21 Lessons for the 21st Century; Yuval Noah Harari; 2018; Penguin/Random House; 323 pgs; Notes, index
The title pretty much says it all. Harari is a Jewish historian. I mention his religion only because he does, in order to point out that there is nothing special about Jews in world history.
The book is about the future… always a mugs game. But Harari does a good job in talking about the future in big picture ways that make for compelling arguments. I will not try to summarize his points here. There are 21 essays here to do that. The primary message is change. The world has changed a great deal in the last few years alone, and the rate of change will only increase in the near future.
In my own industry, computing, the trend is obvious, and computing has impacted, and will impact virtually every job in the first world. There are few things that computers will not be able to do better than people. For example, a computer (AlphaZero) played chess with itself, and within four hours it could beat the best players in the world. AI will drive the new world order. Sixty years ago, it was not unusual for someone to get a job and retire from it. Soon, that number will be more like five jobs.
Data and data ownership will become more and more important. Privacy will erode. If you want medical insurance one day, you may ne compelled to wear a monitor that connects you to the network 24-7.
My favorite quote from the book:
"The mark of science is the willingness to admit failure and try a different track. That's why scientists gradually learn how to grow better crops and make better medicines, whereas priests and gurus only learn how to make better excuses."
The author advocates for humility (no religion has a deeper incite into the truth than another; all religions come from the same place; and secularism and doubt are the watch words of civilization).
Another warning comes across strongly: internet bullshit bubbles are everywhere … beware.
This book gives a good overview to what we will be dealing with in the next few decades. For me, it really confirmed and solidified many views I have held for a long time. Still, a worth while read. If you are considering the author, read his other books first.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.