By@SimonCocking review of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari 

How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children? 

Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is an investigation into today’s most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.

In twenty-one accessible chapters that are both provocative and profound, Harari builds on the ideas explored in his previous books, untangling political, technological, social, and existential issues and offering advice on how to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in: How can we retain freedom of choice when Big Data is watching us? What will the future workforce look like, and how should we ready ourselves for it? How should we deal with the threat of terrorism? Why is liberal democracy in crisis?

This was a great book to read over the christmas period and rolling into a new year. It is important to unplug, read off line, and think about the bigger picture. Who are we, what are we, where are we going? Having looked at the past and the future in his previous two books Harari now takes on the now / near future / the rolling present that we live in. We are living in an interesting, but challenging and changing time. It is a massive challenge, whether we realise it or not that things are moving much, much faster than we, as humans are hard wired to comprehend. The recent manipulation of Facebook by fake news is a fact, even if all the details have not been completely revealed yet.

Harari turns an objective eye to global religions, and even punctures a few home myths in his own country too. You can imagine these ideas did not go down well with all who live there, but they are valid and insightful points. Israel is a complex, fascinating, and at times troubled place, Harari aims to apply the rationale of his own logic to local beliefs and mores, not to be anti-semetic, but to point out that humans create myths and stories almost from the moment they are able to speak. It does not mean that they are true, logical, or even coherent. In this context, if we can manage to achieve a great awareness of who we are, and why we do what we do, we might just manage to embrace and manage our future better, rather than blindly tumbling into.

The final section of the book also aims to try and offer some solutions and guidelines too, in recognition that it is easy to critique things, but important to also try to offer some ideas and responses to the problems we face too. This is a timely and valuable book to read in order to embrace and try to understand the bigger picture of the world we live in.


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