Harari has become one of my favourite thinkers in an age of unreason. As he aptly puts it in the closing pages,
“In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the 21st century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. People just don’t know what to pay attention to, and they often spend their time investigating and debating side issues.”
Reading Harari, I find I am guided into the flow of relevant information.
An oracle succeeds when his predictions come true; a prophet succeeds when his predictions fail, as the people have heeded his warning. What I find encouraging and inspiring about Harari is that he doesn’t want to be right in his predictions, which he makes explicitly clear in his final marks, acknowledging, “We cannot really predict the future, because technology is not deterministic”. He sees himself as a prophet, with a sharp mind that is keenly aware of the threats posed by Big Data, biotech and AI. For all his God-bashing, he is a humble man who cares where humanity is headed. Such minds are few and far between.
What I love about Harari is that he doesn’t profess to have the answers. He leaves that up to the reader. His role is to get you thinking in ways that you’ve never thought before. Sapiens totally changed my understanding of human nature and our place on this planet. Homo Deus has challenged my thinking even more. With the decoupling of intelligence and consciousness, what happens to liberal humanism? What happens to the sovereignty and dignity of the individual?
As with any good book, Homo Deus has left me with more questions than answers. Now to begin the dirty work of reframing and restructuring my worldview.
Thank you, Professor Harari.