Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

by Yuval Noah Harari

Homo Deus is a book that explores the new human agenda for the third millennium. It examines how humanity has managed to bring famine, plague, and war under control, and what new challenges will replace them at the top of the human agenda. With the immense new powers that biotechnology and information technology provide us with, the book encourages readers to think about what they can do to leverage these powers.

Summary Notes

Protecting Large Animals Is Essential for a Healthy Planet

Large animals are essential for the balance of the ecosystem and for the health of the planet. These top predators control the population of other animals and help distribute seeds and nutrients, which support the earth's well-being. That's why it's important to respect animals and their natural habits.

Sadly, pigs, who are highly social and intelligent creatures, are frequently kept in cramped gestation crates, unable to move or exhibit their natural behavior. This treatment is cruel and inhumane and, therefore, must be abolished. After all, animals deserve to live in their natural habitat, be free from human influence, and be able to express their natural behaviors.

The mother-infant bond is a core emotion shared by all mammals. Mothers love their offspring so much that they let them nurse, and the young have an overwhelming urge to bond with their mothers and stay close to them.

In the wild, if piglets, calves, or puppies don't bond with their mothers, they rarely survive for long. And until recently, this was true for human children too. Emotional bonds are crucial for the mental and physical health of mammals.

In the first half of the twentieth century, psychologists doubted the importance of this kind of emotional bond between parents and children. But Harry Harlow's experiments with infant monkeys showed just how important emotional bonds are - they're just as important as food, shelter, and medical care for mammals.

His experiment showed that even when baby monkeys had access to a nourishing metal dummy, they still preferred the soft cloth-covered dummy without milk because of the emotional bond associated with it.

Unfortunately, the meat and dairy industries rely on breaking the strongest emotional bond in the mammal kingdom, causing so much pain for mothers and their offspring.

Actions to take

Human Life Is More Valuable Than Animal Life

Humans are often seen as the most powerful species on Earth, and as such, their lives are thought to be more valuable than the lives of animals. This is not necessarily true, as the value of human life is often determined by the geopolitical balance of power.

While monotheist religions believe that humans have eternal souls and animals do not, science doesn't actually back this up. The theory of evolution is based on the principle of the survival of the fittest. It states that there's no such thing as a soul and that life is a continuous process of change, not something that lasts forever.

When it comes to consciousness, both animals and humans have it. They have feelings and sensations that make them conscious beings, unlike robots and computers that don't have a conscious experience.

It is widely believed that consciousness results from brain chemical reactions, serving some sort of essential data-processing function. But to figure out if animals have conscious minds like ours, we need to have a better understanding of how minds work and what role they play.

Actions to take

Religion and Science: Partners in Creating Viable Human Institutions

Religion and science have often been seen as opposing forces, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, religion and science can work together to create beneficial human institutions.

This was demonstrated in the 16th century, during the Protestant Reformation, which challenged the church's claim to forgive sins and grant access to heaven. The Reformation argued that salvation cannot be bought and that humans must seek alternative paths to reach heaven.

Today, science and religion can still coexist and collaborate. Science helps us understand how the world works, but it cannot answer questions about how we, as humans, should behave.

Every scientific project also relies on religious principles. Religion deals with order, while science deals with power, allowing them to form a strong alliance. However, the quest for truth is a spiritual journey that cannot be confined to solely religious or scientific organizations.

Actions to take

Balancing Economic Growth and Protecting the Environment

In the past, people weren't as confident in progress, so economic growth was pretty limited. But now, politicians and economists believe that growth is a must for a few reasons - we need to consume more, keep our standard of living, and help reduce poverty.

Capitalism has become a religion, and its main commandment is to reinvest profits in order to increase growth. However, we need to remember that economic growth and protecting the environment go hand in hand. We can't just focus on growth and ignore the impact it has on the planet. We need to find a way to balance both - keep the growth going and ensure we're taking care of the world around us. Ultimately, all the consequences of our actions should be taken into account.

Actions to take

Leverage AI to Solve Complex Problems

AI systems are designed to learn from data and use that knowledge to make decisions and solve problems. This can come in handy for automating tasks, recognizing patterns, and even making predictions.

AI algorithms are impressive; they can do things like facial recognition and playing chess better than non-AI algorithms. But, with the help of machine learning, non-AI algorithms have been able to catch up and even replicate or surpass AI in these tasks.

AI can also be used to monitor humans effectively, using sensors, computers, and algorithms to monitor their health and activities. This shift in authority from individual humans to networked algorithms has been described as a biological cataclysm, as it has dismantled the wall between the organic and inorganic.

Actions to take

Unlock the Mental Spectrum

Techno-humanism is a new ideology that seeks to enhance the human mind and enable access to unprecedented experiences and states of consciousness. It is a modern manifestation of the old aspirations of evolutionary humanism, which, a century ago, envisioned the creation of superhumans.

The first cognitive revolution gave Homo sapiens access to the intersubjective realm, establishing them as the rulers of the planet. Now, a second cognitive revolution could happen, where we would use things like drugs, genetic engineering, and brain-computer interfaces to explore new mental states and potentially become the rulers of the galaxy!

While we may not be as emotionally connected to the world as animals like whales, bats, tigers, and pelicans, the idea of techno-humanism still remains: it aims to expand human consciousness beyond our current capabilities.

Actions to take

Dataism: Unifying All Disciplines With Biochemical Algorithms

"Dataism" is a scientific theory that integrates all fields of study and considers living organisms as complex algorithms. This theory is the result of the convergence of two major scientific movements: life sciences and computer science. It eliminates the distinction between animals and machines and anticipates that electronic algorithms will eventually be able to interpret and surpass biochemical algorithms.

This theory provides new technological advancements and offers a comprehensive view of the world that unifies all scientific disciplines. It shifts the traditional hierarchy of learning and places faith in the power of big data and computer algorithms. Most importantly, it perceives organisms and societies as data-processing systems and interprets the economy as the means of collecting information about individual wants and abilities.

Dataism sees free-market capitalism and state-controlled communism as rival data-processing systems and advocates for distributed data processing over centralized processing. The former enables more precise decision-making and fosters competition between processors, leading to more efficient outcomes.

Actions to take

Don’t just read. Act.
Read comprehensive summaries and discover carefully compiled action lists for active learning