Yuval Noah Harari. A name I did not know until this morning. The Sunday Times magazine have a headline: The seer of Silicon Valley.
Well, while I applaud his obvious intellect and ability to finish a book (it’s like admiring people who start races- both are harder than they look) I’m distracted, on a Sunday, by the 7 points on How to future-proof our lives: Yuval Harari’s guide to surviving the modern age. He may be the 1st example of Zero History.
I’ve responded to each point below.
My opposition to this kind of craziness should be obvious.
- Don’t let technology take over. Well, I hate to point out the obvious but progress (which is what we called technology before we could name things) is all we have ever known and it hasn’t taken over yet. We have left the cave (Complete Sorkin speech here) and picked up the IPhone. Frankly we have also faced the creative destructionism (Schumpeter) and the minds that thought it up . For example, we invented cigarettes and then have been smart enough to try and limit the havoc they cause since. We can do the same with EVERYTHING ELSE including a washing machine that texts me when it starts to rinse.
- Bring tech to the table.
Neuromancer, my favourite of Gibson’s starts to trilogies, includes the indignation toward not eating your steak and seeing an actual horse. These pieces of futurology still have time to come into focus and I’m afraid they have to queue behind stopping hunger all together and the invention of Chuck Klosterman’s food pill. I suspect Harari hasn’t even read President James Carter’s very public position on biofuels. Grow 3x the food to never be able to replace the fuel and never be able to eat what we grow. My point is that any argument that destroying industrial agriculture requires the innovation to replace the industrial agriculture. Harari reminds me of the commodities traders who think the market ceases to exist after they profit and exit.
3. Don’t get left behind.
His claim that he knows who the rulers of tomorrow will be is based on an economic argument he might not be able to actually see. Biotechnology and computer science don’t grow economies fast enough. His implication that erosion in GDPs and labour forces will be over taken by the growth in these areas is dismissive of the innovations in education, food, freedom, oncology, radio, transportation and sports not driven by computer science and biotechnology. I sit in an innovation lab listening to companies in those industries struggle for funding. Harari does not. I can tell.
4. Don’t panic, think big
Well, that’s good advice for traders. You talk to anyone who has seen Jerry McGuire and they’ll tell you we (paraphrasing Crowe) haven’t gotten emotional enough. Fear, pessimism and emotion are exactly what gives rise to bravery, optimism and that ridiculous thing people live known as control. While worry and belief apparently require the same amount of every, I refuse to turn away from being human and imperfect and susceptible to momentary lapses from my intrepid journey to the next bridge I have to cross. If you’d prefer generations of people who don’t know what Scared to death looks like then I’ll remind you of the arrogance members of German Sports clubs enjoyed in the 1930s. They didn’t fear a thing.
5. Know Yourself
Funny. I agree with every word because this rule, as described actually contradicts EVERYTHING else in the article.
6. Think Globally
Ludicrously broad and sadly written, I’ll offer this- education has always been too narrow and parochial. No culture has gotten it right and won’t. Why? Because preparing 7 billion people or a planet with 10 billion is going to take some trial and error. I for 1 am willing to roll up my sleeves while Harari pens his sequel and rejects human endeavour from before Al Gore invented the Internet.
7. You can’t fake Zen.
Yes, you can. Harari does it very well. He claims to know that ‘In 30 years it will be too late’. I’ll be 77. I look forward to asking him if he even bothered to see the obverse to his 1939 penny he found on the subway (HIMYM style).
A minority of the minority’s will read and understand his position. He isn’t vox populi. He is the clever friend of a friend who has never read Baudelaire. The point? He hasn’t read Prahalad either which means the 4 billion people he ignores in his sight line might have something to say about the future he has determined while ‘not a determinist’.
Lies breed more lies. This isn’t even bad futurology. It’s not even bad science fiction. It’s the next Jim Cramer. A courtesan forgetting the rule: always give them something to look forward to.