Prof. Yuval Noah Harari is the author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
Below are quotations from his site.
He was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?
Sapiens explained how humankind came to rule the planet.
We humans control the world because we live in a dual reality. All other animals live in an objective reality. Their reality consists of objective entities, like rivers and trees and lions and elephants. We humans, we also live in an objective reality. In our world, too, there are rivers and trees and lions and elephants. But over the centuries, we have constructed on top of this objective reality a second layer of fictional reality, a reality made of fictional entities, like nations, like gods, like money, like corporations. And what is amazing is that as history unfolded, this fictional reality became more and more powerful so that today, the most powerful forces in the world are these fictional entities. Today, the very survival of rivers and trees and lions and elephants depends on the decisions and wishes of fictional entities, like the United States, like Google, like the World Bank -- entities that exist only in our own imagination.
Homo Deus examines our future. It blends science, history, philosophy, and every discipline in between, offering a vision of tomorrow that at first seems incomprehensible but soon looks undeniable: humanity will soon lose not only its dominance, but its very meaning. And we shouldn’t wait around for the resistance, either – while our favourite science fiction trope sees humans battling machines in the name of freedom and individualism, in reality these humanist myths will have long been discarded, as obsolete as cassette tapes or rain dances. This may sound alarming, but change is always frightening.
Over the past century, humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague and war. Today, more people die from obesity than from starvation; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed in war. We are the only species in earth’s long history that has single-handedly changed the entire planet, and we no longer expect any higher being to shape our destinies for us.
Success breeds ambition, and humankind will next seek immortality, boundless happiness and divine powers of creation. But the pursuit of these very goals will ultimately render most human beings superfluous. So where do we go from here? For starters, we can make today’s choices with our eyes wide open to where they are leading us. We cannot stop the march of history, but we can influence its direction.
Future-casting typically assumes that tomorrow, at its heart, will look much like today – we will possess amazing new technologies, but old humanist values like liberty and equality will still guide us. Homo Deus dismantles these assumptions and opens our eyes to a vast range of alternative possibilities, with provocative arguments on every page:
- After four billion years of organic life, the era of inorganic life is now beginning.
- The main products of the twenty-first century economy will not be textiles, vehicles and weapons, but bodies, brains and minds.
- While the industrial revolution created the working class, the next big revolution will create the useless class.
- The way humans have treated animals is a good indicator for how upgraded humans will treat the rest of us.
- Radical Islam may fight rearguard actions, but the truly impactful religions will now emerge from Silicon Valley rather than the Middle East.
- Democracy and the free market will both collapse once Google and Facebook know us better than we know ourselves, and authority shifts from individual humans to networked algorithms
- We will knowingly renounce privacy in the pursuit of better health.
- Humans won’t fight machines; they will merge with them. We are heading towards marriage rather than war.
- Most of us will not get to decide how technology will affect our lives because most of us don’t understand it (how many of us voted on how the Internet would work?).
This is the shape of the new world, and the gap between those who get onboard and those left behind will be bigger than the gap between industrial empires and agrarian tribes, bigger even than the gap between Sapiens and Neanderthals. This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.
Intelligence is not consciousness. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems. Consciousness is the ability to feel things. In humans and other animals, the two indeed go together. The way mammals solve problems is by feeling things. Our emotions and sensations are really an integral part of the way we solve problems in our lives. However, in the case of computers, we don't see the two going together.