21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Anyone interested in the future is (or should be) familiar with Yuval Noah Harari’s work.

He is one of the great philosopher-historians of our time and he poses the questions all of us should be asking ourselves and each other.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is his latest offering. It’s not my favourite book from the author – the ideas are far less well-thought out (perhaps because many of the concepts were, by the author’s own admission “crowdsourced” – and we all know about the wisdom – or madness of crowds) than the two books that preceded this offering, Sapiens (the best by far) and Homo Deus.

(In fact, if you have read both Sapiens and Homo Deus, you really don’t need to read 21 Lessons too – all the really big ideas in 21 Lessons are explored in the other two books.)

Still, the book asks the questions we all should be asking out our individual and shared futures – questions about religion, morality, myths, technology and biology. And, just because I don’t agree with Yuval Harari’s answers does not mean the questions aren’t worth a good few days of your time.

The book also includes some very quotable quotes (Yuval Harari is a very witty man.)

Some of my favourites include

“We should never underestimate human stupidity. Both on the personal and on the collective level, humans are prone to engage in self-destructive activities.”

“We think we know a lot, even though individually we know very little, because we treat knowledge in the minds of others as if it were our own.”

“We have now run out of time. The decisions we will take in the next few decades will shape the future of life itself, and we can take these decisions based only on our present view. If this generation lacks a comprehensive view of the cosmos, the future of life will be decided at random.

After all, the future is up to us. Utopia or dystopia – we decide.



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