Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Hariri is a must read for those thinking about the future. I have become a fan of Yuval Noah Harari. How can you not become a fan of the author who articulates the future as clearly as someone who articulated the past in Sapiens. I am not sure I agree with everything he says in Homo Deus, but it is thought provocative. I agree with a number of things he talks about and the narrative on why he believe some of those things are extremely compelling. Some of the broader claims are now being validated, for example the Liberal thinking movement is dead, it is quite obvious how this is playing out in the political landscape in the world, from Brexit to Donald Trump and now Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
There are a number of things that the author talks about that is imminent, the social impacts of changes that are going to happen due to technology is also imminent. If we believe that being a luddite can solve the challenge we are so wrong. It is just a matter of when and not if we get to a point in the future where technology dramatically changes and defines who we are and how we live our lives, not that it has not done so already. What I mean by technology is everything related to Microprocessors, Sensors, Software, Hardware Devices that are silicone based that permeates into everything that we do daily. We have abstracted these things into Machines and A.I., I believe the more troubling one is when semiconductors permeate the realm of biology we are going to go down a slope for which I and to a large extent the author thinks is non-reversible. If we are worried about the income inequality in the world now, we are going to have physical inequality as well. The dawn of superhuman is not far away. What does the author mean by Superhuman? A Homosapien upgrade through silicone and microprocessors to enable better cognitive and physical abilities. Did you see the movie Batman v Superman? No? here is the trailer…
The other troubling fact that the author talks about is the disappearance of jobs. I think a number of people have spoken and written about this. I think this has far deeper implications than any social structure can handle today. Jobs provide a sense of purpose, once that is gone what should we do? Yes, we can do whatever we want but will be there be anything to do? how do we change the economic system to support this massive shift? I believe we will figure out a way to keep everyone engaged maybe we will go on a space mission like in Star Trek, or hook ourselves to a VR machine and live in a virtual world or go deep into meditation and connect with the infinite states of mind or get hooked on psychedelics… I don’t know what we will do but if we let technology decide then we will have a serious problem.
The author talks about Google, Facebook and Apple as the companies that will define how our experience of the future, I don’t believe that. I think there are alternatives. A.I. algorithms of the future are not going to be built only by these technology giants, sure they have all the resource in the world, so does any startup or country or anyone looking into the future with a skeptical but optimistic eye. Startup thinking and access to technology has bee democratised, the biggest asset in the future is going to be Personal data. The author talks about this as well, I Tweeted this while I was listening to the book
1-“In the 21st century our #PersonalData is probably the most important resource most humans still have to offer” – Homo Deus /cc @digime
2-“we are giving it to tech giants for funny cat videos and email services” – Homo Deus
— Bala Kamallakharan (@BalaInIceland) April 14, 2017
Homo Deus also goes into various other discussions like politics, how we treat animals, economics, religion, our food production and the psychology and history of those behaviours and systems. I was more interested in the Behavioural economics and our biological reactions as just algorithms thinking, the challenge that we have as humans and our experiential self vs the remembering self is quite intriguing as well. I have written about the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Daniel goes into details about the challenges in our perception and behaviour. For more on the experiential self and remembering self here is a good post by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. To say that we have some serious challenges in the future is putting it mildly. More interestingly how equipped are we based on our human fabric and cognitive ability? After reading the book I am almost certain that us homosapiens have met our match in homo deus.
I highly recommend the book if you are interested in the future and how we got here. The book also goes into the consequences and thought experiments around those. I like how Yuval has the subheading as “History of Tomorrow”… how apt. Get the book. Read it. Think about it. This is important.