Homo Deus – i.e. “Human God,” top-rated book by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, author of multiple other best-sellers – hit me like a brick when I read it.
I have covered butt-kicking, life-changing books before, so let this be another added to the list. Though, let me give you my personal spark notes – what little they are – for what to expect for what you get by reading Homo Deus:
Humans Are Dividual
We are of many minds in one body, hardly an “individual” by any reasonable expectation of what makes a human a human. Thought, action, and even memory all change based on context internal and external, and changes over time.
Another way to put it would be that people wear many masks for the parts we play in our own lives and the lives of others.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
Humans try to assume something is known, attempt to take comfort in something certain.
Yet how might that be certain? All the puzzle pieces might seem to be in the box, but until the puzzle is put together, how can one be sure?
The Truth-seeking crusade of science, the firmest field of knowledge towards what might be real, hedges virtually all of its claims with “this may be wrong” and “there is more to know here.” In that way, we humans must always account for our own ignorance in literally every claim we make or piece of knowledge we take stake in, be it ourselves, others, or the world at large.
What Comes Makes All Before Obsolete
Human history took tens- or hundreds-of-millennia to accomplish pottery, baking, and basic plant domestication. Countless generations laid bricks in foundations and fortresses and footpaths for empires. It took one man a lifetime to learn just enough to make a decent shoe if he was gifted, passing that knowledge on to at least one or two sons before his death if lucky.
The works of this species in all recorded history were reproduced and exceeded in the last 100 years. Change and creation have only escalated – what took years, now months; months, now weeks; of weeks, a single tweet can wipe away a week’s efforts.
If change takes as long as a year, we are counted lucky, for everything that comes next makes everything that has come before obsolete.
Is life just a set of algorithms, our existence only justified by being better data processors for the model?
Is intelligence the greatest benefit? Or does consciousness hold more value?
What is life when algorithms know us better than us?
These questions are vague intentionally, allowing answers for yourself or for considerations about society at large. Whatever the answers end up being to those with the means and opportunity at some future time will decide great changes to come.
Democracy (a system of distributed power and processing) acts slower, yet is more thorough than other decision-making forms. It works well in high states of change, when idea surpasses implementation.
Autocracy (central processing; efficient, yet emphasizes systemic bias) works when implementation is more important than ideas. ‘Get it done no matter what’ has been the mainstay of all cultures up until the last spit of two centuries, and even yet has widespread adoption.
One or the other is only “good” or “bad” in if it is being used at the most optimal times. Holding onto one method when the other would really do causes unnecessary strife. All of this proves to be yet cyclical as intentions and executions change.
Durant agrees about the cyclical nature of our species. As a renown historian, Durant points out that decision-making in economies and governments repeats over and again as the waves of policy change. (Set aside the observations that autocracy has been the #1 driver for species advancement historically and that the merit of democracy in the last 300 years has yet to be proven more than a coincidence for the astronomical growth thereabouts.)
Not a lot, yet these are the things to keep in mind for what you get reading Homo Deus.
Highly recommend the book, as it humbles oneself towards what unknowable future comes!