21 Lessons for the 21st Century Paperback – 1 August 2019
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There is surely no one alive who is better at explaining our world than Yuval Noah Harari - he is the lecturer we all wish we’d had at university. Reading this book, I must have interrupted my partner a hundred times to pass on fascinating things I’d just read. Harari has done it again - 21 Lessons is, simply put, a crucial book. -- Adam Kay
Erudite, illuminating, vivid. [Harari’s] lessons suggest new ways of thinking about current problems… a splendid, sobering, stirring call to arms. ― Sunday Times
Fascinating… compelling… [Harari] has teed up a crucial global conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century. -- Bill Gates ― New York Times
The great thinker of our age. ― The Times
Harari… is a rare voice of calm reassurance, slicing through the chaos and uncertainty of the modern age. -- Allan Hunter ― Sunday Express
Harari thrills his readers because he addresses the biggest possible topics with confidence and brio. Compared with the subjects he tackles, anything else we might read looks piffling and parochial. ― Evening Standard
Harari’s genius at weaving together insights from different disciplines, ranging from ancient history to neuroscience to philosophy to artificial intelligence, has enabled him to respond to the clamour to understand where we have come from and where we might be heading… 21 Lessons is lit up by flashes of intellectual adventure and literary verve. ― Financial Times
Modern life can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, Yuval Noah Harari's new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, is on hand to guide us through it. Poolside reading with purpose. ― Elle
[Harari’s] purpose is to reveal the hard-learned lessons we have all already encountered this century… the persuasiveness of Harari’s philosophical analysis, and the engaging quality of his writing, is hard to deny. ― Esquire
About the Author
Prof Yuval Noah Harari has a PhD in History from the University of Oxford and now lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specialising in World History. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind has become an international phenomenon attracting a legion of fans from Bill Gates and Barack Obama to Chris Evans and Jarvis Cocker, and is published in sixty languages worldwide. It was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and was in the Top Ten for over nine months in paperback. His follow-up to Sapiens, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow was also a Top Ten Bestseller and was described by the Guardian as 'even more readable, even more important, than his excellent Sapiens'. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, was a Number One Bestseller and was described by Bill Gates as 'fascinating' and 'crucial'. Harari worked closely with renowned comics illustrator Daniel Casanave and co-writer David Vandermeulen to create his latest book, an adaptation of his first bestseller, Sapiens Graphic Novel: Volume 1.
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- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1784708283
- ISBN-13 : 978-1784708283
- Item Weight : 372 g
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
- Publisher : Vintage (1 August 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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People might argue that expectations should be low for a low price, but I say that the Big discounts displayed on products should also be according to similar quality stuff, and not the original publication.
A note to Penguin and its imprints. Please stop printing with Replika. The quality of print is abysmal and this is the second such experience for me (Devlok 2). I know of others who have felt the same. If this continues, readers will complain in droves and/or stop buying your books printed with Replika. So change the quality of printing or the Press in question.
I wouldn't recommend this book despite its low price. What you save in money, you lose in quality. It would probably be a better investment to get a slightly more expensive copy which is printer by a proper publishing house.
Be it Fascism, Communism or Liberalism, the great political stories; or those derived from religion and culture, all of them have their share of fiction. Yet stories are all around (accepted as true), and act as the glue to unite people on a common theme. People forget facts but not a well woven story.
Our allegiance to stories and beliefs assumes that our nation or religion or culture is central to the planet, the best and the most important of all. Hence, our civilization is trapped in several such disparate compartments and is at war with itself. It is sad to see that the species that has abundance of Intelligence is bankrupt in Consciousness. We are staring at the threats of nuclear war, terrorism, and global warming. We see acute human suffering despite the enormous wealth and technological progress.
The book begins with the challenges the world might face if AI and Bioengineering converge. In the past, human inequality on an economic scale was a result of highly skewed distribution of wealth. In the future, economic Inequality might seem to be a better choice, since most humans would be made Irrelevant by those who control data and information. There could be for the first time, genetic superiority of those who can manipulate their DNA, live longer and even have substantial enhancement of their cerebral power by coupling their brains with super computers in real time.
Morality means ‘reduced suffering’ and not just ‘following divine commands’ argues the author. The ability to understand human suffering and to end it comes with compassion. Commitment to truth and compassion result in the concept of Equality of all human beings. It is not possible to find Truth without Freedom to think, investigate and experiment. It takes Courage to question the status-quo and admit our ignorance and venture into the unknown. ‘Questions you cannot answer are better for you than answers that you cannot question’. With this framework, Secular people take Responsibility for creating a better world, than leaving it to any unknown higher power.
Politicians of all hues understand the power of stories and their voter psychology. They operate systematically in four stages, as explained in this book. 1. Downsize the issue, create a big Villain vs the rest of us 2. Focus on a touching story that arouses emotions and melts our hearts 3. Weave a conspiracy theory or a big scam that threatens the culture or nation. 4. The white knight in shining armor, a leader or a dogma or belief, finally arrives to redeem us… and he rules till the cycle turns against him.
I appreciate the author’s Courage for an unbiased and vocal analysis of several political, cultural, religious, and historical perspectives. This is a genuine pursuit of Truth with an open mind.
Finally, there is convergence of knowledge that emerges from the vastness and depth of this study. This is where the book takes an unexpected but remarkably interesting and insightful turn. The Truth is that the cause of all our tensions and misery in life are a creation of our MIND. Life is not a Story. It has meaning. The last two chapters of this book (Meaning and Meditation) are the culmination of the understating of this Wisdom. This is the lesson humanity should learn for eternity.
Touches our heart, mind, and soul in search of the eternal Truth.
In this book he reveals the heartening secret of his focus, it is from the land of the yogis, he got the power of focus to think so deeply and to write so profoundly from our own venerable Goenka, the saint of vipasana!
Top reviews from other countries
It is a book of 21 essays on different subjects beginning with ‘Disillusionment’, ‘Work’, ‘Liberty’, and ‘Equality’ under Part I, entitled, ‘The Technological Challenge’. The book has a total of five Parts. The other four are: ‘The Political Challenge’, Despair and Hope’, Truth’, and ‘Resilience’.
Harari’s thoughts spring from the basic, but important question, ‘What can we say about the meaning of life today?’ In order to put the age-old question into the context of today, Harari examines the scientific and cultural changes that have transformed human societies across the world. One major change wrought by technology is the phenomenon in which we get increasingly distanced from our own bodies, and are being absorbed into smartphones and computers.
Harari shows how ‘benign patriotism’ can so easily be transformed into ultra-nationalism; form the belief that ‘My nation is unique’ (every nation is) to ‘My nation is supreme’. Once we get to that, war and strife is, frighteningly, just a step away. He devotes a chapter each to ‘immigration’ and ‘terrorism’ because these are the two bogeymen of the world – not just the Western world. Harari fears that when New York or London eventually sinks below the Atlantic Ocean, people will be blaming Bush, Blair and Obama for focussing on the wrong front.
Given the undertones of religious conflicts and differences in the wars that an American-led West had inflicted on various parts of the world, Harari had much to say in his chapters on ‘God’ and ‘Secularism’. He tries to show how irrational belief in a personal God is. ‘Science cannot explain the “Big Bang”, they exclaim, “so that must be God’s doing”…After giving the name of “God” to the unknown secrets of the cosmos, they then use this to somehow condemn bikinis and divorces’. Not to mention abortion, eating pork, and drinking beer. What does it mean ‘Not to use the name of God in vain’? Harari suggests that it should mean that ‘we should never use the name of God to justify our political interests, our economic ambitions or our personal hatred’. He exposes the problems of dogmatism, and warns against the illusion that the falsity in one’s creed or ideology will never be allowed to happen. ‘if you believe in an absolute truth revealed in a transcendent power’, he writes, ‘you cannot allow yourself to admit any error – for that would nullify your whole story. But if you believe in a quest for truth by fallible humans, admitting blunders is an inherent part of the game’.
Harari’s conclusion is a treat to read and has much to commend in the way he reconciles religious beliefs and rational thinking. Humans love story-telling, he writes, and the answers to the question, ‘what is the meaning of life?’ lie in the stories – but we do not have just one story each. And this is crucial. We not just a Muslim, or an Italian, or a capitalist. We do not have just one identity as a human. And we have many stories. We must not shut them out for the sake of one favourite.
The revolutions in biotech and infotech are made by engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists who are hardly aware of the political implications of their decisions…
Donald Trump warned voters that the Mexicans and Chinese will take their jobs, and that they should therefore build a wall on the Mexican border. He never warned voters that algorithms will take their jobs, nor did he suggest building a firewall on the border with California.
Humans have two abilities – physical and cognitive. The former have been partly supplemented by machines. Artificial Intelligence is challenging the latter…. Communism has no answer to automation, as the masses lose their economic value and become irrelevant.
Artificial Intelligence and human stupidity – if we concentrate too much on AI and not enough on human consciousness, AI will end up merely empowering the stupidity of humans.
Globalisation has resulted in growing inequality – the richest 100 own more than poorest 4 billion – and might in time lead to speciation. [People and species are opposite - species split, whereas people coalesce into larger groups, though mergers change.] Challenges are now supra-national – there are no national solutions to global warming. Nations have no answer to technological disruption. The nationalist wave [which he attributes in some measure to nostalgia] cannot turn the clock back to 1939 or 1914. Europe is a good example of supra-national solutions [he thinks Brexit is a bad idea]. Early humans faced problems which local tribes couldn’t handle (for example, Nile floods). Nowadays problems are supra-national.
Most stories are held together by the weight of their roof rather than by the strength of their foundations. Consider the Christian story. It has the flimsiest of foundations…. Yet enormous global institutions have been built on top of that story, and their weight presses down with such overwhelming force that they keep the story in place.
This is another intellectual tour de force from Harari, though as other reviewers have said it’s essential to have read the other two books first.
The book begins with a lot of detail about how collection and analysis of huge amounts of data and advances in technology will allow us to even re-engineer our bodies, and in particular our brains, to allow artificial intelligence to know what we are thinking in order for it to make better decisions for us. It goes on to speculate that robots could make huge numbers of people redundant and irrelevant, forcing people to change careers at an increasingly regular rate. There is then a lot of discussion about religion, in particular the author's own Jewish religion, and how fiction has played and continues to play a crucial role in life.
I enjoyed the book but if you are looking for life lessons to follow, then it probably isn't the book for you. If you want a glimpse into the (possible) future of the human race and a summary of how we got to the point we are at now, then this is something for you. It is certainly a very well-written book.
Recognizing and exploding many of the narratives that have allowed the human ape to dominate the planet, he suggests that our children’s education should be characterized by greater humility, respect for the “other” and for the biosphere that we are rapidly destroying. Skills will become obsolete in a decade and therefore in need of constant renewal. The ability to adapt to whatever the world needs will therefore become the vital learning required by the whole of humanity. But “what should we wish to become?” remains the unanswerable question. Identity and philosophy therefore become vital subjects.
While the progress of science enables mankind to design and create modified forms of humans, our ethical and philosophical understanding has not kept up the pace of change offered by the sciences. Science fiction allows us to imagine plausible futures, but we should be wary of taking any of them literally, says Harari. But the reality is that any future we will face by 2050 or 2100 is likely to be a future that in 2018 seems like science fiction.
This book should be mandatory reading for everybody involved in education and in preparing for the future. That means all of us! Harari’s grasp of historic reality and his wide fields of knowledge are here presented in a manner accessible to us all. As a primer to change management, there can be no better text book. I happen to agree with 99% of his views. But even when I am not convinced, I am driven to consider carefully why not. It is therefore a compulsive read!