A Brief History of Tomorrow
by Yuval Noah Harari
For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much then from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious disease is; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.
If we are indeed bringing famine, plague and war under control, what will replace them at the top of the human agenda?
In a healthy, prosperous and harmonious world, what will demand our attention and ingenuity? But this question becomes doubly urgent given the immense new powers that bio technology and information technology are providing us with. What will we do with all that power?
In 1974 the first World Food Conference was convened in Rome, and the delegates were treated to apocalyptic scenarios. They were told that there was no way for China to feed its billion people, The world’s most populous country was heading towards catastrophe. In fact, it was heading towards the greatest economic miracle in history. Since 1974 hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, and though hundreds of millions more still suffer greatly from privation and malnutrition, for the first time and its recorded history China is now free from famine.
The main sources of wealth were material assets such as gold mines, wheatfields and oil wells. Today the main source of wealth is knowledge. And whereas you can conquer oil fields through war, you cannot acquire know. As a became most important economic resource became increasingly restricted to those parts of the world— such as the Middle East and Central Africa—where the economies are still old-fashioned material based economies.
Previous generations thought about peace as the temporary absence of war. Today we think about peace as the implausibility before.
Just as nuclear weapons made the new piece possible in the first place, so future technological developments might set the stage for new kinds of war. In particular, cyber warfare may destabilize the world by giving even small countries and nonstate actors the ability to fight superpowers effectively.
Throughout history, kings and emperors acquired some new weapons, sooner or later they were tempted to use it. Since 1945, however, humankind has is last year is this this temptation.
For the average American Coca-Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Qaeda.
In essence, terrorism is a show. Terrorists stage for terrifying spectacle violence that captures our imagination makes us feel as if we are sliding back into medieval chaos. Consequently states often feel obliged to react to the theater of terrorism with a show of security, orchestrating immense displays of force, such as the persecution of entire populations or the invasion of foreign countries. In most cases, this overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat to our security than the terrorists themselves.
This is what happened in the Middle East in the last decade. Islamic fundamentalists could never have toppled Saddam Hussein by themselves. Instead they enraged the USA by the 9/11 attacks, and the USA destroyed the Middle Eastern china shop for them. Now they flourish in the wreckage.
By themselves, terrorists are too weak to drag us back to the Middle Ages and reestablish the Jungle Law. They may provoke us, but in the end, it’ll depends on our reactions.
Success breeds ambition, and our recent achievements are now pushing humankind to set itself even more daring goals. Having secured a unprecedented levels of prosperity, health and harmony, and given our past record and our current values, humanity’s next targets are likely to be immortality, happiness and divinity. Having reduced mortality from starvation, disease and violence, we will now aim to overcome old age and even death itself. Having save people from abject misery, we will now aim to make them positively happy. And having raised humanity above the beastly level of survival struggles, we will now aim to upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus.
Our ideological commitment to human life will never allow us simply to accept human death. As long as people die of something, we will strive to overcome it.
If and when science makes significant progress in the war against death, the real battle will shift from the laboratories to the parliaments, courthouses and streets. Once the scientific efforts are crowned with success, they will trigger bitter political conflicts. All the wars and conflicts of history might turn out to be but a pale prelude for the real struggle ahead of us: the struggle for eternal youth.
We are not here to serve the state —it is here to serve us. The right to the pursuit of happiness, originally envisaged as a restraint on state power, has imperceptibly morphed into the right to happiness — as if human beings have a natural right to be happy, and anything that makes us dissatisfied is a violation of our basic human rights, so the state should do something about it.
When Epicurious defined happiness as the supreme good, he warned his disciples that it is hard work to be happy. Material achievements alone will not satisfy us for long. Indeed, the blind pursuit of money, fame and pleasure will only make us miserable.
In the Stone Age, the average human had at his or her disposal about 4,000 calories of energy per day. This included not only food, but also the energy invested in preparing tools, clothing, art and campfires. Today Americans use on average 228,000 calories of energy per person per day, to feed not only their stomachs but also their cars, computers, refrigerators and televisions.
It appears that our happiness bangs against some mysterious glass ceiling that does not allow it to grow despite all our unprecedented accomplishments. … Achieving real happiness is not going to be much easier than overcoming old age and death.
Perhaps the key to happiness is neither the race nor the gold medal, but rather combining the right doses of excitement and tranquility; but most of us tend to jump all the way from stress to boredom and back, remaining is discontented with one as with the other.
To attain real happiness, humans need to slow down the pursuit of pleasant sensations, not accelerate it.
Up till now increasing human power relied mainly on upgrading our external tools. In the future it may rely more on upgrading the human body and mind, or on merging directly with our tools.
Breaking out of the organic realm could also enable life to finally break out of planet earth.