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Summary of21 Lessons for the 21st Century

How do computers and robots change the world and the importance of being human? How do we deal with the rising epidemic of fake news that circulates on social media? Are nations and religions still relevant to society? What should we teach our children in a dangerous digitalized world? Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” is a detailed and visionary investigation into today’s most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. Yuval Harari addresses the many challenges of navigating life in the face of constant and influencing change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves to survive. Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli public intellectual, historian, and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His writings examine free will, consciousness, intelligence, happiness and suffering. “Happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations.” ~ Yuval Noah Harari

Key points


Disillusionment, work, liberty, and equality are responsible for the shift from liberalism to nationalism

It is hard not to notice the paradigm shift in today’s global politics as technology and globalization continue to stretch the very fabric of liberalism.

After the collapse of the fascist Nazi–led Germany, liberalism rose from the ashes of the Second World War in the 1940s as one of the two most viable models of governance with the second, communism, unable to stand the test of time. It is safe to say that the sole surviving model is on the brink of collapse, just decades after it edged out communism.

More than ever, human rights, the free market, and democracy, which have embodied liberalism in this era, are not as potent as before. For one, the advent of disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence — AI — Big Data, Blockchain, and cryptocurrency are threats to its survival as governments are increasingly finding it hard to catch up with the explosion of information technology and biotechnology.

Secondly, the economic growth that punctuates liberalism has resulted in ecological collapse, and the global warming crisis conversation continues to deteriorate. What makes this development more shocking is that liberalism has no viable alternatives. Also, the backpedaling of economies that had once championed the free will movement has not helped matters. We see this in America’s newfound isolationism mantra and the hasty Brexit campaign of the British.

However, note that this does not mean that the Western world is denouncing the fundamentals of liberalism altogether. Instead, they want to practice it within their borders and sideline globalization.
You must understand that questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.
Such is the blistering pace of today’s disruptive technologies that it is plausible that many would lose their jobs to machines soon. While this is a given, it is inevitable that just like the effect of automation in previous industrial revolutions, this AI era will also create new jobs. Hence, humans and machines might work hand–in–hand.

For this to happen, human beings must continuously reinvent themselves to keep up with robots’ cognitive capacity. And those who are not capable of acquiring new skills will become irrelevant whenever their jobs become automated.

As we continue to delegate more jobs that rely on cognitive reasoning to machines, they will understand us more than we know ourselves

As people continue to delegate more jobs that rely on cognitive reasoning to artificial intelligence, humanity will naturally trust their judgments. As such, machines might use the information at their disposal to manipulate humans and make decisions for us.
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Communism, civilization, and nationality are political challenges of the 21st century


Globalization will not necessarily result in the clash of civilizations; it will only facilitate a faster growth that will alienate those who aren’t tech savvy


The role of religion and immigration in the coming era is important to the growth of civilization


Terrorism, war, humility, God, and secularism are possible triggers for a third World War


A bigger threat to our existence is the possibility of a full–blown third World War


It is difficult to decipher the truth since an individual human is not as knowledgeable as he thinks he is


Ensuring the resilience of humanity is the only way to survive the future



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