Title: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Year: Published: 23/03/2017
Length: 513 pages
Genre: Science, History, Nonfiction
Get a copy: 1) Search in local bookstores to support small business; 2) Amazon.
Short Description: What will happen in the future? Are we going to cure all diseases? Will famine disappear completely? Will machines conquer us and enslave us? The last is unlikely to happen in the passing few years but you never know. Homo Deus is a brief proposition of what might our possible future look like. This book will ask you difficult questions, shock you, entertain you, educate you, but above all, it will give you another perspective about our tomorrow.
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari is kind of the sequel of his bestseller piece, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This time he turns his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.
Over the past century, humankind has managed to get rid of the diseases and conditions that have persecuted us thousands of years: famine, plague, and war. Despite this unprecedented victory of humanity over war and terror, things are close to perfect. 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.
Nature is in a constant circle, which means things will never be perfect, which leads to the next logical question: What’s Next?
With his unique writing style, Yuval Noah Harari maps our future and gives us a lot of things to think about.
The author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, strikes again. This time, Yuval explores and speculates about our upcoming future as a species: Are we humans, going to become military and economically obsolete? Will we create more powerful fictions and more religions? Is there room for humans in the future? These are some of the questions the author is trying to answer in this brief book as he calls is. It’s 500 pages and I can’t say that it’s short. I needed a couple of weeks to read it. However, I don’t regret a minute spent reading this book. If you really want to understand the book and the point the author is trying to make, you should really take your time, sit comfortably and think about certain sections of the book.
Yuval very skillfully describes the future by referring to facts from the past. And we already know from where his knowledge of the past come from – from his previous book, Sapiens. The book reminds me of the movie The Matrix, where the machines have conquered our minds and are trying to win the war with humanity. According to Harari, this kind of coup won’t happen in the next 10-20 years, but know knows what AI will be capable of in 50 or 100 years from now.
I can’t recommend the book enough. Even if nothing described in the book ever happens, you are still left with a lot to think about and consider. I think that every human being living on this planet can extract useful information from this piece of content. It’s especially important for people who are still looking in which industry to focus their time and money.
Let me know what you liked most about the book in the comments below, here are my key takeaways:
Notes, thoughts, and essential takeaways that I want to remember from the book. My main goal is to leave you with curated content, to which you can easily return to in the future for reference, that’s also holding the main insights of the book without spoiling what the book is all about:
Resolving technical glitches in the human body
When a car brakes, or a website is down, there is obviously a technical problem that needs resolution. The same applies when we’re sick from some sort of a disease. We’re organic creatures, we have flesh and blood, but our weaknesses are still technical issues within our system that needs observation and resolution.
After successfully defeating famine, we should be now focused towards resolving technical glitches in the human body. And we’re actually slowly doing this. Мedicine has been putting devices on people’s hearts for years, making new types of prosthesis that allow people who have lost limbs to regain their self-confidence and working capacity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that every human has a right to life. There isn’t an expiry date of this right and scientist all around the world are doing their best to increase our lives with a bit more every year.
Our future looks bright in terms of human durability and old age. Who knows what type of enhancement scientist will invent for us. We may probably live till 150 years and wear some kind of body armor that will allow us to move faster and probably fly in short distances. Surely this should be our direction, curing all known diseases and improving our overall health in general.
Instead of fearing asteroids we should fear ourselves
Hollywood producers make billions of dollars by telling us the same story with a different cast every year about how an asteroid or a volcano can demolish our entire race in a manner of seconds. The possibility of a large asteroid hitting earth and destroying everything it’s surely an option, but in reality, the actual danger is slim. Technology is quite advance to warn us about a possible hit in advance. There is something else we should be more afraid than geo storm destroying our cities.
We humans, Homo Sapiens, are the reason on why so many animal species have already instinct and also the reason another large number of species is close to obliteration. Within 70,000 years, we’ve managed to change the entire ecosystem of our planet in a radical way. Our impact is already present and noticeable. Weather is changing, ice caps are melting, global warming is no longer a news sensation because it’s already warm.
According to the research made by the author, currently, the earth is inhabited by the following biomass of large animals:
- Wild large animals: 100 million tons.
- Humans: 300 million tons.
- Domesticated animals: 700 million tons.
Nature is no longer responsible for a lot of things. In this case, providing enough food for everyone on this planet. We’re breeding animals for food. As you can see from the stats, domesticated animals are twice as much as humans are. All wild animals are already a rare breed that we’re trying to protect but unfortunately failing.
Factories and cars are all around us. Pollution is already present in a lot of countries and soon we’re going to see tigers only in video games. So, don’t fear asteroids, were already doing enough to destroy what we have.
Understand algorithms to succeed
Different algorithms are all around us in the world and the term algorithm can be considered as the single most important concept in our world. It’s a methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems, build houses, create applications, reach destinations. Virtually, everything you do is in a way an algorithm.
If you want to create a website, the algorithm will be something like this:
- Choose a topic for your site.
- Register a domain name.
- Get a hosting account.
- Install a website building application.
- Create the main pages.
- Start adding content.
Also, each of the points above is an algorithm on its own and it can be composed from different amount of steps. The last step, start adding content for instance: You need to sit down first, choose the topic of your post, find sources, find proper images, edit the post once it’s ready, publish.
A website building application cannot make a website by itself. As a pen cannot write on paper without a human controlling that pen. You need a person to first make a couple of decisions, think about the design, the content and then to start executing. Still, in the future, we can probably build machines, applications that will execute a set of predefined algorithms that can potentilly build a website. Or, an complex AI writing on a piece of paper. The above examples will probably take a while to be performed, but such things are surely not out of the box.
The important takeaway here is to understand the algorithms surrounding you and master them. Getting out of bed is a methodical action that it’s composed from several steps. Going to work. Cooking. Creating a business plan. If you understand in details the algorithms around you and master the steps, you will become much more efficient.
What will happen to us when AI outperforms most of the things we do?
The most important question is already circling the internet for quite some time now: What will happen when AI becomes uber smart and starts executing our daily tasks better than humans can?
Actually, this is not an entirely new question. Ever since the Industrial Revolution erupted, people feared that mechanisation might cause mass unemployment. As you can see, this never happened. Some professions were buried where new one raised and the overall employment actually grew. Only a couple of years ago there wasn’t a job called: Social media experts. Now, you can get a decent paycheck if you answer tweets and manage Facebook pages.
Our job market has been always divided into these three main sectors throughout the years: agriculture, industry, and services. The majority of people before 1800 worked in the agriculture. After the year of 1800, the industry sector was thriving. Nowadays, the service section is the most common job application you will see.
Even though we no longer outperform machines in the physical tasks, we are light years ahead in terms of executing cognitive tasks. And at that point humans invented AI. An interesting fact mentioned in the book: On 10 February 1996, IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. Meaning, machines can beat the hell out of us when their strength is directed and channeled effectively.
We are at the edge of letting cars without drivers take us to the airport and automated chat bots answer our inquiries online. Will this affect us? For sure. Taxi and Uber drivers will probably become obsolete if they don’t upgrade their skills.
Actively upgrade your skills
My final and most important takeaway from the book Homo Deusis is this: “You must actively upgrade your brain if you want to stay in the game.”
As technology vastly advances your current skills will be obsolete in probably a couple of years. Even less. We can already see flaws in a lot of our current systems and ways we handle different problems. Our education system is one of the things that is quite old comparing to the outside world. We teach our kids things that they will never going to use in the real world. Basically, we’re wasting their time and we’re setting the wrong expectations in the brains of our generation. Kids graduate thinking they can now easily find a job with what they’ve learned but it doesn’t take them long to realize that everything they’ve studied is impractical in more than 90% of the companies. If they young padawans fail to realize that they should focus their efforts towards a particular niche and learn proactively, this will cost them their financial freedom.
Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts before: a period of learning followed by a period of working. Very soon the learning part will be our main part in order to stay competitive. We will no longer be relevant if we don’t constantly update ourselves with the newest updates around the world.
Many of us will most likely have to reinvent ourselves the upcoming years, if not even now. A lot of our current jobs are slowly being replaced by automated processes that are faster and cheaper. Think about it for a moment. There are already professions like Youtubers, bloggers, vloggers. Most of these guys don’t create products, they educate, entertain. They don’t work in shiny offices but nevertheless, they manage to earn higher than the average income and they have more free time than the regular Joe.
No one can tell you what’s going to happen in the future, Yuval Noah Harari gives us a really good idea about our possible future but in reality, there is nothing certain. These are only speculations. Still, no matter what happens we are forging our own destiny. So, if you want to be happier and healthier in the upcoming years, start working today.
We do not become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon.” Yuval Noah Harari
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