What I learnt about the human race through Yuval Harari’s books

I am new to the history of our race and not a history buff nor a futurist enthusiast. However, I am hooked on the subject by two great books from Yuval Harari “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow“. They are thought provoking and full of details that would satisfy many skeptics. These are the two best selling books so there are literally thousands of review on Amazon or goodread that you could take a look. Bill Gates recommended them both as well on his site.

In a normal human life, 20 or 30 years is a long period of time. But reading these books allows me to zoom out and look at things from not only ten thousand years but even one hundred thousands years, which is a very different perspective. You would perhaps look at life very differently after.

Our specific human race only started just over the past seventy thousands years out of more than 2 million years in which “human” existed on earth. Through different revolutions, from cognitive (writing) to scientific and most recently the industrial revolution, we have come to dominate the earth. We are not the strongest, the fastest or the most intelligent but our ability to collaborate in large number seems to be The key reason behind our domination. On our way to domination, we have made very serious impact on the earth itself like:

  • We are responsible for the extinction of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants.
  • Massive change to the earth ecosystem, which leads to climate change and a potential ecological collapse in a not too distant future.

By this century, we seems to conquer war, plague or famine. Yes you could say that how this could be true where I still see conflicts in the Middle East, or Syria everyday on TV. Well Yuval articulation is particularly sharp here so I would not want to spoil it by revealing them here. One estimate stuck with me, by 2030, “half of humankind is expected to be overweight”.

So then what would our future be? Depending on your time horizon, some of the biggest questions for the human race would change as well.

If we talk about the next 20-50 years, some of our biggest challenges/questions could perhaps be climate change/ecological collapse, or inequality. Stats like the richest 62 people on earth in 2016 had wealth equaled the bottom 50% of humankind.

If we use a time horizon of a few hundred, or thousand of years, Yuval put forward a three main potential items Immortality, Bliss and Divinity.

Yes they are not particularly original as other authors talked about them before. I still love his narrative and the questions he is trying to answer on implications on our race.

A few examples could be:

  • Now right now, we assume that we would go to school, study and then start working at the age of 22, 23. We work for 35 – 44 years and then retire. On average we would die in the next 20 – 30 years. However, what if we lived until 150 years old? If we retire at the age of 65, then we still have 70 – 80 years ahead of us. What would we do with that much time? How about the implication to our insurance, to health care etc…
  • What about marriage? Right now, most people would be in a marriage for a maximum 60 – 70 years. But if we lived until 150 years old, this would mean if you got married at the age of 35, you would still spend the next 120 years with your partners 🙂
  • or I trust that most of us kill a few ants in the past. On average, we don’t think much when we kill them, a lot of them. We don’t see much values that ants bring to our lives either. Now imagine the superhuman of the future, one day when they look at us “homo sapiens”, they would see us just like the way we see ants now, totally irrelevant.

There are many examples like that in the book that would make you pause and think.

If you haven’t had enough and still want more, Yuval just published the third book called “21 lessons for the 21st century“. In this book, Yuval explores deeper key lessons in between now and the next 50 – 100 year. I am reading it now 🙂

Have a lovely weekend.

Chandler

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