In the critically acclaimed best-selling book Sapiens, author Yuval Noah Harari, a professor of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, demonstrates how human beings became the Earth’s dominant species.
He outlines Human History as shaped by three major events:
1) The Cognitive Revolution, which took place 70,000 years ago
2) The Agricultural Revolution, which began 10, 000 years ago
3) The Scientific Revolution, which occurred 500 years ago
According to Harari, these three events enabled Homo Sapiens to accomplish what no other being on this planet is able to do.
Humans are capable of developing ideas that cannot be perceived physically.
Concepts like religion, mythology, philosophy, fantasy, and others alike only exists in the Human mind.
It is these shared concepts that enabled great populations of humans to work together.
Perhaps more importantly, it is what separates our species from others on Earth, making mankind the leader in the process of natural selection.
Harari’s unofficial sequel to Sapiens is Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
In contrast to his first book which reflects on history, Harari uses Homo Deus to predict our future, by envisioning human life in light of modern day evolution.
He believes that our species, Homo Sapiens, are not the height of creation, but rather temporary creatures, that will one day be replaced by a god man: Homo Deus.
Masters of Earth
In the past century, human beings have overcome great challenges that in the past were stronger than man.
Whether it be natural disasters, famine, war, or disease, humans have found solutions to face and overcome many, if not most.
In the 21st century, more people have died from having too much food rather than too little.
The majority of people reach a record old age when in the past, infectious diseases like typhoid or influenza killed indiscriminately.
In fact, there are more people who die from suicide than those killed by war, terrorism and crime combined.
Humans are the only species on the planet’s long history that have single-handedly changed the Earth.
With science and technology, people no longer expect a higher being to shape their destiny.
A New Life Form
In the past four trillion years, the fundamental laws of life have remained unchanged.
Organic life cannot survive off this planet in outer space or on other planets.
In fact, organic life cannot exist beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Yet, humans are revolutionizing life as well, moving from organic to inorganic life, in the form of Artificial Intelligence.
This change will transform life as we know it, allowing humans to move away from planet Earth and into unknown parts of the universe.
So what does this change mean for human beings, society, the labor market and the political systems we’ve established?
The Useless Class
In the next few decades (not centuries or eons), artificial intelligence will eradicate billions of people from the job market, much in the same way the industrial revolution did in the 19th century.
However, in the 21st century, the new industrial revolution will create a new class, one which Harari dubs “the useless class.”
People will simply have no use in the economic industry as Artificial Intelligence will outperform them in almost every conceivable task.
They will be unemployed and unemployable.
Hariri uses the example of cars driven by humans versus computers.
A mere 10 years, it was an established belief that computers could not drive better than man, and yet driverless cars are already on the streets.
Harari expects that very soon, humans will no longer drive at all. Instead, AI will be driving taxis, cars, buses and trucks, and will be doing so more safely.
Human beings have two types of abilities: physical and mental.
Machines took over roles that required physical acumen during the Industrial Revolution.
Now they have evolved to the point of taking over mental abilities too.
It is imperative that human beings adapt to this evolution to remain significant to the economic industry.
The question is: What should we teach our children today in order for them to be relevant 30 years from now?
It is difficult to answer because nobody actually knows what will happen in 30 years.
Change is consistent and happens too quickly.
Therefore humans need to reinvent themselves constantly to keep up.
This can be difficult and even impossible after a certain age.
Giving Up Privacy
In today’s world, people have relinquished their most valuable asset: their data.
We release our information every day to platforms such as Facebook or Google in return for funny videos or memberships to sites.
However, most people do not realize what they are giving up.
Capitalism and democracy may collapse, but monopoly giants like Facebook or Google own everyone’s information.
Consequently, networked algorithms will become the authority, rather than individuals.
Upgrading Humans to Gods
Harari describes two ideological trends surfacing from Silicon Valley.
The first is 'dataism', which is information and algorithms that may someday replace human instinct and decision making.
By 2050, “it is likely that your smartphone will not be separate from you at all,” says Harari.
“It will be embedded in your body via biometric sensors, and it will monitor your heart rate, your blood pressure, and your brain activity 24 hours a day.”
Smartphones will analyze your data and deduce your desires; know your likes and dislikes even better than you do.
You can already see this happening. Your Amazon account knows your taste in music and books just by analyzing what you search for and previous purchases. Ads are targeted to you according to your likes, follows, and interests. Social Networking sites and Google already predict our likes and dislikes. And somehow, they create desires for material “needs” we did not know we had.
The second ideological trend Harari describes is "techno-humanism" or the obsession to prolong human life. Humans will do anything to sustain and protect it.
This quest for immortality may lead human beings to morph biologically "into gods".
Unlike the movie Terminator, humans and machines will not fight; they will merge. Become one.
This kind of “upgrade” already occurs in the U.S. Army.
For example, soldiers wear helmets using Augmented Reality to speed up their decisions and quicken their reactions.
And many more technologies are underway, such as nanotechnology, that could explore our bloodstream in search of foreign pathogens to eradicate.
The human brain may well be connected to the Internet.
We could access information of the World Wide Web with just a thought. Our brains may even be interconnected with other brains, which may create an Internet of Minds.
But despite the prospect of a technological doomsday, Harari is not a strict determinist.
He believes that humans should take responsibility for their actions to shape their future.
The Future Is In Our Hands, But Not For Long
Though the future may look dark to some, remember that it will be easier to deal with for those who accept the change rather than for those who deny it.
The gap will be far wider than the one between industrialists and the more traditional, conservative thinkers.
Not because we will be at war with machines, but rather because technology will be used to advance us as a species, change us into something unrecognizable.
If Harari is correct about this, then the age of insecurity will only be the beginning.
The message is that humans must accept to adapt to the inevitable change.
“It’s not something that will happen in thousands of years,” he says.
“It is a timescale of decades, not millennia. If we want to do something about it, we should start thinking about it now. In 30 years it will be too late.”