In the sequel to his best seller Sapiens… Yuval Noah Harari takes us on a journey from the present day starting roughly in 2010 with some fascinating facts regarding the incredible and almost inconceivable notion that it’s more common for people to die of obesity and obesity related diseases, than they are to die of terrorism, starvation, disease or absolute poverty. A startling statistic when (albeit anecdotally) more and more successful (i.e. shops that don’t close down <12 months in) high street business are fast food places which also seems to mirror a rise in mental health and suicide cases.
We as a civilisation are now more concerned with living longer, creating artificial crops, animals and intelligence. Gone are the days when we were held accountable in the field to provide enough food for the winter. We now have laboratories that can do this for us - just like our ancestors during the agricultural revolution, we now have more time than ever before to get caught up in the materialistic world…
We now no longer want to grow old gracefully - cosmetic surgery is on the rise, crazy smart phone apps iron out our wrinkles and give ourselves and others unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. We have in many ways become GOD. But is it sustainable?
This book takes us on a fascinating journey into what could be the future of western civilisation. The exponential growth of data technology and AI would seemingly lead to a Terminator style future where once the technology becomes so self aware, it will control all things in life. Humans will become redundant. AI controls everything from one main central system. AI controls all transport, cutting down on the need for privately owned vehicles and subsequently cutting down on pollution and climate change. It develops ways to cater to its own maintenance needs. Through the various epochs of growth, machines take more and more jobs away from the human race. There will no longer be a need for humans in war or industry. Just like how horses were replaced by tanks and planes in war, then motor cars, buses and trains for industrial and personal use in the early 20th Century - the horses were not upgraded, but simply became redundant. Could the same happen to the human race?
We may well make the argument that machines cannot feel empathy or emotion, but Harari doesn’t argue a straw man argument. He builds his case up strong giving an insight into how tech companies have developed machines that can adapt and detect what kind of response is required simply by processing a persons answers to five basic questions.
This is a very intriguing book that makes the reader think outside of the box. We’re currently in an era where as I stated above, more people die from obesity than from starvation. What is the cost? A vaccum will always be filled. Science plays its role in supplying the demand by growing chickens in 23 days from hatchling to shelf product. Dairy cows unnaturally produce so much milk in some cases they are unable to walk due to the size of their udders. We are literally playing GOD as the title Homo Deus suggests.
Well worth the time to read and more importantly, to study.