21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Y. Harari. My take-away thoughts

Updated: May 29, 2021

In the interview with Vladimir Pozner YNH said that the book was initially named "21 Thoughts for the 21st Century".


Buy this book in Canada : www.amazon.ca/21lessons

Here are my take-away thoughts.

1 Disillusionment

Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.

21st century populists revolts will be staged against an economic elite that does not need them anymore.

Peaceful international relations → is a chocolate cake of liberal buffet ;

one dish that almost nobody desires ("the global celery") → is immigration.


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2 Work

Two particularly important nonhuman abilities that AI possesses are connectivity and adaptability.

1997 - "Deep Blue" beats Kasparov. Chess programs continue evolving and by 2017 "Stockfish 8" is a champion.

2017 - Google's "AlphaZero" beats "Stockfish 8". "AlphaZero" is a self-learning AI and after 4 hrs of self-learning beats the champion without losing a single game out of 100 games.

By 2050 not only the idea of a job for life, but even that of a profession for life might seem antediluvian.

By 2050 a useless class of people might emerge due not merely to an absolute lack of jobs but also to insufficient mental stamina.

New business models evolves. Computer to Computer. Computers are already clients :

- software portfolios are buyers of stocks

- advertising business : your actual client is Google search algorithm

3 Liberty

Biological knowledge x Computing power x Data = Ability to hack humans

Government will be algorithms, or choose from options proposed by algorithms.

As governments and corporations succeed in hacking the human operating system, we will be exposed to a barrage of precision-guided manipulation, advertisements and propaganda. It might become so easy to manipulate our opinions and emotions that we will be forced to rely on algorithms, like a pilot with vertigo relying on autopilot.

Billions of people already have come to entrust the Google search algorithm with one of the most important tasks of all : searching for relevant and trustworthy information.

In future we will rely on Google in our decision which prefession to choose.

We will ask Google for advise and decision on more and more personal choices.

Algorithms outperform the average human in ethics.

Human emotions trump philosophical theories in countless situations.

In 21st century the decision whether to hire somebody for a job will increasingly be made by algorithms.

We might end up with Orwellian surveillance regime in which all individuals are monitored all the time.

Decisions taken by the elite and those of power could be based on several different options, but all of those options will be the outcome of Big Data analysis, and they will reflect the way AI views the world more than the way humans view it.

4 Equality

Richest 1% owns half the world's wealth.

Top 100 own more than bottom 4 billion.

Economic inequality → biotechnological inequality.

Richest 1% will also own most of the world's beauty, creativity & health.

State might lose incentive to invest in health, education and welfare.

The race to obtain data is already on.

Tech companies evaluate apps, products, and other companies according to the data they harvest rather then money they generate.

...as long as it sucks data, it could be worth billions.

5 Community

What people feel is increasingly determined by the online reactions.

6 Civilization

War spreads ideas, technologies and people far more quickly than commerce does. And also makes people far more interested in one another.

People care far more about their enemies than about their trade partners.

"Cornucopia of rituals, concoctions and cures"

When it comes to the practical stuff (how to build a state, an economy, a hospital, or a bomb) almost all of us belong to the same civilization.

Identity is defined by conflicts and dilemmas more than by agreement.

The big challenges in 21st century will be global in nature.

7 Nationalism

The world's first clean hamburger was grown from cells and then eaten in 2013. Within another decade industrially produced clean meat is expected to be cheeper than slaughtered meat.

Since there is no national answer to the problem of global warming, some nationalist politicians prefer to believe the problem does not exist.

A declining power might fear that its traditional nuclear weapons might soon become obsolete and that it had better use them before it loses them.

8 Religion

Religions, rites, and rituals will remain important as long as the power of humankind rests on mass cooperation and as long as mass cooperation rests on belief in shared fictions.

9 Immigration

Racism goes in the past, "culturism" evolves. (discrimination by cultural identity).

10 Terrorism

11 War

Third World dictators and nonstate actors still manage to flourish through war, it seems that major powers no longer know how to do so.

Middle East remains the fighting arena of the world.

In the 21st century the most successful strategy is to sit on the fence and let others do the fighting for you.

In the past, economic assets were more material. Today it's technical and instituational knowledge.

If somebody does find a formula with which to wage successful wars under 21st century conditions, the gates of hell might open with a rush.

12 Humility

Whenever they talk of God, humans all too often profess abject self-effacement, but then use the name of God to lord it over their brethren.

13 God

We give our ignorance the grand name of God (to explain the deepest riddles of the cosmos). The most fundamental characteristic of this mysterious God is that we cannot say anything concrete about Him.

14 Secularism

Fear of the unknown can paralyze us more than any tyrant.

Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.

15 Ignorance

Our reliance on groupthink has made us masters of the world, and the knowledge illusion enables us to go through life without being caught in an impossible effort to understand everything ourselves.

Monty Python's Life of Brian: a huge crowd of starry-eyed followers mistakes Brian for Messiah. Brian tells his disciples, "You don''t need to follow me, you don't need to follow anybody ! You've got to think for youselves! You're all individuals! You're all different!". The enthusiastic crowd then chants in unison, "Yes! We're all individuals! We're all different!"

Yet if you want to go deeply into any subject, you need a lot of time, and in particular you need the priviledge of wasting time.

16 Justice

17 Post-Truth

18 Science Fiction

19 Education

Learn the four C :

critical thinking,

communication,

collaboration,

creativity

If you don't know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life.

20 Meaning

It makes no difference what your particular path is as long as you follow it.

For many years I may be doubtful or ignorant of my identity, but one day, in some great climactic moment, it will be revealed, and I will understand my role in the cosmic drama.

Most successful stories remain open-ended. They never need to explain where meaning ultimately comes from, becuase they are so good at capturing people's attention and keeping it inside a safe zone.

Rituals makes stories real, and of all rituals, sacrifice is the most potent.

21 Meditation

If you really care about something - join a relevant organization. Do it this week.


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