Book Summaries History Philosophy

Homo Deus Summary (7/10)


In Homo Deus, Harari brings up many of the same ideas that he discussed in Sapiens – including crediting our success as a species to our ability to communicate and believe stories efficiently.

But after transcending our primordial roots, our ambitions have grown. Today, the conversation about attaining immortality is not speculation, but a real possibility that large companies such as Google are willing to bet on.

The questions we should ask ourselves in the 21st century are going to be different from those we have asked ourselves in the past, in that we will need to figure out what kinds of rights ought to be given to AI, and how much privacy and control we are willing to give up as individuals for a more secure and comfortable life.

But other philosophical questions we will need to contend with are much older; such as whether humanism is correct, and what the nature of consciousness is.

Part I

Chapter 1: The New Human Agenda

Across time, wars have become responsible for less deaths. Sugar has become more dangerous than gunpowder.

Chapter 2: The Anthropocene

In the Garden of Eden myth, humans are punished for their curiosity and wish to gain knowledge. God expels them from paradise. But in the myth about Newton and the apple, nobody berates the scientist for his efforts – just the opposite.

Chapter 3: The Human Spark

Scientists have not found that humans or animals have souls, but scientists doubt the existence of souls not because of lack of evidence but because the idea of “soul” contradicts fundamental principles of evolution. 

Part II

Chapter 4: The Storytellers

Humans experience the physical world, but also live in the world of stories (money, gods, nations, corporations). Technology in the next century will likely make these fictions more powerful.

Chapter 5: The Odd Couple

Ancient religious myths were helpful when they called people into action that was beneficial to them but were not objectively true. Modern science is a collective story, but it is not a myth – it is based on reality. Antibiotics will cure infections whether you believe in them or not.

Chapter 6: The Modern Covenant

The deal of modernity is simple: it is the exchange of meaning for power.

Chapter 7: The Humanist Revolution

While the modern deal does not include deriving meaning from a cosmic plan, it does allow you to derive meaning independently – and this is how humanism succeeds what came before it.

Part III

Chapter 8: The Time Bomb in the Laboratory

Liberalism is like any other religion; in that it is based on factual statements that aren’t scientifically sound. One belief is that voters and buyers do not make their decisions randomly, liberalism acknowledges the existence of external influences but thinks that people ultimately make up their own minds freely.

Chapter 9: The Great Decoupling

Liberals promote free markets and democratic elections because they believe that individuals are unique and valuable, who’s free choices are the source of authority. In this century, we will see three practical developments that will nullify this belief.

Chapter 10: The Ocean of Consciousness

The most interesting place in the world from a religious perspective is Silicon Valley, that’s where the promises of salvation through algorithms and genes are.

Chapter 11: The Data Religion

Dataism says that everything consists of data flows and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contribution to data processing. This is not a new idea.

Other Harari Book Summaries:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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