More notes at http://tanguay.info/learntracker
C O U R S E 
A Brief History of Humankind
Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Reasons for Our Current Unprecedented Era of International Peace
Notes taken on May 14, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
last few decades have been characterized by the peaceful collapse of the European empires
these empires have been replaced by dozens of new independent states
this could have created new opportunities for wars between all of these new, independent states
since 1945, however, states generally don't forcibly invade other states anymore as they have throughout history
such conquests have been the basis of political history since the beginning of states and kings up to the middle of the 20th century
this is how most great empires in history were established and grew
throughout history, it was generally the case that one lived in a kingdom in constant fear that the neighboring kingdom might invade one's territory, kill, enslave, and annex them to that kingdom
in most parts of the world, this simply doesn't happen anymore as it did during the campaigns of conquests by the Romans, Assyrians, Mongols, and Ottomans
since 1945 no independent country recognized by the United Nations has been conquered and wiped off the map
limited international wars still occur and many, many people die in these wars, but conquest wars no longer exist as they did through that last 10,000 years of human political history
this is not just true of Western Europe
South America
often we don't think of politics in South America as being very peaceful
we have images of juntas and generals inciting coups and revolutions
yet in terms of international wars in which borders are moved and people are conquered, it has been a very peaceful area of the world, the last wars were:
1981: Falklands War between Argentina and UK (neither country declared war)
1941: Ecuadorian–Peruvian War
1932: Paraguay-Bolivia War
1884: Chile vs. Bolivia/Peru
Arab world
we don't think of this area as a particularly peaceful zone of the world
only one occasion in which on Arab country invaded another Arab country in order to conquer it
1990: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, seven months
serious border clashes
1970: Syria vs. Jordan
many armed interventions of one Arab country in the affairs of another Arab country
Syrians intervened in Lebanon for many years
many civil wars and revolutions
other Muslim countries that are not Arab countries
Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan
1980s: Iran/Iraq war
the vast majority of conflicts since 1945 have been civil wars, revolutions, and conflicts
very few African countries have invaded other African countries in the hope of conquering it or part of it
there is an argument that there have been periods of peace before, e.g. in Europe between 1871 and 1914 yet it ended very badly
the argument is that all periods of peace in the past have ended in war, e.g. as in 1871-1914 ended in World War I
so no one can guarantee that WWIII will not erupt in the near or distant future
but the peace that the world is experiencing today is different than any other period of peace in history
peace has two meanings
1. the absence of war
this was the kind of peace that existed in other periods of history, e.g. 1871-1914
very fragile since there was always a plausible scenario for war within one year
was generally true throughout history
2. the impossibility of war
for most countries in the world, not all, but most, there is no possible scenario leading to full scale war in one year
there may be a border clash, or a misunderstanding, which can lead to international incidents
there are some countries where war is plausible, e.g. Syria and Israel, or Ethiopia and Eritrea
some people say that to say the world is in a new era of peace is naive
this may be true since we don't know the future, but the fact that so many people, as well as companies, organizations, and states run their daily affairs with this level of naivety that war is implausible, is a evidence of how far world peace has come
the reasons for this new era of peace
1. the price of war has gone up dramatically
it is much more costly today to wage serious war than previously, especially nuclear weapons
nuclear weapons made the price of war so high that it led to countries not engaging in major wars, since it would turn into collective suicide
2. war is less profitable
throughout history, kings and emperors and sultans could enrich themselves through conquering, looting, and annexing neighboring territories
most wealth was material wealth such as cows, fields, buildings, gold mines, and slaves, and so through looting it was relatively easy and straightforward to attain
today, wealth in the world depends more and more on human capital such as knowledge, complex social-economic structures like banks and corporations
since most wealth today is knowledge and organizational wealth, it is very difficult to conquer it, loot it, and annex it
consider the state of California
it is one of the ten richest states in the world today
originally built on the Gold Rush, transformed from a no-mans land into an important economic and political center
today the gold mines in California play a very peripheral role
most more important is Silicon Valley where the Googles and Facebooks have their headquarters and Hollywood
try to imagine if the Chinese would decide to "invade California" in order to enrich themselves
the Chinese would send a fleet of soldiers across the Pacific Ocean and lad million of soldiers
even if they managed to win this war, what would they gain? The answer is they would gain very little because you cannot conquer Silicon Valley.
you can conquer the physical valley itself, but the wealth of the area does not come from fields and mines and land
the wealth of Silicon Valley resides in the minds of Google engineers and Facebook developers, and these people, along with all the actors and directors in Hollywood will all run away from California long before the Chinese conquer it, they will be on the first plane to New York, Paris, or somewhere else to set up and continue business and create more wealth
so it's not possible to enrich yourself easily by conquering a different country
there are some places where wealth is still old-fashioned wealth like diamond mines and oil fields, and these are exactly the places where serious international wars still take place, e.g. the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Iran, two of the only major invasions of one country into another since WWII both occurred in an area of the world were there is an abundance of old-fashioned wealth mostly in the form of oil wells
3. peace is more profitable
in traditional agricultural economies through history, long distance trade and foreign investment were side shows that had little economic benefit, which meant that peace with neighboring countries had little economic benefit other than avoiding the cost of war, but otherwise, international peace did not have any profits of its own
in contrast, in our modern capitalist economy, foreign trade and investments have become very important to the economy
it's profitable to remain at peace because you can conduct international trade and enjoy foreign investments
today, peace makes your country more prosperous
4. cultural benefit of peace
throughout history most elites who governed countries saw war either as something good in itself, or as a necessary evil which we are obliged to turn to our advantage
today is the first time in history where the world is dominated by a peaceful elite: politicians, business people, investors, intellectuals and artists who generally see war and both evil and avoidable
they believe that if we conduct our affairs wisely, we can indeed avoid international wars
5. states have lost too much of their independence and hence cannot wage war if they wanted to
while citizens of non-superpower countries in the world such as Israel, Italy, France, Japan feel as though they are living in an independent country which can act independently as their country has acted throughout history, the fact is that their governments are for the most part restricted and incapable of conducting full-scale war on their own without the approval from the international community, and in the case of attempting this, being met with a harsh response from the international community
how can we characterize the modern era?
an era of war, slaughter, and oppression as we saw in the first part of the 20th century?
or a era of peace which has become common in the last few decades
our view of the past is distorted by the events of the last few years and decades
in order to satisfy both the optimists and the pessimists about what is awaiting us in the 21st century, we can say that the late modern era is characterized above all by extreme dynamism, history has not yet made up its mind about our destination