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What Does the Future Hold for Humans? The must-read summary of ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’, by Yuval Noah Harari. For most of history, humans were preoccupied with three problems: famine, plagues, and war. As we enter the 21st century, we realize these problems are no longer uncontrollable. They have become manageable challenges. We know what we must do to reduce mortality from starvation, disease, and violence. The human agenda for the next few decades are immortality, happiness, and divinity. We will upgrade humans into gods and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus. Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams, and nightmares that will shape the 21st century. It takes a deeper look at the relationship between Homo sapiens and other animals, trying to comprehend what makes our species so special. It explains how Homo sapiens comes to believe in the humanist creed. Based on the deeper understanding of humankind and of the humanist creed, it describes our current predicament and our futures. This guide includes: Book Summary—The summary helps you understand the key ideas and recommendations. Online Videos—On-demand replay of public lectures, and seminars on the topics covered in the chapter. Value-added of this guide: Save time Understand key concepts Expand your knowledge Homo Deus is the next stage of evolution.
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Summary &Study Guide
A Brief History of Tomorrow
Title: Summary & Study Guide - Homo Deus
Subtitle: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Author: Lee Tang
Publisher: LMT Press (lmtpress.wordpress.com)
Copyright © 2018 by Lee Tang
All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
First Edition: July 2018
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN: 9781988970127 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 9781720823568 (paperback)
SBN-10: 1720823561 (paperback)
Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and author make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of these contents and disclaim all warranties such as warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. The website addresses in the book were correct at the time going to print. However, the publisher and author are not responsible for the content of third-party websites, which are subject to change.
To my wife, Lillian, who is the source of energy and love for everything I do, and to Andrew and Amanda: watching you grow up has been a privilege.
For a complete list of books by Lee Tang and information about the author, visit Lee Tang’s site.
Books by Lee Tang
1. The New Human Agenda
Part I: Homo Sapiens Conquers the World
2. The Anthropocene
3. The Human Spark
Part II: Homo Sapiens Gives Meaning to the World
4. The Storytellers
5. The Odd Couple
6. The Modern Covenant
7. The Humanist Revolution
Part III: Homo Sapiens Loses Control
8. The Time Bomb in the Laboratory
9. The Great Decoupling
10. The Ocean of Consciousness
11. The Data Religion
About the Author
Plea from the Author
‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’,by Yuval Noah Harari
The book explores the projects, dreams, and nightmares that will shape the 21st century. It takes a deeper look at the relationship between Homo sapiens and other animals, trying to comprehend what makes our species so special. It explains how Homo sapiens comes to believe in the humanist creed. Based on the deeper understanding of humankind and of the humanist creed, it describes our current predicament and our futures.
Yuval Noah Harari is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has a Ph.D. degree in History from the University of Oxford and was awarded the annual Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in the Humanistic Disciplines in 2012.
This guide is a summary and not a critique/review of the book. The summary may not be organized chapter-wise but summarizes the book’s main ideas, viewpoints, and arguments. It is NOT meant to be a replacement, but a supplement to help you understand the book’s key ideas and recommendations.
THE NEW HUMAN AGENDA
For most of history, humans were preoccupied with three problems: famine, plagues, and war. For generations, humans have prayed to every god, and have invented countless tools, institutions, and social systems. But they continued to die in millions from starvation, epidemics, and violence. As we enter the 21st century, we realize that these problems are no longer uncontrollable.
In the last century, technological, economic, and political developments have created a robust safety net for humans. The global trade network overcomes food shortages caused by droughts and floods. International efforts can prevent famine resulting from wars, earthquakes or tsunamis. International wars are rare after 1945. Mass famines are caused by human politics rather than by natural catastrophes. The mass Chinese famine of 1958-61 was caused by the disastrous Great Leap Forward economic policy. Since 1974, many Chinese are out of poverty and China is free from famine.
Overeating has become a far worse problem than famines in most countries. In 2014, over 2.1 billion people were overweight, compared to 850 million who suffered from malnutrition. In 2010, famine and malnutrition combined killed 1 million people, while obesity killed 3 million.
The Black Death killed 25 percent of people when it spread across Europe in 1346–53. Ninety percent of the natives of America, Australis, and the Pacific islands died because the European settlers brought with them new infectious disease against which the natives had no immunity. Since the early 1980s, the AIDS pandemic has killed tens of millions of people. Thanks to new medications, AIDS-related deaths have declined since 1995.
In the last few decades, 20th-century medicine has provided us with vaccinations, antibiotics, improved hygiene, and a better medical infrastructure. As a result, the incidence and impact of epidemics have gone down. Potential new plagues occur every few years—SARS (2002–3); bird flu (2005); swine flu (2009–10); and Ebola (2014). Yet thanks to efficient counter-measures there were few deaths.
Biotechnology enables us to defeat bacteria and viruses, but it also enables terrorists to engineer terrible diseases and pathogens. Major epidemics will not endanger humankind only If we don’t create it ourselves.
Throughout history, humans thought of peace as the temporary absence of war. Today we think of peace as the implausibility of war. Wars are rare today because of three factors:
Nuclear weapons have increased the price of war.
War became less profitable. For most of history, countries could enrich themselves by looting or annexing enemy territories. Today, wealth comprises human capital, technical know-how, and complex socio-economic structures such as banks. It is difficult to carry it off or incorporate it into one’s territory.
Peace became more lucrative. In traditional agricultural economies, long-distance trade and foreign investment were seldom. So peace brought little profit. In modern economies, foreign trade and investments have become all-important. If nations are at peace, they can profit from trading with one another.
Future technological developments might set the stage for new kinds of war. Cyber warfare may enable small countries to fight superpowers. Even if powerful states have learned restraint, terrorists might have no such qualms about using new and destructive weapons. However, terrorism is a strategy of weakness adopted by those who lack access to real power. Overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat than the terrorists themselves.
Having secured unprecedented levels of prosperity, health, and harmony, humanity’s next targets are likely to be immortality, happiness, and divinity.
Most religions view death as a vital and positive part of life. Modern science views death as a technical problem. Every technical problem has a technical solution. Even when people die in a car accident or war, we view it as a preventable technical failure.
Many scientists say defeating death is the most important goal of modern science. Some predicted that by 2050, we can cheat death a decade at a time. Every ten years we will check into a clinic and receive a makeover treatment to cure all illnesses and upgrade our tissues and organs. By then, we will be a-mortal, not immortal, because we could still die in a war or accident, but our life would have no expiry date.
We have doubled our life expectancy from 40 to 75 in the last century. Perhaps we could double it again from 75 to 150 in the next century. If we could achieve that, it would revolutionize human society and transform our family structure, marriages, and child-parent relationships. People will not retire at 65 to make way for the new generation. Marriage will not last that long, and we will have to reinvent ourselves even at 90.
We just fooled ourselves. Although average life expectancy has doubled over the last century, modern medicine hasn’t extended our natural lifespan. Galileo Galilei died at 77, Isaac Newton at 84, and Michelangelo at 88 without any help from antibiotics or organ transplants. Modern medicine just saved us from premature death.
Even if we don’t achieve immortality in our lifetime, the war against death is still the flagship project of the coming century.
Studies show that between 1950 and 2000, the real per capita income for Americans has doubled, yet subjective well-being levels remained the same. Similar things happened in Japan. It seems happiness has hit against a glass ceiling despite all our unprecedented accomplishments.
There are two factors contributing to this glass ceiling, one psychological, the other biological. On the psychological level, happiness depends on expectations rather than objective conditions. We are satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is expectations increase as conditions improve.
On the biological level, happiness and suffering are different balances of bodily sensations. The bad news is that pleasant sensations quickly subside and turn into unpleasant ones. Today, many people are taking psychiatric medicines to relieve mundane depressions and the occasional blues. Many schoolchildren are taking stimulants such as Ritalin, a medication for
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