Homo Deus (a review)

I just finished reading Homo Deus, by Yuval Harari, and I imagine it’s the last of his books I’ll read. I enjoyed Sapiens, and this one started off quite well, when he was talking about the change of consciousness between our hunter-gatherer ancestors and ourselves, but then he got into the modern world, and he said some things that seriously rubbed me the wrong way.
First of all, his use of the word ‘liberal’ to define all human thought post 1789, more or less. He actually wrote “There are three types of liberals. Classic liberals, communist liberals, and Nazi liberals.’ I get that, as a philosopher, he was defining the word liberal differently from anybody living in the real world and interested in politics, and you must admit that in the field of politics it doesn’t mean shit any more, with war mongers like Hillary Clinton and corrupt oligarchs like Nancy Pelosi calling themselves liberals, but it was a step too far for me. Words have meanings, and if we can’t agree on them, we should use other words.
He also used ‘liberalism’ as a synonym for ‘humanism.’ Maybe he should have just said humanism from the start and saved his readers a whole lot of confusion.
Then there was a bit, a bit further on in the book, when he said that human beings don’t have free will, because although we can do and say what we want, we can’t choose what we want, we can’t want what we want, we can’t choose to want what we want, or something like that, because the decision is made by hormones, or signals between the neurons in our brains, and that’s not really ‘us.’ But, it is. What does it matter if our awareness of the choice is a millisecond behind the choice itself, which was made within the complex computer we call our brain? Who does he think is responsible for that? Only if you believe that there is some outside agency making the choices and jerking us around like puppets on a string does that make any sense at all. And I don’t believe that, although Yuval Harari might.
Then, there was one other word he made up which I found linguistically weird and kind of stupid. The word was W.E.I.R.D., which stands for Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic and he used it very much in the same way NTERFs (non trans-exclusionary radical feminists, to coin a term of my own) use ‘cishet white males.’ I fall into both groups, I suppose, but I am about as far from the levers of power as a person can be. If anybody feels powerless compared to me, they are grasping at straws, and the wrong straws at that.
The last couple of chapters redeemed him a bit, as he talked about how the flood of data which is just beginning now, and which will rise and rise and rise, might lead to AI rendering humanity obsolete. While I must admit that’s a real possibility, it’s already been hashed over in about a million science fiction movies and TV episodes. Not terribly original.
I wouldn’t mind hearing other people’s opinions on this, it’s all a good starting point for discussion, but overall I’d give it two out of five stars, maximum.

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