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Home21 lessons for the 21st century By Yuval Noah HarariBook Summary21 lessons for the 21st century By Yuval Noah Harari

21 lessons for the 21st century By Yuval Noah Harari

21 lessons for the 21st century By Yuval Noah Harari

21 lessons for the 21st century By Yuval Noah Harari

My top 45 takeaways:


1. One of the driving factors for global political disillusionment is information overload.

2. Humans think in stories, and this is how political disillusionment can spread, leading to ideologies like fascism and communism.


3. The future is bright. We should not be worried about AI’s potential in the workplace and instead, see it as an opportunity.

4. These tools can help us move away from the mundane tasks people don’t want to do and allow us to spend more time improving society.


5. Elections are not about what we think but what we feel.

6. Despite clear flaws in democracies, most believe it is still better than all its alternatives.

7. Big data and AI have the potential to run the world in the future. If we can make decisions on education, work and society based on data, there is no need for democratic elections. We already rely on big data for personal finance, big business and war. So, it seems likely that political decisions are the next step.


8. Data is far more accessible than our current examples of resources. So, a future problem is understanding how best to regulate data ownership.


9. Technology has negatively impacted our more immediate connections and communities.


10. The future holds a single global civilization. We are already at a stage where we can contact almost anyone in the world.


11. There is a difference between benign patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism should be built on the idea that your nation is unique (which is true of all countries). It is when people start believing their nation is superior that issues arise.

12. The issue with nationalism is that these narrow beliefs bleed into their other worldviews.


13. Freud was potentially correct when he claimed religion involves an obsession with minor differences. Religion allows the smallest differences to have a significant impact e.g. Eastern Orthodox and Western Christians split due to the inclusion/exclusion of the words “and the son” in a creed.

14. War between religions is not policy-based. Instead, it appears to be a combination of technical and identity problems.


15. Most people who are anti-immigration are so because they want to maintain their nation’s current culture.

16. To better understand anti-immigration people, we must accept that they might be culturists rather than racists.


17. The overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat than terrorism itself.

18. Globally, 25 thousand people die of terrorism and 7 million people die of air pollution annually. Despite this difference, terrorism produces considerably more fear and gains far more attention.

19. Solutions: Govts should make sure their actions against terror networks are relatively hidden, media must avoid hysteria on anything terror-related and all citizens must remember how uncommon terrorist acts are.


20. The prevalence of war has dropped considerably over the past few decades. This is partly due to our transition away from fighting over resources and toward fighting over knowledge.

21. People are happy to give away their most valuable asset—their personal data—in exchange for free email services and funny cat videos. It’s a bit like tribes who sold entire countries to European imperialists in exchange for cheap trinkets.


22. Humans naturally show humility.

23. So, there is no need to rely on a religious text or any other teachings to convince society they need to show humility. Society will naturally show humility without religion.


24. Morality doesn’t mean ‘following divine commands’. It means ‘reducing suffering’. Hence in order to act morally, you don’t need to believe in any myth or story. You just need to develop a deep appreciation of suffering.

25. Immoral behavior is always counterproductive in the long run, so society will always shun those who behave in this way.


26. The alternative to building a society on God is building one on secularism.

27. We must remember the foundation of the secular code: Truth, Compassion, Equality, Freedom, Courage and Responsibility. By far the most important of these characteristics is truth.

28. Social reality is the ideal we should aspire to. Social reality is built upon a commitment to modern science rather than faith.

29. Adopting this secular approach will challenge the idea of blindly praying for change. Instead of hoping for change, society can actively make positive change happen.


30. Just like animals, humans make most decisions based on emotional reactions and shortcuts. But emotions and heuristics are not sufficient in the modern world.

31. The key to human success in the modern world is our ability to think together in large groups.

32. With our current collective knowledge, finding the truth through individual experimentation is a waste of time. We are better off remaining individually ignorant but create collective knowledge.


33. Justice demands a set of abstract values but also an understanding of concrete cause and effect relations.

34. Unfortunately, an inherent feature of our modern world is that its causal relations are complex.

35. In trying to judge moral dilemmas people often resort to one of these four: downsize the issue, focus on a touching human story, weave conspiracy theories or create a dogma and put their trust in some allegedly all-knowing theory.

Post truth

36. A type of fake news has been present for centuries. Modern fake news is one thousand people believing a made-up story for one month.

37. Fiction can bring people together and make large-scale human cooperation possible. So, we must start using fiction to push good science to the masses.

Science fiction

38. The worst failing of science fiction is its confusion of intelligence with consciousness.

39. We should not be worried about a war between robots and humans. Instead, there could be conflict between a small set of superhuman elites. So, Karl Marx is still a better guide on artificial intelligence than Steven Spielberg.


40. Much of what children learn today will be irrelevant in 2050. So, teachers need to stop overloading their students with information and develop their ability to make sense of new information.

41. Education experts are now pushing for schools to start teaching what Harari calls the four Cs: Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.


42. The Buddha taught that there are three basic universal realities: Everything is constantly changing, nothing has any enduring essence and nothing is completely satisfied.

43. Because everything is ever-changing, the Buddha believes that life has no meaning. This is not an issue, though. You do not need to try and create meaning; suffering emerges from attempting to do so.


44. The deepest source of our suffering is our minds. In fact, suffering does not objectively exist outside of minds.

45. Meditation allows you to better understand this reality and challenge your mind. It helps you focus on your consciousness, which is the greatest mystery in the universe. Meditation also prepares us for the future, as we should understand our minds before the algorithms make a match up for us.


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