Book Summary: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

He investigated the past in his earlier best-seller, Sapiens.

Yuval Noah Harari delves into 21 key themes that will shape our future. Examples are whether computers and robots will alter our understanding of what it means to be human.

We have got a lot of ground to cover, so we'll get right to it.

Part 1: The Technological Challenge

Half human, half robot. This shows artificial intelligence (part of our technological challenge).

1. Disillusionment

Our planet has many challenges, and the greatest way to tackle them is to allow people more freedom.

Above all, the internet has transformed the world. Our political institutions are still trying to figure out how to use it efficiently.

AI will soon take control of the political process. Thanks to the biotech and information technology revolutions, we will manage the planet and produce life. Still, we are yet oblivious of the political ramifications.

Nobody knows what will happen as a result. Politicians will ultimately become helpless in the face of AI, and the battle will switch from exploitation to obscurity.

Our liberal structure may not be flawless, but we don't have any other options; therefore, it will continue to exist.

However, the most pressing issues we have currently are environmental ruin and technological disruption, which liberalism cannot address. The current status of the planet has made humanity furious and disillusioned.

The first stage is to shift from terror to amazement and investigate the new possibilities and options available to us.

2. Work

We don't know how long it takes or how it will affect the labor market. But it is widely recognized that machine learning and robots will revolutionize practically every employment sector.

AI can exceed humans in both "uniquely human talents" and "uniquely non-human capacities" – connection and updatability. Computers can readily merge into a single network. Therefore, they will always be more powerful than a single person. As a result, automation will be quite beneficial.

About occupational health: AI will rob individuals with low levels of skill of their employment, but it may also generate additional opportunities for those with higher levels of competence.

Unemployment prevention, employment creation, and how to react if job losses dramatically outnumber job creation are all possible options. As long as we have thriving communities and beneficial interests, universal basic assistance might make job loss unimportant.

3. Liberty

Referendums and elections are about human sentiments rather than a reason for politicians and citizens.

According to scientific findings on the brain and body, our emotions are biochemical systems that compute survival and reproductive probability. Calculation underpins feelings. We'll soon have algorithms for everything, including what to study, where to try to get a job, and who to marry.

Because people are prone to making mistakes. It makes sense to trust the algorithm, just as we rely upon the Google algorithm to solve our problems.

AI is frightening because it will always follow its masters. We have no means of knowing whether or not those masters are benevolent. As algorithms improve, authoritarian regimes may achieve complete control over their populace, making opposition virtually impossible.

Meanwhile, people rely on AI to assist them in making judgments, which can lead to major prejudice. Banks are already analyzing data and making conclusions about us using algorithms. Technological dictatorships threaten our equality and freedom, and they may render the majority of people obsolete.

4. Equality

Globalization has helped many places globally, but it has also exacerbated disparities within and across civilizations.

Soon, the wealthy may improve their physical and cognitive powers, dividing humanity into a tiny group of superhumans and a large group of worthless Homo sapiens. The destinies of distinct human tribes will likely be entirely different.

The answer to preventing the accumulation of all power and money is to control data ownership. Our attorneys, legislators, thinkers, and even artists must devote their attention to this issue since it is perhaps our time's most significant political issue.

Part 2: The Political Challenge

A group of people with different backgrounds. This can be a political challenge as part of the increasing online interactions.

5. Community

Humans require society to thrive. Private communities have been collapsing for the past two centuries. In regards to public development, Facebook is a terrific place to start. Still, it will need to expand into the physical world if it is to genuinely make a difference.

Because humans are incapable of knowing more than 150 people intimately, it is perilous to devote too much time and attention to online interactions at the expense of real ones.

6. Civilization

People have always been split into many civilizations with opposing worldviews. Tribes of humans tend to merge throughout time to form larger and larger communities. Establishing ties between different groups and homogenizing behaviors across groupings are two aspects of this process.

Our world is separated into sovereign states that follow the same diplomatic protocols and international rules.

The Olympic Games are a shining example of international cooperation. People still follow different religions and have separate national identities; however, we are nearly all part of the same civilization when it comes to practical matters.

7. Nationalism

Although nationalism is not innate, it has no negative aspects. The issue arises when patriotism devolves into ultranationalism or the notion that one nation is superior to all others. This escalates to a violent confrontation, and war risks are substantially higher with atomic warheads.

Climate change is a major problem, but it can only be addressed if adjustments are made worldwide. Nationalist isolationism is possibly far more destructive than nuclear war in the face of climate change.

We must go beyond the nationalist worldview to a global or even cosmic perspective to make sensible decisions regarding the future.

8. Religion

We must distinguish between three categories of difficulties to comprehend the function of traditional faiths in the twenty-first century:

Technical issues, such as how should arid-land farmers manage with catastrophic droughts brought on by global warming?

Problems with policy — for example, what procedures should governments take to prevent global warming?

Identity issues. Should I be concerned with the difficulties of farmers on the other side of the globe, or should I be concerned primarily with the concerns of my own community and country?

Traditional religions are irrelevant to technical and policy matters, but they are vitally important in addressing identity issues. However, they are frequently a substantial contributor to the problem instead of a potential solution.

9. Immigration

Harari distinguishes immigration as a three-part bargain with three essential components to make things more simple.

  • Immigrants are permitted to enter the host country. Proponents of immigration believe that governments have a moral obligation to embrace immigrants seeking a better future. According to anti-immigrationists, you are never obligated to let anyone in.
  • In exchange, immigrants must accept at least part of the host country's customs and values, even if this means sacrificing some of their own. Proponents of immigration argue that a diverse range of viewpoints, traditions, and beliefs makes a country dynamic and powerful. Anti-immigrant activists claim that immigrants are frequently intolerant.
  • They become equal and complete citizens of the host nation if they integrate enough over time. They morph into us. Pro-immigrationists want a quick acceptance, while anti-immigrationists seek a longer probation period.

Part 3: Despair and Hope

A female villager releasing a white bird showing love, peace and freedom.

10. Terrorism

Terrorists murder a small number of individuals, yet they manage to fear billions of people and disrupt massive governmental institutions.

Despite air pollution and diabetes killing so many more people than terrorist strikes, we are more afraid of terrorism.

Terrorists do harm by staging a dramatic display in the hopes of provoking the opponent into overreacting. To alleviate these worries, the state must reply to the terror theater with its own security theater.

Focusing on clandestine activities against terrorist networks, keeping things in perspective to minimize frenzy, and not overreacting to our own anxieties are all part of an effective counterterrorism approach. Terrorism will fail if we respond fairly.

11. War

In human history, the previous several decades were the calmest. Wars are no more economically viable than they once were (when winning a war meant making a lot of money); therefore, fighting no longer makes sense.

However, people are fallible. Consequently, we cannot assume that conflict is unavoidable.

Humility—realizing our true place on earth—is one potential treatment for human folly.

12. Humility

Most individuals feel they and their religion are at the center of the universe. Many faiths extol humility's virtues, yet they believe themselves to be the center of the universe. Humans as a whole might benefit from a greater emphasis on modesty.

13. God

Many people imagine God as a mysterious source of morality who can explain the universe's greatest mysteries.

We look to God for all of our unanswered questions, and we come to sacred literature to discover what God desires. To the extent of our scientific understanding, all of these religious books were penned by Homo sapiens.

God is not required for morality because faiths that inspire love and compassion may also inspire hatred and intolerance. Morality is defined as "the reduction of pain"; hence you don't need a deity to act decently. Rather, you must grasp the concept of pain.

14. Secularism

Instead of opposing a specific religion, secularism may be described as a cohesive set of principles. The most essential secular commitment is to truth, founded on investigation and facts rather than religion.

Compassion is the other major obligation. Secular individuals work to alleviate suffering across the globe. Thus, they value scientific facts to learn how.

Part 4: Truth

A concept of work life balance, justice as we know equals fairness in this century.

15. Ignorance

Individuals know pathetically next to nothing about the world, and they are learning worse and worse as time passes. For practically all of our requirements, we rely on the knowledge of others.

We believe we know a lot because we accept other people's information as if it were our own. On the other hand, people are oblivious to their ignorance because they isolate themselves in the groupthink of like-minded acquaintances.

Individual ignorance and mob mentality may be exceedingly hazardous. If you truly want to know the truth, you'll have to break out from the black hole of power and spend a lot of time trying out unproductive roads, dead ends, and doubts.

16. Justice

Justice necessitates comprehension of real cause-and-effect relationships as well as a set of abstract values. It's tough to grasp interactions between millions of people across continents in today's global globe.

The majority of injustices in today's society are affected by massive systemic biases rather than personal prejudices. Because most of us cannot comprehend the world's main moral issues, finding justice is difficult.

17. Post-Truth

People have always been in a post-truth era. Because of our unique ability to invent and propagate fiction, Homo sapiens has ruled the earth. As long as everyone believes the same lies, we'll all follow the same rules and work together efficiently.

Telling the same fake narrative repeatedly until people believe it is true is a common part of branding. If you desire power, you'll have to propagate lies at some time. If you seek truth, you'll have to give up control at some time. Humans are more interested in power than in reality.

18. Science Fiction

People resort to films and TV to grasp our day's most important technical, cultural, and economic advancements in the early twenty-first century.

Science fiction is probably the most significant artistic genre. As a result, science fiction must be more accountable in its portrayal of reality.

To escape the matrix, you must first abandon your "self," which is a matrix component. This may become a critical survival skill in the future.

Part 5: Resilience

A male doing meditation as part of resilience. Accepting and coming to terms with the fact, and regulate thinking.

19. Education

Since we have no clue what the future holds, it is more difficult than ever to educate the kids today. In 2050, much of what children learn now will probably be obsolete.

Today, schools are attempting to jam material into children's heads. Presently, however, information is readily available. Children require the capacity to make sense of it, distinguish between what is significant and what is not, and put disparate pieces of knowledge together to produce a comprehensive image of the world.

We do not really know what capabilities individuals might need in the future because we don't know what the planet and labor marketplace will look like.

Schools should emphasize overall life skills like dealing with change, learning new things, and maintaining mental equilibrium in unexpected settings.

20. Meaning

When we seek the meaning and significance of life, we seek a narrative that explains what existence is all about and how I fit into the universal drama.

A tale must fulfill two requirements to provide significance to my life: it must offer me a part to play and expand beyond my boundaries. It must give me a sense of self-identity and importance in my life by integrating me into something larger than myself.

This narrative doesn't need to be true. Even if a tale is completely fictional, it may give me a sense of self and make me feel like my life has value.

Recognize that the "self" is a fictitious tale that our mind's complicated machinery continuously constructs, updates, and rewrites to comprehend ourselves. My inner narrative describes who I am, where I came from, where I'm going, and what's going on right now.

21. Meditation

Suffering isn't a measurable state in the real world. It's a psychological reaction triggered by my own thoughts. The only approach to end the pain is to learn to regulate my thinking.

Meditation is not a means of escaping reality. It's coming to terms with the fact. Self-observation is tough, and as time passes, humans develop increasingly intricate tales about themselves, making it harder to know who we are. We can still examine who we are if we are willing to put out the effort. And we have to do it right now.

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