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  • Writer's pictureReuven Sherwin

Review of "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" by Yuval Noah Harari

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

After listening to the audio book "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" by Yuval Noah Harari (YNH), I found myself thinking.

That's no surprise - YNH writes in a way that whether you like it or not - you will find yourself thinking...

I enjoyed the thought-provoking insights on so many of the topics, found the anecdotes fascinating, the questions challenging - but was left with a feeling that many of the criticisms offered - from YNH's vast knowledge - weren't "tight" enough, though I could not challenge them myself - and to make things worse - I felt the questions he raised were much better than the answers he offered.

So, I did what most people do when encountering a challenge.

I called my father.

I asked him if he could get hold of a copy, read it - and review it.

I won't bore you with why I felt my Dad's the right person to review the book.

But I will qualify this with one of my Dad's favorite saying "oh well, what do I know???" (typically said right after he totally wowed you with some amazing piece of knowledge. More on that in another blog post part 1 and part 2).

So here goes...


I've just finished reading Yuval Harari’s 21st Century thoughts, and enjoyed the recap of all the fantasies and uselessnesses of religious and national master narratives, especially since they don't seem to unify the species to deal intelligently (or at all) with the ostensible big 3 catastrophes currently barreling unstoppably towards us:   algorithmic control of our minds via merging of info and bio technologies and climate changes.

But then religious and nationalist ‘stories’ never did stop or mute the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse — just helped homo sap huddle together when/if surviving them.

It’s from a secular, globalizing, non to anti nationalist/ religious view.

And since it was written in Hebrew initially (before world wide english translation) it obviously engages in the very arrogance it accuses jews, Judaism and Zionism of... grouping zionism with fascism and communism when (1) jews were the victims of both [and ‘secular’ jews participants in the red versions] while (2) insisting it’s jewish arrogance to think themselves ‘chosen’ or even important to human history (let alone central to creation’s) while being barely 0.2% of the species.

This conflict of belief and behavior of course is nothing new, anywhere, and he has lots of nice slams on all the known versions of master narratives uniting the species into opposing groups thereby preventing the species in all from dealing with the big 3 train wrecks we’re beginning to participate with. 

The last chapters deal with humility (preaching to predominant ‘chosen’ religions and nations) and urging us AS INDIVIDUALS (apparently his default setting) to practice meditation to assume control over our consciousnesses/minds (not the same as brain or intelligence of course) before algorithms run by big techs and governments do it for us.

How’s that for fun?


Bottom Line? Surely worth reading. But - take it with a grain of salt.

And don't base any mission-critical decisions solely on his conclusions or recommendation.

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