Review: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari

21 lessons for the 21st centuryIn Sapiens, he explored our past. In Homo Deus, he looked to our future. Now, one of the most innovative thinkers on the planet turns to the present to make sense of today’s most pressing issues.

How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?

Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a probing and visionary investigation into today’s most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.

***

I enjoyed the author’s first two non-fiction reads, and 21 Lessons provided much food for thought. Essentially, it consists of 21 chapters each detailing different issues that confront us in society today, from nationalism to technology.

Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.

Quite frankly, its more theorising and speculation, but Harari raises some interesting situations and proposes situations that may seem far-fetched now – but to someone in the 80s, today’s technology would seem like some kind of unbelievable sci-fi invention, so I won’t dismiss his imaginings entirely.

We insist that our values are a precious legacy from ancient ancestors. Yet the only thing that allows us to say this, is that our ancestors are long dead, and cannot speak for themselves.

Each chapter could actually be a book in and of itself, so you only get a short glimpse into each of the themes he covers. One thing I do like about the writing is that the author uses examples from all around the world – he doesn’t just stick with western or developing countries, or one specific religion.

Throughout all the hypothetical future scenarios and current realities described, one thing that struck me was the idea that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean that we necessarily should. Harari drives home the importance of the humanities: “Since the corporations or entrepreneurs who lead the technological revolution naturally tend to sing the praises of their creations, it falls to sociologists, philosophers and historians like myself to sound the alarm and explain all the ways things can go terribly wrong.”

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