21 Lessons for the 21st Century

6 minute read

Title: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

  • by Yuval Noah Harari
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  • Great review summary on this book review:

  • Chapter One — Disillusionment
    • “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers or equations which is why the communist, fascist and liberal stories of the 20th Century were so powerful… “The simpler the story, the better”.
    • “While the 20th Century was all about three political systems, the 21st century introduces new stories and classes, that of humans, superhumans and artificial intelligence”.
  • Chapter 2 — Work
    • Harari says that at least in some lines of work, it might make sense to replace all humans with computers even if individually some humans still do a better job than machines. In addition, e.g. in chess, creativity is already the trademark of computers rather than humans!
    • the author said that “what we should focus on is providing for people’s basic needs and protecting the social status and self worth”. “Universal basic income will protect the poor against job losses and economic dislocation while protecting the rich from populist rage”.
    • Happiness = Reality — Expectations / problem with UBI or UBS is that human beings aren’t just built for satisfaction. … When things improve, expectations balloon and consequently even dramatic improvements in conditions might leave us as a dissatisfied as before…. People need not only the basics, but they need to feel like they have enough, that their contributions are worthwhile, that they are learning and growing and that they have access to a community.
  • Chapter 3 — Liberty
    • “once we begin to count on AI to decide what to study, where to work, and who to marry, democratic elections and free markets will make little sense.”
  • Chapter 4 — Equality
    • “Those who own the data own the future…. data is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it can move at the speed of light and you can create as many copies of it as you want. So we had better call upon our lawyers, politicians, philosophers and even poets to turn their attention to this conundrum. The key political question of our era is quite possibly, “how do you regulate the ownership of data?”
  • Chapter 5 — Community
    • On tech addiction and how it is compromising genuine human connection and community
  • Chapter 6 — Civilization
    • “10,000 years ago, humankind was divided into countless isolated tribes where we knew no more than a few dozen people. … In recent generations, the few remaining civilizations have been blending into a single global civilization.”
  • Chapter 7 — Nationalism
    • “There is nothing wrong with benign patriotism. The problem, Harari warns, starts when benign patriotism morphs into chauvinistic ultra-nationalism. Instead of believing that my nation is unique, which is true all nations, I might begin feeling that my nation is supreme.”
    • “Three threats facing humanity: technological nuclear and ecological We now have a global ecology, a global economy and global science but we are still stuck with only national politics.”
  • Chapter 8 — Religion
    • the author said we need to distinguish between three types of problems:
    • As Karl Marx argued, religion doesn’t really have much to contribute to the great policy debates of our time.
    • Great comments from this book review: “Freud ridiculed the obsession people have about such matters as a narcissism of small differences. On this point, I did some research to find out why the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christian religions branched off from each other. One of the key points of difference that ultimately split the churches was that most Western Christians use a version of the Nicene Creed that states that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”, whereas the original Orthodox version doesn’t feature ‘and the Son’. That was it. Perhaps Freud had a point.””
  • Chapter 9 — Immigration
    • To clarify matters, Harari defines immigration as a deal with three basic conditions: “Precisely because you cherish tolerance, says Harari, you can not allow too many intolerant people in.”
    • “On culturists: People continue to conduct a heroic struggle against traditional racism without noticing that the battlefront has shifted from traditional racism to culturists.”
  • Chapter 11 — War
    • “Today information technology and biotechnology are more important than heavy industry when it comes to war.”
    • “Today the main economic assets consist of technical and institutional knowledge rather than wheat fields, goldmines or even oil fields and you just cannot conquer knowledge through war”.
  • Chapter 12 — Humanity
    • “Even apes developed the tendency to help the poor,”
  • Chapter 13 — God
    • “Hence in order to act morally, you don’t need to believe in any myth or story. You just need to develop a deep appreciation of suffering.”
    • the most important secular commitment is to truth which is based on observation and evidence rather than on mere faith”.
  • Chapter 14 — ignorance
    • “as we come to make the most important decision in the history of life I personally would trust more in those who admit ignorance than those who claim infallibility”.
  • Chapter 15 — Ignorance
    • ” Behavioral economists and evolutionary psychologists have demonstrated that most human decisions are based on emotional reactions and heuristics shortcuts rather than on rational analysis”
    • ” we think we know a lot, even though individually we know very little ; mordern world is so complex, no one knows the whole…”
  • Chapter 16 — ideologies fiction Story
    • “For better or worse, Harari says, fiction is among the most effective tools in humanity’s toolkit. By bringing people together, religious creeds make large-scale human cooperation possible.”
  • Chapter 17 — Stories in Business
    • Besides religions and ideologies, commercial firms rely on fiction and fake news too.
  • Chapter 18 — Science Fiction
    • “Perhaps the worst failing of present-day science fiction is that it attempts to confuse intelligence with consciousness. As a result it is overly concerned about a potential war between robots and humans when in fact we need to feel a conflict between a small superhuman elite”.
  • Chapter 19 — Education
    • “what kids really need to learn is adaptability, learning how to learn, resilience, curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving and effective collaboration. “
    • “teachers now mostly focus on knowledege.., however, eople need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is an important and above all to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world. “
    • “Harari has for today’s fifteen year olds is not to rely on the adults too much. Most of them mean well but they just don’t understand the world.
  • Chapter 20 - One more thing on Free Will
    • “become” less obsessive about our opinions feelings and desires.
    • The Buddha taught that the three basic realities of the Universe. 1 — Everything is constantly changing; 2 — Nothing has any enduring essence; and; 3 — Nothing is completely satisfied. Suffering emerges because people fail to appreciate this.
  • Chapter 21 — Meditation
    • Harari echoes what philosophers have been saying for millenia, that the deepest source of suffering is in the patterns of our own minds.
    • Suffering is .. a mental reaction generated by our own minds. Learning this is the first step towards seizing to generate more suffering.
    • Meditation is not an escape from reality. It is getting in touch with reality.
    • “Consciousness is the greatest mystery in the universe. We had better understand our minds before the algorithms make a match up for us.””