Fans of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Homo Deus will undoubtedly be chomping at the bit to get stuck into his latest book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. For those of you unfamiliar with the author, Harari has a PhD in history from the University of Oxford. He is a brilliant mind and an incredible writer. He manages to make the complex accessible in a way few others can do.
Harari’s latest book is fascinating and deeply troubling in equal measure. He attempts to offer clarity in today’s increasingly complex world. He does – but the clarity is merely to shine a light on the fact that the complexity of today’s issues – be they political, religious, socio-economic or cultural – require years of deep research to understand.
I finished the book feeling better about the fact that I have trouble advocating unquestioningly for one side of any debate, because I never feel like I ‘know enough’ about any given issue. Harari reinforced this phenomenon as one of modern life. The fact is, we don’t know enough, can never know enough. But our moral compass remains a strong intuitive indicator of right and wrong.
He raises questions about the dichotomy between the brain and the mind. And looks at how we continue to research and understand both. It was a question I had simply never considered before. Perhaps this is why the practice of mindfulness and meditation has surfaced more prominently in Western culture of the last decade. He makes the important point that it’s important that we understand our minds before we let algorithms make decisions for us. It’s already happening.
“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.”
Harai himself admits that this book is full of questions, not answers. But the questions need asking, by us, our children, our politicians, our academics, our business people, our religious leaders. If we are going to find a way forward for humanity, without getting paralysed by the deep intertwining of humans and technology, we need to take the time to look at the bigger picture – beyond our curated news streams and social media echo chambers. This book is your shortcut to do just that.