21 Lessons for the 21st Century

This is the last part of the three-book series by Yuval Noah Harari. Previously I’ve read and summarized his famous book Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind.

Since Sapien was about the human’s past and Homo Deus was about humanity’s future. The 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is about the human’s Present. What’s happing in the 21st century and how can we prepare ourselves for the future.

The author has divided this book into 21 lessons from different areas of life, work, community, nation, and almost any other topic.

So instead of summarizing all the 21 lessons. I will pick some of my favorites.

1. Work

Due to the rise of tech and AI in the 21st century, we always hear that AI will take all the jobs and make people jobless. However, for every job lost to a machine at least it has created one new job. People who can make sense of data will be in high demand. As Carl Newport mentioned in his book called Deep Work “In this new economy, one Group will have a Particulars advantage: those who can work well and creatively with Intelligent Machines” The problem is when infotech is merged with biotech. If one can change a person’s behavior by analyzing their data then most jobs can be easily overtaken by AI. Because AI contains two important non-human abilities i.e connectivity and updatability.

2. Equality

The future richest 1% might own most of the wealth in the world including beauty, creativity. To avoid that we need to have ownership of data. But it’s difficult because, unlike land and machines, data is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it can move at the speed of light, and you can create as many copies of it as you want.Nationalism It’s hard to imagine how people will live without

3. Nationalism

Nationalism is good when people think my nation is unique, but problems start when people think that my nation is supreme. i.e all other nations are wrong or below mine. The world is facing 3 major problems – nuclear war, climate change, and technological disruption. Instead of focusing too much on the individual nation, we need a new global identity to resolve this issue. Because these problems are not related to the specific nation instead they will impact the whole world.

4. War

Because of global trade, It’s unlikely to have a global war now. Probably it will be just two presidents threatening war on each other on Twitter. However Human stupidity is one of the most important forces in history, so we should not take it lightly. Earlier, war brings a lot of resources and assets to the country like wheat fields, gold mines, or even oil fields but now most of the important assets consist of technical and institutional knowledge which is in digital format. And it’s very hard to seize these assets by force. There are no silicon mines in Silicon Valley.

5. Education

In the past, since the information was scarce it make sense for schools to teach how to get the information. But in this technical era, we are just a click away from the information we need. So instead of school teaching “How to get the information” we should change it to “How to process the information” and create a skill or ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant. What is true and what is fake. Schools should switch to teaching the four Cs’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

The books also cover many other topics like Communities, Terrorism, Secularism, Finding Meaning in Life, and Meditation. I highly recommend this book especially to young people who are going to make it till 2050.

Get from amazon.

Highlights quotes

  1. You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
  2. By 2050 a ‘useless’ class might emerge not merely because of an absolute lack of jobs or lack of relevant education, but also because of insufficient mental stamina.
  3. Taking the right steps was more important than making speedy progress.
  4. Feelings aren’t based on intuition, inspiration or freedom – they are based on calculation. Feelings are thus not the opposite of rationality – they embody evolutionary rationality.
  5. The real problem with robots is exactly the opposite. We should fear them because they will probably always obey their masters and never rebel.
  6. We are more interested in what is happening in cyberspace than in what is happening down the street.
  7. Perhaps the deeper meaning of this commandment is that we should never use the name of God to justify our political interests, our economic ambitions or our personal hatreds. People hate somebody and say, ‘God hates him’; people covet a piece of land and say, ‘God wants it.’
  8. Many people are afraid of the unknown, and want clear-cut answers for every question. Fear of the unknown can paralyse us more than any tyrant.
  9. Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.
  10. Most of our views are shaped by communal groupthink rather than individual rationality.
  11. The bitter truth is that the world has simply become too complicated for our hunter-gatherer brains.
  12. If you want reliable information – pay good money for it.
  13. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.
  14. Technology isn’t bad. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it. But if you don’t know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life.
  15. If you are really in love with someone, you never worry about the meaning of life.
  16. I definitely don’t think that meditation is the magic solution to all the world’s problems. To change the world, you need to act, and even more importantly, you need to organise.

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