Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Overview of the Book 

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

Amazon description.

 About the Author

Yuval Noah Harari (born 1976) is an Israeli author, public intellectual, historian and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the popular science bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). His writings examine free will, consciousness, intelligence, happiness, and suffering.

Harari writes about a "cognitive revolution" that supposedly occurred roughly 70,000 years ago when Homo sapiens supplanted the rival Neanderthals and other species of the genus Homo, developed language skills and structured societies, and ascended as apex predators, aided by the agricultural revolution and accelerated by the scientific revolution, which have allowed humans to approach near mastery over their environment. His books also examine the possible consequences of a futuristic biotechnological world in which intelligent biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations; he has said, "Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so".

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Harari surveys human history from the evolutionary emergence of Homo sapiens to 21st-century political and technological revolutions. The book is based on his lectures to an undergraduate world history class.

Personal Life

Harari is gay and in 2002 met his husband Itzik Yahav, whom he has called "my internet of all things". Yahav has also been Harari's personal manager. They married in a civil ceremony in Toronto, Canada. He lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Though he is an atheist, Harari has practiced Vipassana meditation since 2000 and said that it "transformed" his life. As of 2017 he practiced for two hours every day (one hour at the start and end of his work day), every year undertook a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer, in silence and with no books or social media, and is an assistant meditation teacher. He dedicated Homo Deus to "my teacher, S. N. Goenka, who lovingly taught me important things", and said "I could not have written this book without the focus, peace and insight gained from practising Vipassana for fifteen years." He also regards meditation as a way to research.

Harari is a vegan and says this resulted from his research, including his view that the foundation of the dairy industry is breaking the bond between mother cow and calf. As of May 2021, Harari did not have a smartphone, but in an interview in October 2023, he described that he owned a smartphone only for use in travel and emergencies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, following former United States President Donald Trump's cut to WHO funding, Harari announced that he and his husband would donate $1 million to the WHO through Sapienship, their social impact company.

Harari is among the critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is specifically opposed to the judicial reform plans of the thirty-seventh government of Israel. In a conversation with Lex Friedman in 2023 he said: "... And now the Netanyahu government is trying to neutralize, or take over, the supreme court, and they've already prepared a long list of laws – they already talk about it – that will be passed the moment that this last check on the power is gone, they are openly trying to gain unlimited power".

Taken from Wikipedia

More Contact with Harari

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow at the University of California

This is an excellent one hour summary of this book. Even if you have read the book this is a very good video for enabling you to synthesize the book. 

Making Sense: Gaza & Global Order: A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari (Episode #341)

What is an Algorithm?

One of the central ideas of Harari's book deals with algorithms. So, to help us better understand this central idea here is some thoughts on algorithms. 

Meriam Webster Definition

broadly a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end.

Broader understanding.

The current term of choice for a problem-solving procedure, algorithm, is commonly used nowadays for the set of rules a machine (and especially a computer) follows to achieve a particular goal. It does not always apply to computer-mediated activity, however. The term may as accurately be used of the steps followed in making a pizza or solving a Rubik’s Cube as for computer-powered data analysis.

Algorithm is often paired with words specifying the activity for which a set of rules have been designed. A search algorithm, for example, is a procedure that determines what kind of information is retrieved from a large mass of data. An encryption algorithm is a set of rules by which information or messages are encoded so that unauthorized persons cannot read them.

Though first attested in the early 20th century (and, until recently, used strictly as a term of mathematics and computing), algorithm has a surprisingly deep history. It was formed from algorism “the system of Arabic numerals,” a word that goes back to Middle English and ultimately stems from the name of a 9th-century Persian mathematician, abu-Jaʽfar Mohammed ibn-Mūsa al-Khuwārizmi, who did important work in the fields of algebra and numeric systems. (Link to page)

What's an Algorithm (TED Ed)


Potential Discussion Points

Harari ends the book with a list of three questions which seems like a pretty good set to cover.

  1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
  2. What's more valuable - intelligence of consciousness?
  3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

While listening to the book and these videos there were a few questions that came to mind that I thought would be interesting to discuss.

  • How would his book be different if he were not an atheist?
  • Just because the "I" is a parliament and not a singular, does that mean there is no "I"?
  • What do we think of his anti-freewill discussion?