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Homo Deus (Book Review)

A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Are you on the market for a good philosophy book but tired of reading old books from hundreds of years ago? Yuval Noah Harari, a Israeli professor and historian, brings a fresh look to the philosophy and science scene with his new book Homo Deus. Harari’s writings in general center around the concepts of free will, consciousness and intelligence and Homo Deus promises exactly that but with the added allure of mind bending predictions about the future of humans.

Harari starts off on his quest to define tomorrow by positing that the wealth gap will continue to grow wider, and soon there will be humans who are able to upgrade their bodies to achieve immortality, eternal bliss and even a sort of divinity. What will happen to the humans who are not able to manufacture their bodies and minds? Harari writes:

“You want to know how super-intelligent cyborgs might treat ordinary flesh-and-blood humans? Better start by investigating how humans treat their less than intelligent animal cousins. It’s not a perfect analogy, of course, but it is the best archetype we can actually observe rather than just imagine.”

If you think this idea is too far fetched, Harari makes the point that there is not that much difference between a pig that feels pain and a human that feels pain, yet we do not think it immoral to hurt pigs. Thus the same concept will pass on to future humans if we continue in the same patterns.

“The algorithms controlling machines work through mechanical gears and electric circuits. The algorithms controlling humans work through sensations, emotions and thoughts. And exactly the same kind of algorithsm control pigs, baboons, otters and chickens… What we call sensations and emotions are in fact algorithms.”

I am not a scientist, but found it easy to follow along with Harari’s concept of the future, as he relied on the power of narratives to pull us into the new world. He also reflects on this narrative power, and says it is of great importance to understanding humans concepts of meaning in the world:

“As human fictions are translated into genetic and electronic codes, the intersubjective reality will swallow up the objective reality and biology will merge with history. In the twenty-first century fiction might thereby become the most potent force on earth, surpassing even wayward asteroids and natural selection. Hence if we want to understand our future, cracking genomes and crunching numbers is hardly enough. We must also decipher the fictions that give meaning to the world.”

If you’re wondering where all this is going, here’s a spoiler alert as I’m about to give you the Harari’s big picture of the future. Harari concludes that humans have moved along the line of history first according to strict adherence to religions, then to humanism, and now humans are moving into a new narrative- Dataism. Dataism encourages humans to upload all aspects of their life to the internet, to save what cannot be saved on Earth.

“Humans are merely tools for creating the Internet-of-All-Things, which may eventually spread out from planet Earth to pervade the whole galaxy and even the whole universe. This cosmic data-processing system would be like God. It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.”

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —

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