Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, the sequel to the bestselling Sapiens, is humbly annotated with the phrase “A Brief History of Tomorrow.” As Sapiens detailed Homo-Sapiens progression from hunter gatherers through the many societal revolutions that took us to where we are today; Homo Deus describes the possible futures we might envision considering our history, and current standing in the world. This book has unheralded morsels of wit, genius, and a unique ability to meld history, philosophy, science, religion, and economics into one cohesive narrative.
“This book has unheralded morsels of wit, genius, and a unique ability to meld history, philosophy, science, religion, and economics into one cohesive narrative.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is Harari’s detailing of humanism and its possible evolution into a new belief system. Humanism insists that meaning comes from each of us individually. Where once God determined morality, humanism makes the claim that all we need to do is pay attention to what it is we think and feel, this being evident in phrases such as “the customer is always right,” “the voter knows best,” and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
In the midst of advancing technologies Harari notes the rise of another belief system, one that may one day become more powerful than humanism, and this he refers to as dataism. Dataists perceive the universe as an unrelenting flow of data, whereby each of us absorbs and emits countless bits of data daily. This can be understood in how each of us consistently receive emails, text messages, read articles, and simultaneously produce our own data in response to these. Where humanism emphasised the importance of having experiences, dataism emphasises the importance of sharing experiences. Dataists believe in the importance of data being free and envisions a future where there is one all-encompassing data system which is all-knowing and all-powerful. Our meaning would then be established from merging with this system that is larger than ourselves. Should this occur, it would result in a shift in our focus from ourselves to a system that knows us better than we know ourselves.
This is but a brief nutshell of one of the fundamental features of Harari’s book, yet it conveys the immensity of his vision and scope. It is rare to find a book that engages with its reader on so many levels. This book has the unique ability to present its arguments in an objective manner, making the reader feel as though he were an outsider witnessing the entire history of the world with fresh eyes. It is for this reason that Homo Deus held so much fascination and intrigue for me, and has become a book that I value as one of my all time favourites.
Homo Deus is populated with ideas that will make you question the direction that the world is going in and if you like this direction. It is important every once in a while to take a step back and remember the vastness of the world and its incredible ability to morph and evolve with rapid speed. As Harari claims “We often forget that our world was created by an accidental chain of events, and that history shaped not only our technology, politics, and society, but also our thoughts, fears, and dreams.” Homo Deus wakes us up to this fact, and charges us with an obsessive curiosity over how it is we live our lives, and where this might lead us.