Book Review of Homo Deus By Yuval Noah Harari

Review by Vipul Murarka

Edited by: Divyajyot Joshi

The English version of Homo Deus was released a few weeks back. Thanks to netgalley

I was given the free copy of the book to review the same.

After having thoroughly enjoyed

Sapiens by the same author

earlier this year, I was all the more excited to read Homo Deus. While in Sapiens, the author explored on how humans evolved and reached to the point where we are at the moment, this book is about what is there in store for humans in future.

The book has raised some really interesting points. While I had read in some articles that the next era will be about artificial intelligence and biotechnology, those articles just gave me a taste of how these two technologies will shape our future. Homo Deus, however, takes this to another level altogether. Harari, a marvellous author, explains each of his theories with examples of latest scientific experiments. He is a brilliant story teller who connects the dots of how the technologies of today can affect our day-to-day instances of tomorrow.

The book begins with how the priorities of humans have changed over the course of time. Famine, plague and war were always on the top of the list. But at the dawn of this new millennium, these have become the least of our concerns. Now we are dealing with the problems of overeating and famine is slowly being replaced by excessive eating lifestyle problems. The author acknowledges the fact that although there are people dying from hunger in many countries, but more people are now suffering from overeating and excessive consumption. As always, Harari backs this claim with the example “In 2014, more than 2.1 billion people were overweight compared to 850 million who suffered from malnutrition” or “in 2010, famine and malnutrition combined killed about 1 million whereas obesity alone killed 3 million”.

He also explores the philosophical angle to the causes in this book. Earlier whenever there was a famine or something bad happened, people used to blame the Gods. After Scientific revolution, this changed and nearly everything has been given a reason. This is the second part of the book and this is where I disliked the book most. Harari has given too much importance to the philosophical angle for this book, at time making the read quite boring for a person like me who doesn’t prefer philosophy. I was just waiting for the second part of the book to get over and something better to begin in the third part (I had also considered leaving the book in between because of this but my love for this author made me continue).

The third part is where you get to read what you expect out of Harari, predicting future by citing examples and explaining through stories. One of the future possibilities that he explores is a new religion that would take humanity by storm and this neo-religion has been termed as  Dataism. Harari has devoted one full chapter (the last one) on how data would affect the lives of humans and can actually make humans irrelevant like humans have made the animals and other species irrelevant. Since humans do not have the capacity to gather, process and understand large amount of data being generated every minute of our lives today, we will need the help of algorithms which would eventually make the humans irrelevant. While this may still be a far-fletched idea, the possibility is still there and that’s what Harari has explained wonderfully.

Human nature, he explains, is thus bound to get transformed since intelligence is being uncoupled from consciousness. We may not be building machines that have feelings, but we have already built machines which probably predict our mood and feelings better than we do. For example, Facebook and Google can easily predict what we are going through while we may not be even aware of. Harari has read the evolution differently (and probably correctly) that human beings too are algorithms (one will have to read the book in order to understand this phenomenon).

This is an intelligent thought-provoking book with amazing insights. It leaves you with loads to ponder upon.  The only bit that I disliked in this otherwise marvellous book was that it delved way too much into philosophy rather than giving scientific examples of what’s going on today.

All in all, however, it is a must read for those who enjoy Harari. There is one doubt I wish to profess, readers who pick this book up without having read Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, I am not sure you will enjoy it as much as you would have, if you had read Sapiens before commencing this one.

Rating for the book: 3.5 out of 5

Reviewer’s Profile:

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Vipul Murarka likes to learn something new every time he picks up a book. He has done BSc (Hons) in Plant Biotechnology from University of Nottingham after which he has done MBA in Marketing from School Of Inspired Leadership. Right now he resides in Myanmar doing business in agriculture.

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