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21 Lessons for the 21st Century

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In 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.

In twenty-one accessible chapters that are both provocative and profound, Harari builds on the ideas explored in his previous books, untangling political, technological, social, and existential issues and offering advice on how to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in: How can we retain freedom of choice when Big Data is watching us? What will the future workforce look like, and how should we ready ourselves for it? How should we deal with the threat of terrorism? Why is liberal democracy in crisis?

Harari's unique ability to make sense of where we have come from and where we are going has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. Here he invites us to consider values, meaning, and personal engagement in a world full of noise and uncertainty. When we are deluged with irrelevant information, clarity is power. Presenting complex contemporary challenges clearly and accessibly, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is essential reading.

372 pages, Hardcover

First published September 4, 2018

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About the author

Yuval Noah Harari

83 books33k followers
Professor Harari was born in Haifa, Israel, to Lebanese parents in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

Prof. Harari also teaches a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) titled A Brief History of Humankind.

Prof. Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality, in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History’s Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history.

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Profile Image for Bill Gates.
Author 10 books515k followers
December 3, 2018
The human mind wants to worry. This is not necessarily a bad thing—after all, if a bear is stalking you, worrying about it may well save your life. Although most of us don’t need to lose too much sleep over bears these days, modern life does present plenty of other reasons for concern: terrorism, climate change, the rise of A.I., encroachments on our privacy, even the apparent decline of international cooperation.

In his fascinating new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, the historian Yuval Noah Harari creates a useful framework for confronting these fears. While his previous best sellers, Sapiens and Homo Deus, covered the past and future respectively, his new book is all about the present. The trick for putting an end to our anxieties, he suggests, is not to stop worrying. It’s to know which things to worry about, and how much to worry about them. As he writes in his introduction: “What are today’s greatest challenges and most important changes? What should we pay attention to? What should we teach our kids?”

These are admittedly big questions, and this is a sweeping book. There are chapters on work, war, nationalism, religion, immigration, education, and 15 other weighty matters. But its title is a misnomer. Although you will find a few concrete lessons scattered throughout, Harari mostly resists handy prescriptions. He’s more interested in defining the terms of the discussion and giving you historical and philosophical perspective.

He deploys, for example, a clever thought experiment to underscore how far humans have come in creating a global civilization. Imagine, he says, trying to organize an Olympic Games in 1016. It’s clearly impossible. Asians, Africans and Europeans don’t know that the Americas exist. The Chinese Song Empire doesn’t think any other political entity in the world is even close to being its equal. No one even has a flag to fly or anthem to play at the awards ceremony.

The point is that today’s competition among nations—whether on an athletic field or the trading floor—“actually represents an astonishing global agreement.” And that global agreement makes it easier to cooperate as well as compete. Keep this in mind the next time you start to doubt whether we can solve a global problem like climate change. Our global cooperation may have taken a couple of steps back in the past two years, but before that we took a thousand steps forward.

So why does it seem as if the world is in decline? Largely because we are much less willing to tolerate misfortune and misery. Even though the amount of violence in the world has greatly decreased, we focus on the number of people who die each year in wars because our outrage at injustice has grown. As it should.

Here’s another worry that Harari deals with: In an increasingly complex world, how can any of us have enough information to make educated decisions? It’s tempting to turn to experts, but how do you know they’re not just following the herd? “The problem of groupthink and individual ignorance besets not just ordinary voters and customers,” he writes, “but also presidents and CEOs.” That rang true to me from my experience at both Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. I have to be careful not to fool myself into thinking things are better—or worse—than they actually are.

What does Harari think we should do about all this? He offers some practical advice, including a three-prong strategy for fighting terrorism and a few tips for dealing with fake news. But his big idea boils down to this: Meditate. Of course he isn’t suggesting that the world’s problems will vanish if enough of us start sitting in the lotus position and chanting om. But he does insist that life in the 21st century demands mindfulness—getting to know ourselves better and seeing how we contribute to suffering in our own lives. This is easy to mock, but as someone who’s taking a course on mindfulness and meditation, I found it compelling.

As much as I admire Harari and enjoyed 21 Lessons, I didn’t agree with everything in the book. I was glad to see the chapter on inequality, but I’m skeptical about his prediction that in the 21st century “data will eclipse both land and machinery as the most important asset” separating rich people from everyone else. Land will always be hugely important, especially as the global population nears 10 billion. Meanwhile, data on key human endeavors—how to grow food or produce energy, for example—will become even more widely available. Simply having information won’t offer a competitive edge; knowing what to do with it will.

Similarly, I wanted to see more nuance in Harari’s discussion of data and privacy. He rightly notes that more information is being gathered on individuals than ever before. But he doesn’t distinguish among the types of data being collected—the kind of shoes you like to buy versus which diseases you’re genetically predisposed to—or who is gathering it, or how they’re using it. Your shopping history and your medical history aren’t collected by the same people, protected by the same safeguards, or used for the same purposes. Recognizing this distinction would have made his discussion more enlightening.

I was also dissatisfied with the chapter on community. Harari argues that social media including Facebook have contributed to political polarization by allowing users to cocoon themselves, interacting only with those who share their views. It’s a fair point, but he undersells the benefits of connecting family and friends around the world. He also creates a straw man by asking whether Facebook alone can solve the problem of polarization. On its own, of course it can’t—but that’s not surprising, considering how deep the problem cuts. Governments, civil society, and the private sector all have a role to play, and I wish Harari had said more about them.

But Harari is such a stimulating writer that even when I disagreed, I wanted to keep reading and thinking. All three of his books wrestle with some version of the same question: What will give our lives meaning in the decades and centuries ahead? So far, human history has been driven by a desire to live longer, healthier, happier lives. If science is eventually able to give that dream to most people, and large numbers of people no longer need to work in order to feed and clothe everyone, what reason will we have to get up in the morning?

It’s no criticism to say that Harari hasn’t produced a satisfying answer yet. Neither has anyone else. So I hope he turns more fully to this question in the future. In the meantime, he has teed up a crucial global conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century.

This originally appeared in the New York Times Book Review.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
December 27, 2018
I really like Harari. I like his books a lot, but I think that is at least in part due to how much I like him. He seems like an intelligent, intuitive and empathetic person, and so his books become all those things.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is really a book about where we are and how we can move forward. It bridges the gap between Sapiens, which was about our past, and Homo Deus, which is about our future. Here, Harari looks at where we stand technologically and politically, debunking myths and suggesting ways we can combat "post-truth".

I especially like how he reminds us that fake news is just a rebranding of age-old lying, and that terrorism is only as powerful as we let it be. Terrorists are fundamentally weak but use scare tactics to raise havoc. If we refuse to be scared by them, they cease to have power.

Harari's writing remains so accessible throughout his three books. He takes on complex political and economic concepts and breaks them down so anyone can understand them. It reads like common sense. I would have no problem recommending this to any person of any age - it is both easy to digest and extremely engaging.

Harari's opinions do come into play in this book, more so than in Sapiens, but I think he comes across as very non-judgemental. He understands that he is just one person with opinions out of billions of people with opinions, and he ultimately concludes that the one thing we could all do with a little more of is humility. I agree.

I sort of wish I'd ended the year on this book but, you know me, there's no way I'm going cold turkey for the few remaining days.

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Profile Image for David Wineberg.
Author 2 books735 followers
June 27, 2018
Society 101

Yuval Harari is well known for his books Sapiens and Homo Deus. He has decided to squander his reputation on a book called 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. The basic problem is that every chapter is the subject of whole shelves of books, and putting them all in one book cannot possibly do them justice. What we have left is a set of 21 editorials, which might inform the totally uninformed, but provide little insight and no solutions. As “lessons” they are unhelpful.

He has conveniently distilled all the threats to mankind into three: nuclear war, climate change and technological/biological disruption. But only technological/biological gets examined. You’re on your own for climate change and nuclear war, which apparently don’t rate high enough for “lessons”.

Despite those three most important threats, the most common theme throughout the book is criticism of religion, mostly Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, though Buddhism and Hinduism come under attack as well. Looking back from the perspective of the universe, Harari condemns all religions as pompous, pretentious, full of contradictions, and terrifically negative forces.

In his chapter on Immigration, Harari boils down the entire complex situation to three superficial “debates”:
-The receiving country must be willing
-Immigrants must be willing to adopt “at least the core norms and values” of the new country
-If immigrants assimilate, they become “us” rather than “them” and must be treated as first class citizens.
Simple, inaccurate and totally missing the real issues.

In his chapter on terrorism, Harari completely misses the point that the state has a monopoly on violence. Anyone who challenges that monopoly must be put down, no matter how many civil rights and freedoms are trampled in the process. He spends pages explaining how few people are killed by terrorists compared to traffic, war and disease. So why are we so afraid of terrorists, he asks. (Because the state wants us to be, Mr. Harari.)

In the chapter on war, he comes to the magical conclusion that we’ve pretty much done away with it. So far, the only new war we’ve seen this century is Russia taking parts of Ukraine. He says countries see too much risk in starting new wars. He completely ignores (not for the first or last time), the effects of climate change, which will result in unprecedented and massive wars as countries face unstoppable waves of immigrants seeking water and land, as countries disappear from the face of the earth, and as those that have will defend it to the death against all comers, foreign and domestic.

The final chapter is on meditation. Meditation is Harari’s solution to pretty much everything, because you can focus on what is real – what is going on in your body right then and there. He says he does this two hours a day, plus one or two months a year.

If I had to summarize 21 Lesson for the 21st Century, I would say: throw off the false faiths of institutional religions and meditate instead. Not quite what I expected, and not much help in navigating the 21st century.

David Wineberg
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.6k followers
January 17, 2019
This book is quite difficult to review.

I enjoyed Part 1 about the technological challenges humans will be faced with and how we can adapt. It reminded me that I need to read Homo Deus which hopefully will satisfy that craving for me.

The rest of the book was more political, religious and philosophical than I usually go for. The title misrepresented the content of the book as there are 21 chapters, not 21 lessons.

Overall learned quite a bit but I much preferred his other work.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Anni.
544 reviews76 followers
August 31, 2018
It's Life as we know it, Jim! (But don't ask what it means).

'A wise old man was asked what he learned about the meaning of life. ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘I have learned that I am here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven’t figured out is why the other people are here.’

As Harari explains:

“We are now living in an age of information explosion … the last thing people need is more information. What they really need is somebody to arrange all of the bits of information into a meaningful picture – and this is what I try to do.”

Following on from Sapiens and Homo Deus, both of which were entertainingly accessible, this investigation of our species has a more personal approach, yet is just as vigorously researched and remarkably impartial.

There are so many fascinating insights that I wanted to highlight in this book that it is hard to chose examples, and many are frightening to contemplate, such as:

'Globalisation has certainly benefited large segments of humanity, but there are signs of growing inequality both between and within societies. Some groups increasingly monopolise the fruits of globalisation, while billions are left behind. Already today, the richest 1 per cent owns half the world’s wealth. Even more alarmingly, the richest hundred people together own more than the poorest 4 billion. This could get far worse'.

However I'm sure that contributors to Goodreads will particularly enjoy the section on the importance of literature, especially for aficionados of SF :-

“… it is equally important to communicate the latest scientific theories to the general public through popular-science books, and even through the skilful use of art and fiction. Does that mean scientists should start writing science fiction? That is actually not such a bad idea. Art plays a key role in shaping people’s view of the world, and in the twenty-first century science fiction is arguably the most important genre of all, for it shapes how most people understand things like AI, bioengineering and climate change. We certainly need good science, but from a political perspective, a good science-fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.”.

On the whole, the message Harari imparts is a positive one and he does offer some hope for the survival of our species. At the end of the book he describes his own personal way to discover a ‘firm ethical ground in a world that extends far beyond my horizons, that spins completely out of human control, and that holds all gods and ideologies suspect’
This is the book I will pass on to my grand daughter when she is of an age to wonder why our world is the way it is. In fact, I think it is essential reading for every human being on this planet.

Update: Many thanks to the publisher for granting my wish of reading an ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,447 followers
January 14, 2022
„Viitorul nu este inevitabil”.

Nu înțeleg de ce unii prieteni îl detestă pe autor. Mă tem că disprețul lor este greșit îndreptat...

Abilitatea narativă a lui Yuval Noah Harari e vădită. Se pricepe să-și prezinte ideile pe înțelesul tuturor și se pricepe să le ilustreze cu anecdote semnificative. Este istoric la bază (medievist, s-a specializat în Cruciade) și găsește fără greș exemple interesante. În recenzia la Homo Deus, am spus deja că opiniile lui Yuval Noah Harari nu se remarcă printr-o originalitate deosebită. Unii gînditori lipsiți de noroc le-au prezentat cu mult înainte în jargonul lor ininteligibil. Firește că nu i-a citit nimeni. Articolele lor au rămas în revistele academice. Harari a rescris opiniile îndrăznețe ale altora în modul cel mai limpede și i-a cucerit pe cititori...

Dar faptul că nu există liber arbitru (pp.66-67), faptul că sinele nostru e, în realitate, o poveste (unii o numesc „narativă”, după termenul englezesc) pe care ne-o spunem mereu și pe care o modificăm de fiecare dată cînd facem asta (p.280), faptul că organismul uman este un complex de algoritmi biochimici, faptul că narațiunile generale (religioase, ideologice) ne țin împreună și ne dau un sens (p.243), faptul că gîndim în grup (p.220) - toate acestea nu au fost descoperite de Harari. Talentul lui a fost să aleagă ipotezele cele mai spectaculoase. Și cele mai radicale.

De pildă: „sufletul nu există”. Sigur, în sensul cartesian, de res cogitans = substanță cugetătoare, nu există. O astfel de afirmație (în care termenul „suflet” își păstrează toată ambiguitatea) ne pune pe gînduri. Harari ar fi trebuit să spună mai întîi ce înțelege prin „suflet”. Nu o face. Sau, alt exemplu: „nu există liber arbitru, omul nu e liber, nu el ia deciziile cele mai importante”. Ipoteza lui Harari (formulată cu decenii în urmă de Galen Strawson) ne umilește orgoliul de ființe libere și responsabile. Și tocmai de aceea a devenit simpatic și este citit pretutindeni.

Și mai e ceva. Harari nu se încurcă în chestiuni lăturalnice, microscopice. El însuși mărturisește că-l interesează „problemele globale”, întrebările mari, kantiene: ce e omul, ce poate spera, ce știe, ce-i este permis să facă? Iar cititorii lui sînt ahtiați să-i examineze răspunsurile. Mai ales, cînd trece, printr-un „hocus pocus” - Hoc est corpus! - de la postura de istoric la aceea de înainte-văzător și profet.

P. S. Din păcate, capitolul despre „fake news” și „post-adevăr” (pp.233-246) m-a dezamăgit. Nu cred că trăim într-o epocă a post-adevărului. Adevărul rămîne adevăr oricîte minciuni l-ar ascunde, iar minciuna rămîne minciună oricît adevăr i-am atîrna de coadă. Termenul „post-adevăr” mi se pare lipsit de sens. Omul a trăit dintotdeauna (nu doar în secolul XXI) cu cvasi-adevăruri, cu opinii probabile (deși le-a crezut certe)...
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
November 15, 2020
I'd like to start by talking a little bit about Harari himself and the importance of this work. There are so many cynical academics out there, but very few devote their time and talent to actually creating work that could have a true benefit to humanity. It's all critical and very rarely constructive.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sapiens with it's sharp focus on the history of mankind and the mistakes we have made (and continue to make) as a species. I also enjoyed Homo Deus with it's further exploration of humanity's mistakes and how they will be our detriment as we walk to our future (and perhaps our doom.) And here both ideas are brought together. This book is a middle-ground between the two, drawing on ideas from both to discuss some especially important and complex issues in a very sincere, intelligent and engaging way.

Harari's greatest talent as a writer is his ability to condense large sweeping issues into accessible and thought-provoking discussions. He wants you to think. It is the only reason he writes. He wants his readers to engage with possibilities and questions over what might be. He looks at the future and what our lives and liberties will be like with increasing advances in technology, which come with decreasing amounts of privacy and autonomy. Everything can be done better by machines and we could all be replaced in some way. And here Harari considers the true value of human life and its potential to learn and adapt.

And I really want to emphasise the word potential again because I believe (and I also believe that Harari believes) that we can become so much better if we altered the path that we are following. And it is not too late to change it had we the will and desire to do so. Indeed, I sense a desire for humanity, a desire for humanity to learn and grow and become better than we are. And this could only happen if we learn from our history and do not allow ourselves to fall completely into the traps of technology. Balance is needed between our human nature and our human advances. We need to remember who we are before it's too late.

I believe his writing is very important and I believe we should all be reading it.


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Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,589 followers
June 9, 2019
This is an utterly fantastic book, the third book I have read by Yuval Harari. They have all been exquisitely excellent! Harari is opinionated and blunt, no doubt about it. But what I most enjoy about this book--as in all of his books--is the unique insights he brings to the discussion. I just love the way he thinks about things. This book contains very few answers--mainly it's about questions. But Harari develops ways to think about issues that are very relevant today.

The 21 lessons are contained in 21 chapters, each one on a different subject. The first chapter is about disillusionment; mainly about disillusions with the liberal agenda. He wonders if today's evolution into nationalism marks the beginning of the end to liberalism. One of the issues is the loss of jobs to artificial intelligence. Harari discusses what types of jobs will probably be lost, but then highly skilled workers might find new jobs in this arena.

The main theme of the book, is that we are at the confluence of two major revolutions; biology and computer science. Harari takes a unique look at where artificial intelligence could take humanity, and the decisions it could make for us. Would these decisions take something away from "being human"? The distinction is made between intelligence and consciousness; they are not the same, though people tend to confuse them. Consciousness develops feelings, which intelligent machines lack. Artificial intelligence could actually analyze feelings, without having feelings itself.

While discussing the role of centralized data on our system, Harari writes:
Politicians are a bit like musicians, and the instrument they play on is the human emotional and biochemical system. They give a speech, and there is a wave of fear in the country. They tweet, and there is an explosion of hatred. I don't think we should give these musicians a more sophisticated instrument [centralized data] to play on.

Harari is a historian, and he has studied the history of the world from a remarkable standpoint. He writes that Western civilization is not based on democracy (Sparta, Julius Caesar, Crusaders, Conquistadors, the Inquisition, the slave trade, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin). Western civilization is what it is.

Another theme of the book is the three threats that are above any single country's ability to counter: nuclear war, climate change, and technological disruption. Harari feels that a global union can actually lead to more patriotism (as in Scotland and Catalonia), without a threat of invasion and violence. Religions are the "handmaids of nationalism." They make finding global solutions to our problems more difficult. Problems of nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruptions can only be solved on a global level. Meanwhile, nationalism and religion divide human civilization into hostile camps.

The chapter on immigration is very interesting. Harari discusses the four debates that underlie much of the arguments:
1) Pro-immigrationists think that host countries have a moral duty to accept immigrants. Anti-immigrationists see immigration as a privilege and absorption as a favor. Host countries have worked very hard and made numerous sacrifices to build a prosperous democracy, and it's not their fault if Syrians have failed to do the same.
2) Immigrants have an obligation to assimilate. Most agree that host countries are attractive because of their values of tolerance and freedoms. But do they need to absorb immigrants who are intolerant, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic? The culture of the host country should not be destroyed. If it offers eventual full equality, then should it also demand full assimilation?
3) If immigrants sincerely work to assimilate, how much time should elapse before they become full members of society? Thte issue here is the difference between individual and collective timescales.
4) Anti-immigrationists argue that immigrants are not assimilating and too many stick to intolerant, bigoted worldviews. o they should not be treated as first-class citizens. So, why invite more? Pro-immigrationists reply that the host country does not fulfill its side of the deal.

Underneath all the debates lurks a more fundamental question; are all cultures equal, or are some superior to others?

Harari has an interesting take on terrorism. A terrorist is like a fly in a china shop. The fly is so weak it cannot move even a single teacup. Instead, it finds a bull and buzzes inside its ear. The bull goes wild with fear and anger and destroys the china shop. The idea here is that a terrorist is desperate, and stages a terrifying spectacle, inducing his adversary to overreact. This overreaction is a bigger threat to security than the terrorist himself.

I just love these quotes:
Human stupidity is one of the most important forces in history, yet wew often tend to discount it.

and in the chapter on humility:
Whenever they talk of God, humans all too often profess self effacement, but then use the name of God to lord it over their brethren.
Harari points out the contradictions between God as a mystery and as a dictator of arcane regulations. "... the mystery of existence doesn't care one iota what names we apes give it."

Every religion, ideology and creed has its shadow. Secular science has one big advantage over most religions; it is not terrified of its shadow and is willing to admit its mistakes and blind spots. Yet, in the chapter on Ignorance, Harari writes that scientists who believe that facts can change public opinion are themselves victims of scientific groupthink. And, when a thousand people belive some made-up story for one month, that's called fake news. But when a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that's called a religion.

Harari sometimes goes very deep into the human psyche. He believes that asking "what is the meaning of life" is simply the wrong question to ask. The correct question is, "how do we reduce suffering?"

I just love this book, and I highly recommend it to everyone. The book is very accessible. There is no jargon or difficult passages. Harari is a great story-teller, and as a result his books are very engaging; and most important, his books make the reader think. A lot.
Profile Image for Atila Iamarino.
411 reviews4,384 followers
October 13, 2018
Harari sendo Harari. Mais um daqueles livros que mudou a minha perspectiva em uma série de fatores. Da sociedade japonesa ao movimento político atual. O livro pula bastante da discussão sobre super-humanos tocando o mundo do futuro, o que achei ótimo, já que é algo que ele discute bastante em Homo Deus.

Em 2016, li o Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age, do Castells, que fala sobre como vários países estão passando por um movimento de descrédito da política, um misto de decepção com os políticos e desapontamento quando percebemos que as promessas não serão cumpridas. Harari dá um contexto e uma perspectiva para isso, quando discute como estamos chegando em um ponto onde não há uma grande mensagem política que unifique as pessoas e a ansiedade que vem dessa falta de missão.

Recomendo para qualquer um vivo no Século XXI. Harari tem um desapego e uma cultura que se combinam muito bem para uma descrição da humanidade sem julgamentos. Aqui discute uma série de problemas e transições que estamos enfrentando. Sinto que é um livro que vou ter que reler várias vezes, para tirar insights sobre o que estou (e o mundo está) passando no momento. Atualmente, para mim, a maior lição foi política. Mas garanto que tem uma outra lição para cada um.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
September 7, 2018
I've read all of Harari's books and I really like him as a thinker and a writer. This book is wonderful in the way all his books are wonderful and is flawed in the way the rest are. It is an act of bold ambition and also hubris to write a history of the world, answer the meaning of life, and to propose a path toward the 22nd Century. He certainly does not do all of that, but the act of trying is a lot of fun to read. A lot of his predictions for the future sound like fantasy and science fiction, but as he readily admits, anyone who tries to imagine the future without sounding like a sci fi writer is certainly wrong. That's fine, but some of the predictions did seem to me to be pretty far fetched.

The biggest strength of the book is the breadth and depth he uses to articulate the problem. The book's fundamental weakness then is that his solution (meditation) does not even come close to being a satisfying result. He sounds pretty nihilistic at the end as he dismantles every single "meaning of life" story. That is fine and maybe he really wants us to stop pretending that there is one. But if the book is going to be about lessons (plural) for a whole century, I would have liked to see some more lessons. Perhaps reducing suffering or increasing compassion? I mean, I refuse to consider a world that will be controlled by robot overloads in which the only way to survive is to count our breaths.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
811 reviews1,275 followers
September 26, 2018
Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question."

Has anyone ever asked you which author you would choose to read if you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one author with you? I could not come up with any one writer until reading Yuval Harari. Now, I would without a doubt choose him. There might only be 3 books he's written so far, and though I've read all 3, I could spend years re-reading them and reflecting on all that is contained within them. I suppose this doesn't really go with the quote above; after all, I'm glad to have answered that question! The quote is one of my favourites in the book and that's why I opened my review with it.

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Mr Harari led us predominately through the history of mankind. In Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow he focused on where we are headed as a species. Now in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century he addresses the major issues challenging the world today and what we can perhaps expect in the very near future. Hint: It doesn't all have to be gloom and doom and apocalyptic scenarios. As he wisely says,

"The first step is to tone down the prophecies of doom and switch from panic mode to bewilderment."

Since we cannot predict how AI and other technologies will change and (hopefully) improve, we cannot say with any certainty what the future will bring. Our world of the 21st century is vastly different to the world 500 years ago, when you could rightly guess that 100 years in the future would be very similar to your present day. Today we are constantly faced with changes, and the number of changes will only increase with each passing year. What should we be doing to prepare for this? How should we be educating our children for this uncertain future? How can we learn who we are before we find algorithms taking over our lives, making it all but impossible to then learn who we are?

Yuval Harari addresses these questions and many others, including climate change, immigration, religion, technology, politics, terrorism, education, and secular ethics. As in his previous books, Mr Harari discusses many topics and gives us many facts and much material to ponder. This book is more philosophical than the previous two, forcing us to really think about ourselves, our stories, our world, our future. If we are to not only survive as a species but also to create a future that is good for all humankind, we must abandon our strict adherence to previous fictions, such as nationalism and religious myths. We can feel loyalty to our country and we can believe in religion, but only if we recognise that they are fictions, and that other humans have their own and ours is not somehow right whilst all others are wrong. We must not let our own world views make us feel superior to other humans and sentient beings, we must not think their suffering does not matter or matters less than our own. We must come together globally if we are to survive and flourish.

"If we want to survive and flourish, humankind has little choice but to complement such loyalties [to nation, religion, etc] with substantial obligations toward a global community. A person can and should be loyal simultaneously to her family, her neighborhood, her profession, and her nation -- so why not add humankind and planet Earth to that list?"

Let's leave behind our prejudices and tribal mentality that helped our hunter-gather ancestors survive. Our world is not the same as theirs; we are all connected and must work together to solve the problems facing humanity today.

I recommend this book to anyone who is even remotely interested in any of these topics. As always with Harari's books, I learned so much and was encouraged to think critically about many things. I love his books because of this!
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
392 reviews114k followers
December 12, 2018
Harari is one of my favorite authors of late, and his books Sapiens and Home Deus are among my favorites. This book builds on those, and is equally fascinating. He is one of those clear thinkers who is able to put together multiple macro trends combined with philosophical perspective. Sapiens is about the past, Deus about the future, and this book purports to be 21 lessons about the present. But it is also rooted in the past, and preparing us for the future.

One of Harari's key themes in Deus and this book is AI and what it will mean for humanity in the future. Many people - thanks to Hollywood - equate AI with machines that achieve consciousness - I tend to not agree with that, as I think it more likely that AI will just be exceedingly smart. But regardless, along with nuclear power and climate change it's one of the great risks to our future. And it is being advanced rapidly. This will have a lot of side affects, the top one of which is what will happen to humans. I think this quote might be one of the most key from the book, and certainly a key theme of Harari's:

"for every dollar and every minute we invest in improving artificial intelligence, it would be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in advancing human consciousness."

He goes on to further explain that our whole economic system is causing us to head in this direction, and to - except for a small number of people who opt to prioritize differently - largely ignore how to improve ourselves.

"The economic system pressures me to expand and diversify my investment portfolio, but it gives me zero incentive to expand and diversify my compassion. So I strive to understand the mysteries of the stock exchange while making far less effort to understand the deep causes of suffering."

Another consequence of AI that is fascinating is that it can enable intelligence at a scale we today can't comprehend, which can be dangerous if it is controlled by the wrong people. AI is just a function of the data you put into it, so it follows that who holds the data in the future, will hold the power. I think this is a key concept.

"In the twenty-first century, however, data will eclipse both land and machinery as the most important asset, and politics will be a struggle to control the flow of data."

Harari talks about trends in globalization, nationalism, immigration, religion, terrorism, and war. A common theme across these is that many people worry a lot that trends in these areas is a cause for concern and causing decline in our world. However the truth is that in most of them, we have come a long way and made a lot of progress - however because we live in an unprecedented age of information sharing - "media" - people are a lot more aware of even small issues in these areas. Also, our governments are predicated on keeping us safe from political violence, so even small issues like terrorism (small in the sense of how many people die from it each year) can have outsized importance to people.

He talks about the danger of propoganda/fake news and fascism and how in todays technological climate there is more risk of them so its better if everyone understands them. He explained this really well in his TED talk - highly worth watching.

But in the end, the only major recommendation Harari makes is around meditation. He impressively meditates for TWO HOURS per day, and TWO MONTHS per year. That is obviously a *huge* time commitment, and yet one he finds fulfilling. If we are going to invest in ourselves, the biggest way might be to start with our minds, and to stop worrying about all of these trends - because in the end, they don't matter to our ability to have a good, happy, loving life.

"I think I learned more about myself and about humans in general by observing my sensations for those ten days than I had learned in my whole life up to that point. And to do so I didn’t have to accept any story, theory, or mythology. I just had to observe reality as it is. The most important thing I realized was that the deepest source of my suffering is in the patterns of my own mind."
Profile Image for Maziar MHK.
174 reviews159 followers
July 18, 2020
فرض کنید یه چند نفر محقق و پروفسورِ مشهورید و یه دورِهَمی راه انداختین واسه تحققِ یه ایده یِ مشترک. اما چه ایده یِ مشترکی و اینکه چی بشه؟ که یه کتابی، جزوه ای، چیزی بنویسین وهرکدومتون بسته به تخصص تون، چند فصلی رو از موضوعاتِ نامتجانسی مثه ژنتیکِ مولکولی، بیوتکنولوژی و تاریخ . جهان گرفته تا رباتیک، هوش مصنوعی و علمِ سیاست، با تِمِ اصلی یِ آینده پژوهی (پنجاه سال دیگه چه خبره تو دنیای اندرون و بیرونِ مغزِ بشر؟) بنویسین که در همین گیرودار، یِهو یه مردِ کچلِ 60 کیلوییِ همجنس گرایِ آتِئیستِ یهودیِ غیرِ متعصب(که خیلیم به ایناش تاکیدِ مُوکَد داره) که ازقَضا مورخِ حرفه ای هم محسوب نمیشه، میاد و یه کتاب میندازه رو میز و میره، بعد شما میخونینش، 10 روز بعد، همون تیمِ متخصصایِ اولی، جمع میشین که بکوبینش اما سورپرایزینگلی وقتی از تجربه یِ خوندن کتاب هراری به هم میگین، میبینین که هم دونسته هایِ شما را در "بِجا ترینِ" آرایشِ ممکن تو فصل ها چیده وهم اینکه سوالاتِ اساسی ای رو مطرح کرده که تو بحثِ آینده پژوهشی، ناب ترینِ "اما" ها و داغ ترین "اگر" ها هستن و نه تنها مخاطبِ عام، بلکه خودِ شمایِ خبره رو به چالش کشیده، جوری که حینِ مطالعش، یه حسی دارین شبیه حسِ توسعه یِ مساحت و حجمِ درگیرِ مغزتون با موضوعاتِ مطرح شده

خوش خوانی یِ ترجمه یِ حاضر، از "بسیار روان" تو بعضی فصلا، تا "گیجم کردی تو مترجم!" تو برخی دیگه از فصل ها، متغیر بود. انگاری که همه فصلا رو یه نفر ترجمه نکرده
Profile Image for André Oliveira.
169 reviews56 followers
January 8, 2019
This book is going to upset some people.

I really enjoyed Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow , my favorite being Sapiens.

okay. this book.

Yuval Noah Harari takes some really big topics as religion, nationalism, secularism, liberty, equality, immigration, terrorism, fake news and so much more, and give us his opinions on these subjects
always being really frank and upfront.

So, I can say that I liked this book because I agree with a lot of his opinions. If you have different opinions, it may be difficult for you to finish the book. But that's the point, right? It made me think about topics that I've never thought about before. It gave me new perspectives and that is really important for me.

At the end of the day, we are just a group of molecules and everyone just wants to live their best life. Think outside the box, do your research and leave your prejudices behind.
Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews330 followers
May 1, 2020
Не знам как е при вас, но мен въпросът за бъдещето все повече ме гложди. А бъдещето, нека не се заблуждаваме, си е сега. Предходните поколения са разполагали с лукса да живеят в настоящето, но са имали други проблеми за разнищване. Ако мога да перифразирам Толстой и небезизвестното първо изречение на „Ана Каренина“, то щастливите хора във всяка епоха си приличат, но щекотливите въпроси са щекотливи посвоему.

“…you will never encounter something that does not change, that has an eternal essence, and that completely satisfies you.”
Ако сте гледали поне едно интервю с Ювал Харари, то може би впечатление са ви направили две неща – че никак не се церемони в изказванията си с цел да ги направи по-привлекателни и че въпреки възможните сценарии, които развива, непрестанно уверява, че никой не знае достатъчно, за да предвиди бъдещето с абсолютна сигурност. Досега не съм чувала в разговор за предстоящото все по-тясно съжителство на хората с изкуствения интелект някой да казва, че хората просто ще станат излишни. Звучи плашещо, но напълно реално. Стремителната скорост, с която се развива машинното самообучение, ще доведе до качествено изменение на пазара на труда. Да, ще възникнат много нови и вълнуващи професии (това вече е факт), но за хората на нискоквалифицирани длъжности ще бъде изключително трудно да се адаптират към високотехнологичните перспективи. А и без това роботите ще могат да правят много неща по-бързо, без фактора „човешка грешка“ и без да възразяват. Друго тяхно предимство, което Харари отбелязва, е възможността за непрестанно и, поради свързаността в мрежа, едновременно актуализиране на уменията им.

“Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst political system in the world, except for all the others.”
„21 урока за 21-ви век“ е книга за историите, които хората измислят, за да придадат смисъл на света. Истории като фашизма, комунизма и последвалия ги либерализъм. Като Бог, свобода, нация, равенство. Най-вече за сблъсъка на тези истории и как никоя от тях не е съвършена и уви, все още не сме успели напълно да ги помирим и съвместим най-доброто от тях. Ние сме нашите фикции, а те неминуемо страдат от съвсем човешките ни слабости. Изправени пред разпада на историите си, лични и общностни, намирането на техни алтернативи е приоритет.

Вземете свободата например (знам, че всички това искаме). Свободната воля се описва като способността да вземеш решение, без да се влияеш от вътрешни или външни фактори. За мозъчната химия знаем, че е с особено крехко равновесие, което в съвременните (а може би и всякакви) условия подскача като гайгеров брояч в мазата на болницата в Припят. За външните фактори има ли смисъл да споменавам – всички клипове, които YouTube ви препоръчва въз основа на предходни търсения, реклами, в чиято целева група попадате, предпочитанията към неща, които вече са ви познати (mere-exposure effect). Алгоритмите все повече задобряват в отгатването на вкусовете ни. А както самият Харари заявява, повечето хора всъщност изобщо не се познават чак толкова добре. Ако в един момент се появят алгоритми, които просто ни подсказват всички решения – къде да учим или кой да бъде партньорът ни, тогава възниква плашещият въпрос – а ние какво ще правим?

Бързам да спомена нещо, за което авторът ни успокоява. Харари твърди, че е много малко вероятно развитието на популярния сценарий, от който човечеството така тръпне – изкуственият интелект да развие съзнание и да се опита да ни завладее. Интелектът и съзнанието, твърди Харари, са две различни неща, като второто е присъщо на органичната материя – тук вече печелим малко по точки. Това пък съвсем не значи, че роботите няма да развият по-добра емпатия или по-точно да долавят емоциите, отколкото самите хора.

Живеем в свят, който неимоверно и главоломно се е усложнил след индустриалната и особено след технологичната революция. Ювал Харари признава, че вече няма човешко същество, което да може напълно да разбира всички зависимости и комплексни отношения в общността и държавата си, камо ли в света. Често държавите и лидерите се възползват от това и предпочитат обединени и по��лушни нации пред съмняващи се и търсещи истината. Справедливостта като последен бастион на морални насоки също става далеч по-сложна концепция от „добро“ или „зло“. Религията, в която различни нации намират упование, все повече губи актуалността си спрямо секуларизма и готовността да признаеш, че може чудовищно да грешиш в преценката си. Чака ни ужасно много работа.

В своята рецензия за книгата Бил Гейтс заявява, че според автора всичко се свеждало до това да започнем да медитираме. Последната глава наистина е посветена на това. Харари накратко описва своя опит с медитирането, практичните условия, в които го е изучавал, необвързани с никое религиозно учение и ползите, които му носи. Признава, че подобно на много хора, е бил скептик в началото. Заявява обаче, че това е най-важната практика живота му (това ми напомня за Стив Джобс, който твърди че приемането на ЛСД е едно от най-умните неща, които е правил като млад). Харари не мисли, че всички ще тръгнат вкупом да медитират и да успокояват ума, но смята нещо много по-важно. Че за всеки долар, похарчен за развитие на технологиите, трябва да има долар, похарчен за развитие на съзнанието ни. Напълно съм съгласна с него.
Profile Image for Anton.
302 reviews89 followers
July 5, 2018
As always, masterful and exquisite non-fiction writing as we come to expect from Mr Harari. Delightful, wise and very perceptive. This book can be seen as an expansion and a companion to Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. The attention of this volume is focused on the Present as opposed to Past or the Future. Some parts will make you feel inspired, others will sow a despair. But it is a relevant and useful book that will give you a plenty to chew on.

Strongly recommended
Profile Image for Preston Kutney.
219 reviews29 followers
October 13, 2018
If you’ve read Sapiens and Homo Deus (which I really enjoyed), you can skip.

This is basically a collection of Harari’s opinions on a group of topics somewhat relevant to today, repackaged from his first two books, with all the same strengths and flaws: good storytelling about human history, human nature, the future; but also the signature flaw in his writing - very little distinction between ideas that have substantial evidence and those that are simply his opinions.
Profile Image for Brandice.
914 reviews
November 11, 2019
21 Lessons for the 21st Century offers lots of food for thought and interesting concepts, many already under way with several on the horizon for the near future.

The continuous rise of technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), the overwhelming volume of information we’re bombarded with on a daily basis, and the traditional ideas we often hold regarding religion and politics all significantly impact the world. The chapters on AI, nationalism, and combatting terrorism were particularly interesting.

”Instead of humans competing with AI, they could focus on servicing and leveraging AI. For example, the replacement of human pilots by drones has eliminated some jobs but created many new opportunities in maintenance, remote control, data analysis, and cybersecurity. The U.S. armed forces need thirty people to operate every unmanned Predator or Reaper drone flying over Syria, while analyzing the resulting harvest of information occupies at least eighty people more.”

While there’s much to consider here, I couldn’t help but feel parts of this book were dry, and found myself losing interest at various points. I do appreciate Harari’s intellect — 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is an insightful read.
Profile Image for kartik narayanan.
740 reviews205 followers
October 14, 2018
What can I say about this book that will do it justice? Nothing.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is yet another seminal work by Yuval Noah Harari, which deals with the challenges facing us here and now. He tackles different topics from varying perspectives. Even if you do not agree with everything he says, one thing is for sure - he makes you think.

Prepare to have your worldview expand if you read this book. It is a definite keeper.
Profile Image for Daniel Clausen.
Author 11 books469 followers
May 23, 2022
This is one of the most complete books I've read in a long time. Filled with wisdom, insight, philosophy, wit, curiosity. And, most importantly, humility.

I felt that each chapter could be a book unto itself. I felt that some insights were exceptional, while others gave me pause. Perhaps one of the reasons is that the book covers so much ground in such a short time and in doing so passes over vasts amounts of scholarly research (glosses over it, randomly picks through it perhaps). In some of the subjects where I was familiar with the scholarly literature, I was thoroughly impressed by his ability to take complex ideas, summarize them, synthesize them, and pack them into a short chapter.

On the other hand, I was also a little worried about how much certain debates were left on the cutting-room floor.

In cases where I wasn't as familiar with the scholarly literature or in chapters where I think he is dealing with new theoretical territory, I wish he would have slowed down and thoroughly explained the assumptions that were leading his insights. Typically, I like concise books that are light on citations; but in this case, I found myself missing the thick list of notes and citations at the end. For this reason, I would like to thoroughly interrogate the ideas of the book again at a slower pace.

One of the key ideas of the book -- that revolutions in biotech and infotech (AI especially) might lead to algorithms that are better decision-makers than humans -- is an insight that contradicts my own findings regarding computer-led decision-making. In short, what I've found in my reading "black box" decision-making tools, even ones that bake in a lot of data, have tendencies toward catastrophic blow-ups when they try to predict human behavior.

The most dramatic example of this was 1998's Long Term Capital Management which used a computer model for investing and almost blew up the world economy. One of the designers of the model, Nobel prize winner Myron Scholes, afterward suggested that if they had simply baked in more data they would have been fine. (Here is a link to Long-Term Capital Management history on Investipedia: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/...). My guess is that it would have simply delayed the blow-up and made it perhaps more catastrophic.

An attempt by google to use an algorithm to predict the outbreak of flu cases was another example of a prediction algorithm that was well-behaved for a while and then fell apart. (You can read about that one here: https://www.wired.com/2015/10/can-lea...).

Of course, Long-Term Capital Management was more than 20 years ago. AI, algorithms, and machine learning, I'm sure, have significantly improved and will improve, as the author's own research suggests. I don't doubt his insight that humans will increasingly come to rely on algorithms. But I was concerned that he didn't address the problem of randomness in human action that often leads these models to be catastrophically wrong.

The point is that he covers so much so fast that there are probably a lot more of these gaps that need to be examined.

I think that the book both in its message and its design makes the case for more of this kind of writing by scholars. Since the 21st century moves fast and upends your preconceived notions fairly quickly, perhaps scholars should also try to move fast, even if it means throwing some caution to the wind. I have mixed feelings about this. For a long time, even early in the twentieth century, people have suggested that scholars need to engage more in public discourse -- be unafraid of the pundits and punditry world. They should engage in the often messy debates that mark and scar our imagination on TV, radio, and newspapers (and now Youtube and social media).

For me, punditry is a four-letter word. It's actually pronounced ****ing punditry. Their priority is ratings and relevancy: thus attention-grabbing and entertainment are a priority. The scholar's greatest resource is his or her ability to be irrelevant: to play around with ideas that aren't sexy or exciting. Scholars have entered the punditry world before and the results I believe have not always been happy ones. Those who fight monsters need to be cautious that they do not become one (Friedrich Nietzsche I believe, but its origin is perhaps far older). This book, written quickly, tackling big problems, making big assertions, may come close to that dirty four-letter word. It is certainly more relevant for it. Certainly the kind of book that I would not hesitate to recommend to a high-level high school student or college freshman. (Still too scholarly I'm afraid for a barroom chat). But for that reason, it also warrants my caution -- and another read.

[I re-read this book in February of 2021! It still holds up as one of the better books I've ever read.]
Profile Image for Argos.
1,033 reviews315 followers
October 6, 2018
Harari’nin üçüncü kitabı olan “21. Yüzyıl için 21 Ders”, önceki kitabı Homo Deus’taki ivme kaybının azalıp, ilk kitabı Homo Sapiens’e yaklaştığı bir kitap olmuş. İlk kitabındaki 2 milyon yıllık insanlık tarihi anlatımı ikinci kitabında biraz bilimkurgu niteliğini alarak fütüristik kurgu (fiction) şekline dönmüştü. Bu kitabı yine bilgi yüklü, yine yazarın sözünü esirgemeden düşüncelerini ve sentezlerini net olarak anlattığı bir kitap olmuş.
Kitabı beğenip beğenmemeniz tamamen baktığınız pencereye bağlı. Eğer sosyalist veya Marksist bir dünya görüşündeyseniz kitabı beğenmeniz çok zor, beğeniden çok eleştiri ağır basacaktır. Milliyetçi-ulusalcı bir kimlikle bakarsanız yine beğeniden çok eleştiri oklarını yönlendirisiniz. Dindar biriyseniz ve muhafazakar dünya görüşüne sahipseniz çok rahatsız edici bulmanız neredeyse kesin. Anarşizmi savunuyorsanız kitabı külliyen reddedersiniz. Yazar zaten kendisini liberal olarak tanımlıyor, liberal ekonomiyi, çevreciliği, LGBT haklarını savunan, ateist, laik, düşünce ve fikir özgürlüğünün ateşli taraftarı, sosyal devlet ve demokrasinin yanında yer alan, otokrat yönetimlere düşman olan bir düşünce insanı.
Kitabın ilk birkaç bölümü Homo Deus’un özeti ve tekrarı niteliğinde. Bu bölümlerde sanırım çeviri politikası gerekliliğinden dolayı verilen isimler (sanatçı, şarkı vb) Türkçe örnekler üzerinden verilmiş, bence çok sırıtıyor. Keza sanırım Türkiye’deki mevcut yönetime yönelik eleştirileri elekten geçirilmiş, orijinali ile karşılaştırmakta yarar var.
“Laiklik” ve “hakikat sonrası” (posttruth) bölümleri çok iyi toparlanmış. Son bölüm ilgilenenlere ait “meditasyon” bölümü, isterseniz okumazsınız. Bu tür kitapları çok yararlı buluyorum, size hap şeklinde komprime bilgi ve geniş kaynak havuzu sunuyor. Farklı bakış açısı ile düşünmenize imkan sağlıyor.
Önyargısız, sizi etkilemesinden korkmadan okumanız halinde beğeneceğinizden eminim.
Profile Image for Berengaria.
411 reviews75 followers
May 28, 2023
3.5 stars

Unfortunately, this book is badly titled. There are no "lessons" as the word lesson indicates a pre-cut block of information to be absorbed (and if it happens in school, with a quiz afterward).

This is more "21 Things to Ponder About Where the 21st Century Is Going".

Some of these pondering points are far more nuanced than others and in one or two, he seems to be reiterating the general understanding of the topic without offering anything I think most (thinking and reading) people already know/think.

I enjoyed the earlier chapters about technology and political change far more than the later sociology and belief chapters, probably because the those are my wheelhouse and I disagree far more with Harari's takes there. In matters of tech and politics, I'm not nearly as well versed.

One problem I had with Harari's interpretations on occasion is that he takes things far too literally and demands tangible, measurable evidence for simply everything. He understands there are symbolic/metaphoric representations in the world, but he seem to have a hard time with the concept of metaphoric truth.

His argument about nations not being able to suffer because they don't actually exist is a small example of this. When we say "The nation is suffering an economic setback" it means the entire collective is experiencing a difficult time with that topic. NO, says Harari, you're just falling victim to a fake story. Nations aren't real so they can't suffer. Only living things can suffer. (Everything he can't literally put his hands on is a fake story for him.)

It's surprising he can't see the word "suffer" is only being used metaphorically.

So following Harari logic: shouldn't then the title be something like "21 Lessons for People Living in the 21st Century" seeing as a century does not technically exist and therefore can not learn a lesson?* 🤔👨‍🏫

But I'm sure this is why mindfulness meditation was so profound for him. It's quite literally literalness! I totally believe that would appeal to him.

In general, this book is an interesting overview of a lot of different topics facing the world today, and a good book for a discussion group, but sometimes stretched a bit beyond what the good man has any deep insight into.

*thanks Sportyrod for that alternate title!
Profile Image for پیمان عَلُو.
295 reviews158 followers
August 30, 2020
نویسنده ، کتاب رو با این جمله شروع میکنه:

درجهانی مملو از اطلاعاتِ بی‌ربط، وضوح در بینش یک توانایی است

درکل کتاب خوبی بود و بنظرم خوندنش واقعا لازمه...
کتاب بهتون دید تازه‌ای رو میده تا با وضوح بیشتری به جهان و اتفاقات حال حاضر و آینده نگاه کنید...
و سوالات بسیار قشنگی رو هم مطرح میکنه گلچینی رو اینجا می‌نویسم...

آیا خدا بازگشته است؟
ظهور دونالد ترامپ چه چیزی را نشان می‌دهد؟
چه تمدنی بر دنیا تسلط دارد؟
غرب ،یا ، چین، یا ، اسلام ؟
چرا دموکراسی لیبرال در بحران است؟
آیا جنگ جدیدی در راه است؟
در رابطه با تروریسم چه باید کرد؟

آیا انسان‌خردمند قادر است به جهانی که ساخته معنا ببخشد؟

در زندگی چه باید بکنیم؟
در زندگی به کدام مهارت ها نیازمندیم ؟
آیا اروپا باید مرز‌هایش را روی مهاجرین باز نگه‌دارد؟
چه اتفاقاتی در دنیا در حال رخ دادن است؟
چه چیزی را باید به فرزندان خود بیاموزیم؟

Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,255 reviews237 followers
July 5, 2023
“Already today, “truth” is defined by the top results of the Google search.”

In SAPIENS, Yuval Noah Harari offered his distinctly left-wing interpretation of the history of mankind’s cultural evolution, of the possible reasons for its xenophobia, racism, misogyny, patriarchy, greed and capitalism, its consumerism, its imperialism, its wars, and its creation of gods, religion and shamanism. As a reader with a definite left-wing bent to my beliefs and my thinking, I found myself nodding in agreement at Harari’s narrative and his conclusions. But I’ll admit that I found myself wondering whether his left-wing thinking led him to the book’s conclusions or whether his academic research led him to conclusions that appeared to be left-wing in nature.

And now, 21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY continues that thread of consciousness, if you will. Noah Harari moves from the distant past of mankind's entire history to the very recent past, to today and to a very, very small number of years in a possible future. In twenty-one loosely connected essays on a variety of topics, he posits how that seventy millennia of evolution has affected our short-term thinking, how we have evolved (devolved?) in the microcosm of the high speed historical microburst of two decades of the 21st century, and how we might position ourselves for a chance at continued life on this beleaguered planet. He celebrates “human wisdom” but decries the ubiquitous effects of “human stupidity”.

He asks,

“What does the rise of Donald Trump signify? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? Why is liberal democracy in crisis? Is God back? Is a new world war coming? Which civilization dominates the world – the West, China, Islam? Should Europe keep its doors open to immigrants? Can nationalism solve the problems of inequality and climate change? What should we do about terrorism?”

Consider the following tidbits of his thinking:

On social media and community:
“people live ever more lonely lives in an ever more connected planet.”

On human-caused global climate warming:
“… as of 2018, instead of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the global emission rate is still increasing. Humanity has very little time left to wean itself from fossil fuels. We need to enter rehab today. Not next year or next month, but today. “Hello, I am Homo sapiens, and I am a fossil-fuel addict”.”

On shamanism and the outright fraud of a religious patriarchy:
“The true expertise of priests and gurus has never really been rainmaking, healing, prophecy, or magic. Rather, it has always been interpretation. A priest is not somebody who knows how to perform the rain dance and end the drought. A priest is somebody who knows how to justify why the rain dance failed, and why we must keep believing in our god even though he seems deaf to all our prayers.”

On nationalism and the necessity for humility and a more modest outlook toward our true place in the world:
“One potential remedy for human stupidity is a dose of humility. National, religious, and cultural tensions are made worse by the grandiose feeling that my nation, my religion, and my culture are the most important in the world – and therefore my interests should come before the interests of anyone else, or of humankind as a whole.”

On bigotry, xenophobia and religious zealotry:
“From an ethical perspective, monotheism was arguably one of the worst ideas in human history”

“When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it “fake news” in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful (or incur their wrath)”. (Omigod, I couldn’t agree more!!)

And, if you are of a secular, atheist bent (as I am), you will positively howl with delight when you read the etymological history of the phrase “Hocus Pocus!” I had NO idea!

21 LESSONS is an absolutely first-rate, mind-expanding, evocative, provocative, thrilling, intellectual joy ride. Take your time and savor Harari’s thoughts one bite at a time. Although there is a clear flow to the set of ideas in the total book, each essay can stand on its own merits so you might also choose to read it slowly alongside your favourite bit of easy-going fiction. That will work too.

Definitely recommended. And on that note, I have definitely added HOMO DEUS to my TBR list.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Saadia  B..
184 reviews75 followers
June 11, 2021
Harari is famous for his thought provoking analysis and descriptions. In this book he touches upon various aspects of life such as AI, nuclear wars, globalised politics, religion, terrorism, etc. but more than lessons he talks about their stance in the 21st Century.

Though he tries to make sense out of them but mostly loses track. As per his estimates, the recent boom of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Algorithms and BioEngineering will put billions of humans out of job market and will create a massive new useless class leading to social and political upheavals that no existing ideology be it Liberalism, Nationalism, Islam or any other knows how to handle. Jobs are changing, so are skills hence this might come to a reality which most of us aren’t able to see as a threat, as of now.

Machines learn better with more information; their abilities enhance with analysis and patterns. Thereby instead of collective discrimination in the 21st Century we might face a growing problem of individual discrimination. Three problems: nuclear wars, ecological collapse and technological disruption are enough to threaten the future of human civilization.

Terrorism according to Harari is a weapon for the marginal and weak segments of the humanity. It is a military strategy that hopes to change the political situation by spreading fear rather than cashing material damage. Like the USA, China, Germany, Japan, Iran and Israel seem to understand that in the 21st Century the most successful strategy is to sit on the fence and let others do the fighting for you.

Revolutionary knowledge do rarely make it to the centre because the centre is built on existing knowledge. Your brain and yourself are part of the matrix, to escape the matrix you must escape yourself and escaping the narrow definition of self might become a necessary survival skill in today’s time.

I agree with some of his notions but nonetheless this book is his weakest as the title was more about lessons. But the book itself was about his predictions which might or might not come true in the 21st Century.

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Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
683 reviews398 followers
June 22, 2019
Initial Thoughts: Overly generalized and vague, you'll be hard pressed to find many concrete "lessons"— although there's a fair amount of astute insights and quotable aphorisms.

“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.”

Based on all the rave reviews, I thought at first maybe I had missed something until Bill Gates' 3 star review confirmed my initial opinion.

The first portion of the book was my favorite, and although I've already hit my personal limit on digital futurecasting (see: The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future and Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future) Harari provided a plethora of interesting perspectives (... albeit with a paucity of data).

In fact, the whole book is fascinating—but seems to be built more upon Harari's own opinions, mass generalizations, and factual cherry picking than any hard science or research. Technically, you might argue that all nonfiction books have these same qualities, however, next to books such as The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power which is utterly stacked with backed up facts ... this one pales in comparison.

Instead of "lessons," Harari could easily have swapped in "questions," each of which are addressed/confronted in the 21 chapters:

Part I: The Technological Challenge
1. DISILLUSIONMENT The end of history has been postponed
2. WORK When you grow up, you might not have a job
3. LIBERTY Big Data is watching you
4. EQUALITY Those who own the data own the future

Part II: The Political Challenge
5. COMMUNITY Humans have bodies
6. CIVILISATION There is just one civilisation in the world
7. NATIONALISM Global problems need global answers
8. RELIGION God now serves the nation
9. IMMIGRATION Some cultures might be better than others

Part III: Despair and Hope
10. TERRORISM Don’t panic
11. WAR Never underestimate human stupidity
12. HUMILITY You are not the centre of the world
13. GOD Don’t take the name of God in vain
14. SECULARISM Acknowledge your shadow

Part IV: Truth
15. IGNORANCE You know less than you think
16. JUSTICE Our sense of justice might be out of date
17. POST-TRUTH Some fake news lasts for ever
18. SCIENCE FICTION The future is not what you see in the movies

Part V: Resilience
19. EDUCATION Change is the only constant
20. MEANING Life is not a story
21. MEDITATION Just observe

By the end of the book, Harari has fallen into repetitive religion bashing and his main "answer" / overall summary as a solution ... meditation. Okay ... Now I'm not a fan of organized religion by a long shot, but this last portion gave me strong editorial rant vibes, and, I'm all for meditation—but as a cure all? I guess I just had higher hopes for this book.

"Silence isn't neutrality; it is supporting the status-quo."

It's almost like Harari used up all his academic prowess in Sapiens, with each book moving farther afield from sound research to personal tirades and guesstimations.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind 5 Stars: Solid material, loved it.
Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow 4 Stars: Moving towards heavy futurecasting, still compelling.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century 3 Stars: Abstract and loose, borderline sci-fi.

Sweeping and almost all encompassing, this is still an entertaining read.

"Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question."

Some things to think about:

"For as the pace of change increases, not just the economy but the very meaning of 'being human' is likely to mutate. Already in 1848 the Communist Manifesto declared that 'all that is solid melts into air.' Marx and Engels, however, were thinking mainly about social and economic structures. By 2048, physical and cognitive structures will also melt into air, or into a cloud of data bits."

"Terrorists are masters of mind control. They kill very few people but nevertheless manage to terrify billions and rattle huge political structures such as the European Union or the United States. Since September 11, 2001, each year terrorists have killed about 50 people in the European Union, about 10 people in the United States, about 7 people in China, and up to 25,000 people elsewhere in the globe (mostly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria). In contrast, each year traffic accidents kill about 80,000 Europeans, 40,000 Americans, 270,000 Chinese, and 1.25 million people altogether. Diabetes and high sugar levels kill up to 3.5 million people annually, while air pollution kills about 7 million people per year. So why do we fear terrorism more than sugar, and why do governments lose elections because of sporadic terrorist attacks but not because of chronic air pollution?"

"In the twentieth century, industrialized civilization depended on the 'barbarians' for cheap labor, raw materials, and markets, and it often conquered and absorbed them. But in the twenty-first century, a post-industrial civilization relying on AI, bioengineering, and nanotechnology might be far more self-contained and self-sustaining. Not just entire classes but entire countries and continents might become irrelevant. Fortifications guarded by drones and robots might separate the self-proclaimed civilized zone, where cyborgs fight one another with logic bombs, from the barbarian lands where feral humans fight one another with machetes and Kalashnikovs."
Profile Image for HAMiD.
443 reviews
March 22, 2020
دوستان ارجمند نوروزِ نود و نُه برای همه بی گزند باشه و بگذره این بلای تازه آمده اما دیر سال و انگار بی پایان
مهم ترین درسِ کتاب شاید این باشد که آدمیزاد کمی هم از ساده لوحی اش دست بردارد. اگرچه عقل هم کارکردِ چندانی نشاید که داشته باشد در جهان مدرن اما چه بسا به کار بردنش بِه از بی کار ماندنش باشد! آدمیزاد عقل را به کار بگیرد و بیاید کمی اندیشه کند به بنیان های فکری اش که هزار سال به آنها چسبیده و گمان می کند هیچ خطا به آنها وارد نیست و این همان گیرِ ماجراست! همه چیز در ذاتِ خودش خطا دارد و مطلق نیست، و راستی نادانی مگر چه اندازه شیرین است که گاهی آدمیزاد اینچنین پافشاری دارد در نفهمیدن! در نخواستن و در ندانستن؟! بماند که دانایی در پی اش مسوولیت پذیری دارد و چه بسا پرهیز از پی بردن به خطاپذیری چیزها از این ترس از مسولیت پذیری باشد. بگذریم. باری چه بسا کتاب بیشتر به کار آدمیزادگانی بیاید که بخواهند زنگارِ ذهن شان را کمی بریزند. اگر بخواهند ورنه که هیچ... هیچ

زمان بی‌کرانه را
تو با شمار گامِ عمر ما مسنج
به پای او دمی‌ست این درنگ درد و رنج!

به سان رود
که در نشیب دره سر به سنگ می‌زند،
رونده باش!
امید هیچ معجزی ز مرده نیست.
زنده باش!

Profile Image for Kon R..
242 reviews107 followers
January 26, 2023
This guy wants the government to monitor what's under people's skin as a new form of surveillance. I ain't going to support pyschos.
Profile Image for Bharath.
645 reviews474 followers
September 2, 2019
I enjoyed reading both Sapiens and Homo Deus, especially the former. This book picks up the thread and is set between the matter of Sapiens (now Homo Sapiens came to rule the Earth) and Homo Deus (what awaits us in the future) in terms of time scales. While the author talks about this book’s matter being more relevant to the present, it is still set out a little into the future.

The book starts with the impact of technology – robotics, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. This is going to mean a large-scale shift in the nature of jobs – with low end jobs set to disappear. This will lead to the emergence of what Yuval Noah Harari describes as a ‘useless’ class who will be unemployable. In the later part of the book he discusses ideas for the revamp of the education system. Till date, education has been about imparting of information & knowledge – there is little purpose in that any more with access to information being easier than ever before for anybody.

The political shift worldwide is discussed in some detail – including the apparent decline of liberalism. He talks about the emerging popularity of nationalist parties worldwide. In the later parts of the book, Yuval warns of the dangers of looking at aggregate data which is less personal, but in my opinion makes that mistake himself in the political section. Voters often only have a binary choice and the aggregate results make it appear as if they have chosen an ideology rather than voted for specific individuals.

There are further sections on immigration, religion, justice and finally on meditation. The discussions on mythology are far less nuanced and meaningful as compared to Joseph Campbell’s writings. The section on secularism makes some great points.

There are many brave and frank insights throughout the book, including on religion. There are several issues with the narrative though – a very pessimistic tone, disjointed sections and abrupt conclusions. And yet, it is a book which is intellectually stimulating and makes for great reading for that reason alone. The topics in the book are those which all of us should be thinking about. As Yuval Noah Harari points out, most of us are too busy trying to attain power and control circumstances, rather than understanding ourselves & the world we live in.

My rating is more liberal than my usual standards due to the highly intellectual, important and engaging content of the book.
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