Book Title: Homo Deus- A Brief History Of Tomorrow
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Random House Canada
As some of you would remember, for the past two weeks The Insight has been bringing you reviews of some of the best non-fictions. Our quest continues, here we’re, reviewing Harari’s Homo Deus sequel to the world bestseller Sapiens-A Brief History of Mankind (Book review here).
The best thing about Harari’s Sapiens was its unsettling narrative on our species journey from forager-bands to modern day nation-states; questions on our existence that leaves the reader in splits. This book without doubt lives up to the expectation & the hype created by its predecessor; you’d experience the same exhilaration, fright & sudden numbness as you slip into the pages.
Homo Deus picks up from where Sapiens left. Inter-subjective realities like consumerism & liberalism rule the world where the individual is at the centre of the cosmic construct. The author builds on the rise of the scientific revolution, industrialization & the humanist creed that shapes the modern world.
The scientific revolution opened up new means of production. The economy & the standard of living grew at a breakneck pace. For the first time in the human history the future looked promising & the wealthy took to lending & investing instead of hoarding, opening up new possibilities for a whole generation of entrepreneurs. The rest is history as you know; the invisible hand of the free-market reigns supreme acting as a force-multiplier & precipitating the benign results of the capitalist creed even to those at the nether end of the social strata.
So far so good; what happens next? Where do we go from here? Are some of the questions that the author raises; having tasted success with the free market economics the system we’ve created would stop at nothing. The capitalist creed advocates that the economy must grow. Settling for anything less is as heretical as equating Islam with polytheism.
What happens when humanity which has so far facilitated the system turns hindrance?
Liberalism & capitalism go hand in hand. The liberal doctrine espouses the sanctity of the individual. The consumer, the worker, the university student & the rebellious teen; everyone’s a cog in the giant modern system which we’ve created. Although, no individual can decipher the system all by himself but, when we work together, collaborate & co-operate the system functions smoothly.
The credo of the capitalist-liberal dogma is that everyone’s important in the great scheme of things & none should be left lest the system doesn’t work efficiently. Hence, the veneration of the “individual” is the central tenet of the modern human society.
The author argues that the extant political institutions; democracy, elections & rule of law all exist on the premise that the individual knows the best. This worked well during the days of the French revolution up until the fall of the Berlin wall because human co-operation was vital for the free market & economic growth.
For the past five centuries, growth was fuelled by the wed-lock between the political institutions & science. Every scientific discovery was funded by global empires & modern nation states. In return, science helped accelerate economic growth through better means of production, new sources of energy & not to forget those queer scientific journals nobody cared about.
As science made rapid strides in every field we’ve come to the point where life science has proved that there’s no such thing as an individual. Our desires, feelings & the free-will are merely biochemical rushes. A neuron firing here & another there decide our tastes & controls our myriad desires. In a single stroke the very ethos of modern society has been upended. The all knowing voter, the infallible consumer & the modern individual who was until now a store of unique experiences incomparable to anything else is reduced to an elaborate biochemical algorithm. Something that science is already replicating through data driven algorithms that can produce intelligence without consciousness & automated systems that work far more effectively than humans.
The author thus, reminds us that the system that craves only growth is now capable of producing the same without human intervention. Humanity may well have fallen from the peak & would soon be replaced by data driven algorithms far more efficient than sapiens.
If you’re perplexed where the world is headed, how the future might unfold & where we might end up. This is the book for you. No conspiracy theories & gibberish. Harari’s Homo Deus is one of those books that predict the future without falling into the trap of making sweeping prophecies & straight out of Hollywood end game scenarios.