Humankind is in a state of great transition right now. With emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Biotechnology and Big Data, the future of mankind will be radically different from the past. The basic human agenda that we as a species were involved in so far will undergo rapid change, thanks to the technological position that we are in currently. Homo Deus makes its case as to where humankind is probably headed in this state of transistion. It is a relevent book to today’s times when talks of emerging technologies taking away human jobs have become serious. I picked up this book because it seemed to be a continuation to Sapiens by the same author.
Solving the problems of starvation, epidemics and violence has been the main agenda for humankind for thousands of years. Famine, Plague and War have always been on top of the human agenda. However, at the dawn of the twenty fist century, we have managed to trasform these three incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. We do not need to pray to any god to rescue us from them, we know quite well about the prevention or control of these three problems and have fairly succeded in doing so. The book gives an in dept understanding as to how humankind managed to control these three peoblems that have been threatening our species for all these years. It goes on to explain the new human agenda- the things that humanity would want to accomplish in the coming years.
Growth destabilises the ecological equilibrium, which we have only begun to explore. Economic growth is always a priority to ecological preservation, and if we need to avoid catastraphe, we need to change our priorities. Success breeds ambition. Our accomplishments in achieving prosperity, health and harmony have only pushing humankind to set even more daring goals. Our possible targets in the future are likely to be immortality, happiness and divinity.
“Having reduced mortality from starvation, disease and violence, we will now aim to overcome old age and even death itself. Having raised Humanity above the beastly levels of survival struggles, we will now upgrade humans into gods, to turn Homo Sapiens to Homo Deus.”
The modern culture we live in does not see death as a metaphysical mystery or as a source of life’s meaning. It disregards the theological view of death. For modern people, death is a technical problem that can be solved. Every technical problem is to have a technical solution. The attitude of the modern people is that death as a technical problem can be solved by a couple of geeks in a lab. So the book dives deep into the topic of how humanity is striving to achieve immortality or atleast to expand the human life span.
The book goes on to explain what makes human beings unique and superior to other animals. It explores our subjective experiences, our spiritual experiences all within the light of scientific research. It also explains our subjective experiences such as fear, hatred, love etc in a scientific light and compares it with other animals. This story gives a very interesting twist in the book to the reader. It opens up one’s mind in ways that we would not have thought before. How is it that imagined realities and subjective experiences have enabled humans as a species to co-operate at a large scale and get us to where we have reached? Stories of money, Gods, nations and corporations have superseeded the objective and subjective realities. The book evokes the natural curiosity in the reader in such imagined realities.
The book compares intersubjective myths with objective scientific knowledge. Myths such as religion, God and Money have helped cement large scale co-operation between sapiens. Scientific and economic progress has helped solve the most pressing problems for our survival. Should science and religion co-exist? Do they add value to each other? How powerful will the intersubjective imagined fictions be in the age or AI and bio-engineering? What role do they play collectively in shaping the world we have today? Eventually we are lead into humanism – the worship of humankind, the most important religion of all. I like this section of the book because of the way it is written. It is full of real world examples and it makes for a very interesting read. One will be opened into horizons of thinking that one might now have thought of before. Are all organisms nothing more than mere biochemical algorithms?
The book takes us on a tour of recent scientific discoveries that undermine the liberal philosophy. Liberalism believes that every human is a uniquely valuable individual whose free choices are the ultimate source of authority. However, this belief might become obsolete in the twenty first century. Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness and the system will stop attaching value to them as individuals. The system might still find value in unique individuals, but these will constitute an elite of upgraded individuals rather than the masses. The book explains this phenomenon in detail.
Data shall rule. Large corporations that can collect, procees and handle data effectively will end up being the elite in the modern world. More and more people will give up their data in exchange of services. Its not long before Google advices us which movie to see, where to go on a holiday, what to study in college, which job offer to accept and whom to date and marry. The book explains such scenarios in a querky and entertaining way without losing the seriousness of the discussion.
Change is the only constant. Any species is able to survive and thrive only because it is able to adapt to change. Homo Deus is a book written about such a change in times when we can see and observe rapid change in the world around us. Today and in the upcoming future, not just technology will change but also political, economic and social belief systems are bound to change. Human agends will change. To survive and thrive in such an ever dynamic world, we as individuals and as a collective need to change. So let us change by understanding change. Homo Deus does a commendable job in explaining this change to us at this juncture in history.