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The modern world is full of fake news. Harari describes modern fake news as one thousand people believing a made-up story for one month. When a billion people believe a made-up story for a thousand years, that’s what Harari calls religion. We can learn about the power of fiction by looking at religion. Fiction can bring people together and make large-scale human cooperation possible. So, we must start using fiction to push good science to the masses. For example, a good science fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.
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The highlight of this chapter is that humans naturally show humility. Apes have evolved the tendency to help the poor and needy. They evolved these behaviors millions of years before the Bible instructed ancient Israelites to do the same. So, there is no need to rely on a religious text or any ot...
Building on his point from chapter 12, Harari also thinks you do not need to believe in God to be moral. Morality is about reducing suffering and this does not require belief in a myth or story. Again, society does not need to believe in a powerful God to be scared into doing the right thing. Imm...
Yuval Noah Harari starts the book by talking about the disillusionment visible in modern society. For example, the political disillusionment seen in many European countries. He argues that one of the driving factors for this disillusionment is information overload. Our brains do not easily proces...
Harari believes elections are not about what we think but what we feel. Despite clear flaws in democracies, most believe it is still better than all its alternatives. Harari argues that big data and AI have the potential to run the world in the future. If we can make decisions on education, work ...
Harari starts by specifying the basic conditions required for immigration to occur. There are three of them and they are:
The host country allows immigrants into their country
The immigrants are expected to embrace the norms and values of the host country
If the immigrants integ...
The future of the workplace will include significantly more computers than we see today. As we develop a better understanding of human emotions, desires and choices, computers will become more versatile in workplaces. Harari uses the example of self-driving vehicles. He cites a study by the US Na...
By far the most important of these characteristics is truth. Harari believes social reality is the ideal we should aspire to. Social reality is built upon a commitment to modern science rather than faith. Once we uncover scientific achievements, we must also cherish the responsibility of these fi...
Technology addiction is significantly impacting human connection and community. The internet has helped people who live far away to keep in touch. For example, the author explains he can easily speak to his cousin in Switzerland. Without technology, he could easily lose connection with this relat...
There is a difference between benign patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism should be built on the idea that your nation is unique (which is true of all countries). It is when people start believing their nation is superior that issues arise. The issue with nationalism is that these narrow belief...
Harari agrees with ancient philosophers by arguing that the deepest source of our suffering is our minds. In fact, suffering does not objectively exist outside of minds. Meditation allows you to better understand this reality and challenge your mind. It helps you focus on your consciousness, whic...
Much of what children learn today will be irrelevant in 2050. So, teachers need to stop overloading their students with information and develop their ability to make sense of new information. Future adults need to identify important information among all the irrelevant data.
Harari includes the teachings of Buddha to explain the fluidity of meaning. The Buddha taught that there are three basic universal realities:
To help us understand the problem of religion in modern society, Harari outlines the three types of problems we face:
Harari points out that Karl Marx had previously argued that religion doesn’t have much ...
The prevalence of war has dropped considerably over the past few decades. Harari believes this is partly due to our transition away from fighting over resources and toward fighting over knowledge. You could previously obtain wheat fields, goldmines and oil fields from warfare. You can’t conquer k...
Data is far more accessible than our current examples of resources. Land, machines and other resources make it easy for people to acquire wealth unavailable to others. But data is everywhere and can move at the speed of light. You can make as many copies as you want. So, a future problem is under...
Harari provides the example of how data has been used in warfare to strengthen this argument. He states that whenever Palestinians make a phone call or post something on social media, they are monitored by Israeli microphones, cameras, drones and software. Then, this data is analyzed by algorithm...
Building on from the last chapter, Harari spends some time talking in greater depth about science fiction. He believes that it is the most important artistic genre in the 21st century. That said, the most popular science fiction is not necessarily very accurate, e.g., The Matrix and Westworld. So...
Just like animals, humans make most decisions based on emotional reactions and shortcuts. But, emotions and heuristics are not sufficient in the modern world. The key to human success in the modern world is our ability to think together in large groups. This has allowed us to rely on others’ skil...
Historically, humankind has been divided into countless isolated civilizations. Thousands of years ago, these civilizations would have consisted of merely a handful of people. Although the number of independent civilizations has reduced over time, Harari argues the future holds a single global ci...
Harari believes technology has the potential to solve the issues it has encouraged. He uses the example of lab-grown meat. Research suggests animal agriculture creates more carbon emissions than all forms of transportation combined. So, to tackle climate change, there needs to be an alternative. ...
Often people worry about the possibility of AI completely replacing us in the workplace, leaving us with no jobs. Harari does not believe this is true, though. He believes that AI will actually help create new jobs for humans. Those who are willing to cooperate with AI will be the ones who flouri...
The future offers opportunities for new types of stories that include humans, superhumans and artificial intelligence. Harari believes AI will become increasingly sophisticated. He also believes that superhumans will soon be created that combine AI and humans. Despite a change in the characters i...
Harari uses the example of climate change skepticism. A left-wing socialist will rarely tweet claiming that climate change is a Chinese hoax. These types of tweets are almost solely produced by the nationalist right. These nationalists would rather deny truth than have to work internationally to ...
Harari believes the worst failing of science fiction is its confusion of intelligence with consciousness. He is not worried about a war between robots and humans. He instead believes there could be conflict between a small set of superhuman elites. So, Harari argues that Karl Marx is still a bett...
“At present, people are happy to give away their most valuable asset—their personal data—in exchange for free email services and funny cat videos. It’s a bit like African and Native American tribes who unwittingly sold entire countries to European imperialists in excha...
“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.”
For example, there will be numerous liberal minorities who can migrate to an intolerant society considered acceptable by the host society. But, there will be a threshold where numbers of liberal minorities will be counteracting the country’s intolerant society. To better understand anti-immigrati...
The alternative to building a society on God is building one on secularism. Harari notes we must remember the foundation of the secular code:
“Morality doesn’t mean ‘following divine commands’. It means ‘reducing suffering’. Hence in order to act morally, you don’t need to believe in any myth or story. You just need to develop a deep appreciation of suffering.”
Harari believes the overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat than terrorism itself. Terrorists have killed very few people but can terrify billions due to political responses. The author points out that each year since 9/11, only 50 people are killed in the EU, 10 in the US and 7 in C...
The author agrees and subsequently believes that war between religions is not policy-based. Instead, it appears to be a combination of technical and identity problems. That said, religion allows the smallest differences to have a significant impact. For example, Eastern Orthodox and Western Chris...
• Book summaries, mostly •
In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power. Censorship works not by blocking the flow of information, but rather by flooding people with disinformation and distractions. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century cuts through these muddy waters and confronts some of the most urgent questions on today’s global agenda.
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