Wednesday, July 10, 2019


My "implanted computer chip" told me to review this book:

How long has "mankind," (hereafter referred to as "Sapiens" to be consistent with Harari's usage) been around on earth?

Where did humans originate?

What about the domestication of plants and animals: when, where?

How and when was the planet knit into a single area by Sapiens?

These are  questions addressed by Harari, but also by previous scholars.

So how is Harari unique? What's different about his book that makes it worthwhile reading?

Harari points out that history writers tend to focus on great thinkers, warriors, saints and great artists. (P. 396.) That focus leaves a big gap--a lack of attention to the happiness and suffering of individuals. Specifically, in his chapter entitled "And they lived happily ever after," he writes that ". . .happiness consists in seeing one's life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. There is an important cognitive and ethical component to happiness." (P. 391.) He intends to fill the gap, which makes his history of Sapiens unique and worth reading.

But the final chapter is a true denouement, a real surprise. After writing for four hundred pages on the amazing rise of us Sapiens, he ends the book with Chapter 20, "The End of Homo Sapiens."

In Chapter 20, Harari asserts that "the replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen through the engineering of human beings. (P. 399.)  ". . .there seems to be no insurmountable technical barrier preventing us from producing superhumans." (P. 403.)  "Tinkering with our genes won't necessarily kill us. But we might fiddle with Homo sapiens to such an extent that we would no longer be Homo sapiens."

Even now, researchers are attempting to create cyborgs: ". . .beings which combine organic and inorganic parts." Imagine humans with bionic arms that are operated by thought. Even more revolutionary, think of a two-way computer-brain interface. (P. 407.) 

Harari writes that "culture is releasing itself from the shackles of biology." (P. 409.) Future technology will be able to change "Homo Sapiens" , including emotions and desires. Perhaps his strongest statement: ". . .all the concepts that give meaning to our world--me, you, men, women, love and hate--will become irrelevant."

Questions that occur to me:

1. Who, exactly, would program the control computer that directs the future cyborgs?  

2. Would a democracy be possible in a cyborg world?  

3. Are there any safeguards designed to safeguard freedoms such as freedom to believe?

I admire Harari's writing style. He's dealing with heavy stuff but writes in a popular and witty manner. That's a strength of the book. Another strength: his concern for us Sapiens and our futures. 

My advice: get the book, read it, react to it.

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