Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari
[Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]
I think I prefer the first book (see my review for Sapiens).
For this second book, I actually like the little nuggets of fact and theory more than the book in its entirety. The first third of it read like a rehash of the first book, the second third was too philosophical for my liking, and the final third depressed me.
What surprised me was that the last chapter ended with two three-point summaries, where the author argues that the three most important processes in the world right now are (and I quote):
- Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
- Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
- Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.
According to Yuval Noah Harari, these three processes raise three key questions (and here I quote again):
- Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
- What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?
- What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?
I suppose it’s good to have a summary at the end, but I thought the book ended rather abruptly, and I’d have preferred a more optimistic projection of the future. There are already too many dystopian views of technology and the future, and while Homo Deus does not exactly offer a pessimistic projection of what can possibly lie ahead, the arguments in it do point towards a possible future in which “free will” will cease to exist and Sapiens will be overwhelmed by data and algorithms.
And so, if the author is correct, does it mean Sapiens will eventually cause our own extinction?
VERDICT: Read this book either for its nuggets (on historical developments, scientific developments and philosophical theories) or the detailed arguments behind the summary at the end of the book if you’re curious about them. Otherwise, I would suggest you find something that will give you a more optimistic view of our future.