Review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
New York: Harper,
2017. 440 pp. $35.
AS ONE OF THE MOST FAR-SEEING visionaries of our time, the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke often opined on the nature of science in relation to humanity's future, never more so than in his famous three laws:
Clarke's First Law: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
Clarke's Second Law: "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
The "laws" have been quoted and modified over the decades, including by me in suggesting that any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence or far future human would be indistinguishable from God.
The latter is what Yuval Noah Harari has in mind in his appositely titled Homo Deus--Man God--his considerations of what humanity is about to become as a result of our soon to be sufficiently advanced science and technology. This is not a book of prophecy. Harari is not trying to be Nostradamus. Nor does it include a litany of predictions for investors to bank on for what and when the Next Big Thing will arrive. Instead, Homo Deus is a meditation on what could be our long-term future given our nature and our past, which he wrote about in his prior bestselling and widely praised book Sapiens. To that end, given the limitations any work about the future necessarily contains, Homo Deus succeeds. It is beautifully written, literarily stylish, wide-ranging across disciplines and intellectual geographies, integrative of diverse ideas not obviously connected, creative in perspectives most scholars do not normally take, and reflective on what our species might become if...
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