Speed summary: homo deus

The epic, widely celebrated Sapiens gets the sequel it demanded: a breathless, compulsive sầu inquiry into humanity’s apocalyptic, tech-driven future


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Yuval Noah Harari began his academic career as a researcher of medieval warfare. His early publications had titles lượt thích “Inter-frontal Cooperation in the Fourteenth Century & Edward III’s 1346 Campaign” or “The Military Role of the Frankish Turcopoles”. Then, the story goes, having won tenure at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he embarked on a crusade of his own. He was invited to lớn teach a course that no one else in the faculty fancied – a broad-brush introduction to lớn the whole of human activity on the planet. That course became a widely celebrated book, Sapiens, championed by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates và Barack Obama, và translated into lớn 40 languages. It satisfied perfectly an urgent desire for grvà narrative in our fragmenting Buzz-fed world. The rest is macro-history.

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On almost every page of Sapiens, a bible of mankind’s cultural và economic & philosophical evolution, our millennial battles with plague & war and famine, Harari announced himself a Zen-lượt thích student of historical paradox: “We did not domesticate wheat,” he wrote, “wheat domesticated us”; or “How vị you cause people to lớn believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.” The most intriguing section of a wildly intriguing book was the last. Harari’s history of our 75,000 years wound up, as all bibles are apt to lớn vì chưng, with apocalyptic prophesy, a sense of an ending.

Humanity, Harari predicted, would engineer one more epochal sự kiện to lớn rival the agricultural và scientific revolutions. Having evolved khổng lồ exercise a measure of mastery over our environment, having begun to shape not only our planet, for better & worse, but also our biology, we st&, he argued, at the point of creating networked intelligences with a far greater capathành phố for reason than our own. The result was likely lớn be a lose-chiến bại scenario for the species. Sapiens would disappear in the foreseeable future either because they had appropriated such mind-making powers as lớn become unrecognisable or because they had destroyed themselves through environmental catastrophe. Either way, judgment day was approaching.

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Individuals will become a just a collection of "biochemical subsystems" monitored by global networksLike all great epics, Sapiens demanded a sequel. Homo Deus, in which that likely apocalyptic future is imagined in spooling detail, is that book. It is a highly seductive sầu scenario planner for the numerous ways in which we might overreach ourselves. “Modernity is a khuyễn mãi giảm giá,” Harari writes. “The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree khổng lồ give sầu up meaning in exchange for power.” That power, he suggests, may in the near term give sầu us godlượt thích attributes: the ability to lớn extkết thúc lifespans & even cheat death, the agency lớn create new life forms, to become intelligent designers of our own Galapagos, the means khổng lồ over war và famine and plague. There will be a price lớn pay for this power, however.

For a start, Harari suggests, it is destined, if current trends continue, to lớn be vastly unequally distributed. The new longevity and super-human qualities are likely lớn be the preserve of the techno super-rich, the masters of the data universe. Meanwhile, the redundancy of labour, supplanted by efficient machines, will create an enormous “useless class”, without economic or military purpose. In the absence of religion, overarching fictions will be required to lớn make sense of the world. Again, if nothing in our approach changes, Harari envisages that “Dataism”, a universal faith in the power of algorithms, will become sacrosanct. To utopians this will look a lot lượt thích the “singularity”: an all-knowing, omnipresent data-processing system, which is really indistinguishable from ideas of God, to lớn which humans will be constantly connected. To dystopians it will look like that too.


Harari is mostly, thrillingly or chillingly, sanguine about this prospect. He has an ethicist’s sense of rough justice: what Homo sapiens (in its wisdom) has visited on the natural world through industrialised food production will perhaps one day be visited on Homo sapiens. Individuals will become a just a collection of “biochemical subsystems” monitored by global networks, which will insize us second by second how we feel…

Or perhaps, as Harari is stringent about reminding the reader, they will not. Like all rune-reading, this one comes with plenty of small print. From where we stvà, he says, in the accelerating present, no long-term future is imaginable, still less predictable – và there is plenty of time for questions. Harari’s sometimes breathless, always compulsive sầu inquiry leaves us with this one: “What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?” Google will be no help in providing the answer.