Homo Deus – by Yuval Noah Harari is a deep anthropological dive that examines the relationships between technology and humans, and what the species “Homo Sapiens 2.0” might have to struggle with in a tech-first future – a future that might not actually require “humans” as we know them.
Harari begins by stating that humans today have more control over their destiny than ever before. Through science and collective intelligence, we have found ways to defeat plague, famine, and war.
More people die today from eating too much than from too little. More people die of old age than from infectious diseases and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals combined.
So the question is posed – what will the humans of tomorrow be focused on, if not the old problems?
Immortality – The average human life span is increasing, and through access to the latest developments in health care and technology, those equipped with financial access to these life-extending enhancements will begin their quest for immortality. The class issues associated with this widening gap between rich and poor, and access to life-extending tech, will become a much larger issue in the near future.
Happiness – In the ancient world, it took just a piece of bread to make a medieval peasant joyful – How can we bring joy to a bored, overpaid, and overweight engineer? There is a glass ceiling of happiness. We don’t become satisfied by living a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news – as conditions improve, our expectations balloon – so we need more and more, to get less and less satisfaction.
Divinity – In seeking bliss and immortality, humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods. Homo Deus. Through god-like control over the biological stratum, we can reengineer DNA. Our mobile technology allows us omniscient presence throughout the connected world. We gather huge amounts of data on millions of points across the internet – like Santa Claus, we know when you are sleeping, we know when you are awake. However, the more we know, the less we can predict.
Harari believes that a fight between Humanism and Dataism is the main obstacle in becoming Homo Deus.
Humanism is a problem – for us humans. Main point of humanism is that humans and their feelings are the ultimate end of evolution.
Ethical humanism – “do what feels good”
Political humanism – “the voters know best”
Humanist economics – “the customer is always right”
Educational humanism – “think for yourself”
Aesthetic humanism – “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
Liberalism – freedom of individual choice
Nazism – only the strong/chosen survive
You can see the potential issues with a full embrace of humanism.
Dataism is a problem – Dataism believes everything is data, processing, algorithms.
Life itself is a series of codes and transmission. Emotions, dreams, consciousness are all just discreet algorithms and can be recreated with no human attachment. Dataism believes that truly good decisions come from crunching probabilities – not from “trust” or a humans gut.
What will happen if we embrace the idea that intelligence is preferred over consciousness, that humans are part of a network. Humans will become undervalued – like we currently undervalue animals, outside of their use as fuel for civilization. Eventually, the Artificial Intelligences we create will find that humans don’t fit into the network, there’s no room for “guts” and “freedom” – what then?
The marketing takeaways from this book are innumerable – because marketing is an exchange relationship between people. So gaining better understanding on the trajectory of technology and society in our world, gathering insights on how tribalism, humanism, dataism, and other belief structures frame the values people stand for – all of these are arrows in the marketers quiver. And in our capitalist society – it is ultimately up to the marketer to decide what world they want their customers to live in, what customers they want to create with their products or services, and what world they want to leave behind.
GET THE BOOK –> Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow