I enjoyed Yuval Harari’s “Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow”. You may have heard of its prequel “Sapiens: A brief history of humankind” which critics compared to Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” and which became an instant bestseller after Gates, Obama and other influentials put it on top of their lists. Sapiens focused on the history of mankind. Homo Deus looks forward, to the future of mankind. Harari’s thesis is that while “the great human projects of the 20th century [focused on] overcoming famine, plague and war, the new projects of the 21st century [will be about] gaining immortality, bliss and divinity”. The 20th century agenda was to save humans from external afflictions while the 21st century mission is to upgrade humans by engineering their bodies, brains and minds. The scenario he unfolds in the book is depressing. The upgrade is affordable only to a small elite becoming superhumans, while most people remain in an inferior human caste losing their value as machines take over. The new religion guiding this future is dataism – faith in the power of algorithms. At first, dataism serves humans’ aspirations and enhance their lifespans, happiness and power, but it later outsmarts them leading to their extinction. Harari draws a parallel between how humans have undervalued animals and progressively led to their extinction, and how algorithms will treat humans: “Dataism threatens to do to Homo Sapiens what Homo Sapiens has done to other animals.” Yes, it is intense and feels rather crazy as I am trying to summarize it here. But Harari is a very good storyteller. He packages knowledge and connects ideas in an exotic and punchy way. So, often I have found myself super absorbed in his arguments forgetting to question their foundations. And there are many instances where we should. His technology-optimism is a case in point. Early on in the book he sets the scene: “every technical problem has a technical solution”. And thereafter he never questions the progress of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence nor their ability to surpass human mortality and consciousness. But again it is a fun and captivating 400-page journey that will for sure kick your thinking out of the box. I’d recommend the read.
Meredith Bennett-Smith’s “The case for being grumpy at work” uses evidence to reject the correlation between positive attitude and productivity. And she highlights the gender dimension of her argument. Here are some of the research-supported facts: women do not make it to corner offices if they look too happy; faking happiness can lead to depression or heart attacks; mild grumpiness increases communication and critical thinking skills while anger can boost creativity; and overall controlling emotions in the workplace is a lose-lose for the firm and the staff, especially for women. A bon entendeur…
My visual this week is from Hootsuite + WeAreSocial’s “Q2 2017 Global digital statshot” which shows the continuing explosion – scale and pace – of social media usage. 2.9 billion people are now active on social media. This number is increasing at a rate of one million additional users a day! Wait, what?
My quote this week is from Richard Branson via Rufina Park’s “The Future of learning and education: children, educators, and creatives as co-creators”: “Children look at the world with wonder and inquisitiveness, and see opportunities where adults often see obstacles. I believe that we should not only listen to them more, but also act more like them.”