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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2017)

by Yuval Noah Harari

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,2611351,995 (3.95)98
History. Science. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity's future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style??thorough, yet riveting??famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century??from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our fut… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
The ubiquitous public discourse about the moral, technical, and ethical implications of artificial intelligence serves as a pivot point in, and may actually wake people up to, the baffling future that we are in fact facing today. Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian and social philosopher, has done an excellent job recapping a broad range of the outré possibilities humankind faces today. The fact that he calls his book "Homo Deus" gives a broad hint about some of the things we may see in that future.

Harari briefly treats the prevalent fictions in earlier historical epochs, from our hunter-gatherer roots through to today to trace how these fictions grew and how completely they dominated human thought. First Nature, next God, and finally human beings themselves came to rule the world and to give meaning to the universe. But this historical era won’t last forever, he says. It will give way to a future which features much more extensive human-computer interchange, where machines will know us better than we know ourselves.

Consider: humans already have a broad range of artificial implants in their bodies. They regulate our heart rate, they help motor-compromised people use their limbs, blind people see shades of light, and formerly deaf people hear. Nanobots are currently being used in cancer detection and treatment. We can measure our pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and glucose level with something we simply wear—no implant required. Harari is not alone in thinking that medicine is trending even today toward upgrading the health of healthy people, in addition to its traditional role in treating disease.

Harari spends a significant portion of his book describing the relationship between brain activity and emotion. It’s an acknowledged fact neuroscientists have detected the relationship between areas of the brain and such functions as emotion, perception, language, and so on. Harari hangs his hat on the link between brain processes which we can observe and their corresponding emotions and states of consciousness, and the claim that these process are not free at all, but probabilistic. Here, however, is a quote from one third of the way through the book:

“However, nobody has any idea how a congeries of biochemical reactions and electrical currents in the brain creates the subjective experience of pain, anger or love. Perhaps we will have a solid explanation in ten or fifty years. But as of 2016, we have no such explanation, and we had better be clear about that.”

Nevertheless, the author arrives very quickly at the conclusion that not only are deterministic neurochemical reactions responsible for your choices and outlook, but soon, a network of computers, or super computers, will compile all your Likes, hates, opinions, reviews, and arguments in cyberspace, and build an algorithm of you. You’ll be able to compare two job opportunities, alternative places to live, even choose between potential mates…you won’t have to do your own soul searching, the algorithm will do it for you.

And compilation of everything that I am encompasses and presupposes the most objectionable assertion in the book: that our experiences will mean nothing if we don’t upload them for the world to see. Keeping secrets from the network of information, or otherwise limiting the free exchange of it, becomes the worst crime you can commit. I’m sure I’m just being damned old fashioned when I find this concept a ghastly affront. I cannot see a future in which I agree that I don’t feel anything unless somebody else tells me I do.

Where are the medical advancements headed? Harari sees a possible future where humans who can afford it are given the ability to see in much broader range of the EM spectrum, or can comprehend what it’s like to be a bat, or a dolphin, or an ant. These are the superhumans of the title. One grand thematic contribution of his book: the belief that human life and emotion and freedom will eventually become obsolete (along with free elections and freely consumed goods and capital) in favor of the recognition that organisms are algorithms (already scientific dogma today), and that Earthly existence (or existence anywhere in the universe) will simply be the rapid, efficient, and free processing of information.

This is not a difficult book to read, although long sections of it require you to accept statements that cannot be verified. Harari even says this. This is a visionary piece which deals with human trends and possibilities. As such, it is a highly useful and thought-provoking document. Harari remains one of the more clear-sighted and accessible cultural seers currently available to us. Take this volume up, definitely, if current trends and their possible futures interest you.

https://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2024/02/homo-deus-by-yuval-noah-harari.html ( )
  LukeS | Feb 5, 2024 |
Every bit as fascinating as Sapiens. Loved the very last part of the book with the three questions! Professor Harari must be the most interesting man in the world. ( )
  dhenn31 | Jan 24, 2024 |
I knew I was in dangerous territory when Dr. Harari suggested we give up climbing mountains and visiting museums to re-discover ourselves, just as my wife and I were whisking ourselves home from a long vacation in the Mediterranean climbing mountains, visiting archaeological sites, and, er, visiting museums.

No point in doing that, claimed Dr. Harari. You’d learn a lot more by strapping on an Apple Watch and sending a saliva sample to 23andme for a full DNA analysis.

And he did, after all, have a point.

My wife will dispute this but I agree that today corporations know much more about us than we do ourselves. They remember all our purchases, where we’ve gone, what we like and most likely how long we’ll live.

We have reached a point in our history when intelligence is decoupling from consciousness and there is some doubt about the value of consciousness to the prosperity and even future of mankind.

Would I go as far as to agree with Dr. Harari that individuals have zero economic and military value to society? That humanism has reached the limits of its utility and liberty is a farce?

This era of big data has a few good things going for it. Data can help us predict the next influenza epidemic and save many lives. It can also help us anticipate where disease is likely to strike us or our family members.

Driverless cars will some day eliminate the gross over-capacity of cars on the road, reduce traffic fatalities, and significantly reduce pollutants.

I thought his stinging remarks on contemporary democracy entirely correct. Voters the world over are feeling power draining away from them and don’t know why. Our participatory democracy cannot keep pace with change. Our parliaments cannot process the data its getting and translate that into meaningful laws. We cannot generate the kind of cooperation across jurisdictions to cope with climate change, or the automation of the workplace, or the concentration of wealth. Our parliaments are obsolete.

It’s not that our politicians are corrupt so much as our voters ignorant of cybernetics and biology and incapable of forming any informed opinions.

There are two solutions on the horizon and neither of them feel at all comfortable. One is a kind of techno-humanism which relies on technology to evolve Homo sapiens into a homo deus, a superior human.

The other is a religion of data where our function as humans is to feed data flows, connect all our data engines, and accept that humans are no longer the apex of creation. Data religion contends that your every word and action are part of an enormous data-flow and when you are disconnected from it your life seems empty and meaningless.

Connect to the data-flow and let algorithms discover meaning and tell you what to do.

“Once we humans lost our functional importance to the network we may discover that we are not the apex of creation after all,” Harari posits. At that point when we have comprehensive Internet-of-Things we can spread our wings and let the data-flows take us across the galaxy perhaps even the universe.

Neither of the two futures Harari envisions for humanity are a foregone conclusion. There may be different futures ahead.

He says that science has coalesced over the opinion that all organisms are algorithms and life is really data processing. Do we believe it?

Well, Harari may have successfully trashed religion and the dogma of individualism, but for my money he has not eliminated the presence of evil in creation, nor has he decided the war between complexity and entropy in the universe.

Evil is perceptible but does not seem to follow the rules or predictability of an algorithm.

As for entropy, Harari’s analysis suggests that data-flows are ultimately more powerful than entropy. The only evidence for this in universe, for my money, is creation on Earth itself. Entropy has the upper hand in the rest of the universe. Complexity and data-flows are equally likely fairy tales about the progress of our universe.

Harari’s book was a very good read. Very provocative and entertaining. It should change the discussion on many issues including public policy on job creation, welfare, governance, and education. ( )
1 vote MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
Some interesting premises to get the book rolling. Not sure if I’m in full agreement with all the conclusions, but some appear to be well into development already. ( )
  BBrookes | Nov 25, 2023 |
While I have fallen out of love with sweeping histories, sweeping predictions, and other grand-picture types of books, Home Deus is well worth 4 stars... maybe even 5, modul0 my feeling just mentioned. Harari sets out much more and much less than a map of the future here; he's laying out a framework or paradigm for analyzing the present and future. What he is talking about is not necessarily new; much of it was not new for me. He does synthesize all of it compellingly. And it is compelling.

I think even if you have read other books re: the future of employment, privacy and (or vs.) information freedom, post/trans-humanism, etc. you'll still find this read worthwhile. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Aug 12, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (74 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harari, Yuval Noahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giménez, Esther RoigTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heijne, BasForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holdorf, JürgenErzählersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perkins, DerekNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pieters, IngeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Retzlaff, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ros i Aragonès, JoandomènecTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wirthensohn, AndreasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
林俊宏Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
יהב, איציקיועץsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To my teacher, S. N. Goenka (1924 - 2013), who lovingly taught me important things.
First words
The New Human Agenda

At dawn of the third millenium, humanity wakes up, stretching its limbs and rubbing its eyes.
Quotations
The study of the human mind has so far assumed that Homo sapiens is Homer Simpson.
(p 76) ... To understand all this we need to go back and investigate who Homo Sapiens really is, how humanism became the dominant world religion and why attempting to fulfil the humanist dream is likely to cause its disintegration. This is the basic plan of the book.
(p 153) Humans nowadays completely dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble-fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo Sapiens is the only species on earth capable of cooperating flexibly in large numbers. Intelligence and toolmaking were obviously very important as well. But if humans had not learned to cooperate flexibly in large numbers, our crafty brains and deft hands would still be splitting flint stones rather than uranium atoms.
(p 253) In a capitalist world the lives of the poor improve only when the economy grows. Hence they are unlikely to support any steps to reduce future ecological threats that are based on slowing down present-day economic growth. Protecting the environment is a very nice idea, but those who cannot pay their rent are worried about their overdraft far more than about melting ice caps.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
"First published as A History of Tomorrow in Hebrew in Israel in 2015 by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir."
"Previously published in Great Britain in 2016 by Harville Secker, a division of Penguin Random House Group Ltd."--Title-page verso.
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History. Science. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity's future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style??thorough, yet riveting??famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century??from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our fut

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The new human agenda -- Homo sapiens conquers the world. The Anthropocene ; The human spark -- Homo sapiens gives meaning to the world. The storytellers ; The odd couple ; The modern covenant ; The humanist revolution -- Homo sapiens loses control. The time bomb in the laboratory ; The great decoupling ; The ocean of consciousness ; The data religion.
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