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Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute, Boston

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

with Jessica Bethoney



This course will take place at the Arlington Council on Aging (27 Maple Street, Arlington) every Tuesday (10/17 - 11/14) from 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM.


We will read one section of the book each week (approx. 75 pages) and the instructor will send out guided questions for discussion the week prior. How did homo sapiens go from being “an animal of no significance” to dominating all of life on earth? This is the provocative question that Yuval Harari answers in his now classic, globally best-selling book “Sapiens:A Brief History of Humankind”. Harari contends that at the core of human success as a species is our ability to create fictions. Believing in these fictions or myths enables us to cooperate in large numbers in ways that our closest ape relatives cannot do. In our course, we will examine the way in which religious, political and monetary fictions have spurred our progress as a species—and also resulted in our inadvertently becoming “ecological serial killers”. We will follow Harari as he looks at the past to explain the present—and then projects into the future as homo sapiens meld with AI to potentially create a new form of being.

Course Leader:

Jessica Bethoney was a professor of cross-cultural studies at Bunker Hill Community College for many years. She has also facilitated courses at other lifelong learning programs: Bolli, Regis College and LLAIC. Previously, she facilitated a course on the pandemic for LLI. Currently, she is tutoring Afghan women via Zoom who are at home because of the closure of schools by the Taliban.

Course Materials:

The book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Harari;

His TED talk: The Rise of Humans; and

TED Talk “How Language Transformed Humanity” by Mark Pagel.

Assignment before the first class:

Read Part 1 of "Sapiens": The Cognitive Revolution.Watch Harari’s TED talk: The Rise of Humans

  • Oct 17 - Nov 14th, 2023
    Tue for 5 weeks from 1:30 - 3:00 pm

Arlington Council on Aging

27 Maple Street
Arlington, MA 02476 Get directions

Location map for Arlington Council on Aging

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