In “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” Yuval Noah Harari gives us an extremely important book. He has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Oxford. He has a deep understanding of human behavior and states his views clearly and vividly. His prior two books on the past and future of humanity, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, were highly acclaimed, became global bestsellers, more than twelve million copies were sold, and the books were translated in more than forty-five languages.
In his first book, about the human past, he examined how an insignificant ape, one of about a half dozen species that inhabited the earth a hundred thousand years ago, became the ruler of the earth. Why did these foraging beings create cities? How did they develop ideas such as gods, human rights, families, and laws, and allow themselves to be enslaved by bureaucracy? Have humans become happier and wiser since they became civilized?
In the second, he explored the long-term future of life and what the ultimate destiny of intelligence and consciousness might be. He notes that today more people die from eating too much than by eating too little; die from old age rather than diseases, and commit suicide instead of being killed by soldiers, criminals, and terrorists combined. But where do humans go from here? Can society influence the future? Will machines shape future thoughts and actions? These two books as well as this one are filled with need-to-know, easy to read information.
In this volume, Dr. Harari looks at the present, at 21 challenges facing the world, the deep meaning and consequences of these events, and the choices that need to be made. It is an urgent book. It raises issues that are pertinent to human survival. We learn about artificial intelligence, the fact that data algorithms are more reliable than humans, that we have begun to rely on computers for our decisions, and we need to better understand and use our minds before algorithms make up our minds for us. Artificial intelligence has already created cars that drive in a safer mode, causing far fewer deaths than human drivers. Computers understand us better than we understand ourselves. They advise us about our health. In the future, they will most likely advise us what profession or job is best for us and who to marry, and thereby cut down the fifty percent divorce rate. Computers can offer people many advantages, but there are also dangers. Harari warns us about the sale of personal information about us that is controlling us in many ways, frequently prompting us to act contrary to our best interest. We need to regulate data and our right to privacy.
He tells us about many other current problems. Traditional religions, for example, are irrelevant to modern technical and policy problems and part of the modern problems. We need to better decide how a state should deal with terrorism, that present-day terrorism is mostly theater, and our harsh reactions to terror deaths that are far fewer than deaths caused by automobile accidents, is playing into the hands of terrorists and furthering their agenda. We must address the problems that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small elite, privacy is being lost, so are jobs and free choice. There are also the problems of immigration, nationalism, liberty, equality, and the quest for meaning and community in the twenty-first century.
Harari shows us why we need to develop new social and economic models as soon as possible, that despite the critical need to address these issues, humankind is far from understanding the issues, their impact, and reaching any consensus on them, and we must act now and control of our lives.
The book will be released on September 4, 2018.