Just finished Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari.
It’s the most irritating book I have read for a very long time. Most especially, but not only, its first chapter. This is unlike his last book Sapiens, where only the last chapter was profoundly irritating.
But I strongly recommend Homo Deus it for its wonderful thought-provoking properties, if one can keep one’s temper, that is. Part of the irritating quality is due to its seemingly to have been written in a state of ‘flow’. At first I thought it might have been drug-induced but reading the acknowledgements I see he practices a form of meditation called ‘Vipassana’ which is probably to blame. Anyhow, it is clearly very well researched – check the notes.
Among lots (and lots) of other things, he makes the profound distinction between ‘consciousness’ and ‘intelligence’ – something I have sometimes thought about when thinking about people like Donald and Boris who give every indication of lacking an ‘inner life’ (the term ‘p-zombies’ comes to mind) but is more obvious when we think of machine intelligence or AI. And there goes my appreciation for the film Her by Spike Jonze, shame that.
Amusingly, he criticises some philosophers who dispense with both ‘free will’ and ‘causation’ in one part of their thesis, and who talk still in those terms, while he sometimes does the same himself. At least cosmologist Sean Carroll had the decency to fudge the category error dilemma with the term ‘poetic naturalism’ in his book The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself – also well worth reading, though not quite as much fun, nor quite as irritating (…though somewhat).
Aside from all that, Homo Deus makes a bit of a mockery of my concerns about the latest ‘industrial revolution’ evidenced in some of my previous blog posts. He foresees the death of the ‘religion’ Humanism, in all its forms, good and bad, as the ‘religion’ Dataism and its algorithms takes over everything. But really everything. Curiously something like this was foreseen a few years ago by a brilliant American SF writer by the name of Linda Nagata in her novel Red – First Light and its sequels. And Charlie Stross an equally brilliant British SF writer also approached it in Rule 34 and its sequel.
But enough of that. Read the book. (And note to self – read Harari and Carroll again if you can work up the energy)