A review of Homo Deus

March 20, 2018

In process….

The title of Yuval Noah Harari’s International bestseller, Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow echoes his Home Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind and physicist Stephen Hawking’s 1988 A Brief History of Time. It has been described as a meta-history lesson that is “vaultingly ambitious”, a “romp through 70,000 years of human history”. He is a “brilliant populizer”, an “intellectual acrobat”, provocative, quirky, shocking, readable, thought-provoking, with a “sliver of ice at its heart.” He is an “intellectual magpie plucking theories and data from many disciplines.” He “swashbuckles through vast and intricate matters”, “tramples freely across disciplines”, and imagines an “apocalyptic future.”

In his book this future is divided into two groups, the useless and the immortal, Homo Deus.

His YouTube interview seems to offer a very different message, that we must be concerned and we must challenge this future. He was described as the “world’s brightest pessimist.”

Chapter: the Data Religion

Dataism declares that the universe consists of data flows, and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contributions to data processing.[1][2]

His book is an almost gleeful prediction of an inevitable dystopia, in which the majority of humanity accepts that traditional religion and the concept of God, as is known in monotheist religions, no longer has any role in humanity’s existence. This in spite of the fact that, according to Pew research, “Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.”

Selected Bibliography

1. Kevin Kelly. 2010. What Technology Wants. New York, Viking Press, October 14, 2010.  416 pages. ISBN 978-0-670-02215-1. “According to Kelly, a professional tech-watcher and former editor of Wired magazine, it’s because technology is like a living organism, animated by the same evolutionary forces that resulted, over eons, in the human brain…Actually, Kelly sees another force as helping to propel technology. When interviewed while he was researching this book, Kelly, who describes himself as a devout Christian, declared that technology “is actually a divine phenomenon that is a reflection of God.” And the last chapter of “What Technology Wants” is steeped in this bizarre neo-mystical progressivism. “If there is a God,” Kelly writes, “the arc of the technium is aimed right at him.” For Kelly, our artifacts, too, reflect the divine: “We can see more of God in a cellphone than in a tree frog.” (Were I religious I’d argue the opposite: no human technology can make a new frog from the raw material of flies, something that frogs do regularly.)”

2. Cesar Hidalgo. Why Information Grows: the Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies.Interview with The Economist.  MIT’s Hidalgo argues that “economies become distributed computers, made of networks of people, and the problem of economic development becomes the problem of making these computers more powerful. By uncovering the mechanisms that enable the growth of information in nature and society, Why Information Grows lays bear the origins of physical order and economic growth. Situated at the nexus of information theory, physics, sociology, and economics, this book propounds a new theory of how economies can do, not just more, but more interesting things

Interview with IQ Squared on Filmed at the Emmanuel Centre on September 5, 2016.Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus YouTube
Yuval Noah Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will “Forget about listening to ourselves. In the age of data, algorithms have the answer, writes the historian Yuval Noah Harari.” “Authority will shift from humans to computer algorithms. Big Data could then empower Big Brother.”


Related content

March 27, 2018 The Future of Humanity: Yuval Noah Harari in Conversation with Thomas L. Friedman with moderator Rachel Dry of the New York Times. 1:25:31

September 5, 2016 Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus at the Emmanuel Centre.  1:31:17

Key concepts

Dataism is a concept first mentioned by David Brooks in 2013 in the New York Times that was expanded by Harari as an “emerging ideology or even a new form of religion, in which ‘information flow’ is the ‘supreme value’.”