homo deus


Yuval Noah Harari, 2016
Feb 20, 2020 → Jun 20, 2020

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History is often shaped by small groups of forward-looking innovators rather than by the backward-looking masses.

  • what happens to marriage after life expectancy reaches 150?
  • Premodern games (chess) assumed a stagnant economy → you never finish a game with more than you started, no thinking about investment. Modern board/computer games revolve around growth.
  • "Enshrined in celluloid, prose or poetry, the feelings of the ordinary grunt have become the ultimate authority on war, which everyone has learned to respect."


  • Famine+malnutrition cause ≈ 1m deaths, Obesity = 3m.
  • Material-based Economy → Knowledge-based Economy.
    • Profitability of war declined and became restricted to parts of the world where economies are still material-based.
  • mexico population in 1520: 22m, in 1580 <2m
  • 10,000yrs ago, when most people were hunter-gatherers, the future belonged to a few farming pioneers in the Middle East.
    • In 1850, >90% of humans were peasants peasants unaware of the Industrial Revolution being shaped by a handful of engineers, politicians and financiers in Manchester and Birmingham.
    • Steam engines, railroads and telegraphs transformed the production of food, textiles, vehicles and weapons. Industrial powers got a decisive edge over traditional agricultural societies.


  • How is it, then, that when billions of electric signals move around in my brain, a mind emerges that feels ‘I am furious!’? As of 2016, we have absolutely no idea.
    • Consciousness may be a kind of mental pollution produced by the firing of complex neural networks.
    • It doesn’t do anything. It is just there.
    • If this is true, it implies that all the pain and pleasure experienced by billions of creatures for millions of years is just mental pollution.
  • Evolution theory says all animal choices (food, mates) reflect their genetic code, but if an animal chooses freely, natural selection has nowhere to go.
  • If I am indeed the master of my thoughts/decisions, can I decide not to think about anything for the next 60s?
  • Sapiens can cooperate in very flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. This concrete capability explains our mastery of planet Earth. (>soul, consciousness)


  • immense advance in computing power over the last decades, but zero advance in computer consciousness.
  • Intelligence was linked with consciousness until recently and debating their relative value was just a pastime for philosophers, but this is now becoming an urgent political and economic issue.
  • This trend is fueled more by biologists than engineers.
    • Once they concluded organisms==algorithms, they wall of organic/inorganic fell and authority shifted from individual humans to networked algorithms.
  • Non-conscious algorithms are now beating human consciousness at tasks like chess, driving, or diagnosing diseases, which are based on pattern recognition.
  • A sobering first answer (for armies and corporations): intelligence is mandatory, consciousness is optional.
  • intelligence is decoupling from consciousness and non-conscious intelligence is developing at breakneck speed ∴ humans must actively upgrade their minds if they want to stay in the game.
  • Cognitive revolution transformed the mind of an ape into the ruler of the world (sapiens) by giving access to the intersubjective realm (allowed for gods, corporations, cities, empires, writing, money, split the atom and reach the moon.) Second cognitive revolution?
  • Dramatic improvements in conditions translate into greater expectations rather than greater contentment.
  • Relatively small changes in genes, hormones and neurons were enough to transform Homo Erectus –who could produce nothing more impressive than flint knives– into Homo Sapiens, who produces spaceships and the computer. What’s next?
  • Homo sapiens is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with the computer until our descendants will look back and realize that they are no longer the kind of animal that wrote the Bible...
  • Once technology enables us to re-engineer human minds, Homo sapiens will disappear.


  • technology, biotechnology and algorithms > steam, telegraphy
  • main products will not be food/textiles/vehicles/weapons but bodies/brains/minds.
  • bigger gap than Dickens' Britain and Mahdi's Sudan, Sapiens and Neanderthals.
  • The electromagnetic spectrum in its entirety is about 10 trillion times larger than that of human-visible light. Might the mental spectrum be equally vast?


  • "So even while saying that I believe in God, the truth is I have a much stronger belief in my own inner voice." –Nietzsche
  • Humankind explored Liberalism in the 20th Century, gaining antibiotics, nuclear energy, computer, feminism, de-colonialism and free sex.
  • Liberalism has adopted ideas and institutions from socialism and fascism, notably providing the public with education, health and welfare. It still considers individual liberties > all and has a firm belief in the voter and consumer.
  • 2 practical threats: humans will lose their individual value AND authority completely, managed by external algorithms. The system will know you better and make choices for you, and you will be happy. It's not necessarily bad, but post-liberal world.


Most people are happy to acknowledge that ancient Greek gods exist only in the imagination. Yet we don’t want to accept that our God, our nation or our values are mere fictions, because these are the things that give meaning to our lives.

  • ∴ We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head.
  • Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another.

Catholic Church was responsible for important economic/technological innovations

  • Established medical Eurpoe's administrative system and pioneered the use of archives, catalogues, timetables and techniques of data processing. Vatican was the closest thing to SV in 12th C. Europe.
  • Established Europe's first economic corporations: monasteries, which introduced advanced agricultural/administrative methods and clocks. Helped found many of Europe's first universities (Bologna, Oxford, Salamanca). (→ tiempo)
  • Catholicism and other theist religions have turned from a creative to a reactive force, agonizing instead of pioneering novel technologies: Contraceptive pill, Internet, Feminism.

In the 18th century, humanism sidelined God by shifting from a deo-centric to a homo-centric world view. In the 21st century, Dataism may sideline humans by shifting from a homo-centric to a data-centric world view (idea that 'organisms are algorithms').

  • All truly important revolutions are practical: The humanist idea that ‘humans invented God’ was significant because it had far-reaching practical implications.
  • Ideas change the world only when they change our behaviour.
  • The shift from a homo-centric to a data-centric world view is practical and significant due to its day-to-day practical consequences.

science needs religious assistance to create viable human institutions: it describes facts but lacks ethical guidance.

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