21 lessons for the 21st Century by Yual Noah Harari

Harari writes thoughtful books. After reading his Sapiens, which talks about the history of humankind and Homo Deus, which talks about our future, I was excited to read this book. 21 Lessons is a series of commentaries on the global issues that are pressing humanity in the present. It talks about the technological and political challeges that we are about to face in the near future and paints a picture as to what we could do to make better sense of the world we have created. It also throws light on global issues such as terrorism, secularism, religion etc and ends with the search for meaning and the importance of education. I would advocate this book for anybody who is preparing self and others for the future. It is thought provoking and opens up the debate as to how we can solve some of the biggest issues we face as a species.

The book starts of by providing information about the current political and technological developments. Political ideologies such as fascism and communism fell apart to give way to the liberal idealogy and the rise of democratic governments. Now, thanks to the twin technological revolutions in the fields of information technology and bio-technology, liberalism, and equility might no longer hold much credit. The merger of info-tech and bio-tech might soon drive billions of humans out of the job market. It is only a matter of time untill we see large industries crash due to radical change in business models which can make a large population of humans to be irrelevant. 21 lessons talks about the social, economic and political crises that we are about to face in the near future.

Change is the only constant. In history, we had reached a point in time where the physical capabilities of humans were being replaced by machines. These machines were new innovations in science and technology and lead to the great industrial revolution that made the European coloniers wealthy. Today, we seemed to have reached that point in time, where Artificial Intelligence seems to replace the cognitive abilities of humans. Who is going to get rich now, given the context of globalisation? Most importanty, how would liberal governments handle the rise of the useless class? What would billions of people do once they get replaced by smart machines and render them to be irrelevant? The book expalins the political, social and economic threats that might rise in such a scenario. It also explains the possible responses to such socio-economic problems that might arise due to technological disruption.

The book makes its case as to how we can rise to the occasion if we keep our fears in control and are humble about our views. It talks in detail about handling the pratical global issues such as terrorism, global nuclear war and the biases and hatred that might spark off such conflicts. It talks about ecological issues such as global warming, climate chage etc that can only be addressed with global co-operation. Humans have been able to collaborate with each other at a massive scale mostly due to the stories that we have believed in. The book explores, if we will be able to make sense of the world we have created on the basis of those stories.

Every individual falls into his own search for meaning in life. The book explores the meaning of our existance as a species.

“Who are we? What should we do in life? What are the kind of skills we need ? Given everything know about science, about God, about politics and about religion- what can we say about the meaning of life today?”

Given the context of the looming ecological crises, the growing threat of nuclear weapons and the rise of disruptive technologies, what would be the meaning of our life? We have reached that cross road in our time as a species where biotech and infotech have provided us the power re-engineer and reshape life as we know it. How should we use this power ? What is right and what is wrong? The book goes into exploring such philosophical aspects as well.

The book is very relevent in today’s time and age given the different global issues that we are currently facing. There is a heated debate everywhere about the large scale loss of livelihood due to change in business models powered by Artificial Intelligence. The book highlights the implications of the time that we are in and also suggests pratical remedies to rise to the occasion. It ends with chapters that talk about finding meaning and balance in the chaos of all the social, economic and political noise that we are currently in. He concludes the book with chapters on the meaning of life and on how we could find that meaning through meditation. The author gives an overview of Vipasana meditation which he learnt and practised in India. He hopes that the reader is able to hold his balance and find meaning and purpose just like how he found his through meditation.

The book seems to have sufficient context for its discussions to a reader who has read the author’s other two books – Sapiens and Homo Deus. It was easy for me to align myself to the school of thought that the author talks about as I had read the previous books. This book will very certainly provide you with the knowledge of which way the world is headed and warn you of its implications. It rings the alarm bell in a social, economic and political context and suggests possible remedies. It is a quick page turner and a habital reader should be able to read it and get its message in lesser number of days. Do read this book if you are excited about the future and would like to contribute in your own way in this awesome journey of humanity.

Happy Reading !

Chiraag Kashyap

Author: open my book

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