Yuval Noah Harari’s controversial — often startling — tome, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” will jar most of its readers. “Man God” seems at first to be a paean to humanity, a glowing description of where we may be headed — to divinity — but that god-ness is nowhere near as lovely as it sounds.
The entire piece is a treasure trove of scientific observations about homo sapiens, a unique analysis of the eras of our history, an objective view of the movements and religions of the twentieth century, and a daring prediction, thought not a prophecy, of what life may look like by the end of the twenty-first century.
Even now, Harari declares, we have basically overcome the old threats to our survival: plagues, famine, and war. He does not hold that those horrors have disappeared; rather, he asserts, they are no longer a threat to destroy our species. So we are now free to explore the roads to our most lofty goals: immortality, happiness, and divinity. Ergo Homo Deus.
But as we come closer and closer to achieving those goals == and we are certainly moving inextricably in that direction — a terrible and frightening paradox begins to emerge: reaching those heights will probably mean the end of homo sapiens.
Consider the conclusions of modern science: human beings are simply a set of biochemical algorithms. There is no external god or power that shapes or gives meaning to our lives. Intelligence, knowledge, and ultimately, power, depend solely on the collection of data/information and the processing of that data. Our machines, our computers, are far more capable of collecting data and processing it quickly and efficiently than homo sapiens alone can ever be. So as we advance, we must necessarily merge with those machines. That merging will result in super beings who will rule the universe and likely will treat plain old people in a manner very much like the way we treat our pets. Farewell homo sapiens.
A summary like the one above does not, of course, do justice to the plethora of information, factoids, histories, theories, and fascinating but scary — almost eerie — conclusions that Harari reaches here. But it’s all presented so logically, carefully, and convincingly that he makes it difficult to even begin to argue with him or his conclusions. And that’s scary, too.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Harper, the publisher, for review purposes. Review by Jack Kramer.