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Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lesson: what we should be grateful for

24/04/2019 | | cambio, nuevas tecnologías | No hay comentarios

It was by full randomness that Homo Deus, the second book of Yuval Noah Harari, reached me. It was October 2017 and I was flying San Francisco to start with my teacher certification process at SIYLI. You already know how it is: an easy walk through the corridors of the airport’s library, looking left and right until the book-to-read is chosen.  During the flight, I read around 100 pages and decided to put it down. I received it as a fastastic vision of the future with no special, practical insight.

However, it got back to me a couple of months ago (some magical situation behind which does not add to this post). But now, as soon as I reached further what I have already read, it simply skyrocketed me. So I have dedicated all my spare time during the last two months to read, watch, and study Harari’s views and work.

At this moment, I feel fortunate that he has written what he has written, so let me offer my gratitude in plain words. Thank you very much, Mr. Harari, for such a systemic thesis of what we humans are, where we humans do come from, and where we humans maybe will end up!

Let me share what I like the most about his work by offering a quick reflection, bullet-point type.

I like very much his “satellite view” of history and especially the framework for understanding our past and for reflecting about the present and the future. Let me try my best to describe those 10 points that are coming spontaneously to my mind:

  1. His permanent talking about the Homo Sapiens help us remind that, above all, we are animals. As so, we are ruled by the same laws of nature that any other living being (mainly, the Law of Evolution) and that we belong to the same ecosystem (just in case there is any doubt, I mean the planet Earth).
  2. His easy split of history in three revolutions: (i) the Cognitive Revolution, when Homo Sapiens mastered the (inner) realm of language; (ii) the Agriculture Revolution, when Homo Sapiens mastered the (outer) realm of (other) animals and plants; and (iii) the Industrial Revolution, when Homo Sapiens mastered the (outer) realm of things by using the tool of science. Also, his announcement that we just entered in a forth revolution: the Info-Bio Tech Revolution, when Homo Sapiens will master the (inner) realm of life (including mind-and-emotions, brain-and-heart).
  3. His very interesting thesis that Homo Sapiens has this unique characteristic: our ability to coordinate flexibly in large quantities by building “fictions” (what he already calls as “inter-subjectivity reality”), stories that do not contain any reality at all by themselves but which look like reality because we all believe in them. This simple thing is the cause of extreme global suffering when we stick to those “fictions” on top of reality itself, specially when we forget that “fictions” are here to serve us, and we are not here to serve them.
  4. His courageous statement that “religion”, “nationalism”, and “ideologies” are simply fictions in the same way that “gender”, “money”, «corporations», “capitalism”, “liberalism” and lots of others are simply fictions, and the imperative need that we Homo Sapiens have so as to upgrade fictions when our collective status change (and it is permanently changing, especially in this time of very rapid technology disruption) or we will enter into an era of big conflicts and tensions.
  5. His explanation of the mechanics used by tiny elites to build “fictions” over which they can establish their preferred social order and hierarchy: (i) never admit that the “fiction” is a “fiction” fully made out of nothing (and if needed, use force to impose it by blood); (ii) educate people thoughtfully as if the “fiction” was reality so as facilitating the permanent sharing of that “fiction”; (iii) mix the “fiction” with reality in as many ways as possible (let it be myths, rituals, temples, books and the like); and (iv) make the “fiction” big enough so as preventing unique individuals to understand it all).
  6. His clear and direct statement that “money” is, by large, the most global and important “fiction” around us at this moment of history.
  7. His easy insight that nowadays there is a unique civilization around the globe, and that this global civilization is characterized by the mix of “science” and “money” (with some different flavors here and there remaining from an old past).
  8. His clear and direct statement that we are facing a big collective global crisis (which includes the will to “return to the past” proclaimed by ultra-right politics and nationalisms-religions) as we are in a vacuum of “fictions” given that we lost our most updated and unique political “fiction” (so called “liberalism”) with the 2008 financial crisis (let me remind that “liberalism” promised a never ending, better world by spreading democracy and unrolling globalization to any corner of the planet, which some people recently discovered as a false promise).
  9. His pinpointing that we Homo Sapiens have three big global challenges ahead of us and that there is no way that we can escape from them: (i) nuclear weapons, (ii) ecological collapse, and (iii) disruptive innovation.
  10. His deep, wide and repeated will to make a call regarding the “neutral” nature of technology (may it digital, may it biotech, may it both fully mixed) when it exits the research lab, and the imperative need to create a global “ethical framework” (you can call it “political framework” also) to avoid the worst case scenarios: AI weaponry, full-scale surveillance and manipulation (economic and political) systems, full labor-market breakdown and extreme inequalities as never seen before, digital dictatorships, and the split of Homo Sapiens into different, master-and-servant species (including the superhuman and the infrahuman – what he calls either “useless class” or «data-cows»).

I like very much his choice of making his work a «guilty-free» game. It could have been so easy to enter into the blame game that i feel it is outstanding how it actually resulted and how much if makes a different (even recognizing that it was difficult for me not to step into blaming myself). It is an important lesson to be remembered: we ALL contribute to history by the doings / undoings / no-doings and we ALL decide who wins and who losses. It is a «contribution» game, so we better decide how we want to contribute.

I like very much his recognition that current politics (and politicians) are out of the game, fully unaware of the forces that are shaping the present (and the next present) but fully charged with the capabilities to destroy everything, mainly by their unlimited stupidity.

I like very much that he offers a fresh, direct voice to the views of younger, mainly current researchers and technologists, and opening them to the rest of us anonymously (even if from time to time it looks like that he himself is the «prophet» of a new religion/fiction by the name of «dataism«).

I like very much his «I don’t know» answer to an unlimited number of open questions, especially when he adds some potential outcomes or offers a broad framework to search within.

I like very much his «evangelization» job (also his marketing job), offering his views at TED Dialogues, at New York Time Talks, at RUSI, at FMI or even at the World Economic Forum. As an author myself, his commitment makes me questions mine. By the way, if you want to watch any, i recommend you to choose the 30-minutes talk at the World Economic Forum (Davos, 2018).

I like very much his advise about what’s next, his «meditate» and «know yourself better», before you enter into a «conversation» and/or «decision-making process» regarding how to solve the problems ahead, so as being able to differentiate «reality» from «fiction» and understand «suffering» (which is what we finally should aim to: to relieve suffering). [By the way, you can understand this better if you read this other post].

Once reached this point, I can state that Harari’s thesis does match almost perfectly with those of my own, although I humbly recognize how brilliantly he has managed to make them easy and crystal clear for most of us by building on a myriad of historical stories and anecdotes. Of course, I could share (or even disagree with) by offering different and alternative points of view, but this will maybe come in another post, as my reading of his work has risen a big admiration and I want to avoid any confussion here.

And yes, I strongly recommend reading (even studying) his three books (Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century) although it could feel like a deep, inner crack. So, let me reframe this advice to read his work. Please, read him if and only if:

  • you are in the will to unlearn and reflect about the world and the society that we are living in.
  • you are in the will to participate in the building of the society that we are stepping into (I wrote “the future”, but as he clearly states, dramatic changes will happen in the next years to come, so instead of future, we better think about the “next present” as we – and our children – will be around)
  • you are in the will to make your best from now forward (given that we are in a wild era) so as having a nice, happy living with as much calm and resilience as possible.

By reading Harari’s, you may end up with a dystopian, negative view of the future. If you prefer a more positive one, a view of what we may become, I do recommend you read #lovetopía: The world that we already harbor in our heart. They both will surely wrong, but mine will let you with a far better and beautiful taste of mouth. As Harari says, we need a new “fiction” to move forward. I offered you mine, a lovely one.

Etiquetas: harari, innovación, lovetopía, oportunidad, tecnología, visión

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