An IIPM Initiative
Monday, December 6, 2021


Homo Deus


Glimpse into a Chilling Future
SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | Issue Dated: December 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Homo Deus | Yuval Noah Harari |



Author : Yuval Noah Harari

Penguin Random House India


ISBN: 9781910701881

Pages: 448

Price: Rs799

When Pokémon Go burst into the scene a few months ago, it also spawned quite a few memes on the social media. One of the most striking of them was a meme that carried the photo of a major Motorway leading to Chicago, US, with an electric hoarding that read, “Please don’t chase Pokémon Go on this Motorway”. The mocking comment on the meme read, “In 1980s we predicted that 2016 will bring jet-packs, human-replacing robots and what not. In 2016: This.”

Predicting the future is no mean feat. It never was. However lately, it has become even more difficult an endeavour. Memes apart, even a flip through some of the mainstream and specialised magazines of the 70s and 80s can show you that while a few predictions did indeed hit the bulls eye, a vast majority of the predictions were off on hilarious tangents.

Under the circumstances, Yuval Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow is a courageous endeavour.

People who know Hariri know that he is not one to shy away from challenges. There is a very famous story about Hariri that testifies to this. Years ago, when he got a tenure in the university, he was asked to teach a course that no one else was willing to teach, as it involved a bit of several disciplines and dealt with lots of cross-references. Hariri took up the offer without protest and came up with
a course material that later turned into the world best-seller book, Sapiens.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow is a sequel of Sapiens. Sapiens dealt with the trials and tribulations of the human race since the days of its early evolution from apes, to where we are now. Dealing with cross-disciplinary references, the book has carved out a very niche following of its own. It is expected that Homo Deus will further widen that fraternity.

The central idea of this book is based on two theories. The first theory suggests that war, famine and plague will slowly become things of the past and new challenges will emerge as the effects of modern technology and lifestyles become more problematic for humanity. To tackle these challenges, the human
race will need to completely reinvent the way it has behaved since its inception.

“What then will replace famine, plague and war at the top of the human agenda? Humanity’s next targets are likely to be immortality, happiness and divine powers of creation. Having reduced mortality from starvation, disease and violence, we will now aim to overcome old age and even death itself. Having saved people from abject misery, we will now aim to make them positively happy.

“And having raised humanity above the beastly level of survival struggles, we will now aim to upgrade humans into gods, and to turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus. This isn’t science fiction. The pursuit of immortality, happiness and divinity has already begun. It is taking place around us every day, in countless laboratories, factories and supermarkets. In 2013, Google established a sub-company called Calico whose stated mission is ‘to solve death,’” writes Harari.  

Running parallel to this theory is another one that says that consciousness is decoupling from intelligence, and hence technology driven machinery are getting more and more intelligent although they are not yet as conscious as Homo sapiens.

“Think of Amazon’s Kindle, for example. It can monitor which books you read fast, and which slow; on which page you took a break, and on which sentence you abandoned the book, never to pick it up again. (Better tell the author to rewrite that bit.) If Kindle is upgraded with face recognition and biometric sensors, it can know how each sentence you read influenced your heart rate and blood pressure. It can know what made you laugh, what made you sad and what made you angry. Soon, books will read you while you are reading them. And whereas you quickly forget most of what you read, Amazon will never forget a thing. Such data will enable Amazon to choose books for you with uncanny precision. It will also enable Amazon to know exactly who you are, and how to press each and every one of your emotional buttons,” he further adds.

We are just at the beginning of this process of data-driven transformation and its culmination will be a new religion that will replace the existing myths and will be called “Dataism.”

It works on the premise that human behaviour is not guided by free will but through the intelligence accumulated through years of chemical and biological process. So if consciousness is passé, and intelligence is in, then what
is to stop intelligent robots from controlling the ways of the world?

But like in his previous book, Harari is neither judgemental nor unusually excited about these prospects. The observations are made in a tenor which is cold and that makes the entire scenario even more chilling. There is a fine line between academic musing and sensationalism, and Yuval Harari has mastered the art of being on the right side of that line. This book is no exception. After Sapiens, Harari has come up with another winner here. A masterpiece.

Rate this article:
Bad Good    
Current Rating 0
Previous Story

Previous Story

Post CommentsPost Comments

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017