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21 Lessons for the 21st Century is truly a depressing, disturbing, frightening book. If Mr. Harari is right, the 21st century is not something I want to experience. As challenging as things are right now, he predicts they will get much worse in so many ways. If he is right, there is virtually nothing we can do about it. (I sincerely hope he is dead wrong.)
The first section of this book is called The Technological Challenge. It is horrific. I attended a conference in March at which a speaker on Artificial Intelligence predicted that large percentages of jobs that exist today would be gone in the next 7-15 years. Mr. Harari agrees, but says it will not stop there. He predicts constant and continuing disruption in the job market for the foreseeable future, such that most people will not have jobs at all (because many jobs will be replaced by machines, and the few jobs that exist will be too sophisticated for most people to do), and those that do have jobs will have to reinvent themselves every few years (which will screw up their mental health). Cheap unskilled labor will be worthless. How will people survive? He talks about universal basic income, but that is challenging to implement, especially where it may be most needed. After all, could people agree on what is basic? And what is universal?
What will give purpose to people’s lives? Why will people want to get up in the morning if there is no meaningful work (or even unmeaningful work)?
Bad as that is, it was not the worst thing he predicts. He thinks humans will give up any illusion of free will and personal decision-making (he argues that we do not really have free will anyway, that we are controlled by our biology), and all our decisions will be made for us by algorithms. We will all be required to wear biometric sensors that are monitored by tech companies, insurance companies, the government, etc. They will know everything we do, and everything we do can be manipulated. Humans will end up like domesticated farm animals. As overreaching as the tech companies are today, things will get worse (even worse than China and its existing social credit system, which is scary already).
There will be even worse economic inequality than today. And people will have no way to fight back, because they are essentially irrelevant. Machines and AI (and the rich people who own them) will control everything. The average person will have no power even over his or her own life.
The author also tears down anything we might believe in or anything that might give our lives meaning today, whether it be religion, education, knowledge, philosophy, one’s nation, creativity, art, music, etc.
His personal solution appears to be his two hours a day of meditation (which is his last chapter). Two hours a day!! That sounds unbearable to me!
Basically, he appears to predict that we will all end up a lot like the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. We will be part of a collective, and “Resistance is futile.”
My response to this is:
1. I hope he is dead wrong about the future.
2. If he is right, I am glad I am as old as I am, so I will not have to live through all of this. It sounds miserable.
3. I am going to focus on enjoying every minute of my life right now, as “these are the good old days”. Whether or not he is right about the future, that is a good strategy! For now, we can still make our own choices about our own lives.
*** I would love if the library would order an audio cd copy of the book! ***
I agree with others that this book raises interesting questions and definitely gets you thinking. But he really scratches the surface on many of his ideas. It serves as a good conversation starter but you need to look elsewhere if you want to look in-depth into the ideas he raises.
I also don't like Harari's overly pessimistic view on things. Our society can go in so many directions. He talks as if homo sapiens time on earth is basically done within a century. He could be right but his theories aren't any more valid than others. He's written a pithy book that is getting attention but other views are out there.
Worth a read.
This book, and others by this author - Sapiens and Homo Deus - have got resounding reviews. I borrowed and ‘read’ Homo Deus and 21 Lessons. Found both to be very shallow collections of everyday issues. For 21 Lessons, all that an engaged reader has to do is read the chapter headings and subtitles - and would not need to read the book. Opinions are just that; an unbiased understanding of the issue is crucial starting point. Reading the author’s view did not provide me any additional perspective on the topics. The ink and paper would have been better used elsewhere. Save your time - skip it.
If lined up on that now-ubiquitous media bias chart, this book would be left-of-center. Written in 2018 (and read/reviewed in Jan 2019) it has all of the major players in our headlines, so is, obviously, timely and apropos. As an historian, the author does well with parlaying today's goings-on into a wider-timeline perspective. Mainly the book raises interesting points, interesting perspectives and interesting conjecture/guesses. A good read.
The book is generally quite engaging and does discuss many very important issues. I found the historical, social and geopolitical commentary to be quite illuminating, but when he occasionally wanders out of his lane into more technological or scientific aspects he is much less convincing. The book also does drag a bit in the last couple chapters.
Take what you read here with a grain of salt. Harari is a historian, not a scientist or engineer. When his writings touch these topics, which is most of the time, it is implausible speculation, based on sensationalist guesswork by popular science journalists. Go through the chapter on Work, for example, and count how many sentences start with "What if." First, does anyone who knows what they're talking about think these what-ifs might come to pass, and second, I'm looking to you, Harari, to tell me what's going to happen, not ask me!
Worth looking into, but not as good as the previous two books, which were works of history. One might suspect it was written to capitalize on their success. Comes across as a sophomore bull session, or what we used to call mental masturbation, meaning that it feels good to think about, but it just doesn't get the job done, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
I was going to rate this book at 3 stars. However agonizing through the last two chapters which for me were just a numbing of a delusional mind, I downgraded it to 2 stars.
Twelve hours of my life well spent. There are enough concepts in this book to keep you pondering for the rest of your life. Best read with a very open mind.
I read the reviews of 21 lessons for 21 century, mixed. That readers-views demonstrate how complex is the issue(s). AI alone is said to solve problems is a myth; recent neuroscience studies shed light on the complexity of the neural works and the ever-changing matrix of that. To surrender to AI is give up our soul, the energy of the soul is so vastly superior that is immeasurable! Figuring out math solution faster than the fastest computer is one such, sterilization of solid gold ellipsoid within a human mouth is another science breaker. These and many others challenge AI on its face and will continue to demonstrate the ultimate power of the soul-energy. Any book is exciting to show modern thinking and commercial trends, cannot predict, pin-pointed.
thanks for reading
I enjoyed the topics Harari brought up giving valuable perspectives for the readers to think things over critically. Some of the topics poses existential questions that humanity of all levels should pay attention to and act accordingly. It is not someone else's problem or future generations' problem. It is our problem, and it requires our action, especially responsible actions instead of kicking the proverbial can down the road.
I have just finished reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century after enjoying Sapiens and Homo Deus. I found 21 to be interesting, stimulating and frightening.
While it was not specifically written as a quote, the last sentence of one of the paragraphs in the chapter “Ignorance” gave me pause. “If you cannot afford to waste time, you will never find the truth.” Think the 2026 Olympics Bid, Brexit, Global Warming, #metoo, Trump, Immigation, or my favourite, Artificial Intelligence – Friend or Foe.
Think about the rate of change we are experiencing. In the chapter “Education” Harari asks what should be on the public education agenda in 2018 and will that knowledge have much value in twenty years’ time? I would have no idea what 'knowledge path' a 12-year old should travel today.