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Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow
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Book Club 2018 > June 2018 - Homo Deus

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message 1: by Betsy, co-mod (new)

Betsy | 1788 comments Mod
One of two books which were selected for June 2018 is Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. You are not expected to read both books, but of course it's great if you do. If you read this one, please use this thread to post questions, comments, and reviews, at any time.


Wolfgang Grulke | 5 comments I found Yuval Noah Harari's first book SAPIENS to be absolutely the best and most entertaining summary of the development of human culture. As a futurist in my previous career, I expected to be less delighted by Harari's coverage of the future. However, for me he has produced another superb book that puts the future into brilliant context, in his unique style, lucid analogies and sense-of-humour. Yuval, I will certainly be using some of your inimitable quotes as I work on my new book on 'The Eternal Ocean'.


Jehona | 35 comments So far it seems like a continuation of Sapiens. But, I expected Sapiens to be more connected to history and anthropology, but instead it was the author's ideas and philosophy set against a background of history. Homo Deus is expected to be a historian's expectations from the future, i.e. his ideas and philosophy. I think I'll like this one more than Sapiens. At least I do so far.


message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Harari picks up where he left off with Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, a fantastic book that I gave a 5 star review HERE. There he shows where we've been & spends the last chapters asking where are we going. He also asks what is happiness? Both are important questions that he starts off addressing here with The New Human Agenda, an interesting & long introduction that covers a lot of thoughtful territory to set the stage for the 3 parts of the book.

His examples are great since they take me places I've never been before. I had a good education, I'm curious, & fairly well read, yet he constantly reminds me how poor & US-centric my knowledge of world & its history is. Unfortunately, the length & numbers of his examples actually detract from his overall points at times. He doesn't clearly & succinctly define a premise from the outset & then prove it. Instead, he usually provides a super short idea & expands on it along with a running proof that often obfuscates the premise.


message 5: by Di (new) - rated it 2 stars

Di | 24 comments Just finished reading Homo Deus. I haven't read Homo Sapiens and quite honestly, dont plan to (just have more interesting things waiting for me). Homo Deus seemed right up my alley.

Unfortunately, this book was a disappointment.

The beginning was somewhat good. Explanations how we have conquered famine, plague and war were truly interesting. The idea that humanity is trying to achieve immortality and bliss as logical next step made sense. The idea that organisms are algorithms is plausible and the decoupling of intelligence and consciousness seems due too. All of this with examples from history was okay and chapters 9 till the end were fascinating.

Problems happened in the middle of the book.
The definition of religion in this book really bothered me. Why try to forcefully classify communism and Nazism as religions when they had nothing to do with the supernatural? I think a new and different term should have been used.
And the whole of chapter 5 just simply pissed me off to the point I wanted to quit reading.

"More importantly, science always needs religious assistance in order to create viable human institutions. Scientists study how the world functions, but there is no scientific method for determining how humans ought to behave. Science tells us that humans cannot survive without oxygen. However, is it okay to execute criminals by asphyxiation? Science doesn’t know how to answer such a question. Only religions provide us with the necessary guidance."

Science may need the help of ethics and morality, but those things are not religion. Science does not need religion. I think we can judge right and wrong by ourselves without Bible.
I think Homo Deus should have had less fluff and more details, facts, and examples. And he should have after explaining things in detail come back to the point he was trying to make. Often in this book, he detoured on lengthy examples and by the time he finished I forgot the point he was trying to make.
Also, I felt there should have been way more citations than there actually was.


Jehona | 35 comments Considering how wide is definition of "religion" is, it is not strange that he sees science as needing guidance from religion. In Sapiens he is very anti-religion in the usual sense. So, here he is not advocating for the use of the Bible as a guide for what we should and should not do, but saying that we decide those things from a different perspective than that of science. He considers humanism to be a religion too. Actually, he considers all ideologies and philosophical stances to be religions. Basically, every idea that is not directly based on empirical data. That, I think, is his most problematic idea.


message 7: by Di (new) - rated it 2 stars

Di | 24 comments he should've used the term ideology instead of religion.


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Di wrote: "he should've used the term ideology instead of religion."

Perhaps, but IIRC he made a good point for why he called them religions. He put them in the same bucket for the zeal & unthinking belief displayed by followers. Didn't he say that while ideologies could display the same, he considered a semantically null point? It's been a while since I listened to it & I don't have a hard copy. I didn't mind the lack of distinction & don't think it distracted from the point which is that science can tell facts, only society can make value judgments about them.

I found his question, It took just a piece of bread to make a starving medieval peasant joyful. How do you bring joy to a bored, overpaid and overweight engineer? & answers to it really intriguing especially in light of recent articles I've seen on the rise of suicide which I think he also pointed out. Another book I read recently The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies had a great quote by Voltaire, Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.


Jehona | 35 comments Jim wrote: "Di wrote: "he should've used the term ideology instead of religion."

Perhaps, but IIRC he made a good point for why he called them religions. He put them in the same bucket for the zeal & unthinki..."


The problem is that religions are ideologies, but ideologies are not all religions. Of course they share many characteristics, but they also have fundamental differences. One main diference is the supernatural. Another is the fact that ideologies change. Modern day neo-Nazis have very different beliefs from WWII Nazis. Modern day Communists have different ideas from Soviet era Communists. In contrast, modern day Christians might not care for every comand in the Bible, but they haven't made any changes to the ideology itself. No Christian claims that God is a Heavenly Mother, or that there are 4 aspects of God instead of 3.


message 10: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine (catjackson) Jehona wrote: "Jim wrote: "Di wrote: "he should've used the term ideology instead of religion."

Perhaps, but IIRC he made a good point for why he called them religions. He put them in the same bucket for the zea..."


Actually, some Christians DO claim God as Heavenly Mother! God is gender neutral so referring to God as Father or Mother is fine.


message 11: by Jehona (last edited Jun 12, 2018 10:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jehona | 35 comments Catherine wrote: "Jehona wrote: "Jim wrote: "Di wrote: "he should've used the term ideology instead of religion."

Perhaps, but IIRC he made a good point for why he called them religions. He put them in the same buc..."


Wouldn't that completely overturn the idea of Jesus as the Son? Or do they claim some lesbian-like relationship between Mary and God-dess? The Judeo-Christian-Islamic God is masculine in every sense. Could you please point me to the denomination claiming a femaleness of God?


message 12: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Jehona, a text book definition wasn't the point as I recall. He defined his terms for his presentation of his ideas, so his remarks need to be taken in context.


Jehona | 35 comments Jim wrote: "Jehona, a text book definition wasn't the point as I recall. He defined his terms for his presentation of his ideas, so his remarks need to be taken in context."

The redefining of words can be very problematic. That's why in science one sticks to the term that is usually used for something, even if you can think of a better one. He sounds very detached from the concept of belief, writing as though he lives in a post-religious* world. He actually reminded me of a professor of mine who just couldn't believe that some people really think of God as an actual entity and of heaven as a real place.

*I'm talking of religion in the usual sense of the word here.


message 14: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine (catjackson) Jehona wrote: "Catherine wrote: "Jehona wrote: "Jim wrote: "Di wrote: "he should've used the term ideology instead of religion."

Perhaps, but IIRC he made a good point for why he called them religions. He put th..."


Many Christian denominations believe that God has no gender and so is not male or female. Yes, traditionally male terms have been used, but those are culturally determined terms, not terms determined by an actual, physical gender. We worship God using both male and female terms in my congregation and it's not that unusual.

Many also do not believe in a physical union between Mary and god. We believe that Mary got pregnant the usual way. :) Some of us even believe that Jesus had real, biological siblings. But we also believe that God was made spiritually real through the life and death of this man Jesus in a way that wasn't true with any other human before or since.

Being religious doesn't necessarily mean that one denies the scientific realities of our world (I certainly don't deny science and the way it reveals the beauty of the world and explains the way the world works). It means that we see the world with an additional set of lenses. These lenses don't explain the what or the how, but they do explain the why.


message 15: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Jehona wrote: "The redefining of words can be very problematic. .... He sounds very detached from the concept of belief, ..."

I think you're right on both accounts. I had no problem with the broader definition, but I think they're hazy enough to justify it. Obviously you & Di disagree. As for the concept of belief, it astounds me constantly, but I'm surrounded by YECs. I live in the state of the Ark Park, Creation Museum, & Kim Davis. It's baffling.


message 16: by Jehona (last edited Jun 13, 2018 05:03AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jehona | 35 comments Catherine wrote: "...Many Christian denominations believe that God has no gender and so is not male or female... We believe that Mary got pregnant the usual way. :) Some of us even believe that Jesus had real, biological siblings... "

That is very interesting. I've never heard of this form of Christianity before. What is your denomination called? I'd like to learn more about it.

Just to give some background. I grew up in a country that is mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian. My hometown is the center of an ethnic minority. Our people are Sunni Muslim and Catholic Christian (usually a mix, since marrying across religions is more acceptable than across ethnicities). So these three are what I grew up with. There are some emerging groups of Sufi Muslims, Salafi Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Evangelical Christians, Baptists, Mormons, Moonies, etc. These are usually new converts. From what I know from all these religions, God is considered to be a man (not that anybody speaks about God having a penis, but in every other sense), and they consider Mary to have been a virgin and the birth of Jesus to be a miracle (though many do not consider him to be a God). Mormons actually believe that God had sex with Mary (so, definitely a man).

Jim wrote: " ... As for the concept of belief, it astounds me constantly, but I'm surrounded by YECs. I live in the state of the Ark Park, Creation Museum, & Kim Davis. It's baffling. "

That's a bit strange. Did you grow up without religion? I grew up creationist. My biology teacher accepted evolution but he did an awful job explaining it. He was probably worried that somebody's parents might complain if he pushed us too hard. To this day, my knowledge of biology is very limited. Fortunately, I grew up with Old Earth Creationism, so I was still able to love and enjoy physics and chemistry.


message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Jehona wrote: "That's a bit strange. Did you grow up without religion?..."

Agreed, I find it strange that people can train their minds to ignore evidence, logic, & reason. Worse, they're proud of believing such nonsense, making 'faith' a good thing, rather than being ashamed of their intentional ignorance. It's sickening, especially when I see things like the Ark Park, Creation Museum, & Kim Davis being endorsed by my neighbors.

I went to Episcopalian schools most of my life; mid-week chapel along with Sunday services & I had to read/study the King James Bible which is a mess. The more I read, the less sense it made & early on I decided it should be relegated to the fairy tale shelf along with the Grimm brothers & various other mythologies.

Unfortunately, most people can't separate spirituality & morality from their religion. Most of us are not educated in either one, just indoctrinated from birth in the religion of our parents which is supposed to take their place. It's child abuse that scares kids & stifles their curiosity since it pretends to have ALL the answers, at least in monotheistic religions like the Abrahamic ones where they presume an omniscient, omnipotent being. The idea would be laughable if so many didn't take it so seriously.


message 18: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Harari's take on religion & science was interesting enough that I quoted a bit in my review:

The Odd Couple - in practice, science and religion are like a husband and wife who after 500 years of marriage counselling still don’t know each other...
- Most of the misunderstandings regarding science and religion result from faulty definitions of religion... people confuse religion with superstition, spirituality, belief in supernatural powers or belief in gods. Religion is none of these things...
- Religion asserts that we humans are subject to a system of moral laws that we did not invent and that we cannot change...
- Religion gives a complete description of the world, and offers us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals...
- ...religious stories almost always include three parts:
1. Ethical judgments, such as ‘human life is sacred’.
2. Factual statements, such as ‘human life begins at the moment of conception’.
3. A conflation of the ethical judgments with the factual statements, resulting in practical guidelines such as ‘you should never allow abortion, even a single day after conception’.
- Science has no authority or ability to refute or corroborate the ethical judgments religions make. But scientists do have a lot to say about religious factual statements...



message 19: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel | 106 comments Jim wrote: " Most of the misunderstandings regarding science and religion result from faulty definitions of religion... people confuse religion with superstition, spirituality, belief in supernatural powers or belief in gods. Religion is none of these things..."

From a sociological perspective, it's very interesting that every time something from religion is disproven or shown to be logically problematic, someone else steps in and changes the definition of religion to exclude that one thing. It's created this never ending shrinking definition in the interest of avoiding any of it's problems and contradictions.

If next week someone disproved this guy's "definition", the following week someone else would claim the "real definition" had never included any of that.

It's like a No True Scotsman fallacy turned back on itself.


message 20: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Daniel wrote: "...It's like a No True Scotsman fallacy turned back on itself. "

I didn't know what that was, so had to look it up. I found it here:
https://www.logicalfallacies.info/pre...

Interestingly enough, religion is the final example there, too. Makes sense. Religion, like various ideologies, aren't rational subjects. The latter can start out rationally enough, but they rarely stay that way long once they draw in more than a few adherents. Humans are too sloppy - rationalizing rather than rational beings.


message 21: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel | 106 comments Jim wrote: "rationalizing rather than rational beings."

Very well said.


message 22: by David (last edited Jun 17, 2018 07:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Rubenstein | 921 comments Mod
I read this book about a year ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Like his previous book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Harari proposes some rather unorthodox ideas about humans. Whether or not he fully backs up his ideas, they are certainly thought-provoking. I wrote a fairly detailed review here.


message 23: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 697 comments Good review, David. I didn't recall the bit about slavery. I wonder what good would a slave do in a pre-agricultural society? Would it really be possible to have one for any length of time or in the same manner as in an agricultural one? I don't know enough about it, but I suspect they wouldn't be economically feasible since there isn't an easy way to control them with the available tech & life style. At best, it would be a passing phase. They'd either have to become part of the tribe or killed.


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