Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari (2015)

This was on more than one recommended reading lists, including Bill Gates' summer reading. Very depressing. On one hand, this author did a great job of summarizing the world, but his predictions of the future made me glad that I am getting on in years and will not live to see most of this, or be getting old enough to not care.

Since I listened to this, I didn't have the physical book to go back through to point out the things that I especially liked. And now that I got my hands on the physical book, I don't have the time to do this book justice, so just a few points.

  • Harari starts out by pointing out that we have conquered the three major problems humanity faced over the centuries, millennia, in my mind portrayed by the three riders in Aleksandrs Grins' and probably many other books - famine, plague and war. Yes people are still starving, there are still epidemics, and we are still fighting each other, but at a much smaller scale, and we have solutions for most of these. The problem more often than not is political, human created, and it will not be solved by praying or sacrificing to any god.
  • There was a section that I thought nicely addressed why there should no longer be a need to pray to any form of god. He seemed to dismiss all religions, but never did address the need for something spiritual that most of us feel.
  • The scary part was that he sees the developments in science, especially biology and study of genes, leading to the development of super humans, eliminating genetic diseases, extending life. I am sorry, but I have never understood the search for the fountain of youth or living to be over 100. More power to those that do live long, but haven't you read Robert Heinlein? Why would you want to live that long?
  • He talks of human-animal relations, moving from hunting in the wild to domestication of animals - to the abuse, often, today. I think he spent a lot of time on this, but have already forgotten the details. I am definitely not one of those super-humans. 
  • "Sapiens rule the world because we alone can cooperate flexible in large numbers."
  • One of my favorite stories about the power of the written word was that when Jews were trying to flee France as the Nazis came in, a Portuguese consul kept issuing visas to Jews, though the government had forbidden it. He issued thousands of visas in a number of days, thus being responsible for the largest rescue operation by a single individual. Though he lost his job and the Portuguese were reluctant to admit these refugees, the power of the piece of paper was such that they were all accepted.
  • He explains how the Europeans divided up Africa, knowing very little about the continent and making some grave errors in the process that affects the continent to this day.
  • He had a strange take on humanism. I don't remember his whole argument, but I remember it feeling very negative. The book has photos explaining it in simple statements like:
    • The voter knows best. (politics)
    • The customer is always right. (economics)
    • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (questioning art)
    • If it feels good - do it! (ethics)
    • Think for yourself! (education)
  • There is a lot about technology and it felt like the worst SF movies depicting the robots taking over the world coming to fruition.
In looking over the actual book. I realize it probably deserves a rereading already, but I have other things that need my attention.