The book looks at potential answers for two significant questions. What have been the major feats and accomplishments of our species in the past? What are the major tasks we are looking towards in the future?
In the early chapters, answering that first question, there’s a lot of similar material to Sapiens. It’s summarized and presented differently, but a lot of it is familiar ground if you’ve read that book, with perhaps a little more detail as we get close to the present, with the rise of technology and humanism
I’m going to skip over most of it and graze past the heart of things, where the title actually comes into play. Because this is a book about the future of the human species.
Well, possible future.
Technology and humanism (and the author treats both almost as a religion and belief system, going so far as to say so for the latter) have done a lot for the human species so far, and will continue to, at least for a while. But the pace is always increasing and we’re not all that good at seeing the outcomes in advance.
Are we going to genetically engineer ourselves into a two-species, class-stratified society?
Are we going to algorithm ourselves into being cogs in a single, vast process?
Are we going to merge with machines?
Are we going to upgrade ourselves to become them?
There are a lot of possibilities that wind up with homo sapiens becoming obsolete or extinct at the hands of the successors we ourselves will engineer. And the paths the author shows us to get there, given what we know of human nature, are all too easy to see us walking down as a species. As it stands, we don’t give a lot of thought to futures and consequences at that level, but the choices we make as individuals and societies will lead us down some path and the author never comes right out and says so, but seems to gently prod me in the back of the mind that maybe we should plan at higher levels than we do.
Overall rating: 4 stars. The future is a vast, undiscovered country, and Mr. Harari’s writing shows several possible destinations in that country. If none of them are places we’d necessarily like to end up, then maybe we should take the book as a warning. At the very least, we should think about the path we might actually like to take.by