cover image Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Yuval Noah Harari. Harper, $35 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-246431-6

Harari (Sapiens), professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provocatively explores what the future may have in store for humans in this deeply troubling book. He makes it clear that it is impossible to predict the future, so claims to be offering “possibilities rather than prophecies”—and builds a strong case for a very specific outcome. The future to which he affords the greatest probability is, in many ways, a dystopian world in which humanism has given way to “dataism”—the belief that value is measured by its contribution to information transfer—and humans play an insignificant role in world affairs or have gone extinct. The roles humans play are diminishing, Harari argues, because increasingly our creations are able to demonstrate intelligence beyond human levels and without consciousness. Whether one accepts Harari’s vision, it’s a bumpy journey to that conclusion. He rousingly defends the argument that humans have made the world safer from disease and famine—though his position that warfare has decreased remains controversial and debatable. The next steps on the road to dataism, he predicts, are through three major projects: “immortality, happiness, and divinity.” Harari paints with a very broad brush throughout, but he raises stimulating questions about both the past and the future. (Mar.)