Having read Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, I decided to read “Homo Deus” as well by Yuval Noah Harari. The more you read, the better your reading ability gets. This book had over 460 pages. Usually, it would have taken me a while to complete a book of this size. However, I completed reading Homo Deus in about 3 weeks.
Homo Deus is a book that explores the future of humans. It contemplates if humans can be upgraded with advances in medicine and technology. This book does have similarities with the other two books by Yuval and you are able to understand his thinking better if you’ve read them. Yuval says that famine, war, and epidemics are no longer the biggest threats. More people die of sugar than of famine today.
Yuval’s thoughts on the current pandemic (COVID19) can be found here and he stresses the need for global solidarity. It is hard to predict what the world would look like 100 years from now. Would being immortal be an option? Can superhumans be created? Can 70 years old be the new 40? Research is being carried out and Yuval asks very relevant questions.
Humans and Animals
Humans today are an evolution of animals. Humans were conversing with animals thousands of years ago (and even today we hear of similar stories). Humans were foragers and turned their focus to agriculture. Cooperation and working together is the key to the success of any organization (political parties).
Large numbers of people behave in a fundamentally different way than small numbers of people do (For example – people in a country follow a set of rules as opposed to a group of ten people). When the number of people is large, they follow orders and obey.
Sanjiv Talwar at the State University of New York is a leading robo rat researcher. In their research, they implant electrodes to the brain of the rat. Electrodes stimulate the reward centers in their brain and rats work for pleasure. Eventually the same could be applied to humans and alter the functioning of the brain (by making one feel better and smarter).
Stories, even if not true, can be carried forward for thousands of years. US Presidents take oath on the bible though it has a lot of fiction and myths. Fiction enables better cooperation. History is shaped by a small group of forward-looking innovators.
For millions of years, Humans did not have any economic growth (similar to that of vampires). They were not economically growing every year. The banking systems and lending made the difference. The invention of writing and money 5000 years ago helped create an economic ecosystem. Economic growth is an answer to a lot of problems.
A lot of leaders win elections based on an agenda of improving the economy. However, when it comes to the environment a lot more has to be done. They pass on the baton to the future generations to let them deal with the ecological turmoils (Climate change). This could be a huge problem and also threaten the existence of Sapiens.
If you are looking for scientific breakthroughs, you don’t have much choice. You need to spend time reading scientific journals and conduct experiments instead of doing the same good thing for long.
Communism Vs Capitalism
Towards the end of Homo Deus, Yuval explains the differences between Communism and Capitalism. Communism is similar to Centralized Data Processing where decisions are made in one place (Russia – where the Government controls everything) and this could pose serious problems. Capitalism is more distributed where people get to make their own decisions (United States of America) and it is more of a distributed decision-making process. Reading this, I think the federal tax cut in 2017 (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017) in the United States could also be attributed to a distributed capital spending process.
Future and Dataism
Homo Deus ends with a chapter on Data. If all the cars in the world are connected well, do we even need a car? We just program that we need to leave home at 8:04 am and the car picks us up. Autonomous cars can certainly do a better job than human drivers as they collect millions of data every second. In 50 years from now, do we even need soldiers? Everything is run by autonomous machines / cyber wars? The travel agents have been displaced with the likes of Expedia.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a bigger role in medicine (with all the data being made available). General Physicians can be replaced by AI. CT scans are able to detect tumors that human doctors missed. What will the future look like? Can all humans, devices, plants, and the environment in the world be interconnected? Can we create the Internet of All things with the data being available? Can we create Homo Deus (Human God) or a superior human model?
Thank you, Yuval. Now I have read all the three books you have authored.
If the “Homo Deus” review created a mind stir in you, you would want to try the other two books by the same author. Read their summaries here- Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.