Review published on March 18, 2017.
In Yuval Noah Harari’s previous book, Sapiens, he considered how humanity got to where we are today from a hunter-gatherer culture to a modern industrial farming systems that can support millions. In this latest volume, Home Deus, he contemplates the future; our future, and the events that will shape us in the twenty-first century.
We have reached the apex of our abilities with current technology. Going back only a hundred years our lives were frequently cut short by famine, war and illness. Today, in the Western world at least, we have mostly conquered disease and extended our lifespan, but now we are as likely to suffer from obesity or contemplate suicide, total different challenges for the coming decades. He suggests that these will be met as we embrace the modern age of data, pervasive networks and genetic modification. That is assuming that we have a place to live as our world too is under threat because of our relentless pursuit of extracting the maximum resources for the cheapest price.
So, what does the future hold for humanity?
Harari ponders the possibilities and pitfalls of our future self. He asks and goes some way to answer the questions that we will have to address in the coming years. He proposes that our obsession with information flow may almost become a religion, dataism. How will we deal with the dilemma of choosing between intelligence and consciousness and what is the possibility that we might become part of a wider algorithm or part of the internet of things. These are all interesting questions and whilst he goes some way to answering them, there is a fair amount that is pure speculation and conjecture, but that is what makes this actually quite an interesting book.
Paul Cheney 3.5*
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, published on 23 March, 2017 by Vintage in paperback
Longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017