Created by the man behind two of the best-selling books in recent years Sapiens and Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari’s latest book 21 Lessons is a compilation of several loose essays that he has penned for the likes of Bloomberg, the New York Times et al.
Intended as a teaching on the world we currently find ourselves in, Harari tackles issues which he believes represent today’s greatest challenges, from war and religion to artificial intelligence and climate change.
Technology, Harari argues, may be the answer to the majority of our problems. This will be the case, however, whether we play a role in its growth or not. Artificial intelligence will come to replace most of our jobs, and biological technology could create solutions to extend human life through cancer-killing treatment
The last two years, in particular, have posed our most significant challenge to the world’s most generally accepted ideology of liberalism. While the global influence of fascism died with World War Two and communism with the Cold War, recent economic advancements in China, the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum have all been signs that liberalism is to face its biggest shakedown yet.
Harari’s only suggestion to counteract the instability? Perhaps some light meditation.
As non-fiction goes, 21 Lessons is extremely readable (although I’d expect nothing less from the author of a book so popular that it was mentioned on Love Island). Though destined for mass consumption, I believe the book could trigger insightful thinking in almost anyone. This was exemplified last month when Harari-superfan Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, wrote a review of 21 Lessons for the New York Times.
Harari predicts that information will become the new version of a world currency, and envisions a world where an exchange of data similar to what we see today with blockchain will dictate the line between rich and poor.
Here, I feel more inclined to take the side of Gates. While information itself will become more important, it is holding the ability to know what to do with it that will define your wealth.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century | Yuval Noah Harari | Jonathan Cape | £18.99