Summary of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Dr Yuval Noah Harari
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Dr Yuval Noah Harari is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the future. To sum up, the key message of the book is that AI (Artifical Intelligence) can take over most of the work done by humans. AI probably will replace people and they will become ‘a massive new class of economically useless people.’ Algorithms will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years. People to come will need to learn skills how to re-invent themselves very quickly. In education, at the moment, there is too much emphasis on optimisation and performance (which is all good for now) but not enough on exploration and future positioning and that’s where the future jobs/careers/vocations will be.
Watch a summary
Watch Yuval Noah Harari, who is a historian, talk about his new book (and you may not need to speed read it). The book has 460 pages and according to Amazon, it will take you 8 hours and 50 minutes to read it. The video is only 1 hour and 30 minutes. His previous book Sapiens was a huge bestseller which propelled Harari to a massive fame as a historian and thinker.
The future is AI
As the book’s title suggests humans will try to upgrade themselves to gods through basic three paths: biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of non-organic beings. The future business would be to make and sell bodies, brains and minds so humans can live forever. For the last 70 000 years, our bodies, brains and minds stay more or less the same. AI will allow for the upgrade, which makes sense. We’ve been extending and expanding our human capacities with technology for some time now.
Why learn history?
“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.” says Harari, and when such wisdom comes from a historian we should take notice.
Learn how to learn fast
Harari is not the first and the last thinker to suggest that the most important skill in life (especially in the future) is learning to learn. Being able to reinvent yourself, again and again until you die (when death is fast becoming an option – death is a technical problem which will be overcome in the future) will be critical to stay out of the useless class of people.
A new class of economically useless people
The useless class of people will have no power since they would be economically insignificant. Millions, if not billions of people won’t be able to reinvent themselves because there won’t be any new jobs. That would be a huge problem. One option would be to give them free drugs and computer games to keep them happy.
How to be happy
Harari, following Buddhist wisdom, suggests “To attain real happiness, humans need to slow down the pursuit of pleasant sensations, not accelerate it.”
On the rise of the machines
“In the past there were many things only humans could do. But now robots and computers are catching up, and may soon outperform humans in most tasks. True, computers function very differently from humans, and it seems unlikely that computers will become human-like any time soon…. However, we are on the brink of a momentous revolution. Humans are in danger of losing their economic value because intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.”
“Terrorists are like a fly that tries to destroy a china shop. The fly is so weak that it cannot budge even a single teacup. So it finds a bull, gets inside its ear and starts buzzing. The bull goes wild with fear and anger and destroys the china shop. This is what happened in the Middle East in the past decade. Islamic fundamentalists could never have toppled Saddam Hussein by themselves. Instead they enraged the US by the 9/11 attacks, and the US destroyed the Middle Eastern china shop for them.”
“In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence… In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is more dangerous than gunpowder.”
Dr Yuval Noah Harari is also the author of the acclaimed Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – read the summary of Sapiens