Homo Deus- A brief history of tomorrow

My first read of the year – Homo Deus, A brief history of tomorrow, took a total of 20 days or approx 3 weeks to finish. Not because, its a difficult read, thought-provoking yes, but not difficult, and we can thank Dr.Yuval Noah Harari for that. I have read Sapiens and was spell-bound by that book especially with the soothing, inquisitive voice of Dr.Harari guiding me through each page. Homo Deus had the same communicative voice and a rich narrative laced with some dry humor but somehow couldn’t captivate me as much as Sapiens did. One major put off was that Dr.Harari kept reiterating many of the statements and points he had already made in his first book. Homo Deus begins with an introductory chapter that sets the tone for the entire book, which is further divided into three parts. The introductory chapter is titled ‘The new human agenda’ and Dr.Harari states, that the future of humanity could be summed in attainment or pursuit of three categorically important virtues- Immortality, Bliss, and Divinity. Harari argues that by seeking immortality and perpetual bliss, humans or homo sapiens are trying to upgrade themselves in homo Deus, superhumans, gods or achieve divinity. It’s a huge claim to make and Harari goes on to chart the part of history once again and talks about how homo sapiens were able to climb the ladder of natural selection and conquered the world, slowly Harari moves on to the present and underlines the progress in different realms of the academic world- microbiology, history, computer science. He talks about the advances in the fields of nanotechnology, gene methodology, microbiology and artificial intelligence. Harari even argues that in this so-called post-liberal world, individuality or individuals won’t matter anymore, and the collective would regain its power. During his erudition of the present, Harari asks many questions and make some bold statements, some of which struck a chord with me such as,

“In the twenty-first century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.”

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Slowly he builds up a future of humanity that is bleak, data-driven and looks a lot like the world of the matrix, without, a cute Keanu Reevs possibly saving the world. Harari also warns and states multiple times that these claims are not prophecies but possibilities of how the world might look like. Many a time, I was taken by Harari’s argument and was forced to acknowledge the reality I could see around myself, but I wasn’t entirely convinced either. At the end of the book, Harari leaves the reader with three questions:

 

 

 

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

Should you read this book? Yes, I would recommend it, but read it to understand one person’s perception of how the world might look like based on some facts and the current reality, read it so you are intellectually stimulated, and start asking more questions about the world and reality which we live in today, and your current choices are better informed, read it but do not make it a bible, do not start arguing with the world that artificial intelligence will take over the world.

If you wish to buy the book, click here.

The next book on my list is Alien Hearts by Guy de Maupassant. My first brush with French literature and I am quite excited.

Did you like Homo Deus? Have you read it? Leave a comment and let me know.

New Delhi World Book Fair

Like any loyal reader, even in the times of Amazon and Flipkart and convenience of getting a book delivered at your doorstep, I took a metro accompanied by a friend and reached Pragati Maidan, to attend the first day of the New Delhi World Book Fair (6-14.January.2018). I could only cover one entire hall, by the end of which I was hungry, my feet were hurting, and my back was aching, and I had 3 bags of books. The Penguin Random House stall received more footfall than any other major publishing houses. I ended up with 6 new books, not much if you don’t consider another 15 books lying unread at my place. Check the list out here.

All was well, till I exited the halls, and bought a cup of coffee from a stall and noticed the littering, and as I began ranting to my friend how irresponsible we are as citizens and how even if we have a dustbin nearby, literally five steps away, we would still throw it on the ground. I have always held the view, that people who read, are just the better lot of people. More humble, more empathetic, more aware. But, guess not. We resumed our long walk to the metro station, and at every step you could see plates, wrappers, tetra packs, just lying around. What would it take for a country of a billion to understand, that littering is not only an eyesore, but harmful to the environment, to the animals who munch up the polybag that you so effortlessly threw on the ground, to the person who would be responsible to clean all that shit up, and to frankly, you. It completely baffles me. All you have to do is to finish eating whatever the fuck you are eating and throw the wrapper in the dustbin. How difficult can that be? We would rather step on the trash than dispose it off. What does it say about us?

Another view greeted us, as we exited the gate. Hawkers, street carts, sellers with everything you could possibly imagine- cheela, shakarkandi, chana chaat, footwear and pirated books (the irony of it is not missed on me). I stopped to eat a plate of sweet potatoes, served on a leaf bowl, and soon threw it in the dustbin- a reused basket underneath the thela. I could see many other disposed leaf bowls there. Maybe all isn’t lost. The other thing that stood out to me was how there was a live, bubbling economy around me. How quickly these small entrepreneurs had capitalized on the opportunity. There were even some women selling bags. I took all of it in and then walked past them. Still noticing the trash.

The day had ended. The trash was still there. I went back home. Giddy with the happiness of buying new books, disappointed in Indians, as citizens and warmed by the zeal of the local entrepreneurs.

So if you are planning to check the Book Fair out, please do, and remember:

  1. You are going to buy more books you can read.
  2. Please throw the trash in the dustbin.
  3. Grab a chaat outside.
  4. Enjoy the bitter cold, once you leave the halls.

 

My list of Unread Books-1

At some point in our lives, from readers, we become collectors. I am guilty of being a book hoarder and buying more books than I could read and adding it to the pile of unread books. I tell myself, that each book will be read in its own time- helps me sleep at night. But since, I am on a mission of reading 50 books this year, I am going to start with the ones that are waiting, and some have been waiting for a long time to be read. Here it goes.

  1. Everybody loves a good drought- P.Sainath (Buy it on Amazon.in.)
  2. Three daughters of Eve- Elif Shafak  (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  3. Lincoln in the Bardo- (The Man Booker Prize winner 2017)- George Saunders (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  4. Democrats and Dissenters- Ramchandra Guha (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  5. 4321- Paul Aster (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  6. Ariel- Sylvia Plath (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  7. Mrs.Dalloway- Virginia Woolf (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  8. Land of the dawn lit mountains-  Anotnia Bolingbroke-Kent (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  9. Alien Hearts- Guy de Maupassant (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  10. Henry and June- Anais Nin (Buy it on Amazon.in)
  11. Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand (Buy it on Amazon.in)

Needless to say, I have more on the list, some half-read books, but that’s a tale for another day. Someone once said, aim for smaller goals to reach a bigger one. So this is my beginning point. I am currently reading Homo Deus- A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. Once I finish reading that, I start on with this list. I would be posting my reviews for these. What I felt about them, Do I recommend it or not, and so on and so forth. Do suggest any great books you think I should read, in the comment below and maybe you would find them on my next ‘Unread Books’ list.

Ciao.