I’ve just finished reading Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow. Written by critically-acclaimed author Yuval Noah Harari, whose previous bestseller Sapiens talked about our humankind, where his next installment turns his focus toward’s humanity’s future.
Full disclaimer before I get started, I am going to spoil the ending. This 400-page novel is not an easy read. There were full chapters where the stories or at the time tangents just went on forever. But, I muscled through it and found some really interesting nuggets about our future…spoiler again, it’s all comes from our past.
One theory I would like to discuss is the notion that we are just organisms and as an organism, we are one big algorithm, which Harari sums up with “…life is data processing.” If we look at this closely, and for the hackers out there it means we have the ability to crack our own code so we can improve ourselves in any way, shape, and form. Currently, we are doing this cosmetically with plastic surgery. We take medication to improve our health, we go to extreme surgeries to remove cancerous cells. But where Harari takes it to the extreme is that in our pursuit of health, happiness, and power, “dataism” as he calls it will be one of the greatest scientific challenges of the 21st century.
We may get to a point where “non-conscious algorithms could eventually outperform conscious intelligence” and what will happen if we are replaced with “superior non-conscious algorithms?” It’s a lot of “ifs” to deal with but with big data and AI already at our footsteps who knows what we’ll offshore next, especially to non-humans.
This also brings into play issues of privacy and the collection of data. This Internet-Of-All-Things, where the shift from humans to algorithms becomes apparent means that we will become obsolete in a data-centric world. Everything we stand for will be undervalued and may become extinct. Harari speaks to our future very elegantly:
In the course of history, humans have created a global network and evaluated everything according to its function within the network. For thousands of years, this boosted human pride and prejudices. Since humans fulfilled the most important functions in the network, it was easy for us to take credit for the network’s achievements, and to see ourselves as the apex of creation. The lives and experiences of all other animals were undervalued because they fulfilled far less important functions, and whenever an animal ceased to fulfill any function at all, it went extinct. However, once humans lose their functional importance to the network, we will discover that we are not the apex of creation after all.”
In the end, we can’t really predict our future. But as long as we continue to broaden our scope than narrowing it we will have more horizon and a wider spectrum to dream from.