Perspective and Purpose

I finished reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari last week and have been reflecting on it a lot since then.

This is the sequel to his previous book Sapiens. Where Sapiens looked back at how we as a species got to where we are over the previous 70,000 years, Homo Deus looks forward and asks where we’re going. Sapiens provided a rich contextual perspective, and Homo Deus uses that to perspective to question our purpose.

In Homo Deus, the author makes the case that for thousands of years, society has fought against the same three things: famine, plague and war. Even though some of us still struggle with those things, on the whole we’re moving towards a world in which they may become solved problems. And if that happens, what will the human race focus on next?

The author argues that the ultimate reason for eradicating famine, plague and war is to raise all humans up to the same baseline standard of living. Once we’ve achieved that, the only logical next step is to focus on raising that baseline to much higher levels. He believes we’ve already started down this path and that our new goals are shifting to the pursuit of immortality, bliss and divinity.

The future he describes is both fascinating and terrifying. But to me, the details of this hypothetical future weren’t the point of the book. The point of the book was to force us to question our purpose as a species within the context of a 70,000 year perspective. What is the ultimate purpose of our species? What should we be doing with our lives to contribute to that purpose? If we don’t like the future he laid out in this book, what assumptions can we question? What other more ideal futures might be possible? And what can we do to make them more likely?

I have no answers, and am left only with more questions and more things to read. But I’d highly recommend both of these books.

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