Homo Deus at Fullers Book shop

Snip20180729_1I know I talk about Fuller’s book shop quite a bit here. They have started Philosophy Cafe Evenings. I learned about them recently. I missed the first one but I caught the second one. This one began at 5:30 pm and went for an hour.  A friend who was interested in the topic went with me. It ended just after 6:30 and then we went for a Japanese meal around the corner. A fun night.

The book and subject discussed was humanism in the future from the book Home Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow written by Yuval Noah Harari (Translator- Du’o’ng Ngoc Trà). It was facilitated by Dr Ingo Fanin, from the University of Tasmania.

Good Reads describes this book as:

“Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers?”

Mr. Fanin introduced the book and then had some questions he thought of he threw out to the audience. The audience then began a discussion of humanism in the future. Topics covered the environment, technology which took up quite a bit of futuristic thinking, how humans treat each other (war), population, religion versus science and then whatever tangent it went off on before another question was asked by Mr. Fanin.

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Yuval Noah Harari

There were quite a few people there and everyone sat around the tables in the cafe so had a good vantage point to see who was talking.  I had read the book in the preceding two weeks and did manage to finish it. At times it went over my head and I had to revisit parts of it. I’m glad I read it in consecutive days as it’s the type of book if you put it down and come back weeks or even too many days later you’d forget what you had read.

I enjoyed the intellectual discussion. I also enjoyed that there were young people and elderly people and every age in between. It was good to hear what others thought of the direction of our future on this planet. Overall I didn’t find it too depressing when when the subject came up “What if technology was developed so people never died?” arose the question was asked, “What is then the significance of being murdered if you had everlasting life on earth.”   Or what if you reach a point in your life, such as old and ill and you stay at that stage for another few hundred years. Is that what we want? At what age would our life “freeze” so to speak and we live with that forever.  I thought they were interesting thoughts but was also relieved to know I will never deal with any of that. I don’t think I’d want to live forever.

Another topic is what does the world do when technology is taking over all of the jobs in the world. An example of research that stated when doctors diagnosed lunch cancer they got it right 50% of the time but when a programmed robot diagnosed it the diagnosis was correct 100% of the time.  There will be a world of billions that all surplus people. We were encouraged to then be happy we’re surplus and to enjoy all the leisure that brings. Study, educate ourselves, travel.  My question how does one support themselves over two hundred years of leisure?

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There’s some deep thinking going on here.

There were lots of ideas and opinions in the room and I really enjoyed the evening. All of this in about 70 minutes.  The Japanese food was very good afterwards and it gave my friend and I quite a bit to debrief about over dinner.  I look forward to the next Philosophy Cafe later in the year.

NB: The author is also known for his previous book, which this one leads on from, Sapiens: A brief history of humankind.

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and a tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Wikipedia