Book Review: Homo Deus – The New Human Agenda

“I encourage all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world, to connect past development with present concerns, and not to be afraid of controversial issues.” – Yuval Noah Harari

We are accustomed to reading history which in our basic understanding is a collection of accounts from the past. In Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari takes us into the future, broadens our thinking on what the future might look like banking on previous trends and human propensity to pursue greater challenges. In the last couple of days I have had myself amassed in this book amidst settling into work for the New Year and I can say that whoever wants to appreciate the strides we’ve made as a human race and look into the future from a historians lens deserves to grab a copy of Homo Deus.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say. In the pre-modernity era humans were troubled with famine, plagues and wars. Through this period in time the main focus was on how to avert all these and currently more people die from abundance than hunger i.e. lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. Disease outbreaks still occur such as the current pandemic of COVID-19 but it’s not as frequent as the in the past when infectious diseases were the norm. From scientific accounts even in Africa where the burden of infectious diseases have always been a cause for alarm, there is a changing epidemiological pattern that has been observed. On the backdrop of these most of the current outbreaks are not as a result of unconditional interaction with the wild but an outcome of our invasion of the wild ecosystems. On the account of wars, countries have not been at war since World War two except for intermittent attacks by terror groups with modest fatalities compared to the earlier days. With most of these challenges that pushed humanity to find solutions coming to an end, there is need to repurpose and refocus human ingenuity into addressing other challenges. This is the New Human Agenda which is futuristic and enticing.

Yuval Noah Harari proposes that humanity will have to pick up other challenges and among these he postulates an era where we’ll focus on immortality, happiness and divinity. With advances in the medical field, life expectancy have been on the rise on a predictable trajectory and as this happens even when an individual dies, it’s not considered a natural process of life but rather an error in the human code that causes the heart to stop. At any one point a disease state is established as the cause of death which means there is a cause and if at all the disease state can be prevented or cured then there wont be death. This is going to be a principle focus for humanity and this has been a key driver in the rise in the number of autopsies being performed upon death. Humanity is keen to unravel the cause of death and when the code will be deciphered then that’ll be the end of death. It’ll be an era of immortality and with economic drivers on the human experiences the cure for death will sell like hot cake literally. With this there will be anti-aging remedies, a specialty that is already in the rise with plastic surgeries, cosmetology among others.

We all desire to be happy and to stay happy. Unfortunately, staying in a state of happiness have proven to be as elusive. This is probably one of the considerations in 1776 when the Founding Fathers of the United States established the right to pursuit of happiness as one of the three unalienable human rights alongside the right to life and the right to liberty. In our pursuit of happiness, the drivers are psychological and biochemical attributes. This is key in the current investment in mood stabilizers and modulators leading to the current wave of mental health advocacy. With antidepressants if we can lessen the negative feelings by playing around by the levels of particular neurochemicals in the human brain we’ll attain the bliss and good feeling we desire. This has even been compounded on by the drug use and abuse surge that’s considered one of the pending epidemics globally.

Humans will then want to be God’s. Our affiliation to a deity have been driven by the hope and inclination to a happy ever after in heaven. What if we’ll have attained immortality which makes it unwise to prepare for a life after death that may never happen? It’s impractical and therefore our pursuit will be to play God and dominate the world. That’s where man the creator comes in with cloning and artificial intelligence developing smart machines with human capabilities. This will be the ultimate desire of humanity. To attain some form of divinity. Let’s see how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m getting to the next sections of the book. Stay tuned and plug in by following the blog.

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