martin Smrz

    Great book. Especially the history of Earth is delivered in very cohesive and clear way. The one star down is for a bit repetitive covering of industrial era. Otherwise this should be a history book in school to understand the history of our planet.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vassiliki

    Very enjoyable read! Easy to follow, informative, and dense without being overwhelming.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Ellis

    Having read Dr. Christian's previous text on Big History, Maps of Time, as well as having studied his course on Big History produced by The Great Courses (previously known as The Teaching Company), I found this an enjoyable refresher. It is a more condensed version of Big History than the massive Maps of Time and is an excellent introduction to whet the appetite of potential students. Anyone who knows me is aware of my tendency towards OCD behavior in reading, in that I am obsessive about readin Having read Dr. Christian's previous text on Big History, Maps of Time, as well as having studied his course on Big History produced by The Great Courses (previously known as The Teaching Company), I found this an enjoyable refresher. It is a more condensed version of Big History than the massive Maps of Time and is an excellent introduction to whet the appetite of potential students. Anyone who knows me is aware of my tendency towards OCD behavior in reading, in that I am obsessive about reading a series of books in the order they were written. The study of history is one of my major loves, so Big History satisfies that obsession by taking us back to what we currently believe to be the very beginning of it all: the Big Bang. The story continues as levels of complexity increase (e.g. stars, planets, molecules, etc.), eventually leading to the emergence of mankind. This book includes a large concluding section dealing with the present-day changing of the biosphere by humans and what the future could hold. It's a relief that Dr. Christian is neither a predictor of doom and despair nor a believer that everything is rosy. He presents a fair depiction of the choices we face in the future of life on earth. Having said all that, I must say that I actually preferred his first book with its 600+ pages, because of the wealth of information that is within those pages.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arun

    excellent book that condenses the entire knowledge on universe into a delightful read

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rajesh Goradia

    The Origin Story is a great summary of David Christian's Big History Project - a field of study that integrates concepts from diverse silos of knowledge in order to explain the rising complexity in the universe – the pinnacle of which is represented by the human race. Through this story we come to terms with our chance existence, despite the law of entropy which predicts that disorder of a closed system should only increase. Each threshold – where something new emerges – requires more energy and The Origin Story is a great summary of David Christian's Big History Project - a field of study that integrates concepts from diverse silos of knowledge in order to explain the rising complexity in the universe – the pinnacle of which is represented by the human race. Through this story we come to terms with our chance existence, despite the law of entropy which predicts that disorder of a closed system should only increase. Each threshold – where something new emerges – requires more energy and a more improbable set of goldilocks conditions. This book takes us on 13.8 billion year journey through several thresholds - from the big bang, to the creation of the first atoms, to the biological formation of the first cells and DNA, to the evolution of cultural complexity resulting from the industrial revolution. Each step is marked by an increased need for free energy flows and increased fragility because of the more stringent conditions within which their existence is possible. The book highlights the common thread connecting all of us with the universe. We are all made up of congealed energy (atoms) – just like the stars, the planets, the oceans, the animals and the devices we create. We simply represent a more improbable and energy intensive arrangement of particular atoms. Our death may be the end of our story, but not the end of the parts that make us. In the broad narrative of the universe, we may be the most complex creatures, but we occupy an insignificant slice of time in the journey of the universe. Our continued existence is far from certain – in fact it is highly improbable. An asteroid or a volcano could destroy us. We could run out of energy. A biological virus could destroy our civilization. Humanity may evolve into a super race or be destroyed by one. The climate may run amok – like on Venus. The challenges that face us are immense, but so is our ability to find solutions. This book is not simply an attempt to look back at the evolution of the universe and locate our place in it. It is a bold attempt to create a radical sense of shared responsibility among humans in face of unprecedented challenges. It is an attempt to create a common origin story – a story shared by all humans regardless of their race, ethnicity and religion – in a daring effort to unite the human race in its quest for survival.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tracy108

    Interesting. Fulfilled its purpose very well. I wish it had been more about social systems but that wasn’t the goal of the book, just my personal preference and (incorrect) assumption that it would include more of that lens. Covered a tremendous amount of information with excellence.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Teo 2050

    <7.5h @ 1.7x. Contents: (view spoiler)[Christian D (2018) (12:23) Origin Story - A Big History of Everything Preface Timeline Introduction – A Modern Origin Story Part I: Cosmos 01. In the Beginning: Threshold 1 – Jump-Starting an Origin Story – Threshold 1: Quantum Bootstrapping a Universe – The First Structures – The First Atoms – What’s the Evidence? 02. Stars and Galaxies: Thresholds 2 and 3 – Free Energy: The Driver of Complexity – Galaxies and Stars: Threshold 2 – A Universe with Galaxies and Stars – Ne <7.5h @ 1.7x. Contents: (view spoiler)[Christian D (2018) (12:23) Origin Story - A Big History of Everything Preface Timeline Introduction – A Modern Origin Story Part I: Cosmos 01. In the Beginning: Threshold 1 – Jump-Starting an Origin Story – Threshold 1: Quantum Bootstrapping a Universe – The First Structures – The First Atoms – What’s the Evidence? 02. Stars and Galaxies: Thresholds 2 and 3 – Free Energy: The Driver of Complexity – Galaxies and Stars: Threshold 2 – A Universe with Galaxies and Stars – New Elements and Increasing Chemical Complexity: Threshold 3 03. Molecules and Moons: Threshold 4 – From Stardust to Molecules – Chemical Trysts: How Atoms Combine – Threshold 4: From Molecules to Moons, Planets, and Solar Systems – Planet Earth – Studying Earth: Seismographs and Radiometric Dating Part II: Biosphere 04. Life: Threshold 5 – Life and Information: A New Type of Complexity – Defining Life – The Goldilocks Conditions for Life – From Rich Chemistry to Life: Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor – From Luca to Prokaryotes 05. Little Life and the Biosphere – Geology: How Planet Earth Works – The Unity of Life – Prokaryotes: A World of Single-Celled Organisms – Photosynthesis: An Energy Bonanza and a Revolution – Eukaryotes to the Rescue 06. Big Life and the Biosphere – Big Life – The Molecular Gadgets That Made Big Life Possible – Big Life Takes Off: The Ediacaran and Cambrian Periods – Evolutionary Ups and Downs: Mass Extinctions and Evolution’s Roller Coaster – Greening the Land and Oxygenating the Atmosphere – Long Trends: Larger Bodies and Bigger Brains – An Asteroid Lands—A Lucky Break for Mammals – After the Asteroid: A Mammalian Adaptive Radiation Part III: Us 07. Humans: Threshold 6 – Primate Evolution in a Cooling World – Early Hominin History: When Did the First Humans Appear? – Later Hominin History: The Past Two Million Years – What Makes Us Different? Crossing Threshold 6 – Living in the Paleolithic – Settling the Biosphere: Humans Migrate Around the World – Increasing Complexity in the Paleolithic – The Earliest Era of Human History 08. Farming: Threshold 7 – What Is Agriculture? – The History and Geography of Early Farming – Why Did Humans Take Up Farming? Crossing Threshold 7 – The Early Agrarian Era: Farming Spreads Around the World – How Farming Transformed Human History 09. Agrarian Civilizations – Surpluses, Hierarchies, and a Division of Labor – From Towns to Cities and Rulers: Mobilization and a New Trophic Level – The Spread of Agrarian States – Measuring Change in the Agrarian Era of Human History 10. On the Verge of Today’s World – The World Six Hundred Years Ago – Creating a Single World System – Fossil Fuels: A Mega-Innovation – Early Industrialization 11. The Anthropocene: Threshold 8 – The Great Acceleration – Transforming the World: Technologies and Science – Transforming the World: Governance and Society – New Ways of Living and Being – Transforming the Biosphere – Measuring Change in the Anthropocene Part IV: The Future 12. Where Is It All Going? – Future Games – The Human Future: The Quest – Beyond Humans: Millennial and Cosmological Futures Appendix: Statistics on Human History Notes Further Reading Glossary Acknowledgments (hide spoiler)]

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anu

    History bored me as a child. Who wants to know about kings and wars and dates? As I grew older, I realized that knowing how we got to today is a key part of understanding today as well as future. In Origin story, Christian offers a solid, all-encompassing scaffolding for everything we know as a species today. This book touched me deeply in offering a moment of complete AWE at how complex, vast and interconnected everything in the universe is. Magnum opus extraordinaire! The book narrates big his History bored me as a child. Who wants to know about kings and wars and dates? As I grew older, I realized that knowing how we got to today is a key part of understanding today as well as future. In Origin story, Christian offers a solid, all-encompassing scaffolding for everything we know as a species today. This book touched me deeply in offering a moment of complete AWE at how complex, vast and interconnected everything in the universe is. Magnum opus extraordinaire! The book narrates big history as a sequence of "threshold moments", that were crucial turning points in a journey of increasing complexity. I've read other books in this format that dissect specific parts of history (Sapiens for evolution of humanity, Brief History of Time for cosmology etc.) but this book takes a panoramic perspective of all of time. Threshold 1: Big Bang (13.7 billion years ago) Fundamental forces "come into being" shortly. 380,000 years later, hydrogen and helium atoms are formed Threshold 2: Stars light up. Gravity coalesces clumps in molecular cloud to ✨ Threshold 3: Stars die, making new elements - C, N and O Threshold 4: Earth is born! (4.6 billion years ago) Debris from the sun's birth make its planets Threshold 5: Life emerges on Earth (4 billion years ago) Prokaryotes->Eukaryotes. Photosynthesis & Respiration create energy bonanzas. Threshold 6: Collective learning (300,000 years ago) Humanity leapfrogs thanks to unique collective learning ability (language, collective co-operation) Threshold 7: Agriculture (11,000 years ago) Farming unleashes a new energy bonanza and helps build complex agrarian societies Threshold 8: Anthropocene (250 years ago) The last 250 years have unleashed more energy needs and stores than the last 200,000 years. Humanity as a species now has universal global impact David Christian is a very meticulous writer, his writing style while not the most entertaining, does not matter much since his content is so darn engaging! Read the book!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sumit Gouthaman

    This book is obviously a remarkable effort. It attempts to capture "Big History" right from the moment of the Big Bang until the present. Then, it attempts to give a glimpse of the future as the universe tumbles towards its end as we know it. However, the main reason I did not enjoy this (as much as I wanted to), was because this feels too similar to a lot of books I've already read. If you are someone who has already read these books: 1. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson 2. Sapien This book is obviously a remarkable effort. It attempts to capture "Big History" right from the moment of the Big Bang until the present. Then, it attempts to give a glimpse of the future as the universe tumbles towards its end as we know it. However, the main reason I did not enjoy this (as much as I wanted to), was because this feels too similar to a lot of books I've already read. If you are someone who has already read these books: 1. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson 2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari 3. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond ... then you've pretty much read everything that this book covers. Although, I admit, there is some value in a book that brings all of this together in one place. One other minor criticism of the book is that in the chapter covering the Anthropocene (2nd to last chapter), the author wastes a lot of time repeating the same points over and over again. Perhaps the intention is to highlight how important the lessons are, but in practice, the chapter was tedious to read. Other than that, this is a reasonable book to read, if you are unlikely to read the other 3 books I mentioned above. A few interesting quotes from the book: - "Study the world itself rather than what has been said about the world." - "Knowledge is like a sphere; the greater its volume, the larger its contact with the unknown." - Blaise Pascal - "Wealth is a sort of compressed sunlight, just as matter is really congealed energy."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ανδρέας Μιχαηλίδης

    I have read quite a few histories and even translated a few, especially when it comes to the origin and evolution of the universe. Big Histories or Histories of Everything are in truth nothing new, although it seems they are going through a sort of re-emergence, usually ending with informed guesses on humanity's future. It seems the goal is to put forward the idea of a unified human race (or at least, essential history thereof), the likes of which is depicted and will eventually be established in I have read quite a few histories and even translated a few, especially when it comes to the origin and evolution of the universe. Big Histories or Histories of Everything are in truth nothing new, although it seems they are going through a sort of re-emergence, usually ending with informed guesses on humanity's future. It seems the goal is to put forward the idea of a unified human race (or at least, essential history thereof), the likes of which is depicted and will eventually be established in a 100-300 year Star Trek future (in terms of society, not starfaring technology). It is a lovely idea, albeit one that does not seem very realistic given the state of the world and the fact that some such efforts (such as this book) are being made in what is ostensibly "the Western World", like drops in an ocean of radicalization, fragmentation and insularity. Cynical thoughts aside, however, this is a good, solid book. The writer draws from an incredible multitude of scientific disciplines to tell the story of how the universe got this way and how we, as a humanity, got here. I think it may contain a bit too much information for the layman, but the truth is you get a cosmological and world history all in one, so that's a bonus.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dan Connors

    I love reading about the big picture and where things come from. It gives you an appreciation for what we have now and where we're going. I've always wondered how people can be so sure what existed before they were born. Without personal experience, everything is a guess, and who's to say we didn't all get beamed down here by an alien race? This book does not disappoint. It goes as far back as science dares to go and gives a step-by-step recounting of the best guesses out there about how things I love reading about the big picture and where things come from. It gives you an appreciation for what we have now and where we're going. I've always wondered how people can be so sure what existed before they were born. Without personal experience, everything is a guess, and who's to say we didn't all get beamed down here by an alien race? This book does not disappoint. It goes as far back as science dares to go and gives a step-by-step recounting of the best guesses out there about how things came to pass. Since most history classes focus on the last 300 years, plus a quick look at Rome, Egypt, and Greece, this book will expand greatly the history that led us to those points. The author uses Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Anthropology and Historic records to show a timeline that agrees with data from around the planet. We're lucky to be among the few in history to be able to see such a big picture. Hopefully we can do something with it. The final chapter delves into the future, covering a lot of the ecological dilemmas that face us now. A great book for those who want to see the BIG picture.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vladimir Stozhkov

    I was fascinated by a soaring manner of the author to explain complex concepts in simple terms. The book covers many topics belonging to the humankind's origin story starting with the big bang and ending with future challenges such as scarcity of energy resources and others. I really liked the ideas encompassing subsistence of all complex structures in the universe, entropy taxing, trophic strata of energy consumption, etc. I have never known about such a general view on a composition of the uni I was fascinated by a soaring manner of the author to explain complex concepts in simple terms. The book covers many topics belonging to the humankind's origin story starting with the big bang and ending with future challenges such as scarcity of energy resources and others. I really liked the ideas encompassing subsistence of all complex structures in the universe, entropy taxing, trophic strata of energy consumption, etc. I have never known about such a general view on a composition of the universe and it was great to conceive such an insight. This book will be great for those lacking fundamental knowledge in astronomy, molecular physics, cell biology, anthropology and ancient history. Bizarrely the book elegantly connects all these disciplines, thus creating some sort of a feeling of the wholesome picture of cosmos. The Origin Story can be a great starting point to get interested in the listed disciplines and delve into those topics deeper exploring them in books written by Hawking, Bryson, deGrasse Tyson, Harari and the other popularizers of science.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janis

    I read a recommendation for this book by Bill Gates and was lucky enough to get a copy quickly from the library. It was slow going at first as there was so much scientific information, much of which was not known when I was in school back in the 50s and 60s. However, in spite of the technological challenges, Christian's writing is engaging enough to keep the reader hanging in there. Proudly finished it a day before it is due back and where 44 people have it on their hold lists and are anxiously I read a recommendation for this book by Bill Gates and was lucky enough to get a copy quickly from the library. It was slow going at first as there was so much scientific information, much of which was not known when I was in school back in the 50s and 60s. However, in spite of the technological challenges, Christian's writing is engaging enough to keep the reader hanging in there. Proudly finished it a day before it is due back and where 44 people have it on their hold lists and are anxiously awaiting their turn. Gates's recommendation was spot on; this is a fantastic read and will leave you thinking about the universe, life, and what's really important as you might never have previously done. To create a world where economic growth is no longer the primary goal of governments, where people can escape the extreme forms of the rat race, where education and science become important and knowledge begins to replace material goods as a source of wealth and well-being, where we are no longer dependent on fossil fuels, and where poverty has been eliminated will rely, as Christian so aptly points out, on the existence of voters who take this quest seriously. Christian does not politicize this, but I will: the current administration seems to be taking us in the exact opposite direction and that's worse than just simple folly. Take the time to read this masterful work - it will be well worth it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tarek Amer

    -The Big Bang created the Universe 13.8 billion years ago, the first of a series of key events in our history. -The appearance of stars 12 billion years ago and the way they die were important steps forward for the universe. -The earth was formed by the accumulation of debris about 4.5 billion years ago. -Earth had the right conditions to allow life to flourish. -Photosynthesis was an energy bonanza for early, single-celled life that helped spark a biological revolution. -Evolution and the extinctio -The Big Bang created the Universe 13.8 billion years ago, the first of a series of key events in our history. -The appearance of stars 12 billion years ago and the way they die were important steps forward for the universe. -The earth was formed by the accumulation of debris about 4.5 billion years ago. -Earth had the right conditions to allow life to flourish. -Photosynthesis was an energy bonanza for early, single-celled life that helped spark a biological revolution. -Evolution and the extinction of dinosaurs helped the big forms of life develop that would eventually lead to humanity. -Humans evolved from primates and made a major breakthrough with the development of language. -Farming was a transformative innovation for human life. -As farming improved, it generated surpluses which enabled the development of more complex agrarian societies. -The exchange of ideas and discovery of fossil fuels accelerated the advance of human progress. -The earth has entered a new age: the era of humans. -The future is ours to make.

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