21 Lessons for the 21st Century

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

In Sapiens, he explored our past. In Homo Deus, he looked to our future. Now, one of the most innovative thinkers on the planet turns to the present to make sense of today's most pressing issues.How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our chi...

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Title:21 Lessons for the 21st Century
Author:Yuval Noah Harari
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21 Lessons for the 21st Century Reviews

  • Anni

    It's Life as we know it, Jim! (But don't ask what it means).

    'A wise old man was asked what he learned about the meaning of life. ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘I have learned that I am here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven’t figured out is why the other people are here.’

    As Harari explains:

    “We are now living in an age of information explosion … the last thing people need is more information. What they really need is somebody to arrange all of the bits of information into a meani

    It's Life as we know it, Jim! (But don't ask what it means).

    'A wise old man was asked what he learned about the meaning of life. ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘I have learned that I am here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven’t figured out is why the other people are here.’

    As Harari explains:

    “We are now living in an age of information explosion … the last thing people need is more information. What they really need is somebody to arrange all of the bits of information into a meaningful picture – and this is what I try to do.”

    Following on from Sapiens and Homo Deus, both of which were entertainingly accessible, this investigation of our species has a more personal approach, yet is just as vigorously researched and remarkably impartial.

    There are so many fascinating insights that I wanted to highlight in this book that it is hard to chose examples, and many are frightening to contemplate, such as:

    'Globalisation has certainly benefited large segments of humanity, but there are signs of growing inequality both between and within societies. Some groups increasingly monopolise the fruits of globalisation, while billions are left behind. Already today, the richest 1 per cent owns half the world’s wealth. Even more alarmingly, the richest hundred people together own more than the poorest 4 billion. This could get far worse'.

    However I'm sure that contributors to Goodreads will particularly enjoy the section on the importance of literature, especially for aficionados of SF :-

    “… it is equally important to communicate the latest scientific theories to the general public through popular-science books, and even through the skilful use of art and fiction. Does that mean scientists should start writing science fiction? That is actually not such a bad idea. Art plays a key role in shaping people’s view of the world, and in the twenty-first century science fiction is arguably the most important genre of all, for it shapes how most people understand things like AI, bioengineering and climate change. We certainly need good science, but from a political perspective, a good science-fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.”.

    On the whole, the message Harari imparts is a positive one and he does offer some hope for the survival of our species. At the end of the book he describes his own personal way to discover a ‘firm ethical ground in a world that extends far beyond my horizons, that spins completely out of human control, and that holds all gods and ideologies suspect’

    This is the book I will pass on to my grand daughter when she is of an age to wonder why our world is the way it is. In fact, I think it is essential reading for every human being on this planet.

    Update: Many thanks to the publisher for granting my wish of reading an ARC via Netgalley

  • Anni

    It's Life as we know it, Jim

    Or: Don't ask what it means!

    'A wise old man was asked what he learned about the meaning of life. ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘I have learned that I here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven’t figured out is why the other people are here.’

    As Harari explains:

    “We are now living in an age of information explosion … the last thing people need is more information. What they really need is somebody to arrange all of the bits of information into a meaningful p

    It's Life as we know it, Jim

    Or: Don't ask what it means!

    'A wise old man was asked what he learned about the meaning of life. ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘I have learned that I here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven’t figured out is why the other people are here.’

    As Harari explains:

    “We are now living in an age of information explosion … the last thing people need is more information. What they really need is somebody to arrange all of the bits of information into a meaningful picture – and this is what I try to do.”

    Following on from Sapiens and Homo Deus, both of which were entertainingly accessible, this investigation of our species has a more personal approach, yet is just as vigorously researched and remarkably impartial.

    There are so many fascinating insights that I wanted to highlight in this book that it is hard to chose examples, and many are frightening to contemplate, such as:

    Globalisation has certainly benefited large segments of humanity, but there are signs of growing inequality both between and within societies. Some groups increasingly monopolise the fruits of globalisation, while billions are left behind. Already today, the richest 1 per cent owns half the world’s wealth. Even more alarmingly, the richest hundred people together own more than the poorest 4 billion.This could get far worse.

    However I'm sure that contributors to Goodreads will particularly enjoy the section on the importance of literature, especially for aficionados of SF :-

    “… it is equally important to communicate the latest scientific theories to the general public through popular-science books, and even through the skilful use of art and fiction. Does that mean scientists should start writing science fiction? That is actually not such a bad idea. Art plays a key role in shaping people’s view of the world, and in the twenty-first century science fiction is arguably the most important genre of all, for it shapes how most people understand things like AI, bioengineering and climate change. We certainly need good science, but from a political perspective, a good science-fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.”.

    On the whole, the message Harari imparts is a positive one and he does offer some hope for the survival of our species. At the end of the book he describes his own personal way to discover a ‘firm ethical ground in a world that extends far beyond my horizons, that spins completely out of human control, and that holds all gods and ideologies suspect’

    This is the book I will pass on to my grand daughter when she is of an age to wonder why our world is the way it is. In fact, I think it is essential reading for every human being on this planet.

    Update: Many thanks to the publisher for granting my wish of reading an ARC via Netgalley

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    The author has a good sense of the forces that are shaping our world. The author really understands the current historical moment and the factors that people should pay attention to. From education to war and peace, to class warfare, to technological displacement, to climate change the author gives a good guide to the times we are living in. Good stuff.

  • Anton

    As always, masterful and exquisite non-fiction writing as we come to expect from Mr Harari. Delightful, wise and very perceptive. This book can be seen as an expansion and a companion to

    . The attention of this volume is focused on the Present as opposed to Past or the Future. Some parts will make you feel inspired, others will sow a despair. But it is a relevant and useful book that will give you a plenty to chew on.

    Strongly recommended

  • Krista

    As Yuval Noah Hurari states in his introduction, his book

    was about the deep past of human history,

    was about our deep future, and

    As Yuval Noah Hurari states in his introduction, his book

    was about the deep past of human history,

    was about our deep future, and

    is a reflection on our present; where we are in the today of 2018 and where he sees us up to about the year 2050. Considering categories such as Work, Nationalism, War, and God, Hurari's primary point is that it's all fiction: Liberalism, Capitalism, Religion, National Borders; these are all simply stories that we tell ourselves and the biggest hurdle we are about to face is sleepwalking into a greater interface with “Big Data algorithms” and allowing them to shape our reality; allowing them to provide the new fictions by which we organise our thoughts about how the world works, enriching the few and enslaving the rest. Seemingly out of nowhere, the final chapter in this book is on the benefits of meditation – of recognising that the only reality is the fact of one's own body – and while I have long understood that meditation is an integral part of Harari's writing process, it's primacy here surprised me (not in a bad way, it just pushed the whole premise out of History and into a New Agey category in my mind). If John Lennon sang, “Imagine no possessions, no countries, no religion, too”, what Hurari is saying is, “We need to

    imagining that there

    possessions, or countries, or religion”; and that won't be easy for our post-truth species without acknowledging that our brains are constantly creating these fictions.

    As Hurari begins with, we Sapiens found ourselves in the 20th century being asked to choose between three organising stories – Fascism, Communism, and Liberalism – and after the fall of the Soviet Union, we in the West believed that we had arrived at the “end of history”; that the spread of liberal democracy (even if it was achieved with the threat or fact of violence) was inevitable; we were marching towards one global community with freedom and liberty for all. But we suddenly find ourselves facing the resurgence of strongmen on the other side of the world, and to the liberals' horror, the rise of nationalism/populism in our own countries. From this opening, all of the rest follows:

    Always an interesting thinker, I really enjoy Hurari as a writer. As in his other two books, Hurari is able to find spots in

    to promote his most personal causes – gay rights, the immorality of the meat industry, the Agricultural Revolution as the worst thing that ever happened to Sapiens – and for the first time, he is overt about the solution to what ails us as a species: the practise of daily meditation as a way to see past the fictions our minds create; those stories that create all the pain and suffering in the world. I have no doubt that humanity is marching towards a revolution in the ways we live our lives, and while I'm not sure that I agree with everything Hurari writes about here, it was fascinating to see what he had to say about our immediate future.

  • SueKich

    Superstar publishing phenomenon Yuval Noah Harari has racked up 12 million sales of his books, Sapiens and Homo Deus. From talking about the past, he now turns to the future. Some of it we already know of course – artificial intelligence, algorithms – but as he goes into the ramifications of this rapidly-evolving technology, it’s scary stuff: the systems that will know us better than we know ourselves, the lack of meaningful work, the looming prospect of human irrelevanc

    Superstar publishing phenomenon Yuval Noah Harari has racked up 12 million sales of his books, Sapiens and Homo Deus. From talking about the past, he now turns to the future. Some of it we already know of course – artificial intelligence, algorithms – but as he goes into the ramifications of this rapidly-evolving technology, it’s scary stuff: the systems that will know us better than we know ourselves, the lack of meaningful work, the looming prospect of human irrelevance. Even scarier are the chapters on nuclear war and climate change. Just when nations should be pulling together as one united civilisation in whose common interest it is to find global solutions to global threats, we are being torn further apart by rising nationalism and entrenched religion.

    What’s to be done? With no ‘war of the worlds’ to push us into allied comradeship, one of the answers for Harari is education; rather than the conventional subjects, children should be taught the Four Cs – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. (To which I would add an E for empathy.) But other than this, the author is short on practical ideas. Despite all evidence to the contrary and with several words of warning along the way, Harari remains an optimist and believes that liberalism will continue to triumph.

    His relaxed style of writing makes for a highly readable book and I found myself highlighting a great many well-expressed thoughts:

    But his final lesson for the 21st century is a personal one: the positive power of meditation. If only that was all it took.

    My thanks to Jonathan Cape for the review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

  • Mehrsa

    I've read all of Harari's books and I really like him as a thinker and a writer. This book is wonderful in the way all his books are wonderful and is flawed in the way the rest are. It is an act of bold ambition and also hubris to write a history of the world, answer the meaning of life, and to propose a path toward the 22nd Century. He certainly does not do all of that, but the act of trying is a lot of fun to read. A lot of his predictions for the future sound like fantasy and science fiction,

    I've read all of Harari's books and I really like him as a thinker and a writer. This book is wonderful in the way all his books are wonderful and is flawed in the way the rest are. It is an act of bold ambition and also hubris to write a history of the world, answer the meaning of life, and to propose a path toward the 22nd Century. He certainly does not do all of that, but the act of trying is a lot of fun to read. A lot of his predictions for the future sound like fantasy and science fiction, but as he readily admits, anyone who tries to imagine the future without sounding like a sci fi writer is certainly wrong. That's fine, but some of the predictions did seem to me to be pretty far fetched.

    The biggest strength of the book is the breadth and depth he uses to articulate the problem. The book's fundamental weakness then is that his solution (meditation) does not even come close to being a satisfying result. He sounds pretty nihilistic at the end as he dismantles every single "meaning of life" story. That is fine and maybe he really wants us to stop pretending that there is one. But if the book is going to be about lessons (plural) for a whole century, I would have liked to see some more lessons. Perhaps reducing suffering or increasing compassion? I mean, I refuse to consider a world that will be controlled by robot overloads in which the only way to survive is to count our breaths.

  • David Wineberg

    Society 101

    Yuval Harari is well known for his books Sapiens and Homo Deus. He has decided to squander his reputation on a book called 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. The basic problem is that every chapter is the subject of whole shelves of books, and putting them all in one book cannot possibly do them justice. What we have left is a set of 21 editorials, which might inform the totally uninformed, but provide little insight and no solutions. As “lessons” they are unhelpful.

    He has conveniently

    Society 101

    Yuval Harari is well known for his books Sapiens and Homo Deus. He has decided to squander his reputation on a book called 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. The basic problem is that every chapter is the subject of whole shelves of books, and putting them all in one book cannot possibly do them justice. What we have left is a set of 21 editorials, which might inform the totally uninformed, but provide little insight and no solutions. As “lessons” they are unhelpful.

    He has conveniently distilled all the threats to mankind into three: nuclear war, climate change and technological/biological disruption. But only technological/biological gets examined. You’re on your own for climate change and nuclear war, which apparently don’t rate high enough for “lessons”.

    Despite those three most important threats, the most common theme throughout the book is criticism of religion, mostly Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, though Buddhism and Hinduism come under attack as well. Looking back from the perspective of the universe, Harari condemns all religions as pompous, pretentious, full of contradictions, and terrifically negative forces.

    In his chapter on Immigration, Harari boils down the entire complex situation to three superficial “debates”:

    -The receiving country must be willing

    -Immigrants must be willing to adopt “at least the core norms and values” of the new country

    -If immigrants assimilate, they become “us” rather than “them” and must be treated as first class citizens.

    Simple, inaccurate and totally missing the real issues.

    In his chapter on terrorism, Harari completely misses the point that the state has a monopoly on violence. Anyone who challenges that monopoly must be put down, no matter how many civil rights and freedoms are trampled in the process. He spends pages explaining how few people are killed by terrorists compared to traffic, war and disease. So why are we so afraid of terrorists, he asks. (Because the state wants us to be, Mr. Harari.)

    In the chapter on war, he comes to the magical conclusion that we’ve pretty much done away with it. So far, the only new war we’ve seen this century is Russia taking parts of Ukraine. He says countries see too much risk in starting new wars. He completely ignores (not for the first or last time), the effects of climate change, which will result in unprecedented and massive wars as countries face unstoppable waves of immigrants seeking water and land, as countries disappear from the face of the earth, and as those that have will defend it to the death against all comers, foreign and domestic.

    The final chapter is on meditation. Meditation is Harari’s solution to pretty much everything, because you can focus on what is real – what is going on in your body right then and there. He says he does this two hours a day, plus one or two months a year.

    If I had to summarize 21 Lesson for the 21st Century, I would say: throw off the false faiths of institutional religions and meditate instead. Not quite what I expected, and not much help in navigating the 21st century.

    David Wineberg

  • Nadia Refaniadewi

    can't wait!

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