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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow Book Review

Yuval Noah Harari gained a lot of attention for donating a million dollars for COVID-19 research. His donation was received by the World Health Organization. Professor Harari became the best-selling author for his two books titled Homo Deus and Sapiens, both books tackled the past and future of humankind. Now let's look back at his magnum opus, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. 

Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari
Image Credit: Gates
 His first great book titled Sapiens explored the past of humanity from its origins up to the breakthroughs in the last century. Sapiens was published in 2011 with a widespread critical acclaim. Readers often compare the book to the works of Jared Diamond, Peter Watson, and even Richard Dawkins. The book has an interesting premise and introduced the 4 cycles of human development; First, is the Cognitive Revolution, what follows is the Agricultural Revolution and ends with the unification of humankind and the Scientific Revolution. With 443 pages of essential information, the book is a must-have.

If Sapiens focused on the prehistory and history of mankind spanning 75,000 years of development, Homo Deus focused on the imminent and inescapable future of mankind brought by technological advancements. Transhumanism is one of the core concepts discussed in the book. The unprecedented advance in technology in the past decades can both make or break the future of mankind.

The book has a slow start when Dr.Yuval tried to convey how far mankind has gone through. How we as humans prevailed as the dominant species on this planet. So the first hundred pages or a quarter of the book is basically a recap of Sapiens, with additional information and a distinct tone.

Another core concept of the book is the power of information or data. The book was published in 2015 in Hebrew and later in English a year later. During this time, there is an upsurge of the propagation of alternative facts and fake news. Data or knowledge is power, corrupting it, and mixing it with falsehoods, and other information will always lead to chaos or confusion. Some people in Silicon Valley coin the term Dataism to describe the recent phenomenon of our obsession with data.

yuval noah harari
Image Credit: Bradshaw Foundation
Dr. Yuval Harari also warned readers about the hidden threat of artificial intelligence. As computing power and Moore's law determine the progress of how powerful our hardware and software can be so is the rate of how artificial intelligence develops. The use of drones in warfare is also a terrifying thought if integrated with artificial intelligence on the loose from its algorithms. The propagation and suppression of data is also an issue discussed here in Homo Deus. Repressive nation-states can use the aforementioned control of data to maintain a leash on its citizens. The same control and propagation of data also endangered the privacy and rights of individuals in a society.

The latter parts of the book might have a bleaker tone compared to its first opening chapters but overall the persuasive nature of Yuval's writing made the book highly readable even in reading several chapters in a row. The book is highly recommended with a rating of 9/10. You can watch the author himself discussing his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow in a public forum.


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